In the context of work environment, differentiate between coercion andundue influence with suitable examples. (2023/150 Words)

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Distinction Between Coercion and Undue Influence  

Coercion and undue influence, integral components of the Indian Contract Act, depict the malpractices that can potentially vitiate the integrity and influence of agreements in work environments. An understanding of these concepts is imperative for UPSC aspirants who aspire to join the Indian Administrative Service. This article aims to explicate the contrasts between coercion and undue influence, citing relevant examples in the Indian context.


Coercion, as defined under section 15 of the Indian Contract Act of 1872, involves forcing an individual into agreement against their will through threats or violence. It can include damage or harm to the person directly or indirectly, and it extends to the person’s property or reputation. Consequently, the subsequent agreement is unlawfully influenced and departs from being an act of free consent.

For instance, in the Indian work environment, suppose a senior officer threatens to fire a junior employee unless he agrees to take up an excessive workload beyond his prescribed duties. In that case, it’s regarded as coercion. The officer is taking advantage of the junior’s fear of losing his job, thereby coercing him into an agreement he would not freely consent to under normal circumstances.

Undue Influence

Undue influence, defined under Section 16 of the Indian Contract Act of 1872, involves manipulating an individual into agreement by taking advantage of a relationship of trust or dominance. It typically occurs where affairs and decisions of the weaker party are controlled severely or suspiciously by the dominant party.

An illustration of undue influence in the Indian context could be a situation where a manager manipulates his subordinate into signing a document that surrenders his rightful claim to share in the company’s profit. In this case, the manager is using his position of power to unduly influence his subordinate into agreement, exploiting the trust and dominance inherent in their work relationship.


Key Differences Between Coercion and Undue Influence

While coercion and undue influence may look similar on the surface as both involve improper pressure imposed on a person to gain an unfair advantage, they differ in their applications, implications and based on the relationship between the parties involved.

1. Nature of Pressure: Coercion involves threat or harm to the person or property, while undue influence involves abuse of a position of trust or dominance to manipulate the victim into agreement.

2. Relation between parties: In coercion, the relationship between parties is immaterial, whereas in undue influence, there exists a relationship of trust, authority, or dominance.

3. Legal Consequences: Though agreements obtained by coercion and undue influence are both voidable at the discretion of the party whose consent was so obtained, the Indian law differs in the remedy given in cases of coercion and undue influence.

For UPSC aspirants, understanding professional ethics is paramount, which makes the comprehension of concepts like coercion and undue influence essential. By gaining this understanding, aspirants can ensure fair practices and uphold public trust in public administration.

As a public servant, it would be our responsibility to ensure the preservation of an individual’s right to free consent and keep at bay any attempts of coercion or undue influence in our professional environment. This way, we can pave the path towards transparent, ethical, and efficient governance.

Prince Luthra (UPSC CSE AIR 577)

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