Consent is defined in Section 13 of the Indian Contract Act (ICA) as the parties' agreement, or consensus ad idem (when they agree with an agreement on the same thing in the same sense). Section 14 qualifies consent as an important component of a valid binding contract, as stated in Section 10, by stating that "Consent is free unless it is obtained through coercion (Section 15), undue influence (Section 16), fraud (Section 17), misrepresentation (Section 18), or mistake (Section 19)." (s 20-22). A contract entered under the influence of the defendant is voidable under Section 19A of the ICA and enforceable at the choice of the plaintiff (the party whose consent was so caused).
What exactly is consent?
The agreement between partners to participate in sexual activity is known as consent. Consent should be communicated clearly and freely. Both you and your spouse will be better able to understand and respect each other's boundaries if you express your consent verbally and affirmatively.
Individuals who are under the age of 18, inebriated or debilitated by drugs or alcohol, or asleep or unconscious cannot give consent. If someone agrees to do something under duress or threat, it isn't deemed consent because it was not freely provided. Consent cannot be freely provided due to unequal power dynamics, such as engaging in sexual behavior with an employee or student.
What does "undue influence" mean?
According to Section 16 of the ICA, "a contract is considered to be induced by undue influence when the consenting party's will can be dominated by the other due to the existence of the relationship between them." While the contract is being formed, one side exerts influence over the other to gain an unfair advantage over the other. It goes on to say that a person can control the will of another if he: Has actual or apparent authority coming from fiduciary relationships (trust relationships) between them or creates the agreement with a person whose mental capacity, due to disease or age or due to mental suffering is temporarily compromised.
The defendant, or the one who was in a place to control the will of the other, bears the burden of proof in proving that the agreement was not influenced by undue influence. Furthermore, this clause states that it will not alter Section 111 of the Evidence Act of 1872, which deals with the parties' good faith in their transaction.
Consent in relation to undue influence
If a party's assent is obtained through undue influence, the contract is voidable at the discretion of the party whose consent was obtained. When permission to an agreement is obtained through undue influence, the agreement becomes a contract voidable at the discretion of the party whose consent was obtained. Any such contract may be set aside in its whole or, if the party entitled to avoid it has reaped any profit from it, on the terms and conditions that the Court deems just.
When a contract is avoided owing to undue influence, the court has the authority to ask the injured party for a full or partial reimbursement of the benefit.
The Equity Concept
The equity doctrine, which was created by the English Courts of King's Bench, Exchequer, and Common Pleas, deals with unjust enrichment and is applicable in any situation involving the acquisition of influence and its abuse, as well as repositioning or betrayal of trust. As a result, any transaction involving undue influence is subject to the equity principle.
Unfair influence types
The decision in Allcard v. Skinner divided undue influence cases into two categories: those involving a charge against the donee and those involving abuse of opportunity obtained via one's duty. "In the former case, the solution is provided on the theory that no one should be permitted to hold any advantages that he gets through his fraudulent or illegal activities, and in the latter cases, it is based on the public policy grounds so that it can prevent abuse of impact between the parties by preventing relation between them," the court said in the above case.
The individual seeking damages must demonstrate two conditions :
That the parties' relationship is such that one can influence the other's decision and will, and secondly.
That the recipient or defendant has enriched himself by abusing his position.
But, in this scenario, a combined discussion of all the examples would be possible and would avoid any misunderstanding. All examples of undue influence generally fall into one of the following categories.
A case doesn’t need to fall into this category for the parties to be related to one another by blood, marriage, or adoption, but one party must be in a higher position and be able to take down the will of the other. It is not limited to strict fiduciary arrangements and can be applied to any type of connection. However, the mere presence of such connections is insufficient to establish undue influence; domination must be exercised.
The circumstances under which the contract was established, as well as their ties, are taken into account in this type of undue influence. The presence of a dominant position, as well as its application, is required to elicit an action. If dominance is established, it is assumed that there was a purpose in the situation unless a contrary object appears.
Finally, undue influence is among how inadequate consent is specified under Section 13 of the Act. Furthermore, forming a contract through abusing one's power contradicts the idea of equity. As a result, in fiduciary and other relationships in which one party has actual or apparent control and influence, one must ensure that the contract he or she has established is free of any external expression. Such contracts, however, are voidable at the discretion of the person whose consent was obtained under Section 19A and cannot be enforced in a court of law.
This article is written by Abhinav Dhukia of Manipal University Jaipur.