The case of Lalman Shukla v Gauri dutt is one of the most famous landmark judgements under Indian Contract act and supports the principle of Valid acceptance. The case was filed in Allahabad high court in 1913 and the judgement was pronounced by Hon’ble Justice J. Banerjee.
The facts of the case-
The nephew of Gauri dutt who was the defendant in the case was found missing from home and no trace of him was found. Gauri Dutt, the defendant sent his servants to different places in search of the boy and among them was Lalman Shukla, the plaintiff who was the munim of his firm. He was sent to Hardwar and money was given to him for his railway fare and other expenses. After this the defendant issued handbills offering a reward of Rs. 150 to anyone who will find the boy. The plaintiff traced the boy to Rishikesh and found him there. He wired to the defendant who went to Haridwar and brought the boy back to kanpur. He gave to the plaintiff a reward of two sovereigns and afterwards on his return to Kanpur gave Rs. 20 more. The plaintiff did not ask for any further payment and continued in the defendant’s service for about six months when he was dismissed. He then brought this suit, out of which this application arises, claiming Rs. 499 out of the amount of the reward offered by the defendant under the handbills issued by him. The record shows that the handbills were issued subsequently to the plaintiff’s departure for Hardwar. It appears, however, that some of the handbills were sent to him there.
The defendant contends that the plaintiff claim can only be maintained on the basis of a contract, that there must have been an acceptance of the offer and an assent to it, that there was no contract between the parties in this case and that in any case the plaintiff was already under an obligation to do what he did and was, therefore, not entitled to recover. On the other hand, it is contended on behalf of the plaintiff, that a privity of contract was unnecessary and neither motive nor knowledge was essential. In any opinion a suit like the present one can only be founded on a contract. In order to constitute a contract there must be an acceptance of the offer and there can be no acceptance unless there is knowledge of the offer. Motive is not essential but knowledge and intention are. In the case of a public advertisement offering a reward, the performance of the act raises an inference of acceptance. This is manifest from S. 8 of the Contract Act, which provides that “Performance of the conditions of a proposal is an acceptance of the proposal.”
In the present case the claim cannot be regarded as one on the basis of a contract. The plaintiff was in the service of the defendant. As such servant he was sent to search for the missing boy. It is true that it was not within the ordinary scope of his duties as a minim to search for a missing relative of his master but he agreed to go to Hardwar in search of the boy and he undertook that particular duty. Being under that obligation, which he had incurred before the reward in question was offered, he cannot, in my opinion, claim the reward. There was already a subsisting obligation and therefore, the performance of the act cannot be regarded as a consideration for the defendant’s promise. For the above reasons hold that the decision of the Court below is right and I dismiss the application with cost.