Wednesday, 7 November 2012


The law of agency is based on the Latin maxim “qui facit per alium, facit per se,” which means, “he who acts through another is deemed in law to do it himself

According to section 182 of the Indian Contract Act 1872, an ‘agent’ is a person employed to do any act for another, or to represent another in dealings with third person. The person for whom such act is done, or who is so represented, is called the ‘principal’."

·       Whatever a person competent to contract may do himself, he may do through an agent.
·       He, who does through another, does by himself.

Therefore, the acts of an agent are the acts of the principal (subject to certain conditions e.g. where personal skill is involved.)

It is only when a person acts as a representative of the other in business negotiations, that is to say, in the creation, modification or termination of contractual obligations, between that other and third persons, that he is an agent.

The person for whom such act is done, or who is so represented, is called the principal.

Any person, who is of the age of majority according to the law to which he is subject, and who is of sound mind, may employ an agent.

·       As between the principal and third person, any person can become an agent, even if he is not competent to contract otherwise.
·       If a person not competent to contract is appointed agent, principal is bound by his acts although such agent cannot be held liable by either the principal or third party.

·       Whether the person has the capacity to bind the principal & make him answerable to the third parties.
·       Whether he can create legal relationship between the principal & such third parties & thus establish a Privity of contract between the principal & third parties.

·       An agent has the authority to act on behalf of his principal and to create contractual relations between the principal & a third party.
·       A principal has the right to direct what the agent has to do: but a master has not only the right, but also the right to say how it is to be done.
·       While the servant is paid by way of salary or wages, the agent receives commission on the basis of work done.
·       A master is responsible for the wrong of his servant if it occurs in the course of employment. A principal is liable for his agent’s wrong done within the scope of authority.

No consideration is necessary to create an agency.

·       A contract of agency is one of good faith.
·       The relationship is fiduciary.

MERCANTILE: Brokers, Commission Agents, Bankers, Factors etc.
NON MERCANTILE: Solicitors, Insurance Agents, Wife etc.

LIC has regulations on the appointment & functions of agents. An agent may be authorised by the Corporation to collect and remit renewal premiums under policies on such conditions as may be specified. 

Harshad J Shah V LIC (1997)
3rd semi-annual Premium paid to agent-bearer cheque-encashed-but did not deposit even after grace period-meanwhile insured dies-agent deposits premium the next day-by then the policy had lapsed-in his appointment letter agent was not authorized to collect premium.
Held: The agent had not been empowered by LIC Regulations and his appointment letter to receive payment from the insured. Apparent authority can’t be invoked especially when the LIC has been careful in making an express provision in the Regulations/Rules, which are statutory in nature. In disclaiming its liability the LIC was acting in accordance with the Regulations/Rules. The said provision has been made in public interest in order to protect the Corporation from any fraud on the part of an agent and LIC was acting quite fairly.

There must be a domestic establishment for a wife to have an implied authority of the husband to buy articles of household necessity.  
Debenham V Mellon  (1880) 
Mrs. Mellon was a hotel manageress, and lived there with her husband “in the ordinary way.” She bought clothes from William and Frank Debenham which were conceded by all sides to be necessaries. Mr. Mellon, however, gave her an allowance and forbade her to pledge his credit. The Debenhams lost the first round, and hence appealed.
Held: The Mellons did not run a regular household – the hotel supplied their food and shelter. (Absence of domestic establishment) With no household management there was no basis for a tradesman to assume that Mrs. Mellon had authority. Mr. Mellon was held not liable.

Where the husband and wife are living together in a domestic establishment of their own, the wife shall have an implied authority to pledge the credit of her husband for necessaries. The implied authority can be challenged by the husband only in the following circumstances:
1.     The husband has expressly forbidden the wife from borrowing money or buying goods on credit.
2.     The articles purchased did not constitute necessities.
3.     Husband had given sufficient funds to the wife for purchasing the articles she needed to the knowledge of the seller.
4.     The creditor had been expressly told not to give credit to the wife.

