It is quite unlikely that, while surfing the internet that one comes across on some icon saying “I Agree” or “I Accept”. This is a form of manifesting one’s assent to some terms. In case of installing software, assent is generally shown by the conduct of tearing the CD package and using it. Most of us do not even bother to read the terms and conditions of that particular service or site, and simply hit the “I agree” button to get our job done. However, trivial this might seems to us, these actions have immense importance as it leads to valid and enforceable contracts, which can be strictly enforced against us!
Our everyday life is governed by a number of contracts. Many of the times we do not even realize that we have entered into one. It might be as simple as hiring a taxi or buying a movie ticket.
By definition, a contract is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties with mutual obligations. It has certain essentials:-
1. Offer made by one party which is accepted by the other party (a party here maybe a group of people or an individual)
2. Consideration- is something of value given by a promissor to a promisee in exchange for something of value given by a promisee to a promissor.
3. Capacity of the parties- only adults above the age of 18 with a sound mind can enter into legally enforceable contracts
4. Free Consent- the parties to a contract must enter it at their own free will, without any coercion, force or undue influence by others.
The Indian Contract Act 1872 governs the manner in which contracts are made and executed in India. It governs the way in which the provisions in a contract are implemented and codifies the effect of a breach of contractual provisions. It provides a framework of rules and regulation which govern formation and performance of contract. The rights and duties of parties and terms of agreement are decided by the contracting parties themselves. The court of law acts to enforce agreement, in case of non-performance.
Electronic Contracts are contracts that are not paper based but rather on in electronic form. They are born out of the need for speed, convenience and efficiency.
The need for electronic contracts arose due to the rapid globalization and greater business, or otherwise, transaction between people of different nationalities or at greater distance. For instance, an American and an Indian wish to enter into a contract. One option would be that one party draws up copies of the contract, signs them and couriers them to the other, who in turn signs both the copies and couriers one copy back. The other option is that both the parties meet somewhere and sign the contract.
But both these process are time consuming and expensive. They are also dependent on many other factors which might render the performance impossible or unnecessarily delay it. However, owing to electronic contracts, the whole transaction can be completed within seconds at a very minimal cost. Thus, electronic contratcs have come into our lives and by all means, plans to remain so in the near future.
More on the technicalities of an Electronic Contracts in addition to certain cases decided by the Indian Courts pertaining to this topic, in future posts.