Lalman Shukla -vs- Gauri Datt

This was an application for revision against the Judgement & Order of B. Shoe Prasad, Judge of the Court of Small Causes at Cawnpore. The Plaintiff-Applicant, Lalman Shukla, had filed a suit for recovery of reward offered by public advertisement. The Plaintiff was acting as munib in the firm of the Defendant-Respondent, Gauri Datt. While the Plaintiff was in service, the nephew of the Defendant ran away from his house.

The Defendant sent his servants, including the Plaintiff, to different places to trace the boy. The plaintiff was sent to Haridwar and was paid money for his traveling and other expenses. Subsequently, as the nephew was not traceable for some time, the Defendant advertised that a reward of Rs. 501 would be paid to a person who would find the boy.

Finally the Plaintiff found the boy at Rishikesh and wired the Defendant, who went there and brought the boy back to Cawnpore. The Plaintiff was rewarded with two sovereigns and later on upon his return to Cawnpore, the Defendant gave him rupees twenty more. The Plaintiff did not ask for any further payment and continued in his service for six months when he was dismissed by the Defendant. He then brought the suit for recovery of the reward offered by public advertisement, alleging that the Defendant had promised to pay him the amount of the reward in addition to other gifts and traveling expenses when he was sent to Haridwar, out of which this application arose.

It was contended on behalf of the Plaintiff that a privity of contract was not necessary and that neither motive nor knowledge was essential, and that mere performance of the act was sufficient to entitle a person performing it to claim the reward advertised for. The Plaintiff had heavily relied on the case of Williams -Vs- Carwardine [1833] 4 B & A 621 and Gibbons -Vs- Proctor [1891] 64 L.T. 594.

In defense, the Defendant contended that the Plaintiff’s claim could only be maintained on the basis of a contract. The very basis of a contract is that there should be a vinculum juris between the parties. It was further contended that there must be an acceptance of the offer and an assent to it and that there was no valid contract between the parties. There must be an offer which is communicated to the other party. Also that, in this case, the Plaintiff was under an obligation to do what he did and was, therefore, not entitled to recover the reward. The right to reward can be founded only upon a contract. The Defendant strongly relied on: Fitch -Vs- Snedker [1868] 38 N. Y. 248 and Ashley, Law of Contract (12, 23-4) & Pollock, Principles of Contract (ed. 8, 193).

Decision of the High Court of Allahabad:

The High Court dismissed the revision application upholding the Judgement & Order of the Judge of the Court of Small Causes at Cawnpore in favour of the Defendant-Respondent.

  1. An offer must be made with an intention to create legal relation.
  2. An offer may be expressed or implied.
  3. The terms of the offer must be certain and not vague.
  4. An offer cannot prescribe silence as mode of acceptance.
  5. An offer must be an expression of willingness to do or abstain from doing something.
  6. An offer must be made to obtain the assent of the other.
  7. An offer must be communicated.
  8. Two identical cross offers do not result in a contract.
  9. An offer is different from invitation to offer.
  10. An offer may be general or specific.

The Court observed, that a suit like the present one could “only be founded on a contract. In order to constitute a contract, there must be an acceptance of the offer and there can be no acceptance unless there is a knowledge of the offer. Motive is not essential but knowledge and intention are.” It was observed that in the case of a public advertisement offering a reward, the performance of the act raises an inference of acceptance in terms of section 8 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, which provides that, “performance of the conditions of a proposal… is an acceptance of the proposal.”

Therefore, in the present case it was observed that the right to a reward could only be founded upon a contract.

Lastly, no relief could be granted to the Plaintiff since he was in the service of the Defendant and as such he was sent to trace the missing boy.

The application was, therefore, dismissed.

The very basis of a contract is that there should be a vinculum juris between the parties.

-Lawz Bureau

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