A.P. Srivastava, J.
1. This is an application under Section 235 of the Indian Companies Act of 1913.
The Vijai Lakshmi Sugar Mills was a private limited company incorporated under the Indian Companies Act, 1913 in the year 1946. It had an authorised capital of Rs. 15,00,000/- divided into 15,000 ordinary shares of Rs. 100/- each. The issued capital was, however, only Rs. 60,000/-divided into 600 shares of Rs. 100/- each. The company had only three share-holders, viz. Seth Mathura Prasad, Seth Ladli Prasad and Seth Radhey Lal. All these three share-holders were the directors of the company. The company had been incorporated for the purpose of taking over as a running concern a sugar mill which was at that time carrying on the business of sugar manufacture in the name of Vijai Sugar Corporation Ltd. at Doiwala in the district of Dehra Dun. After being incorporated the company purchased and took over all the assets of the Vijai Sugar Corporation Ltd. for a consideration of Rs. 11,15,000/- and started the business of manufacturing sugar at Doiwala. As provided in the Memorandum of Association of the company one of the directors, Seth Radhey Lai, was the director-in-charge.
The company got involved in financial difficulties and by two resolutions passed by its members and creditors on the 4th and 5th August 1949, res-pectively it was decided that it should be voluntarily wound up. Two persons, Sri J. B. Saxena Advocate and Seth Radhey Lal who was formerly the director in-charge of the company, were appointed joint liquidators for the purpose of the voluntary winding up. They took over charge ot the affairs of the company.
Subsequently on the 19th August 1949, one of the creditors of the company, viz. The Doiwal Corporation Development Union, filed an application in this Court for the compulsory winding up of the company. Later on, on the 23rd August 1949 the application for compulsory winding up was converted into an application for winding up under the supervision of the Court and on the basis of a compromise arrived at between the parties this Court directed that the winding up of the company should be carried out under the supervision of the Court.
Sri J. B. Saxena continued to be one of tha two liquidators but the other liquidator Seth Radhey Lal was replaced by Sri Om Narain Tankha. The two joint liqiudators, Sri Saxena and Sri Tankha, found on the examination of the account books of the company that in respect of the years 1946-47, 1947-48 and 1948-49 there were some entries in respect of the general stores in hand which needed some explanation. They enquired from the past directors but found their replies unsatisfactory. They then applied to this Court under Section 195 ot the Indian Companies Act of 1913 to direct tha examination of the directors on oath. The application was opposed but was ultimately allowed and the director in-charge Seth Radhey Lal was required to reply on oath to certain interrogatories submitted to him by the liquidators. The liquidators, however, thought that the replies too were not very satisfactory.
The liquidators then filed this application under Section 235 of the Indian Companies Act on the 1st August 1952, against the three former directors ot the company. The accounting year of the company used to run from the 1st October each year to the 30th September on the following year. In respect of the accounting year 1946-47 it was alleged that there was an entry dated the 30th September 1947 in the general stores in hand account showing that stores worth Rs. 2,02,082/3/- had been consumed during the year but no details of the said stores could be found in the account books, and the directors were therefore liable to account for the same. The value of the balance of the stores on the 30th September 1948, according to general ledger was Rs. 3,52,717/14/6 which should have been carried forward to the new ledger of the following year but the opening balance of the new year was only Rs. 1,77,209/14/3. There was thus a difference between the closing balance on the 30th September 1948 and the opening balance on the 1st October 1948 of Rs. l,75,508/-/3. There was no adequate explanation available in respect of this difference and the liquidators thought that the stores worth Rs. 1,75,508/-/3 had really disappeared and had presumably been misappropriated by the former directors.
It was further alleged that according to the stores purchase account the closing balance of thevalue of stores in hand on the 21st July 1947 was Rs. 4,20,807/2/- but in the balance-sheet dated the 31st July 1949 the stores in hand were shown as worth Rs. 1, 48,340/3/9. That showed, the liquidators alleged, that the value of the stores was reduced by Rs. 2,72,466/14/3 during the period of ten days on the eve of the winding up of the company. There was no explanation, they contended, as to what happened to the stores worth that amount. Thus so far as the general stores were concerned, the liquidators alleged that the former directors were liable to pay and restore to the company the three sums of Rs. 2,02,082/3/-, Rs. l,75,508/-/3-and Rs. 2,72,466/14/3. It was suggested on their behalf that during the three years prior to the order of winding up the former directors purchased all the stores through two firms Mathura Prasad and Sons and Mathura Prasad and Co., both of which were owned by the directors themselves and it was alleged that the directors had mismanaged the affairs of the company by abuse of their position as directors in their own interest.
