Mohanlal Jagannath v. Kashiram Gokul
AIR 1950 Nag 71 (74)
[Indian Contract Act (ICA), Section(s): 16, 23, 24]
Panchas delivered an award under which defendant was to convey half of his share in his inherited property to his uncle who was to pay defendant’s share of debt, payable by him. Defendant consented to this award in return for his uncle assuring his release from the non-compoundable criminal charge, cropped up by his uncle himself, against him; however no such mention was there in award delivered. In spite of mutation of property (to which he objected on grounds of undue influence), defendant continued in possession of disputed properties; but after his uncle died, latter’s heir, plaintiff claimed possession.
- Whether the alleged award was obtained by undue influence?
- Whether any such award was void by reason of S.23 or S.24 of ICA?
Defendant’s criminal charge was non-compoundable and against serious offence filed against him by his own uncle; he was anxious to be saved from it; his uncles were willing to do so provided he transfers his share to them in lieu of their undertaking to pay off his share of debt payable by him under the preliminary decree for foreclosure. Therefore, his signatures were obtained on award by putting him in fear of his conviction in the criminal case pending against him and were clearly vitiated by undue influence as u/s 16. Uncles, who had cropped up the criminal charge against the defendant and were the sole repository who could release him from that charge, were clearly in a position to dominate his will and made use of that position (as according to facts) to obtain an unconscionable bargain against the defendant.
A person who seeks his own advantage by stifling a prosecution or compounding an offence which is not compoundable in law as against the interests of justice, does a serious abuse of the right of private prosecution; an act against public policy. No court can give countenance to an agreement between the parties which proceeds on such bargain whether implied or express.
Since one of the implied term of the contract was that the criminal case against defendant will be withdrawn by his uncles, hence, the agreement was clearly in violation of public policy and hence void as u/s 23.
Author: Vishrut Kansal (National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata)