Case Summary

Lalman Shukla v. Gauri Dutt (1913) XL ALJR 489 (AII.)

This Case Summary is written by Shivanshi Aggarwal, a student at Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management Studies, GGSIPU

Introduction

For a valid and binding contract, there must be an offer and acceptance of that offer. If any one of the element is missing then it will not be considered as the valid contract. Further offer can be classified in various other ways one such is general offer. General offer can be defined as an offer which is made to general public or an offer which is made at large. Then whoever sees that offer and act in accordance with its policies is said to be accepted that offer, in this case there is no need to present acceptance to particular party concerned. In the case mentioned there was misunderstanding regarding whether the offer made by defendant was a general offer or a specific offer and whether plaintiff accepted that offer or his conduct was acceptance to that offer. 

Facts

Gauri Dutt, the defendant sent her several servants to different places to find out her missing nephew who was absconded from the house. Lalman Shukla, the plaintiff was the munim in the firm. He was sent to Haridwar to trace the boy. He was given the expenses of the train fare and was paid for other expenses as well. He found the nephew in Rishikesh and brought him back to Kanpur. When he was gone for the search, the defendant issued handbills saying that whoever will bring back the nephew will be rewarded with 501 rupees. Plaintiff was unaware of this announcement. When he returned he was awarded 20 rupees and two sovereigns. He accepted that and continued to work. After six months when he was being fired from the job due to some dispute he got to know about the offer. Later he filed the case in Kanpur court to claim rest of the reward money. Kanpur courts dismissed his appeal, then he filed the reconsideration appeal in high court. 

Issues Raised

Some of the issues raised in front of the court were:

  1. Whether the offer was accepted
  2. Whether the lower court was correct in dismissing his appeal
  3. Whether he was entitled to receive the remaining reward money
  4. Whether the offer made was specific offer or general offer
  5. Whether the principles of offer made were fulfilled 

Arguments Raised

Plaintiff Side

The plaintiff argued that the conditions of the offer were to find the missing boy and to bring him back home. He fulfilled those and thus as per Section 8 of Indian Contract Act, 1872 which says “performance of the conditions of the proposal is an acceptance of the proposal”, he should be given the remaining amount. He further presented the case of Gibbons v. Proctor which shows that if persons performs the conditions of the offer even if completely unaware of the reward is entitled to receive the amount of the reward also in the case of Williams v. Carwadine it was shown that the valid contract exists if the acceptance is done by performing the essential conditions of the contract. 

Defendant Side

Defendant claimed that since plaintiff was unaware of the offer made and never accepted that offer, should not be entitled to receive any reward as per Section 2(b), and Section 2(h) of Indian Contract Act, 1872 which says that “when the person to whom the offer is made signifies his assent thereto, the proposal is said to be accepted” and “an agreement enforceable by law is a contract”, respectively. She further presented the case of Fitch v. Snedker which shows that failure to accept the offer made the contract void and hence no claim can be pleaded. 

Judgement

On filing the reconsideration appeal, in Allahabad High Court, Justice Banerji also dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal stating that since at the time of declaration of reward defendant was not present and did not had the knowledge of the handbills, it cannot be considered as the acceptance of any offer made. Also the acceptance of general offer can be done when any person after knowing the offer, then act in accordance with the offer made with the motive to receive the reward but since here he did not had any previous knowledge he cannot claim any compensation. He was just performing his duties in accordance with his obligations as the servant and not in accordance with any contract or offer made. Thus the contract is not enforceable by law and cannot be treated as any agreement and leading no option with plaintiff to receive any sum of money from defendant as the conduct of finding the missing boy. 

Conclusion

This case was considered very important as a landmark judgement regarding essentials of contract, how contract turns into agreement and elements of general offer were justified here. This case shows how general offer and specific offer is differentiated. Also this case shows the presence of knowledge at the time of conduct or acceptance is very necessary. This case also clarifies how the given facts are different from any other lost and found or missing advertisements of the market and thus why in this case the plaintiff will not receive any remuneration which people usually receive in general times. Also various provisions of Indian Contract Act, 1872 were being highlighted and discussed which extensively tells how to rely upon certain circumstances and how certain facts change the entire concept of general offer. As per this judgement the contract needed acceptance to turn into valid agreement but the absence of that made it void and unenforceable. Lalman Shukla, no doubt performed his duties what was mentioned by Gauri Dutt in the handbills issued but it was not in accordance or not with the motive to fulfill that offer. It was his mere sincerity towards his job. He simply did not have any motive to claim the reward when he left to find the boy from Kanpur to Haridwar. Thus the absence of both knowledge and motive made this case to be dismissed.   

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