Where the wife lives apart from husband without any of her fault, she shall have an implied authority to bind the husband for necessaries, if he does not provide for her maintenance.


Agency can be created in any of the following ways:

The agent gets authority from the principal. The authority can be given in two ways. Either it can be expressly given or the authority can be implied. Section 187 of the Indian Contract Act defines express and implied authority as under:

An authority is said to be express when it is given by words spoken or written. The authority enables the agent to bind the principal by acts done within the scope of his/her authority. A written contract of agency is a power of attorney wherein one person empowers the other to represent him/her, or act in his/her stead for certain purposes.

An implied authority arises from the conduct, situation or relationship of the parties. It is inferred from the circumstances of the case. The agency arises when the principal conducts himself / herself towards the person alleged to be the agent to the third parties in such a manner as if the principal had conceded to the appointment of that person as agent. This form of agency can be formed in any of the following manner:

1.     Agency in Emergency: According to section 189 of the Indian Contract Act an agent has authority in an emergency, to do all such acts for the purpose of protecting his / her principal from loss as would be done by a person of ordinary prudence in his /her own case, under similar circumstances.
The agent while protecting the principal from loss may exceed his / her authority thus giving rise to agency of necessity provided:
a.     He / she was not in a position to communicate with the principal
b.     Had taken all reasonable care and necessary steps to protect the interests of the principal and
c.      Had acted bona fide.

2.     Agency by Necessity: Sometimes in certain urgent circumstances the law confers an authority on a person to act as an agent for the benefit of another, there being no opportunity of communicating with that other. Such agency is called agency of necessity.

Sims & Co V Midland Rly Co (1913)
A quantity of butter was consigned with the defendant railway company. It was delayed in transit owing to a strike. The goods being perishable the company sold them. The sale was held binding on the owner.
Great N Rly Co V Swafield (1874)
Defendant owner sent his horse by rail from Kings Cross to Sandy station. When the horse arrived at Sandy station there was no one to collect it and no on at the station knew the name or address of the owner. The claimant railway company arranged for the horse to be fed and stabled. When the defendant collected his horse, he refused to reimburse the railway company for their expenses in having the horse stabled.
Held: The claimant had acted in the best interests of the defendant in arranging to have the horse stabled. An agency of necessity had arisen and the defendant was bound to pay for the cost of stabling the horse.

Necessity arises only when:
1.     Inability to communicate with principal

Gwilliam V Twist (1895)
The defendant's employee Harrison, the driver of the bus in which Gwilliam had travelled, was found drunk and driving by the cop, who instructed the driver not to drive anymore. Meanwhile the omnibus was stopped quarter of a mile distance from its destination (Defendant’s depot). On account of these happenings, a passerby was called by the conductor and the driver to ride the omnibus till the destination. Unfortunately the passerby's negligence in driving led to injuries to the appellant and other co-passengers travelling in the bus.
Plaintiff’s case failed, as there was no necessity. In essence, in order for an agency of necessity to arise, the following criteria must be satisfied, the agent must be in control of the principal’s property, and a genuine emergency must have arisen requiring the agent to take particular action to protect the interests of the principal. It must be impossible for the person acting as the agent to contact the principal in order to receive instruction the agent must act in good faith and in the best interests of the principal there must be an emergency.

2.     Act should be reasonably necessary

Sachs v Milkos (1948)
The defendant agreed in 1941 to store some of the claimant’s furniture without charge. By 1944 the defendant had lost touch with the claimant and letters written to his previous known address were returned. In order to gain some space, the defendant sold the claimant’s furniture. When the claimant later returned, he sued and the defendant calmed an agency of necessity had arisen.
Held: There was no agency of necessity as no emergency had arisen when the furniture had been sold. It was not as though the house that the furniture was stored in had been destroyed and the furniture left exposed to thieves and the weather. The house was available for storage of the furniture.
Munro V Willmott (1949)
Car was left in a yard without payment. A need was felt for conversion of the yard into garage. Unsuccessful efforts were made to communicate with the owner of the car. The car was repaired and sold. Subsequently the owner claimed the car.
Held that the act of selling the car was not reasonably necessary.

