Mohri Bibi v. Dharmodas Ghose

Vidhi Galaiya

INTRODUCTION

Mohri Bibi v. Dharmodas Ghose is a significant precedent for minor’s agreement. The bench of judges comprised of - Lord McNaughton, Lord Davey, Lord Lindley, Sir Ford North, Sir Andrew Scoble, Sir Andrew Wilson.
The plaintiff in this case is Dharmodas Ghose and the defendant is Mohri Bibi.

BACKGROUND

According to Sec 11 of the INDIAN CONTRACT ACT,1872, a minor (a person who is below the age of 18) is not competent to enter into any contractual obligations.

However, there was still ambiguity revolving around the status of a contract entered by a minor. This case triggered a debate whether a contract entered by a minor is voidable at his option or void ab initial (void from the beginning), which resulted in the privy council upholding that a contract entered by a minor is void ab initio (void from the beginning).


FACTS

Dharmodas Ghose (the plaintiff) was a minor (has not completed the age of 18), and was the sole owner of his immovable property.
The Plaintiff mortgaged the land in the favour of Bhrahmo Dutta (the defendant) for
Rs 20,000 at 12%interest per rate.
Kedar Nath acted as the attorney of the defendent and was responsible for the management of the defendant’s business and dealings.
The plaintiff’s mother sent a notification to the defendant informing him about the legal status i.e incompetency of the plaintiff. The defendant’s attorney who acted on behalf of the defendant knew fully about the incompetency of the plaintiff to enter into a contract and lent a proportion of Rs 20,000 to him.
After this chain of event on September 10, 1895 the plaintiff i.e Dharmodhas Ghose along with his mother brought a suit against the defendant i.e Mohri Bibi (on the death of Bhramho Dutta and the appeal was litigated by his executor i.e Mohri Bibi) claiming that the mortgage executed by the plaintiff was void as when the mortgage was commenced the plaintiff was incompetent to legally mortgage his land and the south to rescind or revoke the contract.
The plaintiff contended that the defendant was fully aware about the incompetency of the plaintiff and still fraudulently manipulated by taking undue advantage of his status for their own benefit. Therefore, no relaxation shall be liable.
The defendant contended that the plaintiff was a major when he executed the mortgage and that he misrepresented his age, the defendant further contended that he was entitled to recover the sum of money lent to the plaintiff according to section 64 of the INDIAN CONTRACT ACT,1872 and section 41 and 38 of the SPECIFIC RELIEF ACT, 1877.




ISSUE BEFORE THE COURT
- whether the mortgage deed was void under section 2(g) of the Indian Contract Act, 1872?
- whether the mortgage deed was voidable or void?
- whether the defendant was entitled to recover the amount lent to the plaintiff?


JUDGEMENT
The Trial court held that the contracts between the defendant and the plaintiff was void as it commenced when the plaintiff was an infant thus making him incompetent to contract according to section sec 10 and 11 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872.
The defendant then filed an appeal in the Calcutta High court which later upheld the trial court’s decision.
The defendant being dissatisfied approached the Privy council. The privy council dismissed the defendant’s appeal and held that the contract between the plaintiff and the defendant was void under section 2(g) of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 as the commencement of the contract took place when the plaintiff was a minor.
Henceforth, contended that any decision with the minor is deemed void ab initial (void from the beginning).
The privy council further held that since the contract was void from the very beginning the minor was not entitled to recover or return the money to the defendant since he was bound by the promise executed in the contract.
Since the contract was void, Section 64(7) was not applicable as this section can be invoked only when the contract is voidable at the option of the party. The defendant then invoked section 41 of the Specific Relief Act, 1877 which gave the court the discretion to decide whether some relief must be granted to the defendant, the court held that the defendant’s attorney had full knowledge of the incompetency of the plaintiff while commencing the contract, which disentitled him from recovering the money advanced to the minor.


PRINCIPLE LAW
- An agreement made with an infant or minor is deemed as void and can neither be valid or voidable, hence such contracts cannot be enforced in the court of law.


WHO IS A MAJOR ?
According to the Majority Act 1875, any individual is believed to attain the age of majority when he/she turns 18 and in the case where a guardian is appointed by the court for the minor, then the person in question would attain majority at the age of 21.


CONCLUSION
Mohri Bibi v. Dharmodas Ghose is a landmark case for minor’s agreement. This case concluded that an agreement with a minor is void and cannot be enforced against him, nor can the minor be forced to reimburse the other party to the agreement provided that the minor’s parent or guardian had no knowledge of the agreement entered into and neither had consented for the same.
If a minor enters into an agreement with the consent of his guardian or parent, in such a case the agreement can be enforced and on the event of breach the minor’s guardian or parent will be liable to compensate or reimburse the aggrieved party at any cost whatsoever.