Section 56 in The Indian Contract Act, 1872
Title: Agreement to do impossible act.
An agreement to do an act impossible in itself is void.
Contract to do an act afterwards becoming impossible or unlawful.—A contract to do an act which, after the contract is made, becomes impossible, or, by reason of some event which the promisor could not prevent, unlawful, becomes void when the act becomes impossible or unlawful1
Compensation for loss through non-performance of act known to be impossible or unlawful.—Where one person has promised to do something which he knew, or, with reasonable diligence, might have known, and which the promisee did not know, to be impossible or unlawful, such promisor must make compensation to such promisee for any loss which such promisee sustains through the nonperformance of the promise.
(a) A agrees with B to discover treasure by magic. The agreement is void:
(b) A and B contract to marry each other. Before the time fixed for the marriage,. A goes mad. The contract becomes void.
(c) A contracts to marry B, being already married to C, and being forbidden by the law to which he is subject to practise polygamy, A must make compensation to B for the loss caused to her by the non-performance of his promise.
(d) A contracts to take in cargo for B at a foreign port. A's Government afterwards declares war against the country in which the port is situated. The contract becomes void when war is declared.
(e) A contracts to act at a theatre for six months in consideration of a sum paid in advance by B. On several occasions A is too ill to act. The contract to act on those occasions becomes void.
1. See s. 65, infra.
Title: Reciprocal promise to do things legal, and also other things illegal.
Where persons reciprocally promise, firstly, to do certain things which are legal, and, secondly, under specified circumstances, to do certain other things which are illegal, the first set of promises is a contract, but the second is a void agreement.
A and B agree that A shall sell B a house for 10,000 rupees, but that, if B uses it as a gambling house, he shall pay A 50,000 rupees for it.
The first set of reciprocal promises, namely, to sell the house and to pay 10,000 rupees for it, is a contract.
The second set is for an unlawful object, namely, that B may use the house as a gambling house, and is a void agreement.
Title: Alternative promise, one branch being illegal.
In the case of an alternative promise, one branch of which is legal and the other illegal, the legal branch alone can be enforced.
A and B agree that A shall pay B 1,000 rupees, for which B shall afterwards deliver to A either rice or smuggled opium.
This is a valid contract to deliver rice, and a void agreement as to the opium.
Title: Application of payment where debt to be discharged is indicated.
Where a debtor, owing several distinct debts to one person, makes a payment to him, either with express intimation, or under circumstances implying, that the payment is to be applied to the discharge of some particular debt, the payment, if accepted, must be applied accordingly.
(a) A owes B, among other debts, 1,000 rupees upon a promissory note which falls due on the first June. He owes B no other debt of that amount. On the first June, A pays to B 1,000 rupees. The payment is to be applied to the discharge of the promissory note.
(b) A owes to B, among other debts, the sum of 567 rupees. B writes to A and demands payment of this sum. A sends to B 567 rupees. This payment is to be applied to the discharge of the debt of which B had demanded payment.
Title: Application of payment where debt to be discharged is not indicated.
Where the debtor has omitted to intimate and there are no other circumstances indicating to which debt the payment is to be applied, the creditor may apply it at his discretion to any lawful debt actually due and payable to him from the debtor, whether its recovery is or is not barred by the law in force for the time being as to the limitation of suits.