Indian Contract Act 1872

Vitiating Elements of Free Consent

The concept of freedom of contract has two meanings; first is the freedom of a party to enter into a contract on whatever terms it may consider advantageous to its interests, or to choose not to, and second, that there should be no liability without consent being embodied in a valid contract.[1]


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TIME IS THE ESSENCE OF THIS CONTRACT - IS IT REALLY

INTRODUCTION

Negotiated, as also standard format contracts, are rife with clauses proclaiming time is of the essence. Parties are usually rest assured after spelling this out, hoping (nay assured) that such words employed would by themselves be adequate to enforce rights through a Court or an arbitral process. Sadly, mere words are usually never enough.

The Supreme Court, in the recent judgement of Welspun Specialty Solution Limited vs. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd.[i], has reiterated the principles basis which Courts are required to construe whether time is of the essence of a contract. The Court held that a collective reading of the entire contract and its surrounding circumstances is imperative to come to such a conclusion. Merely having an explicit clause in the contract may not be sufficient to make time the essence of it. The Court also held that the availability of extension procedures to fulfil obligations under a contract, along with consequent imposition of liquidated damages, are good indicators to hold that time is not of the essence.
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Interpreting Insurance Contracts: Special Considerations – Part II

In part I of this blog, we have discussed some of the principles of interpretation set and relied upon by Courts whilst construing and interpreting insurance contracts, including that of strict construction, essentials of an insurance contract and the requirement of Uberrimei fidei i.e., good faith. In this part, we will delve into other principles which form the basis for interpretation of insurance contracts, including presumption as to materiality of information sought, effect of misrepresentation and the applicability of the rule of contra proferentem to insurance contracts


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Interpreting Insurance Contracts Special Considerations – Part I

Insurance is the act of providing against a possible loss, by entering into a contract with one who is willing to give assurance — that is, to bind himself to make good such loss should it occur. In this contract, the chances of benefit are equal to the insurer and the insured. The first actually pays a certain sum and the latter undertakes to pay a larger, if an accident should happen. The one renders his property secure; the other receives money with the probability that it is clear gain. The instrument by which the contract is made is called a policy; the stipulated consideration a premium.[i]


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The Supreme Court Revisits the Consequences of Non-Payment of Stamp Duty on the Arbitration Agreement – Part I

In Part I of this post, we discussed the findings of the Court on the issue of separability of arbitration agreements from the underlying contract and the corresponding validity of arbitration agreements in unstamped agreements. In this part, we will analyse the findings of the Court with respect to arbitrability of disputes involving fraud; and issue of maintainability of writ petitions against orders passed under the Arbitration Act and provide our views on the Judgment.


Continue Reading The Supreme Court Revisits the Consequences of Non-Payment of Stamp Duty on the Arbitration Agreement – Part II

The Supreme Court Revisits the Consequences of Non-Payment of Stamp Duty on the Arbitration Agreement – Part I

Introduction

Recently, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court in M/s N.N. Global Mercantile Pvt. Ltd. v. M/s Indo Unique Flame Ltd. & Others[1] has reiterated and clarified the law on the (i) doctrine of separability of arbitration agreements from the underlying contract; (ii) arbitrability of disputes involving fraud; and (iii) maintainability of a writ petition against orders passed under the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 (“Arbitration Act”).
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Can Two Indian Parties choose foreign law to govern their arbitration agreement - The Delhi High Court answers in the Affirmative

Introduction:

Recognising that an arbitration agreement between parties is an agreement independent of the substantive contract, the Delhi High Court in Dholi Spintex Pvt. Ltd. v. Louis Dreyfus Company India Pvt. Ltd.[1] has held that two Indian parties can choose a foreign law as the law governing the arbitration between them. The Court has also reiterated the legal position on limited interference by Courts in international arbitrations.
Continue Reading Can Two Indian Parties choose foreign law to govern their arbitration agreement? The Delhi High Court answers in the Affirmative

Does an Arbitration Clause survive Novation of an Agreement 

Introduction:

Recently in Sanjiv Prakash v. Seema Kukreja & Ors.[1], the Delhi High Court has reiterated that novation of an agreement would necessarily result in destruction of the arbitration clause contained therein. In this regard, it was observed that an arbitration agreement being a creation of an agreement may be destroyed by agreement.

Facts of the case:

Respondent No. 3 had incorporated a company in 1971, under the name of Asian Films Laboratories Private Limited, which was subsequently renamed as ANI Media Private Limited in 1997 (“Company”). The shareholders of the said Company were Respondent No. 3’s son (“Petitioner”) and his daughter and wife (“Respondent No. 1” and “Respondent No. 2” respectively) (Petitioner and Respondents together hereinafter referred to as the “Family”). The Petitioner was the Managing Director of the Company. In 1996, Thomson Reuters Corporation Pte. Limited (“Reuters”) approached the Petitioner for a long-term equity investment in the Company on the condition that the Petitioner would play an active role in the management of the Company.
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Competition or unlawful contractual interference

In a recent decision, the Delhi High Court dealt with the tort of unlawful interference in contractual relationships and inter alia held that the said tort has no place in India in view of Section 27 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 (“Contract Act”).[1]

Background

The developer of a certain property at Amritsar agreed to lease the said property to the Plaintiff for fifteen years, by way of a term sheet. The Plaintiff paid a security deposit to the developer as per the term sheet and proceeded to draw up the main transaction document.

Upon learning that the Defendant (a competitor of the Plaintiff) had been pursuing the developer for the purpose of entering into an agreement with respect to the same property, the Plaintiff informed the Defendant about the term sheet executed by the developer with the Plaintiff and requested the Defendant to desist from pursuing the developer. However, the Plaintiff learnt that the developer had entered into an agreement with the Defendant with respect to the said property. Soon thereafter, the Plaintiff was informed by the developer that the term sheet stood terminated on account of the Plaintiff’s failure to execute the main transaction document within the stipulated time. The developer refunded the security deposit, which was accepted by the Plaintiff without protest. The Plaintiff alleged that (a) the Defendant induced the developer to terminate the term sheet with the Plaintiff; and (b) the Defendant had similarly attempted to interfere with transactions between the Plaintiff and developers of other properties in different cities.

The Plaintiff filed a suit against the Defendant inter alia seeking a permanent injunction to restrain the Defendant from inducing a breach of any agreement between the Plaintiff and third parties in respect of non-functional properties of the Plaintiff across India.
Continue Reading Competition or unlawful contractual interference: The line continues to remain blurred

unfettered right to exclude or limit their liability for breach of contract Part 2

In Part I of this post, we had discussed the concept of exclusion or limitation of liability clauses and the position in India. In this part, we will examine the position of such clauses in England and provide our views on such clauses. 

Position in England 

The application of clauses excluding or limiting liability in England is more consistent. When faced with standard form contracts or contracts where there is inequality of bargaining power, English courts apply the test of fairness or reasonableness of clauses in such contracts and refuse to enforce provisions of contracts that are unconscionable or exploitative.[1]
Continue Reading Do parties have an unfettered right to exclude or limit their liability for breach of contract? – Part II