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Liability for necessaries

              Liability for necessaries

Section 68 of the Indian contract act provides for the liability for necessaries supplied 2 persons incompetent to contract. Section 68 renders claim for necessary supply to person incapable of contacting or on his account.

           If a person incapable of entering into a contract, or anyone whom he is legally bound to support, is supplied by another person with necessary suited to his condition in life, the person who has furnished such supplies is entitled to be reimbursed from the property of such incapable person.

Meaning of “necessaries”

The liability is only for necessaries, but there is no definition of the term “necessaries”| in the act. We may consequently turn to judicial decisions to determine its precise import. An illustrative statement of the meaning of the term is to be found in the judgment of Alderson B in Chapple versus Cooper :

 “Things necessary are those without which an individual cannot reasonably exist. In the first place, food, raiment, lodging, and others are a necessity. About these there is no doubt. Again, as the proper cultivation of the mind is as expedient as the support of the body, instruction in art or trade, or intellectual moral and religious education may be necessary also.”

Thus, “What is necessary” is a relative fact to be determined with reference to the fortune and circumstances of the particular minor; articles, therefore, that to one person might be mere conveniences or matter of taste, may in the case of another, be considered necessaries, where the usage of society renders them proper for a person in the rank of life in which the infant moves. The infant’s need of things may also sometimes depend on the peculiar circumstances under which they are purchased and the uses to which they are put. For instance articles purchased by an infant for his wedding may be deemed necessary while under ordinary circumstances same articles may not be considered. Wedding presents for the brides of the infants may be necessary but where such marriage is forbidden by law the position will be different. Where the funds are supplied to a minor for the marriage of a minor female in the final family the lender may be able to get him reimbursed from the property of the minor. The debt incurred for performing the funeral obsequies of the father of a minor is a necessary. Where a minor is involved in a litigation threatening his property or liberty expenses reasonably incurred on his defense may be recovered from his estate. 

In Peters versus Fleming, the court took judicial notice that it was from prima facie not unreasonable that an undergraduate at the college should have a watch and consequently a watch chain and therefore it was a question of fact whether the watch chain supplied on credit was such as what as was necessary to support himself properly in his degree.

PARKE B says: “All such articles as are purely ornamental or to be rejected, as they cannot be requisite for anyone.” Possibly there may be exceptional cases in which things purely ornamental may be necessary. The burden lies upon the supplier to prove that the ornamental thing is special necessary for the minor. Thus, where a man was supplied a pair of jewelled solitaries is an antique goblet and though he moved in high society he was held not liable as the plaintiff could not prove the articles were specially necessary for the minor. 


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