Case Briefs
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Ajudhia Prasad v Chandan Lal


Author: Shrijeta Pratik, 1st Year law student at KPMSOL, NMIMS, Mumbai.

Essential details of the case

Citation – AIR 1937 All 610 (FB)    

Appellant – Ajudhia Prasad

Respondent – Chandan lal

Bench Chief Justice Mr. Sulaiman

Date of Judgment11 May 1937

Background of the Case

  • This case is a second appeal stemming from an action for acquisition based on a mortgage deed made by the defendants in favor of the plaintiffs on October 15, 1925. The defendants argued that they were juveniles at the time of the mortgage transaction and that there was no need for them to contract the indebtedness because a fully qualified guardian had been designated for them. 
  • The plaintiffs contested that the defendants were children in their response, and they also claimed that the defendants were responsible to pay the money under Section 68 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872. The lower appeal court found that the defendants were juveniles, as they were under the age of 21, and that the wedding expenditures for which the money was supposed to have been supplied were not “necessary”. Hence, Section 68 did not apply. 
  • It was retained, however, that the respondents and their father not only protected the fact that the minors had already been assigned a guardian, but that the father even went so far as to declare before the Sub-Registrar that his younger son was over the age of 18, and that the respondents’ and their father’s deceitful subjugation of the reality that the executants were under his own guardianship outlined to the plaintiffs that they were dealing with children. 

“Therefore, in the opinion of the lower court, there was a false deception made by or on part of the respondents,”

Issues at hand

  • Whether the case is related to the defendants’ minority, the debt’s object, and its proper attestation and consideration?
  • Whether the money obtained by the two juveniles under a mortgage agreement, when they were minors (more than 18 but less than 21), was under a dishonest misrepresentation of the fact that the executants were minors because a curator had been assigned for them under the Guardians Act?
  • Whether the presence of a contract within the meaning of the Act necessitates the existence of a contract, which cannot occur in the case of a child?

Judgment

  • The court is satisfied that in this instance, where the defendant is an infant, the cause of action is in essence ex contractu and is closely related to a loan contract, and that the lawsuit would be an “indirect manner of executing that contract.” There is no circumstance in which a Court of Equity has given judgement against an infant in conditions like the present, where it has intervened on the ground of infant’s fraud, via which he stimulated the creation of the loan contract, to authorise infant to pay the plaintiff a sum equal to the sum loaned under the void contract, and in influence, to the value of fundamental lent: to give legitimacy to the contract.
  • It would be as basic as acquiring a promissory note for people who assault infants to collect information that may be used to establish an allegation of deception from them. As a consequence, the infant would have to prove his infancy while also facing an accusation of fraud. The fact that the mortgagors, of the document founded on, were minors at the time of execution is adequate for the matter to be decided; such a deed executed by children is unquestionably a nullity under Indian law, and devoid of establishing an estoppel claim.
  • However, the concept of estoppel cannot be applicable to a legislative act. Estoppel only relates to inter partes contracts, and therefore does not allow contracting parties to estop themselves or anybody else in the midst of a legislative act.

Critical analysis

  • In this case, the plaintiff could not win on any other grounds. The equity rules that can be implemented are well-established and widely accepted in England. It is unlikely that an Indian court will develop a new rule of equity that is adverse to English law concepts for the first time. If the law in England is unambiguous and there is no formal legislation in India to the contrary, any seeming rule of equity in contradiction with that law should be avoided.
  • Is estoppel applicable in the case of a minor? 

The doctrine of estoppel does not extend to minors. It was  stated that there is a clear statutory provision that a minor who is unfit to contract is devoid of incurring any obligation for any debt, and that the doctrine of estoppel cannot override this requirement to render him liable. In other terms, if money was taken by a kid falsifying his age, it was fraud, and he may be forced to repay it; however, if there was no fraud, no repayment could be imposed.

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