Capacity to contract, Free consent, Consideration

11/03/2020 0 By indiafreenotes

Capacity to Contract

Capacity to contract means a party has the legal ability to enter into a contract.

Capacity to contract means a party has the legal ability to enter into a contract. Capacity also means a person has to be competent as defined by law. Someone’s capacity is determined by whether or not they have reached the age of majority and if they are mentally capable of understanding the applicable contract terms.

A contract must contain these six elements:

  • Offer
  • Acceptance
  • Consideration
  • Capacity
  • Intent
  • Legality

Who Doesn’t Meet Criteria for Capacity

Some people lack the capacity to enter into a legally binding contract:

  • Minors: In general, anyone under 18 years old lacks capacity. If he or she does enter into a contract before they turn 18, there is usually the option to cancel while he or she is still a minor. There are some exceptions to this rule, however. Minors are allowed to enter into contracts for purchasing various necessities like clothing, food, and accommodations. Some states allow people under 18 to obtain bank accounts, which often carry strict terms and stipulations.
  • Mental Incapacitation: If a person is not cognitively able to understand his or her responsibilities and rights under the agreement, then they lack the mental capacity to form a contract. Many states define mental capacity as the ability to understand all terms of the contract, while a handful of others use a motivational test to discern whether someone suffers from mania or delusions.
  • Intoxication: Someone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is generally believed to lack capacity. If someone voluntarily intoxicated themselves, the court may order the party to uphold the obligation. This is tricky because many courts have also agreed a sober party shouldn’t take advantage of an intoxicated person.

Contracts made with people who don’t have legal capacity are voidable. The other person has the right of rescission, the option to void the contract and all related terms and conditions. Courts may opt to void or rescind a contract if one of the parties lacked legal capacity. If the court voids the contract, it will attempt to put all parties back in the position they were in before the agreement, which may involve returning property or money when feasible.

Capacity of Companies

Companies also have to have capacity when entering into an agreement. If they don’t, there can be serious consequences, particularly regarding guarantees. There are similarities across legal systems and jurisdictions when it comes to the general rules that govern the legal capacity of companies. For example, the legal theory that a business has a separate legal personality is recognized in both civil and common law jurisdictions. This means that as a defined legal person, a company has the capacity to enter into a contract with other parties and can be held liable for its actions.

Civil Law Countries

The United States isn’t the only country that recognizes this legal concept. For example, France, a civil law country, has also adopted this idea. Legal capacity regarding entities was recently reformed by Ordinance n°2016-131, which went into effect in 2016. Under French Civil Code Article 1147, a company’s lack of capacity is a grounds for relative nullity, a defense that can be invoked by the aggrieved party to void the contract. In this case, the aggrieved party would be the company. Furthermore, Article 1148 allows French companies who lack capacity to contract to legally enter into contracts that are day-to-day acts which are authorized by usage or legislation.

In Spain, there is a special relationship with church and state. As a result, the church is governed by elements of a specific concordat: Spanish Civil Code Article 37, which says that companies enjoy “civil capacity.”

Common Law Countries

In common law countries, a company’s capacity is limited by the company’s memorandum of association. This document contains the clause that describes the commercial activities the business is involved in, thereby delineating the company’s capacity.

Under the ultra vires doctrine, a business cannot do anything beyond what is allowed by its statement of objects. The ultra vires doctrine was initially seen as a necessary measure to protect a company’s shareholders and creditors. This doctrine gave rise to what’s known as the constructive notice rule, which states that any third party that entered into a contract with another company must have been knowledgeable of that business’s objects clause.

Consent and free consent

Free Consent is an essential element for formation of a contract . According to Section 10 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, All agreements are contracts, if they are made by the free consent. Section 13 and Section 14 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 defines ‘Consent’ and ‘Free Consent’ respectively.

Meaning of Consent

The term Consent means “agreed to “or giving acceptance. The parties to the Contract must freely and mutually agree upon the terms of the contract in the same sense and at the same time.  There cannot be any agreement unless both the parties it to agree to it. If there is no Consent, Agreement will be void ab initio for want of consent       


Section 13 of the Indian Contract Act 1872 defines Consent as “Two or more person are said to consent when they agree upon the same thing in the same sense.”

Free Consent

According to Section 10 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, to constitute a valid contract, parties should enter into the contract with their free Consent. Consent is said to be free when it is not obtained by coercion, or undue influence or fraud or misrepresentation or mistake.

