Question: Undue influence | ‘A’ filed a suit against her maternal uncle ‘B’ seeking partition of her share in land measuring about 24 acres left behind by A’s father. B resisted the suit on the ground that A’s mother who was an old, blind, tribal woman, and was living with ‘B’ had executed a sale deed in favor… Read More »

Question: Undue influence | ‘A’ filed a suit against her maternal uncle ‘B’ seeking partition of her share in land measuring about 24 acres left behind by A’s father. B resisted the suit on the ground that A’s mother who was an old, blind, tribal woman, and was living with ‘B’ had executed a sale deed in favor of ‘B’. ‘A’ challenged the sale on the ground that it was obtained by exercising undue influence on her mother, who was a...

Question: Undue influence | A’ filed a suit against her maternal uncle ‘B’ seeking partition of her share in land measuring about 24 acres left behind by A’s father. B resisted the suit on the ground that A’s mother who was an old, blind, tribal woman, and was living with ‘B’ had executed a sale deed in favor of ‘B’. ‘A’ challenged the sale on the ground that it was obtained by exercising undue influence on her mother, who was a blind, illiterate, tribal woman living at the mercy of ‘B’ till her death.

‘B’ led no evidence to show that any consideration had actually passed at the time of registration of the sale deed. In these circumstances, ‘A’ can be said to have discharged the onus of proof that the sale transaction was vitiated because of undue influence? How would you decide the question of the onus of proof in these circumstances? [DJS 1996]

Find the answer to the mains question only on Legal Bites. [Undue influence | A’ filed a suit against her maternal uncle ‘B’ seeking partition of her share in land measuring about 24 acres left behind by A’s father. B resisted the suit on the ground that A’s mother who was an old, blind, tribal woman, and was living with ‘B’ had executed a sale deed… How would you decide the question of the onus of proof in these circumstances?]

Answer

Section 16 of The Indian Contract Act,1872 lays down ‘Undue influence’ defined.—

(1) A contract is said to be induced by ‘undue influence’ where the relations subsisting between the parties are such that one of the parties is in a position to dominate the will of the other and uses that position to obtain an unfair advantage over the other.

(2) In particular and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing principle, a person is deemed to be in a position to dominate the will of another.

      • where he holds a real or apparent authority over the other, or where he stands in a fiduciary relation to the other; or
      • where he makes a contract with a person whose mental capacity is temporarily or permanently affected by reason of age, illness, or mental or bodily distress.

(3) Where a person who is in a position to dominate the will of another, enters into a contract with him, and the transaction appears, on the face of it or on the evidence adduced, to be unconscionable, the burden of proving that such contract was not induced by undue influence shall be upon the person in a position to dominate the will of the other.

“Nothing in the sub-section shall affect the provisions of Section 111 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 (1 of 1872).”

The last category of persons whose will is vulnerable to all sorts of influences is that of “persons in mental distress”. A person is said to be in distress when his mental capacity is temporarily or permanently affected. It may be due to extreme old age or mental or bodily illness or any other cause. Such a person is easily persuaded to give consent to a contract that may be unfavorable to him. Accordingly, if a contract is made with him by taking advantage of his distress, it is voidable on the ground of undue influence.

For example, ‘A’, a man enfeebled by disease or age, is induced, by B’s influence over him as his medical attendant, to agree to pay ‘B’ an unreasonable sum for his professional services, ‘B’ employees’ undue influence.

In an action to avoid a contract on the ground of undue influence, the plaintiff has to prove two main points.

    • He must show, in the first place, that the other party was in a position to dominate his will, and,
    • secondly, that he actually used his influence to obtain the plaintiff’s consent to the contract.

But in certain cases presumption of undue influence is raised. The effect of the presumption is that once it is shown that the defendant was in a position to dominate the will of the plaintiff it will be presumed that he must have used his position to obtain an unfair advantage. It will be then for the defendant to show that the plaintiff freely consented.

For instance, where a parda lady of 70 years, having three daughters, was supposed to have gifted her entire land to the defendant, who was the tenant of that land, it was held that from the position of his possession of the land he must have dominated the woman and burden lay upon him to show the circumstances of the gift. He was not able to do so, the gift deed was set aside.

The presumption is raised mainly in unconscionable bargains, where one of the parties to a contract is in a position to dominate the will of the other and the contract is apparently unconscionable, that is, unfair, the law presumes that consent must have been obtained by undue influence. The burden is shifted to the stronger party to prove that he did nothing to overbear the will of the other.

An instructive illustration is the decision of the Privy Council in Wajid Khan v. Raja Ewaz Ali Khan [(1890-91) 18 lA 144] In this case an old and illiterate woman, incapable of any business, conferred on her confidential managing agent, without any valuable consideration, an important pecuniary benefit under the guise of trust. Their Lordships said that “all the facts of the case go to show that there was active undue influence. The onus is on the grantee to show conclusively that the transaction is honest, bona fide, well-understood, the subject of independent advice and free from undue influence”.

Similar are the facts of the present case at hand where the plaintiff has challenged the sale challenged on the ground that it was obtained by exercising undue influence on her mother, who was a blind, illiterate, tribal woman living at the mercy of ‘B’ till her death. But the mere fact that ‘B’ led no evidence to show that any consideration had actually passed at the time of registration of sale deed, ‘A’ cannot be said to have discharged the onus of proof that the sale transaction was vitiated because of undue influence.

It the primarily the duty of ‘A’ as the onus of proof is upon him to show that the undue influence was not exercised him, as he was in a clear dominant position. Merely because ‘B’ led no evidence is immaterial, as ‘A’ being the stronger party has to prove that he did nothing to overbear the will of the mother.


Law of Contract Mains Questions Series: Important Questions for Judiciary, APO & University Exams

  1. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-I
  2. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-II
  3. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-III
  4. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-IV
  5. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-V
  6. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-VI
  7. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-VII
  8. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-VIII
  9. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-IX
  10. Law of Contract Mains Questions Series Part-X
Updated On 16 Jan 2022 7:30 AM GMT
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