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Case Commentary On Lalman Shukla Verses Gauri Dutt

This case of Lalman shukla verses Gauri Dutt case is one of the most famous landmark judgments under the Indian contract act and this case is about the validity of contract if there exists no acceptance. It explains us about the essentials or requisites of a valid contract and section 3 of the contract act,1872 which is about communication of proposal.

This case was dealt in Allahabad high court and it was highlighted that knowledge and the acceptance for an offer are most essential requirements in order to turn a proposal to a contract. And secondly the parties accepting the offer must have the knowledge of the offer in order to perform the contract . There are various rules and case laws which are discussed in favour of the plaintiff and the defendant particularly in this case.

This is a very highlighted and most significant case of general proposal and has helped by laying down the important principles . The main objective of this case is the examination of validity of the contract and the requirement of knowledge about the proposal in order to accept the offer.

The Honorable court of Allahabad held that a contract without acceptance is void. And here in this case there was no such contract existing between the plaintiff and the defendant which can be enforceable by law as the plaintiff had lack of knowledge about the offer so the plaintiff was not entitled to receive the reward from the defendant . After analyzing the facts and issues of the case properly the court came to a conclusion that the absence of knowledge for the offer dismissed the reward. It must be communicated by proper means . So hence the plaintiff was not entitled to get the reward.

Name of the case:
Lalman shukla verses Gauri Dutt case - Equivalent Citation-1913 40 ALJ 489

The case Lalman Shukla verses Gauri Dutt case is one of the popular landmark judgments which is based on validity of contract under ICA (Indian contract act). The case was filed in the Allahabad high court in 1913 the verdict was given by chief justice of Allahabad high court J.Banerjee.

Facts of the case:
In this case the defendant Gauri Dutta’s Nephew was absconded from his house. The trace of the boy was not found. After the incident Gauri Dutt the defendant send all his servants in search for her missing nephew and out of the servants was the plaintiff Lalman Shukla who had also gone to find the boy and bring him back.

After Lalman shukla had left the house and was sent to Haridwar from Kanpur . He was provided with money and other expenses for his railway fare. As soon as Lalman Shukla left the house Gauri Dutt made an announcement that any person who will trace and find his missing Nephew will be rewarded with money of Rs 501. Lalman Shukla had no idea and was not aware of the fact . He had no knowledge about it before he went to trace the missing boy.

Then Lalman shukla traced the boy and brought the boy back to Kanpur. After knowing about the reward Lalman Shukla claimed the money from his master Gauri Dutt. But Gauri Dutt denied paying the reward of Rs 501 to him. As a result the plaintiff Lalman Shukla filed a case against Gauri Dutt his master for not giving him the reward as he is not entitled to recover for the performance of his act.

Issues raised in this case:
The main issues which was raised in this case were as follows
  • Whether there exists a contract or whether the situation amounts to contract between the two
  • Whether Lalman Shukla was entitled to get the reward from Gauri Dutt for tracing the missing boy
  • Whether there was a valid acceptance of the offer made by the plaintiff

Arguments on behalf of the plaintiff (Lalman Shukla):
The plaintiff Lalman Shukla strongly affirmed on his point that his performance of finding the missing boy himself is sufficient for him to be entitled to get the reward. He says according to Gauri dutt’s condition of whoever finds her nephew and bring him back he will get the reward and as per the condition the plaintiff had traced the boy and brought him back so he is entitled to the award declared. He stated that it is not important to have the prior knowledge under this circumstance about the reward which was associated with it.

He also put emphasis on the fact that section 8 of the Indian contract act,1872 which states that ‘the performance of the act or the acceptance of any consideration of a proposal is an acceptance of the proposal’. And here in this present case the condition as stated by the defendant Gauri Dutt was that whoever will find the missing child will be rewarded Rs 501 and as per it the plaintiff had performed the act so he is claiming for his reward from the defendant Gauri Dutt. He stated it immaterial that it is not necessary that the person who has performed the act must have the knowledge of it. According to him he has found the missing boy so he has the right to get the reward .

Arguments on behalf of the respondent:
The defendant (Gauri Dutt) asserted and strongly stated her point by saying that first and foremost the plaintiff Lalman Shukla was not aware of the offer . He had no knowledge about it. So an offer without the knowledge of the offeree or the promisee cannot be accepted and also there was no such possibility by the plaintiff to accept the offer without even knowing of the fact. Gauri Dutt stated according to section 2(a) of the Indian Contract Act 1872 when one person signifies to another person his desire or willingness to do or to not do something intending to obtain the assent of that person. To such act or abstinence he is said to make a proposal.

