• An obligation is a generic term for any legal duty or liability to pay or do something.
  • Obligation refers to anything that an individual is required to do because of a promise, contract, or law. It means a legal or moral duty that an individual can be either be forced to perform or penalised for not performing.
  • An absolute obligation is an unconditional duty without any legal alternative.
  • A contractual obligation results out of an enforceable promise, agreement, or contract.
  • An express obligation is expressed in direct terms, and an implied obligation is inferred indirectly from the actions of the individuals involved or the surrounding circumstances.
  • A joint obligation is one that binds two or more people to fulfil whatever is required, and a several obligation requires each of two or more individuals to satisfy the obligation in its entirety by himself or herself.
  • A moral obligation, though binding upon the conscience and is fair, is not enforceable by law.
  • A primary obligation, being the primary purpose of the contract that contains it, is the one that must be performed, whereas a secondary obligation arises only if the primary obligation cannot be fulfilled.
  • A penal obligation is a penalty, such as the obligation to pay extra money if the terms or conditions of a contract cannot be fulfilled.

Elements of an Obligation

Every obligation has four essential elements as follows:

  1. the obligor: he who has a duty to fulfil an obligation. 
  2. the obligee: he who has a right to demand the fulfillment of the obligation.
  3. the subject matter: the conduct to be performed by the obligor to the obligee.
  4. a legal bond: the relation that binds or connects the parties to an obligation.

Following is an example to illustrate above elements of an obligation. 

Example: Under a contract of sale, A agreed to deliver a mobile phone to B for Rs 10,000.

  1. the obligor: A
  2. the obligee: B
  3. the subject matter: delivery of the mobile phone
  4. a legal bond:  the contract of sale is the juridical tie that binds A and B


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