According to section 15 of the Indian Contract Act; An agreement the consent to which is caused by coercion is voidable at the option of the party whose consent was so caused.
Coercion under this section is defined as; The committing or threatening to commit any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code (XLV of 1860), or the 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. Explanation- it is immaterial whether the Indian Penal Code (XLV of 1860), is or is not in force in the place where the coercion is employed1. For example; A employed an act of criminal intimidation for the purpose of causing B who was in Russia at that time to enter into an agreement, afterwards A filed a suit against B for breach of contract in Delhi High Court, the defendant pleaded that the agreement was voidable as there was coercion involved while signing the contract, the court ruled that even though B was in Russia where the Indian Penal Code (XLV of 1860) is not in force, the agreement is still voidable under section 15 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. This illustration clearly depicts how section 15 ensures a fair agreement, if we look into it from B’s perspective; he was in Russia at the time of signing the contract and even though the I.P.C. does not apply in Russia, the court held the contract to be voidable because B signed this contract as a result of criminal intimidation by A. This shows that the Indian Contract Act is committed to provide justice to the contracting parties, as coercion is considered as illegal even though it didn’t happen in India but still to provide fair treatment to contracting party
(B) The court ruled in the defendant’s favor. Coercion basically means exerting pressure over someone to, either by committing or threatening to commit any act prohibited by the Indian Penal Code; or unlawfully detaining or threatening to detain any property.
Acts forbidden by I.P.C. – this section includes all the acts which are contrary to law used as a weapon for coercing a contracting party to enter into a contract, this can be best understood with the help of a case law ‘Chikham Amiraju and ors. vs. Chikham Seshamma and anr.2’, in this case the facts were; the plaintiffs a mother-son duo signed a release-deed under coercion, the coercion was that the first plaintiff’s husband threatened to commit suicide if they didn’t sign the dead, which subsequently injured the feelings, sentiments and supposed spiritual
welfare of the first plaintiff. The issue arising here was that the first plaintiff’s husband was not a party to the contract and also if section 15 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 includes any
1 S. 15, The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (9 of 1872), Lexis Nexis.
2 Chikham Amiraju and ors. Vs. Chikham Seshamma and anr., I.L.R. (1918) 41 mad. 33, 36, (Mad. H.C. 1917).
provision for the feelings or supposed spiritual sentiments of the first plaintiff. The court held that threatening to commit suicide will amount to coercion as the attempt to commit suicide is an offence under ‘section 3093’ of the I.P.C., and since a threat to commit suicide by a man mentally affects his wife and children to the extent that they sign a deed without their free will, then it definitely amounts to coercion. This case clearly depicts how the Indian Contract Act, 1872 provides fairness to the contracting parties, as the first plaintiff’s husband’s threat to commit suicide was immaterial to the deed, and the court considered it as coercion because of the mental agony it caused to the plaintiffs which subsequently resulted in them signing the deed, which if came into action would result in an unfair and illegal contract.
3 Indian Penal Code, 1860, §, section 309, N.O. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).
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