Consent is the most fundamental concept of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. Consent is used in various fields like business, trade, commerce, law, research, and many more. The consent should be free and voluntary, only then a valid contract between two parties is possible. The execution of the contract is not possible between the two persons if any of the party imposes any condition which is not favorable to the other party. The consent is free consent if it is not caused by Coercion, Undue Influence, Fraud, Misrepresentation, and mistakes.
Section 15 of the Indian Contract act, 1872 defines Coercion. Coercion is done
- when any person commits or threatens to commits any act forbidden by the IPC or,
- when any person has unlawfully detained or threatened to detain any property, with the intention of causing any person to come into an agreement. It is not important whether IPC is or is not applicable in that particular area where the Coercion has been done.
S.16 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 defines Undue Influence. When in a contract between the two parties, one of the parties is in a position to dominate the will of the other and that party uses its position to obtain an unfair advantage from the other party, is Undue Influence. A person dominates the will of the other person when he holds a real or apparent authority over the other or where he stands in a fiduciary relation to the other. A person also dominates the will of the other when he comes into a contract with a person whose mental capacity is temporarily or permanently affected by reason of age, illness, mental or bodily distress.
S.17 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 defines Fraud. It means any act committed by a party to a contract, with having intention to deceive another party or its agent or by inducing him to enter into a contract:-
- The suggestion, as a fact, of that which is not true, by one who does not believe it to be true.
- The active concealment of a fact by one having knowledge or belief of the fact by one having knowledge or belief of the fact.
- A promise made by the party without any intention of performing it.
- Any other act committed by the party fitted to deceive.
- Any such act or omission by the party as the law has specially declared to be fraudulent.
Section 18 of the Indian Contract act, 1872 defines misrepresentation. It is the positive assertion of the person making it, believing it to be true, though it is not true. Misrepresentation also means the breach of a duty by the person committing it, without having any intent to deceive, gains an advantage of the person committing it. It may also include causing a party to an agreement, no matter how innocently it may be caused, to make a mistake as to the substance of the thing which is the subject of the agreement.
S.20 and S.21 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 defines mistake. S.20 explains the mistake of fact and S.21 explains the mistake of law. A mistake is an incorrect belief between one or two parties to the contract at the time of its formation.
Further, there are three types of mistake of fact:-
- Unilateral Mistake: when only one party to the contract makes the mistake and the other party is very well aware of the mistake.
- Mutual Mistake- when each party to the contract makes a different mistake.
- Common Mistake- when both the parties to the contract make the same mistake.
The basis of the Indian Contract Act lies in free consent. Without free consent, there can never be a valid contract between the two parties. If the consent is given under any of the following elements mentioned in sections 15 to 21, it is not free and voluntary consent, thereby not making any agreement between the parties. Consent exists when one person voluntarily makes a proposal and the other accepts the proposal.
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