Introduction  :

                An “agent” is a person employed to do any act for another, or to represent another in dealing with third persons. The person for whom such act is done, or who is so represented, is called the “principal”. The contract between Principal and Agent is called 'Contract of Agency'. The rights and duties of the Agent are corresponding to the duties. Rights and Duties of an Agent are as follows : 

A) Duties of an Agent :

1) Agent's duty in conducting principal's business (Section 211) : 

                   An agent is bound to conduct the business of his principal according to the directions given by the principal, or, in the absence of any such directions, according to the custom which prevails in doing business of the same kind at the place where the agent conducts such business. When the agent acts otherwise, if any loss be sustained, he must make it good to his principal, and, if any profit accrues, he must account for it.

Illustrations : 

  (a) A, an agent engaged in carrying on for B a business, in which it is the custom to invest from time to time, at interest, the moneys which may be in hand, on its to make such investments. A must make good to B the interest usually obtained by such investments.

   (b) B, a broker in whose business it is not the custom to sell on credit, sells goods of A on credit to C, whose credit at the time was very high. C, before payment, becomes insolvent. B must make good the loss to A.

2) Skill and diligence required from agent (Section 212) :

                 An agent is bound to conduct the business of the agency with as much skill as is generally possessed by persons engaged in similar business, unless the principal has notice of his want of skill. The agent is always bound to act with reasonable diligence, and to use such skill as he possesses; and to make compensation to his principal in respect of the direct consequences of his own neglect, want of skill or misconduct, but not in respect of loss or damage which are indirectly or remotely caused by such neglect, want of skill or misconduct.


   (a) A, a merchant in Calcutta, has an agent, B, in London, to whom a sum of money is paid on A’s account, with orders to remit. B retains the money for a considerable time. A, in consequence of not receiving the money, becomes insolvent. B is liable for the money and interest, from the day on which it ought to have been paid, according to the usual rate, and for any further direct loss - as, e.g., by variation of rate of exchange — but not further.

    (b) A, an agent for the sale of goods, having authority to sell on credit, sells to B on credit, without making the proper and usual inquiries as to the solvency of B. B at the time of such sale is insolvent. A must make compensation to his principal in respect of any loss thereby sustained.

    (c) A, an insurance-broker employed by B to effect an insurance on a ship, omits to see that the usual clauses are inserted in the policy. The ship is afterwards lost. In consequence of the omission of the clauses nothing can be recovered from the underwriters. A is bound to make good the loss to B.

    (d) A, a merchant in England, directs B, his agent at Bombay, who accepts the agency, to send him 100 bales of cotton by a certain ship. B, having it in his power to send the cotton, omits to do so. The ship arrives safely in England. Soon after her arrival the price of cotton rises. B is bound to make good to A the profit which he might have made by the 100 bales of cotton at the time of ship arrived, but not any profit he might have made by the subsequent rise.

3) Duty to render proper accounts (Section  213)

    According to Section 213 of Indian Contract Act 1872, An agent is bound to render proper accounts to his principal on demand.

4) Duty to communicate with principal (Section 214) :

    It is the duty of an agent, in cases of difficulty, to use all reasonable diligence in communicating with his principal, and in seeking to obtain his instructions.

5) Not to deal on his own Account : 

    Section 215 of the Indian Contract Act 1872 deals with right of principal when agent deals, on his own account, in business of agency without principal's consent. Section 215 runs as follows -

     If an agent deals on his own account in the business of the agency, without first obtaining the consent of his principal and acquainting him with all material circumstances which have come to his own knowledge on the subject, the principal may repudiate the transaction, if the case shows either that any material fact has been dishonestly concealed from him by the agent, or that the dealings of the agent have been disadvantageous to him.


   (a) A directs B to sell A’s estate. B buys the estate for himself in the name of C. A, on discovering that B has bought the estate for himself, may repudiate the sale, if he can show that B has dishonestly concealed any material fact, or that the sale has been disadvantageous to him.

   (b) A directs B to sell A’s estate. B, on looking over the estate before selling it, finds a mine on the estate which is unknown to A. B informs A that he wishes to buy the estate for himself, but conceals the discovery of the mine. A allows B to buy, in ignorance of the existence of the mine. A, on discovering that B knew of the mine at the time he bought the estate, may either repudiate or adopt the sale at his option. 

6)  Not to make Secret Profits

 Section 216 of Indian Contract Act, deals with Principal's right to benefit gained by agent dealing on his own account in business of agency.  An Agent, without the knowledge of his principal, should not deal in the business of agency on his own to make secret profit.

       Section 216 of the Indian Contract Act,1872 reads as - "If an agent, without the knowledge of his principal, deals in the business of the agency on his own account instead of on account of his principal, the principal is entitled to claim from the agent any benefit which may have resulted to him from the transaction."


         A directs B, his agent, to buy a certain house for him. B tells A it cannot be bought, and buys the house for himself. A may, on discovering that B has bought the house, compel him to sell it to A at the price he gave for it.

7) Duty to pay sums received for principal : 

        According to Section 218 of the said Act, An agent is bound to pay to his principal all sums received on his account.

8) Not to Disclose Secret :

           It is duty of an agent to maintain secrecy of the business of agency and should not reveal the confidential matters.

 B) Rights of an Agent  

    Rights of an Agent are as follows -

1)  Right to Receive Remuneration : According to Section 219 of the Indian Contract Act, An agent is entitle to his remuneration.But Section 220 of the said Act says that, an agent who is guilty of misconduct in the business of the agency is not entitled to any remuneration in respect of that part of the business which he has misconducted.

2)  Right of Lien (Section221) : Agent's lien on principal's property  

        In the absence of any contract to the contrary, an agent is entitled to retain goods, papers, and other property, whether movable or immovable, of the principal received by him, until the amount due to himself for commission, disbursements and services in respect of the same has been paid or accounted for to him.

3) Right to Indemnity :  Agent to be indemnified against consequences of lawful acts. Indemnity means promise make good the loss (See.. Contract of indemnity ) According to Section 222 of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 "The employer of an agent is bound to indemnify him against the consequences of all lawful acts done by such agent in exercise of the authority conferred upon him.


  (a) B, at Singapure, under instructions from A of Calcutta, contracts with C to deliver certain goods to him. A does not send the goods to B, and C sues B for breach of contract. B informs A of the suit, and A authorities him to defend the suit. B defends the suit, and is compelled to pay damages and costs, and incurs expenses. A is liable to B for such damages, costs and expenses.

  (b) B, a broker at Calcutta, by the orders of A, a merchant there, contracts with C for the purchase of 10 casks of oil for A. Afterwards A refuses to receive the oil, and C sues B. B informs A, who repudiates the contract altogether. B defends, but unsuccessfully, and has to pay damages and costs and incurs expenses. A is liable to B for such damages, costs and expenses.

4) Right to Compensation :
       According to section 225 of the said Act,  an agent is entitled to claim compensation for the  injuries suffered as a consequence or want of skill of the principal. Section 225 reads as follows -  

    "The principal must make compensation to his agent in respect of injury caused to such agent by the principal’s neglect or want of skill.


A employs B as a bricklayer in building a house, and puts up the scaffolding himself. The scaffolding is unskillfully put up, and B is in consequence hurt. A must make compensation to B.

See Also  

1) Contract of indemnity

2) Distinction / Difference between Contract of Indemnity and Guarantee

3) Difference between Sub-Agent and Substituted-Agent

4)  Distinction / Difference between Sub Agent and Co-Agent/ Substituted agent

5) Distinction/ Difference between Bailment and Agency


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