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Agreements opposed to public policy

An agreement which is against the welfare of the general public or tends to promote corruption or injustice is said to be against public policy. As per Sec. 23 agreement opposed to public policy are void. The term public policy is not coded by law and therefore what constitutes injury to public interest or welfare would depend upon the times and the climes. The courts use extreme reserve in holding a contract as against public policy and does so only when the contract is incontestable and on any view inimical to public interest. The doctrine is only invoked when harm to the public is clear and is incontestable. The doctrine of public policy is a branch of common law and is governed by judicial precedents. The principles are crystallised under different heads in order to lend consistency and solidarity to the legal procedure. The following agreements are declared opposed to public policy

Agreement for trading with an alien enemy

At the time of war between two countries, citizens of those countries become alien enemy to each other. An agreement made with an alien enemy is opposed to public policy, so it is unlawful. The contract which had been entered into before the outbreak of the war is perfectly legal and enforceable but in the event of war taking place between the countries to which the parties belong would either lead to the contract being suspended till war continuous (if not against public policy) or such contracts would be dissolved and deemed void (if against public policy).

Agreement of stifling prosecution

Stifling prosecution means to drop any legal prosecution against any person. It is a fundamental principle that one who has committed a crime must be punished. An agreement which protects the person from being prosecuted in consideration of money is void. Therefore, an agreement for stifling prosecution is void.



Kumar promises to drop a prosecution which he has instituted against Kiran for robbery and Kiran promises to restore the stolen property. The agreement is void.



An agreement which provides that a suit should not be brought for the breach of any terms of the agreement within a time period prescribed by law of limitation is void. The party not at fault is not expected to wait until the period of limitation expires.

Contracts in the nature of champerty and maintenance

  • Maintenance implies financing of suits by third parties who have no legal interest in the suit. Further, financing may be for prosecution or defence. The reason for considering maintenance agreements to be void is that, if allowed such would lead to contemptuous litigation. It is to say that a third party would undertake to support the other for the sole purpose of harassing the party on which the suit is filed.

A provides assistance to B of ₹ 10,000 in order to allow B to file a suit on C. A has no interest in such litigation but his purpose to cost trouble to C. These are known as maintenance agreements and in the above case A cannot recover such a amount from B.

  • Champerty implies an agreement, whereby one party is to assist another to bring an action for recovering the money or the property and is to share the proceeds of the action. The reason for considering Champerty agreements to be void is that, if allowed such would lead to speculative litigation. Such litigations if allowed would become a source of profit making transactions out of legal trial, which is unacceptable.

A files a suit against B for obtaining the ownership of a house. C promises to advance ₹ 5,000 to A for meeting the cost of litigation. And A promises to share the gains of litigation. Agreements of these kinds are equally unlawful and void whether the assistance to be provided is monetary or professional in nature.


Note: Under the English Law, both these agreements are void.

Under Indian law

The fairness of the transaction must be weighed as a whole. If the reward from the transaction is out of all proportion to the actual expenses incurred, then such agreement would be unreasonable. Under Indian law, the agreements of maintenance and champerty should satisfy following conditions for it to be valid:
  • The suit was reasonable
  • The suit was filed with a bona fide object of assisting the other party in making claim which is believed to be just.
  • If the parties agree on payment of a reasonable amount or have a fair share of profit

Agreement for the sale of public offices and titles

It is also known as trafficking of public office. An agreement of trafficking (i.e. to buy, sell or procurement) of public office or title is against the public policy. Hence, such an agreement is unlawful and void. Following are the agreements against public policy, since they are the sale of public offices:
An agreement to provide money to a Member of Parliament or Minister to influence his opinion or judgment
  • An agreement intended to induce a public officer to act corruptly
  • An agreement to procure a public title like ‘Bharat Ratna’ or ‘Padma Vibhushan’ for a reward
  • An agreement for procuring votes in an election for a consideration
  • An agreement to sell a seat in a medical or an engineering college (except payment seat)
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Agreement in restraint of marriage

As per sec 26, any agreement in restraint of marriage of any person other than a minor is void. This is because; the law regards marriage as the right of every individual. Restraint may be complete or partial. The agreement which prevents a person from marrying a particular person is a partial restraint and an agreement not to marry any person is a complete restraint.


