File Copyright Online - File mutual Divorce in Delhi - Online Legal Advice - Lawyers in India

Law of Minor Agreement: Time ripen for change

Minority has been an attraction point for diverse opinions. Some legal luminaries think that minority of anybody shall not be a way to escape from liability that arises from his own acts.
Nowadays it is widely witnessed that minors commit crimes and wrongs and get saved because they live in the providence of law which cannot see anything. There are many instances when minors commit such horrible crimes that shake the entire humanity but get exonerated because of their age. A few to mention are:

Nirbhaya Case:

Of the six perpetrators, one was juvenile (minor), he was sent to 3 yrs reformation by juvenile justice board and was then released. According to media reports, he was in fact, the most brutal and callous of all the perpetrators as he was the one who attacked her with an iron rod.[1]

Also in the Ryan International School Murder Case, the prime accused of the murder of an 8-year-old boy was a minor studying in class 11th of the same institution.[2]

These are just two of many incidents that show that Minors are capable of forming intention for committing serious crimes, so they should be made liable for their deliberate acts.

Turning the coin, on the other side, there are many minors who have excellent intellect as to start and run businesses, do programming, act in movies and serials, etc. A few examples are,
Bhavya Gandhi:- Acted in famous T.V. serial Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma from the age of 10 and continued it till 20.

Keshav and Neeha Gupta are two children who began writing books when they were 10 and 14 respectively.[3]

Further, even at the time of taking admissions in colleges and universities, many students are minors. So, it is clear that usually minors have sufficient intellect at the ages of 15-16 to judge what they are doing. Thus, Minors are no longer as innocent as they used to be when education was not widespread. Now since even brains are changing with times, laws must also bow down to its force and change themselves so that they can provide justice in the real sense.

In this project work titled Law of Minor Agreement: Time ripen for change or not, we will discuss the viability of laws relating to Minor agreement and will try to find out that whether these laws are failing to keep pace with time or not.

Arguments

Who is a minor?

Any person below the age of majority is said to be a minor and such state is called minority. The age of majority of any person depends upon the law to which he is subject[4]. For every person domiciled in India, the age of majority is 18 years. However, there is an exception to this, if a guardian is appointed for the property or person of a minor by a court, he will be considered major at the age of 21 and not before.[5]

The validity of a Minor Agreement
A minor has been implicitly declared incompetent to contract by § 11 of The Indian Contract Act. When this issue arose in 1903 in Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodas Ghose[6], it was settled that contract between a major and minor is no contract under the definition of §11 and hence it cannot be judged as null or voidable. Since then, it is a widely accepted principle that agreement with a minor is absolutely void.

In another case[7], the question was whether the mortgage executed in favor of a minor who has advanced the entire mortgage sum, is enforceable by the minor himself or his guardian or not. The court held that the purpose of the law which renders minors incompetent to enter into or bind themselves to any contract is just to protect them from any off-beam consequence of their actions which they themselves might not be aware of. But at the same time, it would be appalling if they cannot receive anything, even after they have parted with their money.

This created another principle which loosely fits into the following words:
If in any certain agreement minor has furnished consideration or performed his part of the promise, he must not stand at any disadvantage due to his minority.

Another case that is indispensable to discuss in this context is Raj Rani v. Prem Adib[8]. The facts of this case are,
The Plaintiff, a minor was given a role to play in a film by the defendant. The plaintiff’s father entered into an agreement with the defendant on 15th January 1947, that plaintiff would work with the defendant for one year till 14th January 1948, in exchange for Rs 9,500 which she will receive in twelve equal instalments.

After one month the defendant stopped giving her work and in March he got another artist and terminated the contract with her father.

In this case, The Bombay High Court held that “neither she nor her father could have sued on the promise. If it was a contract with the plaintiff, she being a minor, it was nullity. If it was a contract with her father it was void for being without consideration. The promise of a minor girl to serve, being not enforceable against her, cannot furnish any consideration for the defendant's promise to pay her a salary.”[9]

The case of Raj Rani v. Prem Adib was decided just upon the literal interpretation of the lines of the law. The reasoning behind making a minor incompetent to contract was that a minor, due to his age is incapable to understand the nature and the consequences of the agreement in which he or she might enter.

This immaturity due to age increases a minor’s susceptibility to being lulled into any harmful agreement. In order to prevent any such possibility, the law declares a minor incompetent to contract and any agreement by a minor a null or void agreement.

