Q. Define undue influence and explain the nature of contract concluded under undue influence.


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The word undue means unnecessary, unwarranted, or more than required. Influence means convincing the mind of a counterparty through changing his mind or changing his will, but this influence must be undue i.e. it is not required. Undue influence applies to a relationship which may be blood relation or some other kind of relation i.e. fiduciary or relation based on trust. It means the unfair use of one’s superior position to obtain the consent of a person who is in a weak position.


One of the essential of a valid contract mentioned in section 10 is that the parties should enter into the contract with their free consent. According to section 14, "Consent is said to be free when it is not caused by-

A.      Coercion, sec 15,

B.      Undue influence, sec 16,

C.      Fraud, sec 17,

D.      Misrepresentation, sec 18, or

E.       Mistake, sec 20, 21 and 22.


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Definition of Undue influence

Undue Influence is defined under Section 16 of the ICA. When one party is in a position to dominate the will of others and actually misuses the power, then it is a case of undue influence, and the contract becomes voidable. When all the following three conditions are fulfilled then only the situation is considered as an undue influence:

1.                   One person is in a position to dominate the will of others.

2.                   He misuses his position.

3.                   He obtains an unfair advantage.


1.      Ability to dominate the will of other

The dominant position is not defined in the Indian Contract Act but Section 16(2) provides certain conditions when a person is in a position to dominate the will of another. Cases, where a person is in a position to dominate the will of others, are as follows:

I.                     There must be a relation between the parties:

A.      Real or apparent authority/relation: in which one party can be dominated by the other party. For example, father and son, master and his servant etc.


A having advanced money to his son for an important work, during an emergency, now ask his son to pay him a much greater amount, by using his parental influence, it amounts to undue influence.

B.      Fiduciary relationship: Fiduciary relation is the relation which is made upon the belief and trust between the parties. One party must believe the other. For example, Advocate and client, teacher and student, Doctor and patient.


A, a man enfeebled by disease or age, is induced by B's influence over him as his medical attendant, to agree to pay B an unreasonable sum for his professional services, B employees undue influence.


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II.                   Mental distress:

An only mental distress state of mind does not amount to undue influence until the defendant has used this opportunity to take unfair advantage from another party.


2.      Presumption of undue influence

There are some cases in which the Honorable Courts of India presume the existence of undue influence between the parties:

I.                     Where one of the parties to a contract is in a position to dominate the will of the other and contract is prima facie unconscionable i.e. unfair, the court presumes the existence of undue influence in such cases.

II.                   Pardanashin Woman: When a Woman can be viewed from the screen or is placed behind the screen i.e. veiled is called Pardanashin Woman. The protection of those women is rooted in the principle of good conscience and equity. Special laws are made for these women because they are subjected to ignorance, infirmity, illiteracy, etc. are thus easily influenced.


Effects of undue influence

Under Section 19A of the Contract Act, an agreement induced by undue influence is voidable at the option of that party whose consent was taken by influencing him/her. Performance of such agreements may be avoided absolutely or on prescribing certain terms and conditions.


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Important Cases

I.                     Mannu Singh V. Umadat Pande:

In this case, a spiritual leader induced the plaintiff (his devotee) to gift him the whole property to get benefits of the soul in the next world. It was held that the consent is obtained by undue influence and hence, it is voidable by the person whose consent was so induced.

II.                   Williams v Bayley:

In this case, a son forged the signature of his father on certain promissory notes and paid them into his account. When the truth came to light, the bank manager threatened to prosecute the son. To avert this, father mortgaged his property to the bank manager. House of Lords said that father gave his consent under influence and held the agreement voidable.

III.                  Subhas Chandra Das Mushib v. Ganga Prasad Mushib:

It was held that because the parties were nearly related to each other, no presumption of undue influence can arise.


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