On the wording of the Indian Contract Act, the Privy Council held that all contracts of minors were void and not merely voidable
In the judgment as passed by the Bombay High Court in Rose Fernandez vs. Joseph Gonsalves [Dated 14.07.1924, reported as (1924) 26 BomLR 105 = 85 Ind Cas 587] the Court dealt with the issue as to whether father can enter into a contract as guardian of the minor on her behalf so as to bind her and whether such a contract is for the benefit of the minor. The present case is worth including in this category of timeless ratio as the matter involves the understanding the scope of frustration of contract.
The suit was filed by ‘P’ when he attained majority, for recovering damages for breach of contract of marriage made by the ‘D’ with her and her father.
It was observed that the law as applicable in India on the issue of contract with minor can be stated to have derived from the decision of the Privy Council in Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodas Ghose. On the wording of the Indian Contract Act, the Privy Council held that all contracts of minors were void and not merely voidable. The question there was of a contract entered into by the minor himself, and it was a contract with regard to property. Hence, the case was distinguished from the position to be ascertained in the present dispute.
In the present case it was observed that where a contract is made by a guardian of the minor so as to be binding on the minor and which is for the benefit of the minor there is an enforceable contract in law and the minor can enforce it. The decisions in England stated to be more favourable to a minor inasmuch as the minor is held to be entitled to sue the adult party on a breach of promise of marriage while mutuality is denied to the adult party so that the adult party cannot sue the minor on a breach of the contract by the minor; The position in India would be different as, on the authority of the decision of the Privy Council in Mohori Bibee v. Bharmodas Ghose, it could not be held that the contract was only voidable where it is made by the guardian for the benefit of the minor so as to bind the minor and that therefore the minor can sue on such a contract but cannot be sued on it.
In this case it was held that the question of marriage is quite different from the question of an interest in property, particularly in India, as everyone knows marriages take place in most cases before the attainment of majority especially by girls. It is considered as sacred and essential duty of the parents and guardians, particularly of girls, to see that they are settled down in life by proper marriage. It is the duty of the parents to make a contract of marriage for their daughters, and that therefore, they can make a binding contract on behalf of their daughters. The breach of a promise of marriage has much more serious consequences in India in the case of girls, inasmuch as the chances of the girl making another good match are seriously affected. A contract of apprenticeship is held to be good because it is considered to be for the benefit of the minor; in the same way a contract of marriage is for the benefit of the minor, and there is no reason why a father should not be held to have power to make a contract of marriage on behalf of his minor child.
In the present case it was held that it would be a denial of justice if ‘D’ after the conduct on his part as proved in the case, viz., moving about with ‘P’ as his fiancee for two years, should be allowed to break the contract with impunity and without having to pay damages for his wrongful act.