1. The question in this second appeal is whether the Courts below were right in awarding interest by way of damages and costs. The appellant is the State-Bank of India. The respondent's father, one Venkata Rama Gopalarao, had a current account with the State Bank and on the date of his death an 19-7-1956, there was about a sum of Rs. 26,0007- and odd to his credit. After his death, the widow as guardian of the minor sons of Rama Gopalarao approached the Bank to invest three-fourths of the money in Government securities siren as the National Savings Certificates etc., and with respect to the one-fourth since Ramagopalarao left a daughter, she claimed the amount and ultimately obtained a succession certificate and withdrew this amount.
In respect of the three-fourths of the amount, the Bank requested the guardian to produce a succession certificate but the guardian instead of doing so filed the suit for a declaration that the amount is part of joint family property and that no succession certificate is necessary and that the respondents have become entitled by survivor-snip under Hindu Law to the suit amount lying in the current account of the bank in the name, of their late father Rama Gopalarao and to direct the bank to invest the same in Government loans as may be desired by the respondent's next friend or otherwise to the best advantage of the minor respondents and to grant a decree for Rs. 30244 Np. against the bank as damages towards loss of interest suffered by the respondents.
2. The Bank by its written statement averred that it has no concern to investigate or acquaint itself as to from what source or how many of the depositors depositing monies in current accounts with it have got their monies, that the Bank looks only to the depositor in whose, name the current account stands, that in the event of the death of the depositor having current account with the Bank, unless a grant of legal representation is produced from a competent Court by the person alleging himself to be entitled to the amount standing to the credit of the deceased, the Bank will obviously not be in a position to make any payment as the Bank for its own protection has to he satisfied that the money is paid to the proper persons entitled thereto. The Bank further averred that in the absence of any notice in this behalf it is not aware as to whether the amounts deposited by tha deceased Vetikata Rama Gopalarao are his self-acquisitions or his joint family funds, that the nature of those monies is a matter for the adjudication by a competent Court in the presence of all the parties interested therein and that the Bank cannot enter on any such investigation and undertake any such risk. Several other pleas were taken to which it is unnecessary- to refer except to say that it justified its insistence on the production of legal representation. Lastly, the Bank averred thus :
'The defendant Bank is only too anxious to release the amount for payment to the persons entitled thereto as the accredited legal representatives of the deceased Venkata Rama Gopala Rao and it is prepared and willing to deposit the amount in this Honourable Court if the Honourable Court so directs for the amount being paid over by the Court to such persons as may be adjudged entitled thereto on their satisfying the legal requirements. The plaintiffs are minors. The plaint refers to the pendency of a petition O. P. No. 59 of 1957 in the District Court for granting a succession certificate in respect of a 1/4th share in the amount to the plaintiffs and theirmother and sister; and hence proper provision will haveto be made in respect of this in the event of this Hon'bleCourt directing deposit of the entire amount in thisCourt.'
The trial Court gave the declaration sought for and directed the Bank to invest the moneys in that account in Government securities as desired by the respondents' nextfriend, The Bank appealed against this latter directionand the first appellate Court observed that it is no par!of the Bank's duty to invest the moneys and consequently that portion of the direction from the decree was directed. It however maintained the decree with the declaration prayed for and the award of Interest on the suit amount from 124-1957, the date of Ex. B-3, at a rateallowed by the trial Court and for costs.
3. In this second appeal, as I have already observed, the question is whether the stand taken by the Bank in asking for a succession certificate was unjustified and whether it is liable to pay interest in lieu of damages and costs. Both the Courts below have not taken into account the fact that it is no part of the duty of the Bank to make any elaborate investigation as to the source of the funds and whether the funds belong to the jointfamily or individually. Unless the Bank had notice that the funds formed part of the joint family funds, it cannot be said that the stand taken by the Bank in demanding production of a succession certificate' under Section 214 of the Indian Succession Act was unjustified. Section 214is in the following terms:
'214 (1) No Court shall
(a) pass a decree against a debtor of a deceased person for payment of his debt to a person claiming on succession to be entitled to the effects of the deceased person or to any 'part thereof, or
(b) proceed, upon an application of a person claiming to be so entitled to execute against such a debtor a decree or order for the payment of his debt, except on the production, by the person so claiming, of -
(i) a probate or letters of administration evidencing the grant to him of administration to the estate of the deceased, or
(ii) a certificate granted under Section 31 or Section 32 of the Administrator General's Act, 1913, and having the debt mentioned therein, or
(iii) a succession certificate granted under Part X and having the debt specified therein, or
(iv) a certificate granted under the Succession Certificate Act, 1889 of
(v) a certificate granted under Bombay Regulation Ho. VIII of 1827, and, if granted after the first day of May, 1889, having the debt specified therein.
