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  • It simply means forcing a person to enter into a contract by adopting unfair means. The basic idea of ‘coercion’ is that a person may be forced to make an agreement by the use of fear of some kind of physical harm or loss.

    Example: An agreement obtained at gun point.

According to Sec. 15 (a), consent to a contract is said to be caused by coercion when it is obtained by-
  • Committing any act which is forbidden by the Indian Penal Code
  • Threatening to commit any act which is forbidden by the Indian Penal Code
  • Unlawful detaining of any property of the other
  • Threatening to unlawfully detain any property of the other With a view to obtain the assent of the other party to the contract

Essential elements of coercion

The analysis of the above definition reveals the following essential elements of a valid coercion:
  • Committing or threatening to commit any act forbidden by the IPC: For getting the consent for a contract, if any person actually commits, or threatens to commit any act which is forbidden by the IPC, then the consent so obtained is said to be a consent obtained by coercion.
    Threat to shoot, murder, threat to cause hurt, rape, theft, attempt to commit suicide are a few examples of acts forbidden by the Indian Penal Code.


    Note: It is immaterial whether the IPC is in force or not in the place where coercion is committed.


    Example: X, on board an English ship on the high seas, threatens Y and forces him to enter into an agreement by an act amounting to criminal intimidation under the Indian Penal Code. Y failed to fulfill his part of the obligation. X sued Y for breach of contract at Calcutta. In this case, the agreement between X and Y had been brought about by coercion. Although the Indian Penal Code 1860 was not in force in the place where coercion was employed.


    Example: X beats Y and compels him to sell his car for ₹ 50,000. Here, Y’s consent has been obtained by coercion because beating someone is an offence under the Indian Penal Code.

  • Unlawful detaining or threatening to detain any property of the other: Where any person unlawfully detains, or threatens to detain any property (movable or immovable) to the prejudice of any person for the purpose of getting the consent of a party to a contract, such an act amounts to coercion and the contract is voidable at the option of the party not at fault.
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  • Coercion may move from any person and can be directed towards any person: The act of coercion may be directed towards any person i.e., it may be directed against the other contracting party, or his relatives and friends.


    Example: X threatened to shoot Y’s son if Y did not sign a promissory note for ₹ 20,000 in favor of X. Y signed the promissory note under the threat. Here, Y’s consent is obtained by coercion. The promissory note is voidable. In this case, the threat amounting to coercion is directed against a person who is not a party to the contract.


    There is no rule that the act of coercion must always proceed from a contracting party. An act of coercion committed by a third party on behalf of a contracting party would also amount to coercion and would render the contract voidable at the option of the party not at fault.


    Example: X hired Y to kidnap Z’s sons in order to threaten Z to enter in to a contract. This is also a case of coercion.

  • Coercion may be by way of threat to commit suicide: A ‘suicide’ and a ‘threat to commit suicide’ are not punishable but an attempt to commit suicide is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. A threat to commit suicide may amount to coercion if the relations between the two persons are close enough. Threat to commit suicide amounts to coercion was given by a Madras High Court in a case law between Chikham Amiraju vs. Seshamma.
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  • Inducing the other party: The intention behind applying coercion is to induce the other party into a contract. The party applying coercion does so in order to receive the consent of the other party by application of force or such other means which are forbidden by Indian penal code.

Threats not amounting to coercion

  • Threat to sue: Threat to prosecute a person or file a suit against the person is not coercion. Approaching a Court and seeking appropriate remedy by filing a suit is the fundamental right of every person.
  • Statutory compulsions: If anything is done at the insistence of the order of the Court, it is not coercion.
  • Threat to strike: A threat by the employees to go on a strike in support of their demands is not regarded as coercion. This is because; the threat to strike is not an offence under the IPC. It is a right given under the Industrial Disputes Act.
  • Detaining property under mortgage: Detention of property under a mortgage contract, until the payment of the loan is made, does not amount to coercion.

Effects of coercion

When coercion is employed, a contract becomes voidable at the option of the aggrieved party, and any benefit received by either party under the contract must be restored back. If the aggrieved party has suffered any loss, he can recover the loss from the defaulting party.

Burden of proof

The burden of proving that the consent was induced by coercion lies on the party who wants to avoid the contract. In other words, it is for the aggrieved party to prove that his consent was not free.

Duress vs. Coercion

The English law uses the term ‘‘duress’’ as an equivalent for term ‘‘coercion’’ used under the Indian contract act. However, the two are different in the following ways:
  • Duress does not include detaining of property or threat to detain property
  • Duress can be employed only by a party to the contract or his agent

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