Lalman Shukla v. Gauri Dutt

Vartika Shrivastava

Case Name - Lalman Shukla vs Gauri Dutt
Citation- 1930 40 ALJ 489
Appellant in the case- Lalman Shukla
Respondent in the case- Gauri Dutt
Bench- Justice Banerji

INTRODUCTION-
The case revolves around the issue of examining the validity of the contract if there exists no acceptance for the same.

FACTS OF THE CASE-
The defendant was Gauri Dutt who engaged all the servants and sent them to different locations in order to find and bring back the nephew of the defendant. This incident took place around January 1913. The defendant sent out various servants in order to find his nephew who escaped from the house. The plaintiff, who was Lalman Shukla, was among the servants who were sent out by the defendant to search for the defendant’s nephew. The plaintiff was sent to Haridwar, during his visit he was successfully able to track the lost child and return home with him. The defendant was quite happy for this accomplishment of the plaintiff and he was rewarded with an amount of rupees 20 when he returned to the house. During the search, the defendant issued a handbill which consisted of an offer that said that the person who would successfully track down the child and bring him home would be rewarded rupees 501 for the same, however, the plaintiff at that time had no idea of this reward.
After a period of 6 months, a suit was brought against the defendant by the plaintiff and he claimed the prize money of rupees 499 and stated that as the master promised that whoever would find the child will be given and be entitled to the award as printed in the handbill. He also stated that since his master did not reward him for the same, he must reward him for the specific performance of the promise.

ISSUES RAISED-
The plaintiff went to a lower court where the case filed by him was rejected, which led him to file a case in the Allahabad High Court and raise the following issues-

1) Weather the situation amounted to a contract or not?
2) Whether the claim of rupees 499 by the petitioner should be provided to him or not?
3) Whether the decision taken by the lower court was appropriate in nature or not?

CONTENTIONS-

Petitioner
It was stated by the petitioner that as he performed the act of rescuing the child and tracking him down and hence the mere performance of his act is a cause, fully sufficient enough to deserve the reward which was promised for the performance. He stated that it was immaterial that weather the person who is performing the act possesses the knowledge or not of the reward which was promised in return. It was pointed out by the petitioners that according to Section 8 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 the performance of any condition of a proposal would be an acceptance of the proposal. Hence, the condition was that whoever found the child who was missing would be awarded the amount as promised, and hence he claimed that he had fulfilled this condition and was entitled to the reward.

Respondent
The respondent stated that for an offer to be converted to a contract there must be an acceptance of that contract which is a basic essential. It was also stated that when the petitioner was in Haridwar tracing the boy, he was not aware of the offer, and thereby he did not actually accept the offer which means that there was no valid contract between the parties. It was also stated on behalf of the respondent that as the servant of the house the respondent was merely fulfilling his duties and the obligations, it was his responsibility to track and trace the boy and bring him home.


JUDGEMENT-
It was held by the High Court of Allahabad that a basic necessity for a contract to happen is the knowledge and also the assent of a proposal which would convert a proposal into an agreement, which would be enforceable.
And given the present circumstances of this case, this criterion was not fulfilled by the plaintiff as he was not aware and there was no assent.
It was also stated that during the time when the incident took place, the plaintiff was merely fulfilling his responsibilities and obligations while tracing the boy, hence this appeal was dismissed and it was decided that the plaintiff was not entitled to any reward.