And also section 2(b) states the person to whom the offer is being made signifies his willingness then it is said that the proposal is accepted. Assent is very much essential to create a contract between both the parties which means before accepting the offer the offeree must have complete knowledge about the facts in order to give his assent or approval but here in this case the plaintiff was completely unaware of the reward which was associated with it.

At the time of searching the missing boy the plaintiff Lalman Shukla was merely doing his duty as a servant. He was working as a servant and it was his duty to trace and find the missing boy and for that purpose he was sent from Haridwar to Kanpur. As there was no acceptance there was no agreement which can be said as enforceable by law according to section 2(h). Without the knowledge of the offer before accepting a valid contract cannot be created between both the parties.

The plaintiff came to know about the reward after it was been declared by the respondent as a result the plaintiff had no possibility to accept the offer. So according to the defendant Gauri Dutt Lalman shukla was not entitled to get the reward and hence he cannot claim it.

As the contract did not exist between the two. So the plaintiff Lalman shukla cannot ask for the reward. The defendant argued by citing the case Fitch verses Snedaker in this case fitch gave information about the murderer and then claim for the reward after knowing about it from Snedaker . since Fitch was not aware of the fact of the reward before so he was not entitled to claim it.

Ratio Decidendi:
In the present case of Lalman Shukla verses Gauri Dutt case, It is derived that in order to enter into the contract between two parties there has to be two things which are very essential for creating the contract:
  1. To have complete knowledge of the facts of the offer or proposal
  2. Acceptance to the offer
A person to whom the offer is made that means the offeree must accept the proposal which is offered by the proposer and communication to the offer is also very important as mentioned in section (4) of the Indian contract act which states that the communication can only be complete when it comes to the knowledge of the person to whom it is made . In order to convert a proposal into an agreement both knowledge and assent must be present.

Here in this present case both did not exist and was also missing. As the plaintiff had no knowledge and had also did not gave his approval and accepted the proposal which was offered by the defendant Gauri Dutt so hence there did not exist a valid contract between the two parties. At the time of searching the boy the plaintiff was doing his obligations and duties as a servant. Therefore the plaintiff Lalman Shukla was not entitled to get the award . so he cannot claim it.

Judgement of the case:
In the case of Lalman Shukla verses Gauri Dutt case the petitioners appeal against the respondent Gauri Dutt was dismissed by the court. After analyzing all the facts of the case It was held by the honorable court that for creating or entering into a valid contract there has to be knowledge and assent to the offer being made by the proposer. There has to be proper acceptance or the offeree must give his approval before accepting which was absent in the present case.

The plaintiff had no knowledge about the reward before performing his act. He came to know afterwards in which there is no possibility of accepting the offer. Hence there exist no contract so as a result the court came to the decision that the appellant Lalman Shukla was not entitled to get the reward . without having any prior knowledge and information about the facts which restricts him to claim the reward.

The judge said that Lalman Shukla was fulfilling his obligations as a servant of tracing the missing boy. It was a part of his duty which he was merely doing . so hence his suit against the defendant was completely dismissed by the court as there was no contract between both the parties.

Rules And Related Case Laws:
Section 2(a) of the Indian contract act,1872 which tells about proposal which means:
when one person when he or she convey or signify his or her willingness to do something or not to do something with the view of obtaining the approval of others to such act or abstinence is said to make a proposal

Section 2(b) of the contract act, which defines promise as:
when the person to whom the proposal is made he or she accepts the proposal by signifying his or her consent to it said to have accepted the proposal and when the proposal when accepted becomes a promise.

Section 2(h) of the contract act 1872, which defines a contract as an agreement which is enforceable by law is a contract.
Section 10 of the Indian contract act 1872, specifically defines what agreements are contracts
all agreements are contracts if it has to satisfy basic criteria or conditions such as:
  1. It has to be made by the free consent of both the parties and the party who is giving the consent must be free from coercion(section15), undue influence (section16), fraud (section 17), misrepresentation( section 18
  2. The parties must be competent to contract
  3. The consideration or the object of agreement should be lawful (section 23)
  4. And it should not be declared to be void.
Section 4 of the contract act which defines about communication when complete . It says that the communication of a proposal is only complete when it comes to the knowledge of the person to whom it is made.
  • A contract is an agreement
  • An agreement is a promise
  • A promise is an accepted proposal.
Thus every agreement is the result of a proposal from one side and its acceptance by the other.