At times the principal by his / her conduct creates an impression in the mind of a third person that the agent has an authority to act on his/her behalf. In such a case the principal is liable towards the third person for the acts done by the agent, on the ground of the application of the law of estoppel. The basis of the action is what appears to the third person to be an authority, i.e. apparent or ostensible authority conferred on the agent.
Pickering V Busk (1812)
Purchaser of hemp allows it to remain in custody of broker whose ordinary business was to buy and sell. The broker sold the goods to a second purchaser for value in good faith and without notice. It was held that the latter obtained a good title under the general principle of estoppel.
Kashinath Das V Nisakar Raut (1962)
Landlord appoints tashildar to manage agricultural lands. The tashildar let out the land to tenants on certain terms. Held the action of the tashildar in letting out the disputed lands on rent basis on behalf of the plaintiff No. 1 must be held to be within the normal functions, of a Gumastha or agent as then understood.

Such an agency is based on the “doctrine of holding out” which is a part of the law of estoppel. In this case also the alleged principal is bound by the acts of the supposed agent, if he / she has induced third persons to believe that they are done with his/her authority. But, unlike an “agency by estoppel” “agency by holding out” requires some affirmative or positive act or conduct by the principal to establish agency subsequently.

If a person may acts as an agent of someone and does an act on his/her behalf for which he/she does not have the authority, and if that someone binds himself / herself for the acts done by the agent, then it is called an agency created by ratification.


Principal is responsible for the acts of the agent done by him within the scope of his authority. The authority of an agent may be express or implied. An authority is said to be express when it is given by words spoken or written. An authority is said to be implied when it is to be inferred from the circumstances of the case. (Sections 186 to 187 of the act)

The authority of an agent extends to the performance of every lawful thing necessary to do an act for which he is appointed. When he is appointed to carry on business he can do every lawful thing necessary for the purpose or as is usually done in the course of conducting such business (Sec. 188).

An agent has authority in an emergency to do all such acts for the purpose of protecting the principal from loss as would be done by a person of ordinary prudence, in his own case, under similar circumstances, the emergency must be real not permitting the agent of communicate with the principal (Sec. 189).

An agent also has ostensible or apparent authority.
An agent also has an authority under an emergeny.

