Obligation in general sense is a synonym for duty. In the juristic sense it is a legal duty or a bond by deed. It is a binding duty as per agreement or contract which binds together two or more determinate persons. It is limited to legal duties arising out of special personal relationship between two or more persons. It implies not a moral duty but a legal duty which can be enforced by law.

According to Prof. Salmond, ‘An Obligation, therefore, may be defined as a proprietary right in personm or a duty which corresponds to such a right.’    

According to Prof. Paton, ‘An Obligation is that part of the law which creates right in personm.’

According to Prof. Kant, ‘An Obligation is the possession of the will of another as a means of determining it through my own, in accordance with the law of freedom, to a definite act.’

According to Prof. Savigny, ‘An Obligation is the control over another person, yet not over this person in all respects, but over single acts of his which must be conceived of subtracted from his free will and subjected to our will.’

According to Prof. Holland, ‘An Obligation, as its etymology denotes, is a tie whereby one person is bound to perform some act for the benefit of another. In some cases, the two parties agree thus to be bound together and in other cases, they are bound without their consent.’

According to Judicial Dictionary by K. J. Aiyar, ‘Obligation means –

  • an act which binds a person to some performance;
  • a bond containing a penalty with a condition annexed for paying of money, performing of covenants, etc.


Features of Obligation

  1. Obligation is a duty in personm. Such is the duty to pay a debt, to perform a contract, or to pay damages for tort.
  • It denotes the legal bond of vinculum juris in in its entirety, including both the right of one party and the liability of the other in the same transaction.
  • It denotes the Proprietary right in personm of an individual.

##  Chose in Action and Chose in possession:

Chose in Action:

A chose in action is also called ‘thing in action’ or ‘actionable claim’. It is the technical name for an obligation which is a proprietary right in personm, for example a debt, a share in a joint stock company, or a claim for damages for tort.

Chose in possession:

A chose in possession is opposed to a chose in action. In its origin, a chose in possession was anything or right which was accompanied by possession. As for example, money in the purse of a person is a thing in his possession and money which is due to a creditor by a debtor is a chose in action.

##  Solidary Obligation:

Under an ordinary obligation there will only be one creditor and one debtor. But there may be transactions in which there may be two or more creditors and debtors. In the case of two or more creditors, the principle of joint tenancy should apply. But in the case of two or more debtors owing the same debt to the same creditor, their obligation is called solidary obligation.

The solidary obligations are of three kinds –

  1. Several solidary obligation
  • Joint solidary obligation
  • Joint and several solidary obligation

1. Several solidary obligation:

When there are many distinct obligations as there are debtors, their obligations are several solidary obligations. Each of the debtors is under distinct vinculum juris to the creditor to pay the whole debt. But when one has paid the whole sum due, the whole debt would become discharged as against all.

2. Joint solidary obligation:

When there is only one single legal bond or vinculum juris binding all the debtors, the obligation is called joint solidary obligation. There is only one cause of action as against all debtors. The chief effect of this unity of the obligation is that all the debtors are discharged by anything which discharges anyone of them. The debts of the partners of a partnership firm are joint solidary obligation.

3. Joint and Several solidary obligation:

The solidary obligation of the debtors may also arise in the form of both joint and several in the same transaction. Here debtors liability is several as well as joint.

##  Kinds of Obligation:

In the point on view of sources and creation, obligations are four kinds –

  1. Contractual obligation
  2. Quasi – Contractual obligation
  3. Delictal obligation
  4. Innominate obligation
  1. Contractual obligation :

Contractual obligations are those which are created by contracts or agreement. These obligations create rights in Personm.

  • Quasi – Contractual obligation :

Quasi – Contractual obligations are those which are created by quasi-contracts. Quasi – Contract is an implied contract which is determined by the conduct.

  • Delictal obligation (Tortious obligation):

Delictal obligations are those which are created by tort. These obligations create rights in rem.

  • Innominate obligation :

Innominate obligations are all those obligations which are other than those falling under the heads of contractual obligations, quasi –contractual obligations and delictal obligations. As for example, the trustee’s obligations towards his beneficiary.

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