Define Consent and Coercion. When is Consent said to be free?

Consent:

The consent means an act of assenting to an offer. According to Section 13 of the Indian Contract Act, Two or more persons are said to consent when they agree upon the same thing in the same sense. It can also be said that there must be no misunderstanding between the parties about the subject matter of the contract. As when two parties enter into a contract they should give their consent. This is referred to as consensus-ad-ideal by the English Law. If the parties are not ad-idem on the subject matter of the contract then there is no real agreement between them.

When there is no-consent then the agreement is void ab-initio, that is, it is not enforceable at the option of either of the parties. For example, A has two Maruti cars, one is blue and the other is red. And he wants to sell his red Maruti car. B who knows of only A’s blue car, offers to buy A’s car for Rs. 60,000. B accepts the offer thinking it to be an offer for his red Maruti car. Here, the two parties are not thinking in terms of the same subject matter. Thus, there is no consent and the contract will not be valid.

Coercion:

Coercion means forcibly compelling a person to enter into a contract, that is, the consent of the party is obtained by use of force or under a threat. According to Section 15 of the Indian Contract Act defines coercion as “Coercion is (a) the committing or threatening to commit, any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code, or (b) the unlawful detaining or threatening to detain, any property, to the prejudice of any person whatever, with the intention of causing any person to enter into an agreement.

For example, A beats B and compels him to sell his car for Rs 70,000. Here, B’s consent has been obtained by coercion because beating someone is an offense under the Indian Penal Code.

It is important for the contract to be valid that the parties provide their free consent. Section 10 of the Indian Contract Act, provides that all the agreements are contracts if they are made by the free consent of the parties. According to Section 14 of the Act states that Consent is said to be free when it is not caused by:

  • Coercion, or
  • Undue influence, or
  • Fraud, or
  • Misrepresentation, or
  • Mistake.

Therefore, the consent of the parties to a contract is treated as free if it is not induced by any of the five factors stated under Section 14. In other words, when the consent is influenced by any of the five factors the consent is not free that is the contract is usually voidable at the option of the party whose consent was so caused. For example, X at a gun point, makes Y agree to sell his house to X for Rs. 50,000. Here, Y’s consent has been obtained by coercion and therefore, it will not be regarded as free.

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