A threat to commit suicide is a coercion. [Chikkam Ammiraju and Ors. v. Chikkam Seshamma and Anr.]

Chikkam Ammiraju and Ors. v. Chikkam Seshamma and Anr.

Before High Court of Madras

Decided on: 23rd January 1917

Bench:  Oldfield J., John Wallis C.J., Moore J., Sadasiva aiya J.

Author: Sadasiva Aiyar J.

Advocates for the Appellants:  Mr. Patanjali Sastri for Mr. P Narayanmurti

Advocates for the Respondents:  Mr. Venkatramaih

Brief facts: The respondents, in this case, are mother and son, whereas the appellants are younger brothers of plaintiff’s husband.

  1. The respondent’s husband threatened to commit suicide if the mother and son do not execute a release deed in respect of reversionary rights in certain lands, which the respondent’s mother had sold.
  2. The respondent has filed a suit in lower courts alleging coercion on part of the husband. The lower courts held that the consent was not free and it was because of threats working in their minds that they executed the deed. The appellant aggrieved by this approached to the high court.

Issue:

  1. Whether threat to commit suicide can fall under coercion as defined under section 15 of the Indian contracts act, 1872?
  2. Whether for an act to amount to coercion, is it necessary for it to come from the parties involved?

Arguments for the appellants:

  1. The appellants argued that threat to commit suicide is not an act punishable by Indian penal code but an attempt to commit suicide is, hence it does not amount to coercion.
  2. They also argued that threat of suicide came from the husband of the respondent, who is not a party to the deed. The threat was not a prejudice to the mother or to the son.

Arguments by the respondents:

  1. The respondents principally contended that the husband’s threat to commit suicide amounted to coercion and it negative free consent.
  2. The respondents pointed out that the expression “any act forbidden by IPC” is wider than “any act punishable by IPC”. In case a lunatic or minor commits a criminal act, it is not punishable but still forbidden by IPC.

Decision of the court:

  • The court held in favor of the respondents and dismissed the appeal. The court agreed with the contention of Mr.Venkataramaih that forbidden act is a wider term. It held that suicide and attempt to commit suicide are both punishable, but suicide is not punishable as it is impossible to reach that person.
  • The court observed that in definition, the words “to prejudice to any person whatsoever” are included. The respondents will not execute such a deed unless they were prejudicially affected by the threat of the husband.
  • This case does not fall under the undue influence because the husband was not a party to the contract.

Held: The threat by the husband amounted to coercion and the appeal by the younger brothers of the husband was, thus dismissed.

(This brief was prepared and submitted to LawBriefs.in by Aarsh Chokshi, Student at Gujarat National Law University.) 

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thank you so much for this.

    An aspiring CLAT aspirant.

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