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Contingent Contracts (Contract Act)

Contingent Contracts (Contract Act)
Contingent Contracts (Contract Act)


Understanding Contingent Contracts

In a contingent contract, an individual commits to an action or refrains from it based on a specified condition related to the contract, which may or may not occur.

For instance, suppose R and K enter into an agreement wherein R undertakes to pay K Rs 50,000 if K's car is stolen. This agreement exemplifies a contingent contract, as R's obligation to pay arises only if K's car is stolen.


Elements of a Contingent Contract

The essential elements of a contingent contract are as follows:

1. Conditionality of Execution

The execution of a contingent contract hinges upon the occurrence or non-occurrence of a specific event or incident, with no alternative course of action.

2. Ancillary Nature of the Contingent Event

Furthermore, the event or incident upon which the contract's execution is contingent is ancillary to the contract itself. It does not constitute part of the reciprocal promises typically exchanged between the contracting parties.

Examples of Non-Contingent Contracts

(a) Conditional Sale: S agrees to sell his second-hand motorcycle to P for Rs 20,000, with P agreeing to pay in five equal monthly instalments of Rs 4,000 each.

(b) Marriage Agreement: F agrees to pay G Rs 2 lakh upon G marrying F's daughter D.

(c) Expression of Intent: A promise by X to pay Y Rs 50,000 if X so desires.

Enforcement Rules for Contingent Contracts

1. Contingent Upon Future Events (Section 32)

Contracts contingent upon uncertain future events cannot be legally enforced until those events occur. If such events become impossible, the contract becomes void.


S offers to sell his car to P at a certain price, but only if P refuses a previous offer. This contract is only enforceable if P refuses the previous offer. If P does refuse, S is obligated to sell the car to A.

2. Contingent Upon Non-occurrence of Future Events (Section 33)

Contracts contingent upon the non-occurrence of certain future events are enforceable when those events become impossible.

Example: X promises to pay Y if a particular truck does not return. If the truck is destroyed in an accident, the contract becomes enforceable.

3. Contingent Upon Actions of Specific Individuals (Section 34)

Contracts contingent upon the actions of specific individuals in the future become impossible when those individuals act in a way that makes the required action impossible within a reasonable timeframe.

Example: F agrees to pay G if G marries D. If G marries someone else, the contract is void even if circumstances change, such as the death of G's spouse.


4. Fixed Timeframe for Uncertain Events (Section 35, Paragraph 1)

Contracts contingent upon specific uncertain events within a fixed timeframe become void if the event does not occur within that time or becomes impossible before the time expires.

Example: X promises to pay Y if a ship returns within a year. If the ship sinks within the year, making its return impossible, the contract becomes void.

5. Contingent Upon Non-occurrence of Events Within Time Frame (Section 35, Paragraph 2)

Contracts contingent upon the non-occurrence of specific events within a specified time become enforceable when the time expires and the event has not occurred, or when it becomes certain that the event will not occur.

Examples: A agrees to pay B if the sun rises in the west, which is impossible. 

A agrees to pay B if B marries D, who was actually deceased at the time of the agreement, unbeknownst to both parties.

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