Section 14 of the said act defines ‘Free Consent’ as Consent is said to be free, when it is not caused by:

(1) Coercion (as defined in section 15 of the Indian Contact Act 1872) or

(2) Undue Influence as defined in section 16 of the Indian Contact Act 1872) or

(3) Fraud (as defined in section 17 of the Indian Contact Act 1872), or

(4) Misrepresentation as defined in section 18 of the Indian Contact Act 1872) or

(5) Mistake, subject to the provisions of section 20, 21, and 22.

Consent is said to be so caused when it would not have been given but for the existence of such coercion, undue influence, fraud, misrepresentation, or mistake

Section 2(i): An agreement which is enforceable by law at the option of one or more of the parties thereto, but not at the option of the other or others, is a voidable contract;

Section 2(g): when a consent is caused by mistake, the agreement is void. A void agreement is not enforceable at the option of either party.


Consideration: “Something which is given and taken.”Section 2 (d) of the Contact Act 1872 defines contract as “When at the desire of the promissory, the promise or any other person has done or abstained from doing or does or abstains from doing or promise to do or abstain from doing. Something such act or abstinence or promise is called a consideration for the promise.”

“When at the desire of the promissory, the promise or any other person has done or abstained from doing or does or abstains from doing or promise to do or abstain from doing. Something such act or abstinence or promise is called a consideration for the Promise.”

Importance of consideration

Consideration is the foundation of ever contract. The law insists on the existence of consideration if a promise is to be enforced as creating legal obligations. A promise without consideration is null and void.

Types of Consideration

  1. Executory,
  2. Executed
  3. Past consideration

Executed consideration is an act in return for a promise. If ,for example, A offers a reward for the return of lost property, his promise becomes binding when B performs the act of returning A’s property to him. A is not bound to pay anything to anyone until the prescribed act is done.

Executory consideration is a promise given for a promise. If, for example, customer orders goods which shopkeeper undertakes to obtain from the manufacturer, the shopkeeper promises to supply the goods and the customer promises to accept and pay for them. Neither has yet done anything but each has given a promise to obtain the promise of the other. It would be breach of contract if either withdrew without the consent of the other.

Past consideration which as general rule is not sufficient to make the promise binding. In such a case the promisor may by his promise recognize a moral obligation (which is not consideration), but he is not obtaining anything in exchange for his promise (as he already has it before the promise is made).

Essentials of a valid consideration:

  • At the desire of the promisor
  • Promisee or any other person
  • Consideration may be past, present or future
  • Consideration must be real

Consideration must move at the desire of the promisor:

In order to constitute legal consideration, the act or abstinence forming the consideration for the promise must be done at the desire or request of the promisor. Thus acts done or services rendered voluntarily, or at the desire of third party, will not amount to valid consideration so as to support a contract.

Consideration may move from the promisee or any other person:

The second essential of valid consideration, as contained in the definition of consideration in Section 2(d), is that consideration need not move from the promisee alone but may proceed from a third person.

Thus, as long as there is a consideration for a promise, it is immaterial who has furnished it. It may move from the promisee or from any other person. This means that even a stranger to the consideration can sue on a contract, provided he is a party to the contract. This is sometimes called as ‘Doctrine of Constructive Consideration’.

Consideration may be past, present or future:

The words, “has done or abstained from doing; or does or abstains from doing; or promises to do or to abstain from doing,” used in the definition of consideration clearly indicate that the consideration may consist of either something done or not done in the past, or done or not done in the present or promised to be done or not done in the future. To put it briefly, consideration may consist of a past, present or a future act or abstinence. Consideration may consist of an act or abstinence:

Past consideration: When something is done or suffered before the date of the agreement, at the desire of the promisor, it is called ‘past consideration.’ It must be noted that past consideration is good consideration only if it is given by the promisee, ‘at the desire of the promisor Present consideration: Consideration which moves simultaneously with the promise is called ‘present consideration’ or ‘executed consideration’

Future consideration: When the consideration on both sides is to move at a future date, it is called ‘future consideration’ or ‘executory consideration’. It consists of an exchange of promises and each promise is a consideration for the other.

Consideration must be ‘something of value’: The fourth and last essential of valid consideration is that it must be ‘something’ to which the law attaches a value. The consideration need not be adequate to the promise for the validity of an agreement.