Rose Fernandez vs. Joseph Gonsalves AIR 1925 Bom 97
The Plaintiff’s father and the defendant entered into a contract of marriage. Where the defendant promised plaintiff’s father to marry plaintiff. The plaintiff was a consenting party; but she could not herself have entered into the contract her being then only about thirteen years of age, so her father as a guardian entered into the contract. It was decided that in case of breach of the contract the defendant is liable to pay the damages of Rupees 2000 to the Plaintiff.
The defendant instead of marrying plaintiff admittedly married another woman in the year 1921. The suit is brought by the plaintiff who has now attained majority, for recovering the damages from defendant.
- Whether the father can enter into such a contract as guardian of the minor on her behalf so as to bind her
- Whether such a contract is for the benefit of the minor.
Exceptions to rule of “Privity of Contract” (Marriage Settlement, Partition or Other Family Arrangements): Where an agreement is made in any of the mentioned concerns and a provision is made for the benefit of a person, he may take advantage of that agreement although he is no party to it.
Considering all the contingencies and complications of this case, it would be a denial of justice if the defendant does not pay damages despite his conduct of his wrongful act been proved before the court. As marriage of minors are entered into by parents or guardians and it would be a great hardship and denial of justice if such contracts were held to be absolutely void so as to deprive the minors of any relief in respect of them. Considering all the above mentioned considerations the court finds the suit is maintainable by the plaintiff and that she is entitled to claim damages for breach of contract of marriage in this suit.
The rationale that Justice Taraporewala used was that, a contract of apprenticeship is good as it is for the benefit of the minor and such contracts are enforceable by law followed by the liability for breach of contract. Likewise, a contract of marriage is for the benefit of the minor where the minor is the beneficiary to the contract, in a country like India where marriages of minors are entered by their parents or guardians it would be a grave injustice to hold the contracts as void. This would deprive the minors any sort of relief in respect of them.
Current Day Significance
The case is a landmark judgment on the exception of Privity of contract. This does not prevent a person from enforcing a contract which has been made for his benefit but without his being a party to it. Though the contract of marriage of minors entered by their parents holds no relevance today, as the marriage of minors is a punishable offence under the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929. Moreover the contracts of marriage entered by parents or guardians of minors are considered as void.