Devolution of Joint Rights

A contract defines a legal relationship and subsequent obligations between the parties involved in any sort of transactions preferably professional in nature, and its enforceability is governed by the doctrine of privity that protects the sanctity of the contract. Thus, a contract can be either enforced or performed by those who are parties to it.

Although the right to claim performance of a contract can also be claimed by those persons to whom the right devolves either under the contract or by virtue of law, as provided under Section 45 of the Contract Act. Likewise, the devolution is granted to limited persons to prevent ambiguities with respect to different frivolous claims.

What is the Meaning of the Devolution of Joint Rights?

Joint rights are those rights that are conferred on the parties jointly, and upon their death, they devolve upon their representatives. Though these rights can be exercised by any one of the persons at any time he desires, they cannot be enforced unless the rest of the persons who have a joint interest along with them give their consent for the same. Thus, despite a definite or unspecified share or right of an individual, its exercise is dependable on collective consent as it affects their interests as well.

Provision of Devolution of Joint Rights under Indian Contract

Section 45 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872, explains that the joint right to claim performance of a contract would devolve if −

  • The Promisor made a joint promise to two or more persons.

  • The right to claim performance rests between the Promisor and the Promisees during their lives.

  • The right to claim performance would devolve upon the representatives of the deceased jointly with the survivors, after the death of any of them.

  • The right to claim performance would devolve on the representatives of all jointly after the death of all.

However, there should be no contrary provision with respect to the devolution of the right of performance jointly, because the section would become inoperative if any such intention appeared in the contract, and therefore the devolution would be regulated by the contract only.

Although the right to claim performance of a contract can only be enforced if all the promisees agree to it, as the promise is a joint promise, one promisee cannot claim performance for his share severally. Thus, it is essential that they all become parties to the suit or proceedings instituted for the purpose.


The rights and liabilities of parties arising from a contract are enforceable only against the parties to the contract by them because it is essential to safeguard the vital purpose of making the contract. However, the devolution of these rights and liabilities is necessary as human lives are limited and the objectives of contracts are required to be performed at different times. Hence, the provision with respect to devolution of joint rights to claim performance serves a larger public interest while protecting the entitlements of parties.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a joint right refer to?

A joint right is basically a legal principle that provides that a transaction needs to be agreed upon among all those who have a protected interest or right in the enforceability of that right.

Whether a promise can be enforced if one of the promisee claims so and the rest denies it?

No, all the promisees must join to claim performance of a joint promise together, and it cannot be claimed or enforced severally by them as individuals because the interests and rights of all the joint holders are adversely affected.

Updated on: 09-Nov-2023


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