Here arises a pertinent question, “ Why should a minor be prevented from contracting if he or she is benefitted from the agreement?”

The constitution of India gives everybody Freedom of the profession, then why minors cannot enter into any agreement for selling skills that they already possess like, painting, singing, writing, acting, etc. They must be provided such an opportunity.

The reasoning that is generally provided is that the minors are not in a position to make a reasonable judgment regarding whether the agreement in which they are entering is beneficial for them or not. True. The contracts relating to apprenticeship are covered under The Indian Apprentices Act, 1850. § 9 of the same act requires the guardian of a minor to enter into an agreement on the behalf of the minor. If such a facility is provided by one law why shall not The Indian Contract Act provide it? Allowing minors to enter into a contract in such a manner will also increase the confidence of the other party that the contract wouldn’t be breached by the minor.

Further, it would be too far from rationality to assume that a whole lot of sense and shrewdness would be poured down to a minor’s brain on the 18th Anniversary of his birthday, as to make him capable of forming rational judgments regarding his acts. The undeniable fact is that such reasonableness or shrewdness is a result of experience and education that he receives in life.

Seeing the changes in time, The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was amended in 2015 with a provision allowing for Children in Conflict with Law (CCL) of age group 16 to 18 years to be tried as adults, when they commit heinous crimes i.e. one that attracts a minimum of 7 years as punishment.[10]If this law can afford changes for the betterment of society then why The Indian Contract Act cannot, for the betterment of minors.

Hence, minors above 16 years should be allowed to enter into any agreement, on their own, which:

  1. Does not impose any financial obligation or burden upon the minor such as the contract for loan, debt, mortgage, etc.
  2. Does not employ them in hazardous or immoral activities.
  3. Does not encroach upon any of their fundamental or legal rights.
  4. Does not snatch their educational rights or hamper their education.
Because any normal child who is of 16 years is able to make a better choice between his good and bad. If the age of a minor is an issue then, there cannot be a single age that can determine a person’s capability. Even different sources provide different ages as to when a person should be understood as capable of understanding his acts and made responsible. In ancient texts[11] it was,

आ चतुर्दशकाद् वर्षान्न भविष्यति पातकम् ।
परतः कुर्वतामेवं दोष एव भविष्यति ।। १७ ।।
- महर्षि वेदव्यास रचित महाभारत,
सप्ताधिकशततमो अध्याय।

This verse says that no one on this earth would be punished for his wrong acts before the age of fourteen. Only those above the age of fourteen would be punished for their sins.
Further, as per a newspaper report, psychological studies have told that a person at 16 years of age is able to clearly demarcate what is good for him and what is bad for him. Further, it says that there is nothing wrong with reducing the age of majority to 16 years as it would be scientifically utilitarian and innocuous too.[12] The age of 18 years as it is now, is widely supported as the age of majority.

The point here is not to advocate bringing the age of majority down to 16 years or less, but to show that, if a minor can be made liable for his acts at an age, less than 18 years and if it can be assumed that a minor of 16 years is able to differentiate between his good and bad, then it can also be assumed that the sense of reasonableness that is required for making an agreement is also present in minors. Thus allowing them to enter into any such (mentioned above) agreement would be quite judicious and good for society.

Further, The supreme law of the country, The Constitution of India, in fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy, declares, employment below the age of 14 years as child employment and prohibits it and employment of children above 14 years of age till 18 years in hazardous works. The reasoning behind this was that the period less than 14 years of age is time for any child to gain basic education which is his fundamental right and nobody can breach it.

Further if any minor of more than 14 years of age can get himself employed in any non-hazardous work, then why shall he be deprived of the right to enter into any agreement which does not deprive him of his money or property or rights. Additionally, it would be very impractical to let minors be employed without giving them legal competence to enter into an agreement. This would surely open the ways for employers to exploit the minors without any legal opposition.

Now let's come to the consumers in the market. Generally, minors as young as 10 years go and buy things of their needs and some things that every household generally needs and they are quite apt at determining the quality of goods and choosing which one to buy. If minors can possess such knowledge then why should not they have the competency to enter into such daily life contracts? Allowing minors to enter into simple daily life contracts by conferring legal enforceability upon the agreements made by them will surely empower the younger generation of the country.