Related Cases:
The petitioner argued in the support of the following cases:
Gibbons verses proctor:

In this case the court gave the verdict that if any person performs certain conditions of the contract though he is not aware of the reward or he does not have the knowledge of the reward then he is entitled to get the reward. The respondent argued in support of the case.
Fitch verses Snedaker:
In this case Fitch was not entitled to the reward because accepting the offer in ignorance of it cannot be termed as acceptance. And the person accepting the offer that means the offeree must have all the information regarding the reward before performing. A person who gives the information without having no knowledge cannot claim the reward.

Short Analysis of the case:
In this present case the plaintiff was Lalman Shukla and the Defendant was Gauri Dutt. The case was all about to examine the validity of contract if there was no acceptance. The relevant sections which are referred in this case is section 2(a) of the Indian contract act which states that when one or more person signifies his desire to do something or not to do something with a view to obtain the assent of that . such act is said to be a proposal.

According to section 2(b) of the Indian contract act the person to whom the offer is made by the proposer must signify his willingness and approval to the proposer. Then the proposal is said to be accepted by the acceptor or the offeree.

In order to turn an agreement into proposal it has to be enforceable by law. (proposal+ acceptance= agreement) Contract=agreement + enforceable by law

And lastly referring to section 3 of the Indian contract act which states about the communication of the proposals which means that the person to whom the offer or the proposal is made it must come to the knowledge of the acceptor before accepting the proposal. This section has a very important significance in this particular case of Lalman Shukla Verses Gauri Dutt.

In this present case the plaintiff Lalman Shukla claimed the reward from his master Gauri Dutt who is the defendant in the case for his performance of his act of tracing the missing boy . As Lalman Shukla was not even aware of the reward or he did not have the knowledge about the offer proposed by Gauri Dutt but still after knowing the facts he contented that he had found the missing boy by himself and as per the condition mentioned by the Defendant Gauri Dutt he is entitled to get the reward.

So as per the situation Lalman shukla is cannot be entitled to get the reward firstly because he was merely full filling his obligations and doing his duty as a servant . Secondly for there was no contract between both the parties or the contract did not exist as for a contract to be valid it has to be enforceable by law. And here there cannot be any possibility of acceptance without having the knowledge of facts. According to the judgement given in the Allahabad high court a contract without acceptance is void.

The plaintiff was not aware regarding the proposal made . In my opinion The plaintiff Lalman Shukla is not entitled to get the reward . Mere performing the act does not mean that he had accepted the promise and also cannot be regarded as consideration . He had no knowledge about the fact . As mentioned in section 3 of the Indian contract act that the communication of proposal is complete only when it comes to the knowledge of the person or the acceptor to whom it is made.

In this present case Section 3 of the Indian contract act is absent . It is stated as ineffective in this case. Both the plaintiff and the defendant they have supported their arguments by citing various case laws to defend themselves. Chief justice of Allahabad High court came to the conclusion that acceptance is the essence to contract. If there is n o acceptance in a contract then it will be declared void.

As such there was no valid contract which was existing between both the parties so the plaintiff Lalman shukla is not entitled to claim the reward from the Defendant Gauri Dutt. As there was no acceptance , so there was no possibility of an agreement to take place and therefore it was not enforceable by law under section 2(h) of the Indian Contract Act. Hence the Allahabad high court held that a contract without acceptance is void. There was no valid contract between the plaintiff and defendant.

Conclusion:
It was concluded in the case that both acceptance and assent must be present in order to convert a proposal into a contract. The person to whom the proposal is made has to have proper knowledge about it. It is one of the most Important case of general offer. In this present scenario the plaintiff lacked acceptance and communication of the proposal therefore the chief justice Banerjee held that he is not entitled to get the reward in return. It is one of the important cases of general offer.

The overall case of Lalman Shukla verses Gauri Dutt is about the acceptance of offer is not an acceptance if the person performing the task does not have any knowledge regarding the reward associated with it. So here Lalman Shukla the petitioner although had performed his task but was not aware of the reward so he therefore is not entitled to get and cannot claim it from Gauri Dutt who is the defendant in the case as the plaintiff had no knowledge about the reward.

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