Tag Archives: Breach of Contract

Damages – Arising out of Breach of Contract

Section 73 of the Indian Contract Act makes it clear that damages arising out of a breach of contract is treated separately from damages resulting from obligations resembling those created by contract. When a contract has been broken, damages are recoverable under Paragraph 1 of Section 73 of the Indian Contract Act. When, however, a claim for damages arises from obligations resembling those created by contract, this would be covered by Paragraph 3 of Section 73 of the Indian Contract Act. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. v. Tata Communications Ltd., (2019) 5 SCC 341.

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Mere Breach of a Promise – Does Not Constitute the Offence of Criminal Breach of Trust

The law clearly recognizes a difference between simple payment/investment of money and entrustment of money or property. A mere breach of a promise, agreement or contract does not, ipso facto, constitute the offence of the criminal breach of trust contained in Section 405 Indian Penal Code without there being a clear case of entrustment.         In the context of contracts, the distinction between mere breach of contract and cheating would depend upon the fraudulent inducement and mens rea. The mere inability of a party to return the loan amount cannot give rise to a criminal prosecution for cheating unless fraudulent or dishonest intention is shown right at the beginning of the transaction, as it is this mens rea which is the crux of the offence. The legislature intended to criminalise only those breaches which are accompanied by fraudulent, dishonest or deceptive inducements, which resulted in involuntary and inefficient transfers, under Section 415 Indian Penal Code. Satishchandra Ratanlal Shah v. State of Gujarat, (2019) 9 SCC 148.

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Financial Debt – Under Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code

Thus, in order to be a “debt”, there ought to be  a liability or obligation in respect of a “claim” which is due from any person. “Claim” then means either a right to payment or a right to payment arising out of breach of contract, and this claim can be made whether or not such right to payment is reduced to judgment. Then comes “default”, which in turn refers to non-payment of debt when whole or any part of the debt has become due and payable and is not paid by the corporate debtor.

            What is clear, therefore, is that a debt is a liability or obligation in respect of a right to payment, even if it arises out of breach of contract, which is due from any person, notwithstanding that there is no adjudication of the said breach, followed by a judgment or decree or order. The expression “payment” is again an expression which is elastic enough to include “recompense”, and includes repayment.

            The definition of “financial debt” in Section 5(8) then goes on to state that a “debt” must be disbursed against the consideration for time value of money. “Disbursement” is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary (10th Edition) to mean:

  1. The act of paying out money, commonly from a fund or in settlement of a debt or account payable. 2. The money so paid; an amount of money given for a particular purpose.

In short, the “disbursal” must be money and must be against consideration for the “time value of money”, meaning thereby, the fact that such money is now no longer with the lender, but is with the borrower, who then utilizes the money. In the Dictionary of Banking Terms (2nd Edition) by Thomas P. Fitch, “time value for money” is defined thus:

            “present value” today’s value of a payment or a stream of payment amount due and payable at some specified future date, discounted by a compound interest rate of discount rate. Also called the time value of money. Today’s value of a stream of cash flows is worth less than the sum of the cash flows to be received or saved over time. Present value accounting is widely used in discounted cash flow analysis.”

            As per the precise language of Section 5(8)(f) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, which appears to be a residuary provision, whereas it is “catch all” in nature. This is clear from the words “any amount” and “any other transaction” which means that amounts that are “raised” under “transactions” not covered by any of the other clauses, would amount to a financial debt if they had the commercial effect of a borrowing.

            The expression “any other transaction” would include an arrangement in writing for the transfer of funds to the corporate debtor. Pioneer Urban Land and Infrastructure Ltd. v. Union of India, (2019) 8 SCC 416.

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Existence of A Concluded Contract – Is a Sine Qua Non in a claim for compensation

Section 7 of the Contract Act, 1872 provides that in order to convert a proposal into a contract, the acceptance must be absolute and unqualified. The existence of a concluded contract is a sine qua non in a claim for compensation for loss and damages under Section 73 of the Contract Act arising out of a breach of contract. If instead of acceptance of a proposal, a counter – proposal is made, no concluded contract comes into existence.
In U.P. Rajkiya Nirman Nigam Ltd. v. Indure (P) Ltd., also related to a proposal and counter-proposal. Holding that no concluded contract had come into existence, the Hon’ble Apex Court held as under:
“As seen, the material alterations in the contract make a world of difference to draw an inference of concluded contract.” Vedanata Ltd. v. Emirates Trading Agency LLC, (2017) 13 SCC 243.

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Breach of Contract vis a vis Offence of Cheating

In Rashmi Jain v. State of U.P., 2014 (1) SCALE 415, the court said that mere failure of a person to keep up promise subsequently, a culpable intention right at the beginning, i.e., when he made the promises cannot be presumed. A distinction has to be kept in mind between mere breach of contract and the offence of cheating. It depends upon the intention of the accused at the time of inducement. The subsequent conduct is not the sole test. Mere breach of contract cannot give rise to criminal prosecution for cheating unless fraudulent, dishonest intention is shown at the beginning of the transaction.
In Vesa Holdings Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Kerala, 2015 CRLJ 2455 the court held that every breach of contract would not give rise to an offence of cheating and only in those cases breach of contract would amount to cheating where there was any deception played at the very inception. If the intention to cheat has developed later on, the same cannot amount to cheating. In other words, for the purpose of constituting an offence of cheating, the complainant is required to show that the accused had fraudulent or dishonest intention at the time of making promise. Even in a case where allegations are made in regard to failure on the part of the accused to keep his promise, in the absence of a culpable intention at the time of making initial promise being absent, no offence under Section 420 IPC can be said to have been made out. Suneel Galgotia v. State of U.P., 2016 (92) ACC 40.

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Reasonable Compensation – Liquidated Amount

Where a sum is named in a contract as a liquidated amount payable by way of damages, the party complaining of a breach can receive as reasonable compensation such liquidated amount only if it is a genuine pre-estimate of damages fixed by both parties and found to be such by the court. In other cases, where a sum is named in a contract as a liquidated amount payable by way of damages, only reasonable compensation can be awarded not exceeding the amount so stated. Similarly, in cases where the amount fixed is in the nature of penalty, only reasonable compensation can be awarded not exceeding the penalty so stated. In both cases, the liquidated amount or penalty is the upper limit beyond which the court cannot grant reasonable compensation. Kailash Nath Associates v. D.D.A., (2015) 4 SCC 136.

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