Joint Rights and Joint Liabilities

In many cases, there may be more than one promisor and promisee. If there are more than one promisor, they are called ‘joint promisors’ and in case there are more than one promisee they are called ‘joint promisees.’

Devolution of joint rights: (Sec.45)
When a person has made a promise to two or more persons jointly, then, unless a contrary intention appears from the contract, the right to claim performance rests as between him and them, with all the joint promises during their joint lives. After the death of any one of them, it rests with the representatives of such deceased person jointly with the survivor or survivors. After the death of the surviving promise it rests with the representatives of all jointly.

Illustration:
A, in consideration of Rs5,000 lent to him by B and C, promises B and C jointly to repay them that sum with interest on a day specified. B dies. The right to claim performance rests with B’s representatives jointly with C during C’s life, and after the death of C with the representatives of B and C jointly.

All promises during their joint lives are jointly entitled to claim performance. They must jointly sue upon the promise. If any one refuses to join, he must be added as a defendant.

It was held that where the contract was in favor of more than one person and if some of them do not want to specifically enforce the contract and therefore are not willing to join as plaintiffs, the others could file a suit for specific performance of contract impleading those who are not willing as defendants and a person cannot be prevented from filing a suit merely because he is only a joint promisee and the other promises have refused to join him in filling the suit.

Devolution of joint liabilities:
1. Jointly liable: When two or more persons have made a joint promise, then, unless a contrary intention appears from the contract, all such persons, during their joint lives, must fulfill the promise. After the death of any of them, his representatives jointly with the survivor or survivors must fulfill the promise. After the death of the last survivor, the representatives of all jointly, must fulfill the promise (Sec.42). Under English law, the legal representatives of the deceased promisor cannot be made liable either alone or jointly with the survivors. The liability devolves upon the survivors only. The Indian law, however, makes the legal representatives of the deceased promisor liable along with the survivor or survivors as the case may be.
2. Promisee’s right: When two or more persons make a joint promise, the promisee may, in the absence of express agreement to the contrary, compel any one or more of such joint promisors to perform the whole of the promise [Sec.43(1)]. In other words, two or more promisors are jointly and severally liable.

Illustration: A, B and C jointly promise to pay D Rs3000. D may compel either A or B or C to pay him Rs3,000.

3. Equal contribution: Each of two or more joint promisors may compel every other joint promisor to contribute equally with himself to the performance of the promise, unless contrary intention appears from the contract [Sec.43(2)].

Illustration: A, B and C jointly promise to pay D a sum of Rs3,000. C is compelled to pay the whole. A is insolvent, but his assets are sufficient to pay one half of his debts. C is entitled to receive Rs.500 from A’s estate and Rs.1,250 from B.

4. Default in contribution: If any one of two or more joint promisors makes default in such contribution, the remaining joint promisors must bear the loss arising from such default in equal shares. [Sec.43 (3)].