Note: In India, any restraint of marriage whether total (absolute) or partial is opposed to public policy and hence void. In the English Law, however, only an absolute restraint is void.



A promised to marry B only and none else, and, in default to pay ₹ 5000, But he (ie., A) married C. B filed a suit. Her suit was dismissed on the ground that the agreement was in restraint of marriage, and so, void. Therefore neither B can recover the amount nor she can force A to marry her.

Agreement in restraint of parental rights

The father and the mother are the natural guardians of a minor child. This right of guardianship cannot be bartered away by any agreement. Thus, an agreement which is inconsistent with the duties arising out of such guardianship is void as being opposed to public policy.



Amar for a sum of ₹ 25,000 agreed to place his daughter at the disposal of Akbar to be married as he likes. The agreement is void as it interferes with Amar’s parental duty to select a husband in the best interest of the girl.

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Marriage brokerage contract

A marriage brokerage contract is one in which, in consideration of marriage, one or the other of the parties to it, or their parents or third parties receive a certain sum of money. Accordingly, dowry is a marriage brokerage and hence unlawful and void. It may be noted that this does not cover the business of marriage bureaus because they actually act as information bureaus and do not guarantee that the marriage shall take place.



Amar promised Akbar to procure a wife for him. And Akbar agreed to pay a certain sum of money to Amar for the procurement of the wife. In this case, the agreement is void as it is opposed to public policy.

Agreement to create interest opposed to duty

An agreement to do something which is against any professional duty is void.



If a doctor enters into an agreement that he will not treat a patient, it is void. In the same way if a police man asks for consideration of money for the purpose of undertaking interrogation, which he is duty bound to do, is void.

Agreement interfering with the Course of justice

Use of improper influence of any kind on the judge or officer of justice is unlawful and hence void. Hence an agreement which interferes with the outcome of a court case in any manner whatsoever is deemed void and thus has no legal effect.



X entered into an agreement with Y, the judge of a High Court to deliver a judgement in Y’s favour. The agreement is void.

Agreement in restraint of personal liberty

Every person has the right of personal freedom to speech, expression and behavior. If any agreement takes away the freedom of a person, then such an agreement is against the public policy and is void.
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The term ‘void agreement’ is defined in Sec. 2 (g) of the Indian Contract Act, which reads as under:
An agreement not enforceable by law is said to be void.” A void agreement does not create any legal rights and obligations. It is void ab initio (i.e. void from the very beginning) and without any legal effect.
The Courts will enforce only those agreements which fulfil the conditions of enforceability as laid down in Sec.10 of The Indian Contract Act.
  • Agreements which have been expressly declared as void by the Indian Contract Act are:-
  • Agreements made by incompetent parties [Sec. 11]
  • Agreements made under a mutual mistake of facts [Sec. 20]
  • Agreements with unlawful consideration or object [Sec. 23]
  • Agreements made without consideration [Sec. 25]
  • Agreements in restraint of marriage [Sec. 26]
  • Agreements in restraint of trade [Sec. 27]
  • Agreements in restraint of legal proceedings [Sec. 28]
  • Agreements whose meaning is uncertain [Sec. 29]
  • Agreements by the way of wager [Sec. 30]
  • Agreements contingent on the happening of an impossible event [Sec. 36]
  • Agreements to do impossible acts [Sec. 56]
Majority of agreements have already been discussed, while the others are discussed here as under:-

Agreements in restraint of trade

Every person has the right to carry on any trade, profession, occupation or business activity so far as it is lawful. An agreement which restrains from doing a lawful profession, trade or business of any kind is void to that extent.

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