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FREE CONSENT (COERCION) under Indian Contract Act

 FREE CONSENT (COERCION) under Indian Contract Act



FREE CONSENT

 

Section 13 of the Contract Act defines the term ‘consent’ and lays down that “Two or more persons are said to consent when they agree upon the same thing in the same sense.”

 

Thus, consent involves identity of minds or consensus ad-idem i.e., agreeing upon the same thing in the same sense. If, for whatever reason, there is no consensus ad item among the contracting parties, there is no real consent and hence no valid contract.

‘Free Consent’ defined. Section 14 lays down that “Consent is said to be ‘free’ when it is not caused by-

  1. Coercion, as defined in Section 15, or
    2. Undue influence as defined in Section 16, or
    3. Misrepresentation as defined in Section 18, or
    4. Fraud, as defined in Section 17, or
    5. Mistake, subject to the provisions of Section, 20, 21 and 22.

 

In the absence of ‘free consent’, the contract may turn out to be either voidable or void depending upon the nature of the flaw in consent to an agreement is caused by coercion, undue influence, misrepresentation or fraud, there is ‘no free consent’ and the contract is voidable at the option of the party whose consent was so caused (Sec. 19 and 19A).

But when consent is caused by ‘bilateral mistake’ as to a matter of fact essential to the agreement, the agreement is void (Sec. 20). In such a case there is ‘no consent’ at all.

 

COERCION (SEC. 15)

Coercion simply means forcing a person to enter into a contract.

Example: A, at pistol-point asks B to sell his car (worth Rs. 15,000) for Rs. 1,000 only. Here A has obtained B's consent by coercion. Had A not threatened B, B would not have agreed to sell his car.

Definition :Sec. 15 defines coercion as follows:

"Committing or threatening to commit, any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code, or unlawful detaining or threatening to detain, any property, to the prejudice of any person whatever with the intention of causing any person to enter into an agreement."

The properties of coercion are as under:

  1. Committing or threatening to commit any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code:

If a person commits an act or threatens to commit an act which is forbidden by the Indian Penal Code, 1860 he is applying coercion. Examples: A threatens to shoot B if he does not sell his scooter. The consent of B has been obtained by coercion.

  1. Unlawful detaining or threatening to detain any property:

If a person unlawfully detains or threatens to detain any property he is applying coercion. Example: A railway company refused to deliver the goods unless unlawful charges were paid. A paid the charges to obtain the goods. A can recover the unlawful charges paid by him as his consent was not given freely.

  1. The act of coercion may be directed at any person and not necessarily at the other party to the agreement:

The Act of coercion may be directed against any person, and not necessarily against the other party to the contract. Similarly, it need not necessarily proceed from a party to the contract. It may proceed even from a stranger to the contract. Examples:A threatens to shoot B if C does not sell his car to A. C agrees to sell the car.

  1. The act of coercion must be done with the object of inducing or compelling any person to enter into an agreement:

It should be noted that it is not necessary that the Indian Penal Code should be applicable at the place where coercion was employed.

Whether Threat to Commit Suicide Amounts To Coercion : In India, an attempt to commit suicide is an offence. However, in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has held that attempt to commit suicide is not an offence.

 

Effect of Coercion 

  1. The contact becomes voidable at the option of the aggrieved person/party, the aggrieved party/person has two options (Sec 19)

  2. may compel the other party for specific performance (if deems fit)

  3. may set aside the contract

  4. Section 64 if the aggrieved party decides to set aside the contract, the must restore any benefits received by him under such contract

Burden of Proof: The party avoiding the contract has to prove that Coercion was exercised upon him and his consent received is not voluntary or he has not exercised his consent freely.


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