Q. Describe the nature of minor's agreement.

 

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Answer

 

Introduction

According to Section 10 of the Indian Contract Act, 1972, apart from other qualifications, only those agreements are contracts that are made by parties who are competent to enter into a contract. Further, the word ‘competent’ has been described in Section 11 of Indian Contract Act; it is inclusive of 3 essentials-

·         The person should be of the age of majority; that is to say, 18 years

·         He should be of sound mind at the time of making of contract.

·         He should not be disqualified from contracting by any law to which he is subject.

Hence, it can be concluded that majority is the one of the essences to convert an agreement into contract.

 

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Minor’s contract

A minor is one who has not attained the age of 18, and for every contract, the majority is a condition precedent. By looking at the Indian law, minor’s agreement is a void-ab-initio, meaning thereby that it has no value in the eye of the law, and it is null and void as it cannot be enforced by either party to the contract.

As per the section 3 of Indian Majority Act, 1875, the age of majority in India is specified as 18 years. Even a day short of the specified age of entering in a contract disqualifies the individual from being a party to it.

 

Case: Mohiri Bibi v. Dharmodas Ghosh:

The case goes back to the year 1903 in which, for the first time, the Privy Council held that a minor’s contract is void-ab-initio that it is void from the beginning.

Facts of the case – the plaintiff Dharmodas Ghosh, when he was a minor, mortgaged his property to the defendant, a moneylender. At that time, defendant’s attorney had the knowledge about plaintiff’s age. The plaintiff later paid only Rs 8000 but refused to pay rest of the money. The plaintiff’s mother was his next friend (legal guardian) at that time, so he commenced an action against the defendant saying that at the time of making of a contract, he was a minor, so the contract being a void one, he is not bound by the same.

The court held that unless the parties have competence under Section 11 of the Act, no agreement is a contract.

 

Effects of minor’s agreement

1.       No liability arising out of contract: A minor is incapable of giving consent, and the nature of minor’s agreement is a nullity and cannot be enforced

2.       The rule of estoppel: Estoppel is a legal rule of evidence which prevents a party from alleging something that contradicts what he previously stated. For example, even if a minor incorrectly represents himself as a major as well as takes a loan or enters into a contract, He could plead his minority in his defence.

3.       No Ratification of Contracts: a minor cannot ratify the contract after attaining the age of majority i.e. 18 years.

4.       Restitution of benefit: According to Section 65 of the Indian Contract Act, the doctrine of restitution applies on miner also, except the cases of money, or the things, which he already consumed, invested or can’t able to return.

 

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Exception to this rule

For providing protection to a minor, his agreement is void-ab-initio. But there are certain exceptions as well.

I.                     When minor has performed his obligation: In a contract, a minor can be a promisee but not a promisor. So, if the minor has performed his part of the promise, but the other party hasn’t the minor being in the position of a promisee he can enforce the contract.

II.                   A contract entered into by guardian of minor for his benefit: In that case, a minor can sue the other party when it does not perform its promise.

III.                 Contract of apprenticeship: Under the Indian Apprentices Act, 1850, a contract of apprentice entered by guardian on his behalf is binding on the minor.

IV.                Necessities supplied to a miner: sec 68 of ICA:

If a person is incapable of entering into a contract is supplied by another person with necessities of life, the person who has supplied is entitled to get reimbursement from the property of such incompetent person, including a child as well. But if the minor has no property of his own, then he cannot be bound to reimburse the other person.

Kuwarlal V. Surajmal: Regarding necessities provided to minors it was held that the house given to a minor on rent for living in it and to continue his studies is part of necessities, and therefore he is entitled to payment of rent from minor’s property.

 

Other Imp case

Suraj Narayan v. SukhuAheer: In the concerned case, a person borrowed some money during his minority and after attaining the age of majority, he made a fresh promise to pay that sum and interest thereon, but this contract was not enforceable due to the reason that consideration received during minority is not a good consideration.

 

 

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