Ostensible Authority 
Apparent authority refers to a situation where a reasonable third party would understand that an agent had authority to act. This means a principal is bound by the agent's actions, even if the agent had no actual authority, whether express or implied.
Watteau v Fenwick (1893)
The plaintiff, Watteau, supplied cigars to a beer house named the "Victoria," which was located at Middlesbrough. A man named Humble operated the establishment. Prior to 1888, he had operated the business on his own account, but in that year, he had assigned his interest to the defendants, Messrs. Fenwick and Company. However, Humble remained the manager and continued to operate the business as before. The sign bore his name, and the license was held in his name.
The plaintiff supplied cigars to Humble. He was at all times unaware of Fenwick's involvement. Indeed, Fenwick had never given Humble any authority to act on their behalf. But when Watteau was not paid the 25 pounds owed him, he eventually sued Fenwick.
The County Court held that the defendants had held Humble out to the world as having general authority, and that they were therefore liable for the claim because of the implied authority thereby granted.
Dissatisfied with this outcome, the defendants then brought an appeal which was dismissed. The Court held that once it is established that the defendant was the principal, then the ordinary rules of principal and agent apply, notwithstanding the fact that the relationship was unknown to the plaintiff. The principal is liable for acts of the agent, as long as those are those usually confided to an agent of that character. This is true even though the agent was acting outside the scope of his actual authority.
Kannelles v Locke (1919)
The plaintiff was registered into a hotel for the night by a complete imposter. While she proceeded to her room, the imposter made off with her luggage. Hence, this action by the Plaintiff against the management of the Hotel. Held that the Hotel was responsible for the loss of luggage, as the plaintiff believed that the imposter had apparent authority. (The Hotel was pulled up for having allowed an imposter gain control of the night desk)
DESU v Basanti Devi (2000)
LIC floated a “Salary Savings Scheme” under which Bhim Singh, an employee of DESU took an insurance policy for an amount of Rs 50,000 with LIC. The insurance policy was to commence on 28-1-1992. Bhim Singh had paid Rs 636 as premium for two months to LIC. Premium for the third month was payable by 29-3-1992. The amount of the premium was deducted by DESU from the salary of Bhim Singh and remitted by it to LIC. It appears that the premium for the subsequent months was deducted by DESU from the salary of Bhim Singh but was not remitted to LIC. In the meantime Bhim Singh died on 17-8-1992. Basanti Devi, widow of Bhim Singh informed LIC of the death of her husband and requested for payment of the amount due under the policy. LIC disclaimed any liability for payment under the policy as the instalments of premium after June 1992 were not received by it. LIC, therefore, repudiated the claim of Basanti Devi. LIC said that since default had been committed in payment of premium the policy taken out by Bhim Singh lapsed. This led Basanti Devi to file a complaint before the State Commission against LIC and DESU.
On a complaint filed by Basanti Devi, widow of Bhim Singh, under Section 18 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (“the Act” for short) the State Commission by its judgment dated 10-11-1993 directed the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking (DESU) to pay a sum of Rs 50,000 with interest at the rate of 15% per annum from 17-12-1992 to the complainant till the date of payment. Life Insurance Corporation (“LIC” for short), the insurer was, however, absolved of any liability. By the impugned judgment dated 13-1-1995 by majority (2:1) the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (“the National Commission” for short), on appeal, affirmed the order of the State Commission. DESU is the constituent of the Delhi Municipal Corporation, a body corporate under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957. Both the National Commission and the State Commission are constituted under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
DESU appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held that DESU had implied authority to collect premium from Bhim Singh on behalf of LIC. There was, thus, valid payment of premium by Bhim Singh. The authority of DESU to collect premium on behalf of LIC is implied. In any case, DESU had ostensible authority to collect premium from Bhim Singh on behalf of LIC. So far as Bhim Singh is concerned DESU was an agent of LIC to collect premium on its behalf.
Therefore, the Supreme Court directed that LIC shall pay to Basanti Devi insurance amount of Rs 50,000 with interest at the rate of 15% per annum from 17-12-1992 till payment, thus substituting the Life Insurance Corporation of India for the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking, as ordered by the State Commission and upheld by the National Commission.
For the suffering which Basanti Devi had to undergo for the default committed by DESU in not remitting the premium to LIC we would direct that DESU will pay cost of these proceedings, which we quantify at Rs 25,000

When as agent has incurred obligations to third persons on behalf of his principal, the principal is bound by such obligations
Terence Correya v MUL (2005) 
Booking of car with the dealer for which the draft was drawn on MUL. The balance was to be paid on delivery of car. The dealership was revoked by MUL. No car was delivered to Mr. Correya. MUL contends that amount received from customer through dealer was duly credited in the account of the dealer. Cars were supplied to the dealer. The dealer was responsible to deliver such cars to individual customer.
Held that both MUL & its dealer were jointly & severally responsible to either deliver the car or to refund the booking amount with interest to the complainant.

1.     Right of retainer until he is paid in full.
2.     Right of remuneration.
Green V Bartlett (1863)
An Agent was appointed to sell a house. The auction to find purchaser for the house fails. A person attending the auction takes the address of principal. Meets the principal & subsequently purchases the house without intervention of agent. Since the bargain was direct result  of agent’s effort, he was held entitled to commission.
3.     Right of lien. ( in addition to 1, above).
4.     Confers no authority on the agent to sell or otherwise dispose of the property without the consent of the owner
5.     Right of indemnification against the consequences of lawful acts.
6.     Right of indemnification against the consequences of acts done in good faith.
7.     Right of compensation.

