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Capacity To Contract Under Indian Contract Act (ICA), 1872

Capacity To Contract: The Indian Contract Act, 1872 defines the rules and regulations related to the formation and enforcement of contracts in India. One of the key elements of contract law is the capacity to contract, which refers to a person’s legal ability to enter into a valid contract. In this article, we will explore the concept of capacity to contract under the Indian Contract Act.

What is capacity to contract?

Capacity to contract refers to a person’s legal ability to enter into a valid contract. It means that the person has the legal competence to understand the nature and consequences of the contract, and can enter into the contract voluntarily and with full understanding of its terms and conditions. In India, capacity to contract is governed by the Indian Contract Act, 1872. Capacity to contract is an essential element of contract law. Under the Indian Contract Act, every person who is of legal age, of sound mind, and not disqualified from contracting by any law has the capacity to contract.

Who has the capacity to contract?

Section 11 of the Indian Contract Act specifies that every person is competent to contract who:

  1. is of the age of majority (i.e. 18 years or above)
  2. is of sound mind, and
  3. is not disqualified from contracting by any law to which he is subject.

Thus, to have the capacity to contract, a person must be of legal age, of sound mind, and not disqualified from contracting by any law. Let us examine these requirements in detail.

Age of majority

The Indian Majority Act, 1875 sets the age of majority at 18 years. A person who has not attained the age of 18 years is considered a minor, and therefore, lacks the capacity to contract. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, a minor can enter into a contract for his/her benefit with the permission of his/her guardian.

Under the law, a contract entered into by a minor is voidable at the option of the minor, which means that the minor has the right to repudiate the contract. This is because minors are not considered to have the necessary legal capacity to fully understand the consequences of their actions and the terms of the contract they are entering into.

There have been several cases in Indian courts related to the age of majority and capacity to contract. Some of these cases are:

  1. Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodas Ghose (1903): In this case, the court held that a minor’s contract was voidable and not enforceable. The court also held that a minor could not be held liable for any losses incurred by the other party due to the repudiation of the contract.
  2. Abdul Aziz v. Masum Ali (1957): In this case, the court held that a minor could not be held liable for breach of contract as they lacked the necessary capacity to enter into a contract.

Sound mind

A person is said to be of sound mind if he/she is capable of understanding the nature and consequences of the contract at the time of entering into it. A person who is of unsound mind lacks the capacity to contract. The term “unsound mind” refers to a person who is incapable of understanding the terms and conditions of the contract due to mental illness or incapacity.

Here are some relevant case laws related to the capacity to contract under the Indian Contract Act:

  1. Anil Kumar Nehru v. ACIL Cotton Industries Ltd. (2008): In this case, the court held that the burden of proving that a person is of unsound mind and incapable of entering into a contract is on the party seeking to avoid the contract. The court also noted that a person who is capable of managing their affairs and conducting their business is presumed to be of sound mind.
  2. Ram Narain v. ICICI Bank (2005): In this case, the court held that a person who is incapable of understanding the terms and conditions of a contract due to mental illness or disability is considered to be of unsound mind and cannot enter into a contract.

Disqualification by law

There are certain laws that disqualify a person from entering into a contract. For example, a person who has been declared bankrupt by a court of law is disqualified from entering into a contract related to his/her property. Similarly, a person who is disqualified by law to enter into a particular contract cannot enter into that contract.

The following are some examples of individuals who are disqualified by law from entering into a contract:

  1. Insolvent persons: Persons who are insolvent or have been declared bankrupt by a court of law are not competent to enter into a contract.
  2. Companies in liquidation: Companies that have been ordered to be wound up or are in the process of liquidation are not competent to enter into a contract.
  3. Foreign enemies: Persons who are citizens of a country with which India is at war are not competent to enter into a contract.
  4. Convicts: Persons who have been convicted of a criminal offense and are serving a sentence are not competent to enter into a contract.
  5. Aliens: Persons who are not citizens of India or do not have permanent residency status in India may be disqualified by law from entering into certain types of contracts.
  6. Government officials: Government officials, such as judges and civil servants, may be disqualified from entering into certain types of contracts as per their code of conduct or service rules.

Effect of incapacity on the validity of the contract

A contract entered into by a person who lacks the capacity to contract is voidable. This means that the contract is initially valid, but the person who lacks the capacity to contract has the option to either enforce the contract or void it. For example, if a minor enters into a contract, the contract is initially valid. However, the minor can choose to enforce the contract or void it when he/she attains majority.

A person who lacks the capacity to contract can enter into a voidable contract, which means that the contract is initially valid but can be voided by the person who lacks the capacity to contract. It is important to understand the concept of capacity to contract to ensure that contracts are valid and enforceable.

Judiciary Related Links:

Madhya Pradesh Judiciary Syllabus

Madhya Pradesh Judiciary Prelims Result

Laws Related to Working Women

Juvenile Justice System in India

Constitutional Morality

9th Schedule Of Indian Constitution

Pardoning Power of President

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FAQs

Who has the capacity to contract?

Generally, anyone who is of legal age, has mental capacity, and is not under duress or undue influence has the capacity to contract.

Can a person with a mental illness have the capacity to contract?

It depends on the severity of the mental illness and whether the person can understand the nature and consequences of the agreement. If the mental illness is severe and prevents the person from understanding the agreement, then they may not have the capacity to contract.

What is the legal age to have the capacity to contract?

The legal age to have the capacity to contract varies depending on the jurisdiction, but it is typically 18 years old.

Can a minor have the capacity to contract?

Generally, minors do not have the capacity to contract, but there are some exceptions. For example, minors can enter into contracts for necessities, such as food and shelter.

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