A lien is a right of one person to retain property or goods which are in his possession, belonging to another person until the promise or the liability is discharged. This lien may be particular or general.
Particular Lien :
A particular lien is available only against the particular property in respect of which the bailee has expended labour and skill. A bailee is entitled to a particular lien only (Sec. 179).
A gives two cars - An Ambassador and a Fiat, for repairs to B. B repaired only the Ambassador car. A took delivery of the Ambassador car without making the payment of the repair charges. B cannot retain the Fiat car for the repair charges due in respect of the Ambassador car.
It should be noted that lien is possessory in nature. Hence if possession is lost, the lien is also lost,
Conditions for Exercise of Lien :
In order to exercise lien, the following conditions are essential:
1. Right of lien can be exercised only when the bailee has expended his labour and skill on the goods bailed. Therefore, mere custody of goods does not give a right of lien.
(1) A parks his car in B's garage for safe custody. A does not pay the rent. B cannot retain the car. [Hatton v. Car maintenance Co. Ltd.]
(2) A repairs B's car. B does not pay the repair charges. B can retain the car until payment is made.
2. Right of lien can be exercised only when the work has been completed in time. If the work has not been completed in time, the lien cannot be exercised.
3. Right of lien can be exercised only if the payment is due. In case the payment is to be made, n on delivery, but at a future date, then the lien cannot be exercised.
A agrees to repair B's T.V. and accepts payment after 2 weeks. On repairing the T.V., B cannot exercise his right of lien.
General Lien :
A general lien is a right of one person to retain any property or goods which are in his possession belonging to another person until the promise or liability is discharged. It is a right to retain the property belonging to another for a general balance of account. General lien is available to bankers, factors, wharfingers, attorneys of High Court and policy brokers.
A has two accounts in a bank. In savings bank account, he has a credit balance of Rs. 500. In current account, he has an overdraft of Rs. 1,000. Bank can exercise right of lien on the savings account for the amount due on the current account. It should be noted that right of lien will not apply to properties deposited for safe custody or for a specific purpose.