COERCION

COERCION

Coercion means using force to compel a person to enter into a contract. So force or threats are used to obtain the consent of the party under coercion, i.e it is not free consent.

ACCORDING TO SECTION 15 OF INDIAN CONTRACT ACT, 1872

“Coercion is

  • committing or threatening to commit any act forbidden by the law in the IPC
  • unlawfully detaining or threatening to detain any property with the intention of causing any person to enter into a contract.”

Case study: Ranganayaamma vs. Alwar Setty

A girl aged 13 lost her husband and she was forced to adopt a boy by her in laws. They denied the dead body from being removed for cremation until her she agrees to adopt a boy. The adoption of the boy was kept aside by the court as the consent for the same was obtained by way of Coercion.

EXAMPLE: A threatens to hurt B if he does not sell his house to A for 5 lakh rupees. Here even if B sells the house to A, it will not be a valid contract since B’s consent was obtained by coercion.

IMPLICATIONS OF COERCION

Committing any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code

When the consent of a person is obtained by committing any act which is forbidden by the Indian Penal Code, the consent is said to be obtained by coercion. Committing a murder, kidnapping, causing hurt, rape, defamation, theft etc. are some of the examples of the acts forbidden by the Indian Penal Code.

For example, A beats B and compels him to sell his scooter for Rs. 2,000. In this case the consent of B is induced by coercion.

Threatening to commit any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code

From the definition it is observed that not only the committing of an act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code amounts to coercion but even a threat to commit such act amounts to coercion. Thus, a threat to shoot, to murder, to kidnap or to cause bodily injury will amount to coercion.

For example, A threatens to shoot B, if he does not sell his ship to A for Rs. 1,00,Q00. B agrees to sell his ship to A. Here the consent of I3 has been obtained by coercion.

Unlawful detaining of any property

If a person unlawfully detains the property of another person and compels him to enter into a contract with him, the consent is said to be induced by coercion.

CASE: MUTHIA VS KARUIPPAN

An agent refused to hand over the account books of the principal to the new agent appointed in his place unless the principal released him from all the liabilities. The principal had to give a release deed as demanded. It was held that the release was not binding because the consent of the principal was obtained by exercising coercion.

Intention of causing any person to enter into an agreement

The act of coercion must have been done with the object of inducing or compelling any person to enter into a contract.

For example, A threatens to kill B’s son C if B refuses to sell his car to him. Here, the threat is directed against C (B’s son). So, the consent is treated as induced by coercion.

Similarly, it is not necessary that the threat should come from a party to the contract, it may come from a stranger.

For example: A threatens to kill B if he does not sell his house to D. B agrees to sell his house to D. Though A is a Stranger to the contract the consent is caused by coercion.

What is important, therefore, is that a forbidden act was involved to obtain the consent of the other party. Whether it comes from the party or a stranger to the contract, is immaterial.

EFFECT

When the agreement made is found to be made out of coercion, then the contract would be rescinded or cancelled, due to which both parties are released from their obligation to perform their duties as per the contract.

BURDEN OF PROOF

The burden of proving that consent was induced by coercion lies on the party who wants to avoid the contract. In other words, it is for the aggrieved party to prove that his consent was not free. This could be done by proving that he would not have entered into this contract had coercion not been employed.

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