What is the contractual liability of a minor?
By swatee shukla
In contract law, this is a tricky area. One of the primary conditions of a valid contract is that the parties should be in a position to enter into a contract. An agreement made by a minor is void and cannot be enforced in a court of law. If obligations are imposed on a minor, the agreement will be considered void and such obligation cannot be enforced against the minor. There is no estoppel against a minor( estoppel means when a person by communicating in written or oral form, or even by such conduct that leads the other person to believe it to be true, and then the person acts after having believed in it. Then he is prevented from denying the truth of that thing). A minor cannot be estopped from pleading minority and can therefore escape liability on grounds of the minority. Any contract entered into by a minor, is void ab initio, and thus such a contract does not lead to any contractual liability.
Nevertheless, this does not bar a minor from acquiring liability and enjoying the benefits of a contract. When a contract is made by a lawful and competent guardian on behalf of the minor, it will be a valid contract if the contract was entered into for the benefit of the minor. However, if a guardian enters a contract against the interest of the minor, such a contract may be voidable at the option of the minor. If the minor is a beneficiary, i.e. stands to benefit from the contract, the contract is valid and enforceable. Even then, the minor himself does not enter into the contract; it is always the guardian who does so on his behalf. Some legal guardians competent to enter into a contract on behalf of a child may be either parent, natural guardian (in absence of parents), or a guardian adopted by law or adoptive parents.
When a minor is supplied with the necessaries of life, which are the basic articles needed to maintain the life at the standard of the person, including food, clothes, articles of daily use, and education, by another person, the supplier of such necessaries is entitled to be reimbursed from the property of the minor. This is also applicable to the person of unsound mind.
In the famous case of mohoribibi v Dharmodas Ghose, a minor borrowed a sum of money after mortgaging his property. The mortgagee approached the court for getting his money back. The privy council (highest court prior to the supreme court) held that the sum cannot be claimed because an agreement with a minor is not valid. Let’s understand this concept by a realistic example, suppose you are a minor, and you enter into a contract with your friend to sell certain property to him. your friend paid you the agreed-to amount, and you subsequently refuse to transfer the property to him. he sue you to enforce the contract, he won’t succeed, as the contract with the minor is void from the beginning, thus no liability shall be imposed on you.