LALMAN SHUKLA V. GAURI DATT (1913) XL ALJR 489 (ALL)
APPELLANT: LALMAN SHUKLA
RESPONDENT: GAURI DATT
DECIDED ON :17th APRIL, 1913
BENCH: JUSTICE BANERJI
Defendent’s, i.e. Gauri Datt’s nephew absconded from home and the plaintiff, i.e. Lalman Shukla, the munim, amongst all the other servants were directed to pursue the boy. Accordingly, with the required amount of railway ticket and other expenses, the plaintiff left for finding the boy in Haridwar, Later, the defendent issued hand-bills offering a reward of Rs. 501 to anyone who found out his nephew. Meanwhile, the plaintiff traced the boy at Rishikesh and wired the defendent about the boy’s safety who travelled to Haridwar and brought the boy back to Kanpur. The plaintiff was duly rewarded with 2 sovereigns at Haridwar and Rs. 20 on coming back home. For the next 6 months, the plaintiff worked for the defendent and after dismissal from his services, he brought a suit, claiming the remaining amount of the reward for finding the nephew. Accordingly, the Lower Court dismissed the claim and aggrieved, the plaintiff filed a appeal in front of the Honourable High Court of Allahbad.
The learned Counsel for the appellant alleged that a privity of contract was trivial and both motive and knowledge were futile. This was avowed by relying upon the following verdicts:
Williams V. Carwadine: There exists a valid contract when the offer is accepted on accomplishing the ineluctable conditions entailed by the proposer through his proposal.
Gibbons V. Proctor:The Honorable Divisional Court held that if a person performs certain conditions of an offer, completely unaware about the reward on completion of its requisites, is bound by the reward.
Thus, it was concluded that the realization of all the terms and conditions of the offer entitles the appellant for securing the reward in question.
In defense, the Defendent 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 Defendent strongly relied on Fitch v. Snedkar(1868) and Ashley, Law of Contract & Pollock, Principles of Contract.
LEGAL ISSUES RAISED:
- Is Lalman Shukla entitled to get the reward?
- Is acceptance of the offer mandatory to make the contract binding?
- Is the contract valid?
LAWS AND CONCEPTS WHICH WERE CONSIDERED DURING THE CASE:
- General offer;
- When communication of general offer is completed;
- Implied acceptance under section 8;
After carefully analyzing the facts of the case with respect to the authorities cited and arguments advanced, the Honorable High Court affirmed the decision of the Lower Court, asserting that the present case could only be established through a contract. Along the same lines, it held that no acceptance could be made unless the person had the knowledge of the offer and no contract stimulated of such an acceptance.In fact, the very moment the munim agreed to go all the way to Haridwar to search for the missing boy, he was obliged to perform this task. In summation, the Judge proclaimed that there was a subsisting obligation and the performance of terms and conditions of this offer without its prior knowledge restricted the plaintiff from insisting a reward for its conduct.
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”.
It was decided by the Allahabad High Court that Lalman Shukla had no knowledge about the offer being made and hence he would not come under the ambit of acceptor so therefore he cannot claim the reward of Rs. 501 as he was merely rendering services assigned to him and on completing the service he has received the amount promised to be paid.
This case played a crucial role in laying down the principle of general offer, which one made to the public at large. According to this facet, acceptance need not be conveyed but mere fulfillment of its requisites implies acceptance, enabling him to enjoy the consideration so promised by the proposer.
Asserting the importance of both intention to enter into a contract and having the knowledge of the offer before delivering their acceptance, it was brave on the part of the Judge to go against the established judgment in the English Law. This verdict asserted the Indian interpretation to the contractual law, besides according a new meaning which supplemented the notion of acceptance.