(2) The word 'debt' in sub-section (1) includes any debt except rent, revenue or profits payable in respect of land used for agricultural purposes.'
4. The amount left by the deceased is without doubt a 'debt' due from the Bank to the heirs and if the Bank has no notice as to whether the finds are joint family funds, there is no duty upon it to make any investigation or enquiry into the nature of the funds and it can only treat the claimants as persons claiming succession and demand the production of a succession certificate. I am fortified in this view by a judgment in Venkataramanna v. Venkayya, ILR 14 Mad 377, where a suit was filed upon a bond executed by the defendant In favour of the plain-tiff's father who died and there was nothing to show onthe face of the bond that the debt was a debt due to the joint 'family consisting of a father and a son. In those circumstances, it was held that a Hindu is not entitled to sue on a bond executed in favour of his undivided father, deceased, without the production of a certificate under Act VII of 1899, unless it appears on the face of the bond that the debt claimed was due to the joint family, consisting of the father and the son. It is quite possible as was observed in that case which observation also applies to this case that the debt due to the deceased may have been advanced from his private funds, and, therefore, the parson claiming as a son or sons in this case is prima fade deemed to be entitled to it on succession. The Bench observed in the above case thus: (at pp. 373-379).
'A son is prima facie taken to succeed to a debt due to his father by right of inheritance, unless his succession by survivorship is Indicated on the face of the bond creating the debt. Though Act VII of 1889 applies only to cases of succession, it states in the preamble that it is intended to afford protection to parties paying debts to the representatives of deceased persons. It would naturally impair the protection intended to be afforded by the statute to throw in every case on the debtor the obligation of making an inquiry at the time of payment, whether the person claiming to recover th& debt claims by right of survivorship or of inheritance.'
It is thus clear to my mind that the Bank is not under any duty or an obligation to make an enquiry, if on the face of it there is nothing to indicate that the amount belonged to the deceased as a member or head of the joint family and consequently, the insistence by the appellant-bank of the production of a succession certificate or decision in a representative proceeding cannot be held to be blame-worthy or unjustified. That apart, in its written statement, the Bank expressed its willingness immediately to cay the amount, if so directed, to any person or persons whom it may hold entitled to. Looking at it from the Bank's point of view, if the property was the separate property of the deceased and he has left a will In respect thereof the result of the Bank paying to the minors without the production of any succession certificate or probate or any such other order of a Court would be to expose it to action from any other person who may be entitled to it under a will or bequest. For this reason, the Sank expressed its willingness to pay the amount, if so directed by the Court. If the plaintiffs-respondents were anxious, they could have moved the Court to send for the money pending the litigation and have the money invested.
Shri Veerabhadrayya for the respondents contends strenuously that all that his clients were seeking to do was to request the Bank to invest the money in Government promissory notes or in a deposit account and since the Bank refused to do, it has caused loss to him. This argument totally ignores the fundamental position namely, whether the Bank was bound to recognise the respondents as being entitled to the money without the production of a succession certificate or some other order of a Court. If they were not bound to recognise them without fulfilling the above conditions, they were not bound to accept their request in investing the amount or to open a deposit account both of which the Bank would have to do in the name of the minors. It could have invested the amount in the name of the deceased and consequently in effect if the Bank had acceded to the request, it would be paying the amount to the respondents who would, if the money was invested in their names or deposited in a deposit account, be able to deal with it subsequently in the manner they so choose. In this view of the matter, I am clear in my mind that the Courts below have erred in awarding interest in lieu of damages or costs against the Bank.
5. In the result, the second appeal is allowed with costs of this Court and the Courts below. No leave.