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  • What is contract law?
  • What are the main features of contract law?
  • What is the definition of a valid contract?
  • What does it take for a contract to legally binding?
  • What are the elements of a valid contract?

What is contract law?

Contracts are basically agreements that have the power of legal enforceability and protection. As per Section 2(e) of the Indian Contract Act 1872 (hereinafter referred to as the ICA), agreements refer to ‘every promise and every set of promises, forming consideration for each other’. As per Section 2(h) of the ICA, a contract is “an agreement enforceable by law”.

The basic gist of what contract is the following:

Proposal + Acceptance = Promise

Promise + Consideration = Agreement

Agreement + Enforceability = Contract

Therefore, Contract = Promise + Consideration + Enforceability.

*ICA is applicable to whole of India barring the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Essentials of a contract:

  • Offer –

    When one person signifies to another his willingness to do or to abstain from doing anything, with a view to obtaining the assent of that other to such act or abstinence, he is said to make a proposal. An offer is the penultimate act leading to an agreement. Once an offer is accepted, both parties are bound by the agreement. An offer must be clear, definite, and unambiguous.
  • Acceptance –

    When the person to whom the proposal is made signifies his assent thereto, the proposal is said to be accepted. A proposal, when accepted, becomes a promise. Acceptance can happen through speech, writing, conduct/performance, etc. Acceptance must be unqualified, absolute, clear and definite.
  • Consideration-

    Consideration can be defined as the price of the promise made. Both parties must be giving and receiving consideration in order for the agreement to be supported by consideration. Consideration need not be adequate, it just needs to be valid in the eyes of law.
  • Capacity to Contract-

    Minors, people of unsound mind, and/or people who are disqualified from contracting by some law to which they are subjected to, are considered incompetent to contract. The Indian Contract Act does not explicitly state whether a contract with a minor is void or voidable. However, in the case of ‘Mohri Bibee v. Dharmodardas Ghose’ observed that contracts with a minor are void ab initio, and that no restitution of benefits can be claimed by the parties. However, a party entering into a contract with a minor can seek reimbursement for supplying ‘necessities’ to the minor.
  • Consent-

    For a contract to be legal, parties must have exercised their consent freely without unlawful manipulation. Consent is not considered to be free consent when there is presence of Coercion, Undue Influence, Fraud, Mistake, Misrepresentation(for eg. Active concealment of relevant facts). In absence of ‘consensus ad idem’ or meeting of minds, contract stands void.
  • Lawful motive and object-

    An agreement even if it satisfies all the above conditions would not be a contract if it is for an unlawful motive like selling prohibited narcotics or has an unlawful consideration like the promise of murdering someone in exchange of a particular amount of money.

Miscellaneous facts about Contract Laws:

  • Wagering contracts are illegal in India, however some states allow restrictive betting, for example casino is allowed on certain conditions in Goa and Sikkim. Horse racing also enjoys legality as there are several factors to it like the kind of training given, nutrition provided etc. which don’t make it a game of luck or chance. Case of ‘Dr. K.R. Lakshmanan v. State of Tamil Nadu’ observed that horse racing is a game of skill and cannot be deemed to be a game of pure chance, hence it is legal to bet on horse racing.
  • Balfour v. Balfour – An agreement cannot be enforced if the parties did not intend on creating a binding agreement.
  • Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. – Any person can accept a general offer that was made to the public at large, and the execution of the conditions for the offer will be considered as acceptance.
  • Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodas Ghose – Contract with a minor is void ab intio (void from the beginning)
  • Kedar Nath v. Gorie Mohammad – An agreement in absence of consideration can be binding provided the promise took certain steps in furtherance of the object on the basis of the promise made by the promisor. (Rule of Promissory Estoppel)

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