Coercion

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

Article

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In Indian legal jurisprudence, coercion refers to a situation where an individual is compelled to act against their free will due to the use of force, threats, intimidation, or any other undue influence. It can be considered a form of duress or undue pressure that negates the voluntary consent of a person in a particular situation or contract.

Coercion is an important concept in contract law. According to the Indian Contract Act, 1872, a contract is considered voidable if it is entered into by a party under the influence of coercion. This means that the affected party has the option to either uphold or reject the contract, depending on their choice, once the coercion is removed or the undue influence is no longer present.

Section 15 of the Indian Contract Act defines coercion as follows:

“Coercion” is the committing, or threatening to commit, any act forbidden by the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860), or 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.

It’s essential to note that the definition of coercion may have nuanced interpretations based on specific cases and the evolving body of Indian case law. Therefore, legal advice from qualified professionals should be sought for specific legal matters.

Coercion has a significant legal effect, particularly in contract law. When a contract is entered into by a party under the influence of coercion, the contract is considered voidable at the option of the coerced party. This means that the coerced party has the right to either affirm or reject the contract.

According to Section 19 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, a contract is voidable if it was induced by coercion. The affected party has three options:

  1. Acceptance: The coerced party may choose to accept the contract despite the coercion. In this case, the contract becomes valid and enforceable.
  2. Rejection: The coerced party can reject the contract by communicating their decision to the other party. Upon rejection, the contract becomes void ab initio, meaning it is treated as if it never existed. Both parties are then restored to their original positions as if no contract was ever formed.
  3. Rescission: If the coerced party has already performed their obligations under the contract, they can seek rescission, which means undoing the contract and restoring the parties to their pre-contractual positions.

It’s important to note that the right to avoid the contract due to coercion is not absolute. There are time limits within which the coerced party must exercise this right. If the coerced party fails to act within a reasonable time, their right to avoid the contract may be lost.

Additionally, if the coercive elements are removed, and the coerced party continues to act as if the contract is valid, their right to avoid the contract may be deemed waived. Waiver may occur if the coerced party willingly and unequivocally accepts the benefits of the contract or acts in a manner consistent with affirming the contract.

In conclusion, coercion in India has a serious legal effect on contracts. It renders the contract voidable at the option of the coerced party, allowing them to either accept, reject, or seek rescission of the contract within a reasonable time. Legal advice should be sought to understand the specifics of a given situation and the appropriate actions to take in cases involving coercion.