Essentials of a Contract
Essentials of a Valid Contract.
What is a contract?
A contract is an agreement that can be enforceable by law. An agreement is an offer and its acceptance. An agreement that can be enforceable by law must have some essential elements. According to Section 10 "All agreements are contracts if they are made by the free consent of the parties competent to contract, for a lawful consideration and with a lawful object, and are not hereby expressly declared to be void" As per the above section, a contract must have the following elements.
1. Intention to create a legal relationship.
2. Lawful object.
3. Agreement not expressly declared void.
4. Proper offer and its acceptance.
5. Free Consent.
6. The capacity of parties to contract.
7. The certainty of meaning.
8. The possibility of performance.
9. Lawful consideration.
10. Legal formalities.
Intention to Create a Legal Relationship
Intention to create a legal relationship: The parties entering into a contract must have an intention to create a legal relationship. If there is no intention to create a legal relationship, that agreement cannot be treated as a valid contract. Generally, there is no intention to create a legal relationship in social and domestic agreements. Invitation to lunch does not create a legal relationship. Certain agreements and obligation between father and daughter, mother and son and husband and wife do not create a legal relationship. An agreement wherein it is clearly mentioned that "This agreement is not intended to create formal or legal agreement and shall not be subject to legal jurisdiction in the law of courts." cannot be treated as a contract and not valid.
Lawful Object: The objective of the agreement must be lawful. Any act prohibited by law will not be valid and such agreements cannot be treated as a valid contract. Mr. A rents out his house for the business of prostitution or for making the bomb. The acts performing there are unlawful. Hence such an agreement cannot be treated as a valid contract. Therefore the consideration, as well as the object of the agreement, should be lawful.
Agreement not expressly declared void: Section 24 to 30 specify certain types of agreement which have been expressly declared void. For example Restraint of marriage which has been expressly declared void under Section 26. If John promises to pay $50 to Mary if she does not marry throughout her life and Mary promise not to marry at all. But this agreement cannot be treated as a valid contract owing to the fact that, under section 26 restraint of marriage expressly declared void. Some of the agreement which has been expressly declared void are the agreements in restraint of legal proceedings, agreements in restraint of trade, agreement in restraint of marriage and agreement by way of a wager.
Proper offer and it s acceptance: To create a valid contract, there must be two or more parties. One who makes the offer and the other who accepts the offer. One person cannot make an offer and accept it. There must be at least two persons. Also, the offer must be clear and properly communicated to the other party. Similarly, acceptance must be communicated to the other party and the proper and unconditional acceptance must be communicated to the offerer. Proper offer and proper acceptance should be there to treat the agreement as a contract which is enforceable by law.
Free Consent: According to section 14, consent is said to be free when it is not caused by (i) coercion, (ii) undue influence (iii) fraud, (iv) misrepresentation, or (v) mistake. If the contract made by any of the above four reasons, at the option of the aggrieved party it could be treated as a void contract. If the agreement induced by mutual mistake, the agreement would stand void or canceled. An agreement can be treated as a valid contract when the consent of the parties are free and not under any undue influence, fear or pressure etc. The consent of the parties must be genuine and free consent.
The capacity of parties to contract: Parties entering into an agreement must be competent and capable of entering into a contract. If "A" agrees to sell a Government property to B and B agrees to buy that property, it could not be treated as a valid agreement as A is not authorized or owner of the property. If any of the party is not competent or capable of entering into the agreement, that agreement cannot be treated as a valid contract. According to Section 11 of the Act which says that every person is competent to contract who is of the age of majority according to the law to which he is subject and who is of sound mind, and is not disqualified from contracting by any law to which he is subject. So it is clear that the party must be of sound mind and of age to enter into a valid agreement which can be treated as a valid contract.
Certainty of meaning: Wording of the agreement must be clear and not uncertain or vague. Suppose John agrees to sell 500 tones of oil to Mathew. But, what kind of oil is not mentioned clearly. So on the ground of uncertainty, this agreement stands void. If the meaning of the agreement can be made certain by the circumstances, it could be treated as a valid contract. For example, if John and Mathew are sole traders of coconut oil, the meaning of the agreement can be made certain by the circumstance and in that case, the agreement can be treated as a valid contract. According to Section 29 of the Contract Act says that Agreements, the meaning of which is not certain or capable of being made certain, are void.
The possibility of performance: As per section 56, if the act is impossible of performance, physically or legally, the agreement cannot be enforced by law. There must be the possibility of performance of the agreement. Impossible agreements like one claim to run at a speed of 1000km/hour or Jump to a height of 100feet etc. would not create a valid agreement. All such acts which are impossible of performance would not create a valid contract and cannot be treated as a valid contract. In essence, there must be the possibility of performance must be there to create a valid contract.
Lawful consideration: An agreement must be supported by a consideration of something in return. That is, the agreement must be supported by some type of service or goods in return of money or goods. However, it is not necessary the price should be always in terms of money. It could be a service or another goods. Suppose X agrees to buy books from Y for $50. Here the consideration of X is books and the consideration of Y is $50. It can be a promise to act (doing something) or forbearance (not doing something). The consideration may be present, future or can be past. But the consideration must be real. For example If John agrees to sell his car of $ 50000 to Peter for $20000. This is a valid contract if John agrees to sell his car not under any influence or force. It can be valid only if the consideration of John is free. An agreement is valid only when the acts are legal. Illegal works like killing another for money, or immoral works or illegal acts are cannot be treated as a valid agreement. So, illegal works will not come under the contract act.
Legal formalities: The contract act does not insist that the agreement must be in writing, it could be oral. But, in some cases, the law strictly insist that the agreement must be in writing like an agreement to sell immovable property must be in writing and should be registered under the Transfer of Property Act, 1882. These agreement are valid only when they fulfill the formalities like writing, registration, signing by both the parties are completed. If these legal formalities are not completed, it cannot be treated as a valid contract.
Most important essentials of a valid contract are explained above. These elements should be present in a contract to make it a valid contract. If anyone of them is missing that agreement cannot be treated as a valid contract.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Neha J
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