Case Analysis-Mohori Bibee Vs. Dharmodas Ghose

Name of the case : Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodas Ghose

Appellant : Mohori Bibee

Respondent : Dharmodas Ghosh

Date of the judgement : 4 March 1903

Judges : Lord McNaughton, Lord Lindley , Lord Davey, Sir Ford North, Sir Andrew Scoble, Sir Andrew Wilson.

Citation : (1903) ILR 30 Cal 539(PC)

Introduction :

The case Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodas Ghose[1] deals with minor’s contract. In India a minor is someone whose age is below eighteen years, and therefore it is considered that such person is not fit for entering into any kind of contract or agreement and so, any agreement or contract which is entered into with a minor is considered to be void ab-initio that is void from the beginning.

As per the court, a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years cannot make any sort of major decisions. The above case has provided us with an understanding that since minors are not competent legally to enter into any kind of contract or give their assent therefore, it is important to protect the minors from any kind of dealings with any other major person. After this case, any kind of contract entered into with a minor is considered to be void ab-initio that is void from the beginning.

In the above-mentioned case, the Privy Council declared the law that, “any contract or agreement with the minor is absolutely void and it has also been followed strictly and is still growing and even Section 10(3) of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 tells that what agreements will be considered as contracts. And Section11(4) tells that who is competent to contract.”

Facts of the case :

The respondent in the above case[2] was Dharmodas Ghose, he was a minor (that is he has not attained the age of eighteen years) and also, he was the only owner of his immovable property. The Calcutta High Court authorized the mother of Dharmodas as his legal custodian.

When Dharmodas went for the mortgage of the immovable property of which he was owner he was a minor at that time. The mortgage was done in the favour of the appellant who was Brahmo Dutta. Dharmodas obtained this mortgage deed for twenty thousand rupees at a rate of twelve percent interest per year.

When Brahmo Dutta was doing the mortgage, he was a money lender and he obtained amount of  twenty thousand rupees and Kedar Nath had all the control over the management of  Brahmo Dutta’s business and Kedar Nath also worked as the attorney of Brahmo Dutta.

Later on, mother of Dharmodas Ghose sent a notification to Brahmo Dutta telling him regarding the minority of Dharmodas Ghose at the time of the mortgage deed, but the sum of loan that was provided in reality was less than twenty thousand rupees.

The defendant’s representative, acted on behalf of the money lender and has also given money to the plaintiff, who did not attained the age of eighteen years and he had completely acknowledged about the incompetency of the plaintiff to enter into a contract and also that he was not legally competent to mortgage the immovable property which belonged to him.

Dharmodas Ghose together with his mother on 10 September 1895, bought a legal action against Brahmo Dutta y stating that at the time of the mortgage Dharmodas was a minor (that is he did not attain the age of eighteen years) and therefore, such a contract of mortgage would be considered as void ab-initio and was not a proper contract therefore, the contract should be cancelled.

During the process of the petition, Brahmo Dutta had died and after that the further petitions were litigated by his executor’s. the plaintiff in the case argued that no respite should be given to them because as per him, the defendant has fraudulently misinterpreted the fact regarding his age and because if mortgage is revoked at the appeal by the defendant who was Dharmodas Ghose.

Issues in the case :

  • “Whether[3] or not the deed was void under Section 2, 10 and 11 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872?
  • Whether or not the defendant was liable to return the amount of loan which he had received by him under such deed or mortgage?
  • Whether or not the mortgage initiated by the defendant was voidable?”

Arguments in the case :

By the appellant :

  • When the mortgage was initiated the respondent was major.
  • There was no notice given to the appellant and his agent regarding the information that the respondent was a minor.
  • The respondent is disentitled from any kind of relief as he made dishonest declaration.
  • The respondent is forbidden from claiming that he was a minor at the time of initiating the mortgage by Section 115 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
  • As per Section 64 and 38 of Indian Contract Act , 1872 and Section 41 of Specific Relief Act, 1877 the respondent must repay the amount that was advanced.

By the respondent :

  • The knowledge regarding the real age of the respondent was known to Brahmo Dutta and his agent.
  • The contract should be considered void as at the time of initiating the mortgage the respondent was a minor.

Judgement of the case :

As per the verdict of the trial court, the contract for the purpose of mortgage between the defendant and the plaintiff will be considered as void as it was initiated by a person who was a minor at the time of implementation of the mortgage.

But the verdict of Trial Court did not satisfied Brahmo Dutta so, he filed a petition in the Calcutta High Court.

As per the verdict of Calcutta High Court, they agreed with the decision given by Trial Court and therefore, dismissed the appeal of Brahmo Dutta.

Being dissatisfied by the verdict of both the courts Brahmo Dutta approached the Privy Council for the appeal and afterwards the Privy Council too dismissed the appeal of Brahmo Dutta and held that any kind of contract cannot exist between a minor and a major person.

The council passed the final decision which was as follows :

Any kind of contract with a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years will be considered as void ab-initio (that is void from the beginning).

As the minor is not legally competent to contract hence, such a mortgage initiated will be void and hence, invalid in the eyes of law.

The minor that is Dharmodas Ghose was not bound by the promise made in the contract and therefore cannot be compelled to give back the sum that was provided as advance to him.

Conclusion :

In the above case that is Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodas Ghose, it can be concluded that any kind of contract with a minor will be declared as null and void as such kind of contract is not considered as a valid contract in the eyes of law.

In such cases the custodians of the minor shall not be held liable for any kind of dealing done with the minor without the consent of the custodians, and therefore they cannot be forced to give back the amount which is taken by the minor out of moral obligation.

 

By-

Prapti Kapoor

2 Year

Amity Law School, Noida

 

[1] http://www.legalserviceindia.com(Last visited on 7 February 2021)

[2] https://lawlex.org(Last visited on 7 February 2021)

[3] Supra 2

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