Duties of a Bailee in a Contract of Bailment
Section 148 of the Indian contract act, 1872, define Bailment as “A bailment” is the delivery of goods by one person to another for some purpose upon a contract that they shall, when the purpose is achieved be returned or otherwise disposed of according to the directions of the person delivering them. The person who delivers the good is called the “bailor”, and the person to whom it is delivered is called “bailer”. In bailment, there is transfer of movable property and not the ownership of the property. In a contract of bailment, Bailor is the person who delivers the goods and to whom such the goods are being delivered is called the Bailee.
In the contract of bailment there are certain duties and rights of the bailor and of the bailee. Here, we are going to discuss about the duties of the bailee.
Duties of the bailee
A bailee has to follow these duties:
Bailee’s duty to take reasonable care of the goods bailed(sec 151-152)
Bailee’s duty not to make any unauthorised use of goods bailed(sec 153-154)
Bailee’s duty not to mix his own goods with bailor’s good (sec 155-157)
Bailee’s duty to return the goods on completion of the purpose (sec 159-161, 165-167)
Bailee’s duty to deliver profit of the goods bailed to the Bailor (sec 161)
Let us discuss in brief the duties of the bailee in the contract of bailment.
1. Bailee’s duty to take reasonable care of the goods bailed (sec 151-152)
According to section 151 of the contact, the standard of care required is that of a reasonable man. This section lists down a uniform duty of care for every kind of bailment whether the same is for reward or is merely gratuitous.
Bailee should act as a prudent man
According to section 151, the bailee should take care of the goods as a man of ordinary products would take of his own goods. If the bailee has not acted like a ordinary prudent man, he cannot be excused by pleading that he had taken similar care of his own goods also, and his goods, have also been lost or damaged along with those of the bailor, or that the bailor had knowledge that his goods were being kept in a negligent manner.
Bailee not liable when he takes due care (sec 152)
Section 151 describes the amount of care which bailee is supposed to take. If he has taken due care, he will not be liable for any loss which may be caused to the goods dale to him. If due care has not been taken and there is a damage to the goods as the consequence of his negligence, he will be answerable for the same. When he is negligent, he cannot avoid the liability of pleading that his own goods have also been damaged along with the goods bailed, or the bailor was aware that the goods bailed were being kept in a negligent manner. Bailee is required to take care of the goods bailed as a man of ordinary prudence. Therefore, the bailee is not liable for the loss due to destruction of goods in an accidental fire.
2. Bailee’s duty not to make unauthorised use of the goods bailed (secs. 153-154)
When the goods have been bailed for a particular purpose, the bailee is authorised to use them only for that purpose and none else. If he makes unauthorised use of the goods field there are two remedies available to the Bailor:
i. The bailor may terminate the bailment.( Sec 153)
ii. The bailor may recover compensation for the loss caused due to the unauthorised use of the goods ( sec 154)
According to section 153, if the bailiff finds that the bill is making such use of the goods which is inconsistent with the conditions of bailment, he may terminate the bailment and claim that the goods.
If the bailee make such use of the goods which is contrary to the conditions of bailment, he is liable to make compensation to the bailor for any damage of the goods due to unauthorised use. Such a liability arises even if unauthorised use was being made with care.
3. Bailee’s duty not to mix his own goods with bailor’s good (sec 155-157)
When goods are mixed with bailor’s consent
A bailee should not mix the bailor’s good with those of his own without the bailor’s consent. If the builder consents, the bailee may mix the bailor’s goods with those of his own, and in such a case the bailor and the bailee shall have an interest in the mixed goods in proportion to their respective shares.
When goods are mixed without bailor’s consent
When the bailee mixes bailor’s goods with his own goods without the consent of the bailor, depending upon the nature of the goods, there are two possibilities”
a) when goods can be separated
b) when goods cannot be separated
a) When the mixed goods can be separated (sec 156)
When the goods mixed can be separated, the bailor and bailee remain the owners in accordance with their respective shares. The bailee is responsible for the expense of separation of the goods and also for any damage that arose from the mixture.
When the mixed good cannot be separated (sec 157)
In case, the nature of the goods is such that bailor’s good cannot be separated from those of bailee, it is deemed to be the loss of the goods and the bailor can recover compensation for the same from the bailee.
4. Bailee’s duty to return the goods on the completion of purpose (sec 160-161, 165-167)
According to sec 160, the bailment of the goods is either for a certain purpose or certain period, the bailee is bound to return the goods to the bailor as soon as the time for which they are bailed has expired, or purpose of the bailment has been accomplished.
According to section 161, if a bailee is not in a position to deliver back the goods, for instance, when they are lost due to the fault of his servants, the responsibility for such loss is date of the bailee. A bailee is liable for the loss due to non return on non delivery of goods if that is due to his fault.
When the goods are bailed gratuitously, i.e., when the lender of the goods is to receive no remuneration in respect of the goods bailed, the bailor can ask for the return of the goods at any time, even though the time for which they were lent has not expired. According to section 159, the lender of a thing for use may at any time, require its return if the loan was gratuitous, even though he learnt it for a specified time or purpose. In case the bailor asks for return before the agreed time, this may sometimes cause some loss to the bailee. The bailor is bound to compensate the bailee for any loss suffered by him for premature returns of the goods(sec 159).
A gratuitous bailment is ended by death of the bailor or of the bailee. In such a case, the bailee or his representatives should return the goods to the Bailor or his representatives.
Return of goods to the bailor, when the bailor has no title to goods
According to section 166, if the bailor of the goods has no title to the goods and somebody else claims a better title, the bailee cannot be made liable for the return of the goods to the bailor. The bailee’s duty to return the goods is to the bailor only and nobody else. The bailey has no right to refuse to return the goods to the Bailor by pleading jus terrtii, i.e., the title of a third person being better than that of the bailor. The third person, who plays better title than that of the bailor, may take their delivery from the bailee only through a court of law. According to section 167, if any other person than the bailor, claims a good bailed, he may go to the court to stop the delivery of goods, and to decide the title of the goods. Bailor’s lack of title may cause from loss to the bailee, i.e., in an action by the third party to recover those goods, he may be involved in the litigation.
According to section 163, “In the absence of any contract to the contrary, the bailee is bound to deliver to the bailor, or according to his directions, any increase or profit which may have accrued from the goods bailed.
This section provides that if there is any gain with regards to the goods bailed, then that gain must be given to bailor along with the goods and bailee is not entitled to keep it with him. But the bailor cannot claim profit or increase before the accomplishment of the purpose of bailment or before the expiry of time of bailment contract.
Author: Sweta Singh,
Aligarh Muslim university, 3rd year