1.     Work according to the directions given by the Principal.
Pannalal Jankidas V Mohanlal (1951)
An Agent purchases goods on behalf of principal. It was stored in a godown pending their dispatch. The agent did not follow instructions of principal to insure them. The goods were lost in an explosion in Bombay harbor. The Govt. agreed to pay 50% in respect of uninsured merchandise. Held that the rest was to be borne by agent as he failed to follow the directions of the Principal.
2.     Carry out the work with reasonable care skill and diligence.
3.     Render proper accounts.
4.     Communicate with Principal in case of difficulty.
5.     Not to deal on his own account.
6.     Pay Principal all sums received on his account.
7.     Protect and preserve interests of Principal in case of death or insolvency.
8.     Not to use information against the Principal.
9.     Not to make any secret profit.
10.  Not to put himself in a position where interest and duty conflict.
De Busche V Alt (1878)
A Ship was for sale through an agent for £ 90,000. When no buyer was found, the agent himself, without disclosing it to Principal, purchased the ship. It was sold later for £ 160,000 to a Japanese prince.  The agent was asked to account for the profit by the court.
11.  Not to delegate Authority.

The general principal is “A delegate cannot further delegate”. (Delegatus non-protest delegate). An agent, himself being the delegate of his principal, cannot further delegate his powers. However, under certain circumstances the agent may delegate some or all of his powers to another person. Such person may be either a sub-agent or a substituted agent.

A ‘sub-agent” is a person employed by and acting under the control of the original agent in the business of agency (Section 191).
In the following cases an agent can appoint a sub-agent unless he is expressly forbidden to do so:-
                         i.         When the ordinary custom of trade permits the appointment of a sub-agent.
                       ii.         When the nature of the agency business requires the appointment to a sub-agent.
                      iii.         When the act to be done is purely ministerial and involves no exercise of discretion or confidence, e.g. routine clerks and assistants.
                      iv.         When the principal agrees to the appointment of such a sub-agent expressly or implidly.
                       v.         When some unforeseen emergency has arisen.

The relations of the sub-agent to the principal depend on the question whether the agent had an authority to appoint the sub-agent and whether sub-agent is properly appointed.
Where the sub-agent is properly employed the principal is, so far as regard third persons, represented by the sub-agent and is bound by and is responsible for his acts as if he was an agent originally appointed by the principal, therefore, will be responsible for the acts of a properly appointed sub-agent.
Where an agent, without having authority to do so, has appointed a person to act as a sub-agent, i.e., a sub-agent is improperly appointed, the principal is not represented by or responsible for the acts of the sub-agent as between himself and the third parties. The sub-agent is also not responsible to the principal for anything. The agent is responsible for the acts of the sub-agent both to the principal and to the third persons (Section 193).

Where an agent holding an express or implied authority to name another person to act in the business of the agency, has accordingly, named another person such person is not a sub-agent but a substituted agent. The substituted agent shall be taken as the agent of principal for such part of the work as is entrusted to him (Sec. 194).
Example: A directs B, his solicitor, to sell his estate by auction, and to employ an auctioneer for the purpose. B names C, an auctioneer to conduct the sale. C is not a sub-agent, but is A’s agent for the conduct of the sale.

In selecting substituted agent for his principal an agent is bound to exercise the same amount of discretion as a man of ordinary prudence would exercise in his own case, and if he does this, he is not responsible to the principal for acts or negligence of the substituted agent.

Example: A instructs B, a merchant, to buy a ship for him. B employed a ship surveyor of good reputation to choose a ship for A. The surveyor makes the choice negligently and the ship turns to be unseaworthy and is lost. B is not, but the surveyor is responsible to A.

·       Duties of the Agent become the rights of the Principal
·       Rights of the Agent become the duties of the Principal

·       By Principal revoking the Agent’s Authority.
·       By the Agent renouncing the business of agency.
·       Either the Principal or Agent dying or becoming of unsound mind.
·       When Principal is adjudged insolvent.

·       The agency is coupled with interest (the interest of the agent exists at the time of the creation of agency).
·       The agent has incurred a personal liability.
·       The agent has partly exercised his authority.

No comments:

Post a Comment