Section 20 in The Indian Contract Act, 1872
Title: Agreement void where both parties are under mistake as to matter of fact.
Where both the parties to an agreement are under a mistake as to a matter of fact essential to the agreement, the agreement is void.
Explanation.--An erroneous opinion as to the value of the thing which forms the subject-matter of the agreement, is not to be deemed a mistake as to a matter of fact.
(a) A agrees to sell to B a specific cargo of goods supposed to be on its way from England to Bombay. It turns out that, before the day of the bargain, the ship conveying the cargo had been cast away and the goods lost. Neither party was aware of the these facts. The agreement is void.
(b) A agrees to buy from B a certain horse. It turns out that the horse was dead at the time of the bargain, though neither party was aware of the fact. The agreement is void.
(c) A, being entitled to an estate for the life of B, agrees to sell it to C. B was dead at the time of the agreement, but both parties were ignorant of the fact. The agreement is void
Title: Effect of mistakes as to law.
A contract is not voidable because it was caused by a mistake as to any law in force in 1India; but a mistake as to a law not in force in 1 India has the same effect as a mistake of fact.
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A and B make a contract grounded on the erroneous belief that a particular debt is barred by the Indian Law of Limitation; the contract is not voidable.
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1. The original words "British India" have successively been amended by the A.O. 1948 and the A.O. 1950 to read as above.
2. Paragraph 2, ins. by the A.O. 1937, and as amended by the A. O. 1948 was Rep. by the A. O. 1950.
3. The second Illustration to s. 21 rep. by Act 24 of 1917, s. 3 and the Second Schedule.
Title: Contract caused by mistake of one party as to matter of fact.
A contract is not voidable merely because it was caused by one of the parties to it being under a mistake as to a matter of fact.
Title: What considerations and objects are lawful, and what not.
The consideration or object of an agreement is lawful, unless—
it is forbidden by law1 ; or
is of such a nature that, if permitted, it would defeat the provisions of any law; or
is fraudulent ; or
involves or implies, injury to the person or property of another; or
the Court regards it as immoral, or opposed to public policy.
In each of these cases, the consideration or object of an agreement is said to be unlawful. Every agreement of which the object or consideration is unlawful is void.
(a) A agrees to sell his house to B for 10,000 rupees. Here Bs promise to pay the sum of 10,000 rupees is the consideration for As promise to sell the house, and As promise to sell the house is the consideration for Bs promise to pay the 10,000 rupees. These are lawful considerations.
(b) A promises to pay B 1,000 rupees at the end of six months, if C, who owes that sum to B, fails to pay it. B promises to grant time to C accordingly. Here, the promise of each party is the consideration for the promise of the other party, and they are lawful considerations.
(c) A promises, for a certain sum paid to him by B, to make good to B the value of his ship if it is wrecked on a certain voyage. Here, As promise is the consideration for Bs payment and Bs payment is the consideration for As promise, and these are lawful considerations.
(d) A promises to maintain Bs child, and B promises to pay A 1,000 rupees yearly for the purpose. Here, the promise of each party is the consideration for the promise of the other party. They are lawful considerations.
(e) A, B and C enter into an agreement for the division among them of gains acquired or to be acquired, by them by fraud. The agreement is void, as its object is unlawful.
(f) A promises to obtain for B an employment in the public service and B promises to pay 1,000 rupees to A. The agreement is void, as the consideration for it is unlawful.
(g) A, being agent for a landed proprietor, agrees for money, without the knowledge of his principal, to obtain for B a lease of land belonging to his principal. The agreement between A and B is void. as it implies a fraud by concealment, by A, on his principal.
(h) A promises B to drop a prosecution which he has instituted against B for robbery, and B promises to restore the value of the things taken. The agreement is void, as its object is unlawful.
(i) As estate is sold for arrears of revenue under the provisions of an Act of the Legislature, by which the defaulter is prohibited from purchasing the estate. B, upon an understanding with A, becomes the purchaser, and agrees to convey the estate to A upon receiving from him the price which B has paid. The agreement is void, as it renders the transaction, in effect, a purchase by the defaulter, and would so defeat the object of the law.
(j) A, who is Bs mukhtar, promises to exercise his influence, as such, with B in favour of C, and C promises to pay 1,000 rupees to A. The agreement is void, because it is immoral.
(k) A agrees to let her daughter to hire to B for concubinage. The agreement is void, because it is immoral, though the letting may not be punishable under the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860).
1. See ss. 26, 27, 28 and 30, infra.
Title: Agreement void, if considerations and objects unlawful in part.
If any part of a single consideration for one or more objects, or any one or any part of any one of several considerations for a single object, is unlawful, the agreement is void.
A promises to superintend, on behalf of B, a legal manufacture of indigo, and an illegal traffic in other articles. B promises to pay to A a salary of 10,000 rupees a year. The agreement is void, the object of As promise, and the consideration for Bs promise, being in part unlawful.