Consideration and Its Essentials
Section 2 (d) of Indian Contract Act, 1872, defines consideration as “When at the desire of the promisor the promise or any other person has done or abstained from doing or does or abstains from doing something, such act abstinence or promise is called a consideration for the promisor.”
Consideration is an advantage or benefit which moves from one party to another. It is the essence of bargain. It is the reciprocal promise i.e. to do something or abstain from doing something in return of a promise. It is necessary for an agreement to be enforceable by law. In consideration both the parties give something & get something in return. It may be in cash or kind.
The following are the rules related to the consideration:
(i) Consideration must move at the desire of promisor. If it is done at the instance of a third party without the desire of the promisor, it is not consideration. Act done at the desire of a third party is not a consideration. Act must be done voluntarily at the desire of the promisor.
(ii) It may move from the Promisee or any other person in the Indian Law so that a stranger to the consideration may maintain a suit. A consideration may move from the promise or any other person. Consideration from a third party is a valid consideration. Under English Law, however, consideration must move from the Promisee only.
(iii) Consideration may be past, present or future. The words used in Section 2(d) are “has done or abstained from doing (past), or does or abstains from doing (present), or promises to do or to abstain from doing (future) something” This means consideration may be past, present or future.
(iv) There must be mutuality in consideration.
(v) It must be real & not illusory, infinite or vague. Although consideration need not be adequate, it must be real, competent and of some value in the eye of law. Physical impossibility, legal impossibility, uncertain consideration & illusory consideration.
(vi) Consideration must not be unlawful, illegal, immoral or opposed to public policy. The consideration given for an agreement must not be unlawful. Where it is unlawful, the courts do not allow an action on the agreement.
(vii) Consideration need not be adequate. Consideration as already explained means “something in return”. This “something given”. The law simply provides that a contract should be supported by consideration. So long as consideration exists, the courts are not concerned as to its adequacy, provided it is of some value. “The adequacy of the consideration is for the parties to consider at the time of making the agreement, not for the court when it is sought to be enforced.”
Exceptions to the rule ‘No consideration no contract’
The general rule is that an agreement made without consideration is void. Section 25 deals with the exceptions to this rule. In such cases the agreements are enforceable even though they are made without consideration. These cases are:
a) Love and Affection [Section 25(1)]: Where an agreement is expressed in writing and registered under the law for the time being in force for the registration of documents and is made on account of natural love and affection between the parties standing in a near relation to each other, it is enforceable even if there is no consideration.
For e.g. F, for natural love and affection, promises to give his son A, Rs. 1 Lac. F puts this promise in writing and registers it. This is a contract.
b) Compensation for voluntary services [Section 25(2)]: A promise to compensate wholly or part a person, who has already voluntarily done something for the promisor, is enforceable, even though without consideration. A promise to pay for a past voluntary service is binding.
For e.g. A says to B’ At the risk of your life you saved me from a serious accident. I promise to pay you Rs.1, 000.” There is a contract between A and B even though there is no consideration.
c) Promise to pay a time barred debt [Section 25(3)]: A promise by a debtor to pay a time barred debt is enforceable provided it is made in writing and is signed by the debtor or by his agent generally or specifically authorized in that behalf. The debt must be such “of which the creditor might have enforced payment but for the law for limitation of suits”
For e.g. D owes C Rs.1, 000 but the debt is barred by the Limitation Act. D signs a written promise to pay C Rs.500 on account of the debt. This is a valid contract.
d) Agency (Section 185): No consideration is necessary to create an agency.
e) Completed Gift (Explanation 1 to Section 25): The rule ‘No consideration no contract’ does not apply to completed gifts. This rule shall not affect the validity, as between donor and donee, of any gift actually made.