Minors are also a part of society and their interests cannot be ignored. Though there is no doubt that initially, the law intended the same thing but changing with ever-changing times is also necessary. Wherever minors are able to enter into any contract independently i.e. those agreements where minors have to make no compromise with their money or property or education or public morality, minors above the age of 16 years should be allowed to do so. And wherever the minor is below 16 years of age and no such interest of the minor is being compromised with, parents or the lawful guardians of minors should be legally empowered to enter into any such agreement. In this manner the law will be able to serve two purposes, first, it will be able to safeguard the interests of minors and second, it will empower the young generation with the armament of law.

This is a widely known fact that time is dynamic in nature. Only a society that changes and updates itself along with and according to the vicissitudes of time can flourish. Laws are a crucial element of any society. They determine the way and speed with which society develops. Agreements form the base of almost every legal relationship in any society so why should minors be kept deprived of the competence to enter into any legally enforceable contract?

With the increase in education access to children, they are gradually getting aware of worldly things, and now minors are willing to sell their skills, talent, and knowledge and they must not be stopped just because of their age. Everyone including the minors should have the right to do everything that is legally right and age-appropriate.

As far as the ripeness of time is concerned it would be no wrong to say that we are behind the time in regard to this change. Today even while entering into university many students are minor. Universities are entirely a new and unknown world. For those who do not have any identity, the law becomes their identity and protects them from any sort of injustice. This is also an irrefutable logic why minors should be allowed to enter into any agreement.

Thus, the time is ripe to move ahead from absolutely void to a legally enforceable agreement.

End-Notes:

  1. OpIndia Staff, What happened to the juvenile rapist of the Nirbhaya gang-rape case: Here are the details, OpIndia, (Dec. 20, 2020, 12:49 PM), https://www.opindia.com/2020/03/nirbhaya-rape-case-juvenile-cook-sewing-machine-convicts-hanged/
  2. Apoorva Mandhani, HC rejects bail plea of accused student in Ryan School murder, treats him as adult, The Print, (Dec. 20, 2020, 1:00PM) https://theprint.in/judiciary/hc-rejects-bail-plea-of-accused-student-in-ryan-school-murder-treats-him-as-adult/452246/
  3. Joeanna Rebello Fernandes, When 10-year-olds are published authors, The Times Of India, (Dec. 20, 2020, 1:22 PM) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-times/when-10-year-olds-are-published-authors/articleshow/62772651.cms
  4. The Indian Contract Act ,1872, § 11, Act No. 9 of 1872
  5. Majority Act, 1875, § 3, Act 9 of 1875
  6. Mohori Bibee v Dharmodas Ghose, (1902-03) 30 lA 114: ILR (1903) 30 Cal 539 (PC)
  7. A.T. Raghava Chariar v O.M. Srinivasa Raghava Chariar, ILR (1916)40 Mad 308
  8. (1949) 51 BOMLR 256
  9. AVTAR SINGH, CONTRACT AND SPECIFIC RELIEF 165 ( Eastern Book Company 2019)
  10. Sadaf Modak, Explained: When a juvenile is tried as an adult, when not, The Indian Express, (Dec. 22, 2020, 1:03 PM) https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/when-a-juvenile-is-tried-as-an-adult-when-not-5840823/
  11. MAHARISHI VED VYAS, MAHABHARAT, Aadi Parv, Saptadhikshat Adhyay (107th Chapter).
  12. Maitreyee Boruah, Should a 16-year-old be treated as an adult?, The Times Of India, (Dec. 22, 2020, 4:42 PM) https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/spotlight/Should-a-16-year-old-be-treated-as-an-adult/articleshow/22228157.cms

Law Article in India

Ask A Lawyers

You May Like

Legal Question & Answers



Lawyers in India - Search By City

Copyright Filing
Online Copyright Registration


LawArticles

Section 482 CrPc - Quashing Of FIR: Guid...

Titile

The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of th...

Whether Caveat Application is legally pe...

Titile

Whether in a criminal proceeding a Caveat Application is legally permissible to be filed as pro...

How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi

Titile

How To File For Mutual Divorce In Delhi Mutual Consent Divorce is the Simplest Way to Obtain a D...

Copyright: An important element of Intel...

Titile

The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) has its own economic value when it puts into any market ...

The Factories Act,1948

Titile

There has been rise of large scale factory/ industry in India in the later half of nineteenth ce...

Law of Writs In Indian Constitution

Titile

Origin of Writ In common law, Writ is a formal written order issued by a body with administrati...

Lawyers Registration
Lawyers Membership - Get Clients Online


File caveat In Supreme Court Instantly