The directors were sought to be made liable in. respect of two other items of Rs. 15,000/- each. The first of these items was shown in the general ledger as having been paid on the 21st May 1947, as commission. It was contended that no parti' culars of the amount were available and it was not shown to whom the commission had been paid. The commission, it was contended, had been appropriated by the directors themselves. The other item of Rs. 15,000/- was entered in the ledger OB the 16th June 1947, as having been paid in respect of the stores. In the Store Receipt Register no-details of these stores were entered and no inventory was available in respect of the stores for which the amount had been paid. This amount, it wa& alleged, had either not been spent at all or the-stores received for the amount had been misappropriated by the directors. Thus the liquidators-prayed that the Court should examine into the conduct of the three respondent-directors and compel them to repay or restore to the company the sum of Rs. 680057/1/6 made by the five items already mentioned above. They also prayed for the costs of the petition.
2. After the application had been filed Sri J. B. Saxena, one of the joint liquidators, died and the application was, therefore, continued by Sri Tankha who remained the sole liquidator.
3. The three former directors who were im-pleaded as respondents in the application opposed it . Thev denied all allegations of mismanagement, abuse of their position and misappropriation.
Their case in respect of the three sums claimed on account of the general stores was that all stores consumed in the mills were issued after being entered in the stores Issue Register but the Store-keeper had not entered in the Issue Register the values of some of the stores which were issued. At the end of the year 1946-47, therefore, the total value of the stores consumed was estimated and entered as Rs. 2,02,082/3/-. The figure was checked and found to be correct bv the auditor. Thev explained that the figure 3,52,717/14/6 which appeared in the General Ledger as the valuation of the stores on the 30th September 1948. represented the tofal valueof the consumed and unconsumed stores during the accounting year 1947-48. The total valuation of the stores consumed during the year was Rs. l,75,508/-/3. The balance carried forward in the next year was therefore, correctly shown as Rs. 1,77,209/14/3. Their 'explanation in respect of the third item of Rs. 2,72,466/14/3 was similar. Theydenied that stores worth that amount had been consumed within ten days or had been misappropriated. They said that Rs. 2,72,466/14/3 was really the value of the stores consumed curing the whole year. They said that the sum of Rs. 15,000/- had in fact, been paid in connection with the purchaseof the sugar mills from the Vijai Sugar CorporationLtd. Rs. 11,000/- out of that amount had been paidto Sri Ratten Chand, the Secretary of the Vijai Sugar Corporation Ltd. and Rs. 4,000/- to one Sri Lajja Ram, a broker, for obtaining a loan of Rs. 8,00,000/- from the Lakshmi Insurance Company Ltd. In respect of the other spent sum of Rs. 15,000/-, they said that the amount had beenpaid to Messrs. Vijai Sugar Corporation Ltd. on account of the price of the stores. They thus denied that these items had been misappropriated. They also denied that all stores were purchased through the two firms which belonged to them though theyconceded that some of the stores were purchased through Seth Mathura Prasad and Co. who advanced loans to the company from time to time without any interest. They pleaded that the application had not been made in good faith and that it was also barred by time.
They contended that in a business like the one carried on by the company the directors could not be expected to look into the details of the management or the accounts and had to depend on responsible persons like the Manager, Accountant and store-keeper. When it was discovered that the Head Store-keeper and the Head Accountant had not been discharging their duties properly the directors had dismissed them but had to re-employ them under an award of the Industrial Tribunal and the Adjudicator. The entries in the store registers werethen completed for a part of the disputed period but shortly afterwards the company went into liquidation. They further alleged that the liquidators had themselves sold large quantities of stores and some stores had also been stolen from the mill pre-mises during the period when the liquidators were in-charge. They thus denied that any liabilitycould be fastened on them for any of the amounts claimed by the liquidators.
4. On these pleadings the following issues were framed by the then Company Judge Mr. Justice Brij Mohan Lall :
1) Whether the ex-directors have failed to account for the stores said to have been consumed during the accounting year 1946-47? If so, forgoods of what amount?
2) Whether the ex-directors have failed to account for the difference between the closing balance of the general ledger dated 30-9-48 and the opening balance of the general ledger dated 1-10-48? If so, what amount are they liable to pay on this account?
3) Whether the ex-directors have failed to account for the difference in the last entry dated 21-7-49 in the store purchase account and the corresponding entry in the balance-sheet dated 31-7-49? If so, what amount are they liable to pay under this head?
4) Whether the ex-directors have themselves appropriated the sum of Rs. 15,000/- said to have beenpaid as commission for the purchase of Vijai Lakshmi Sugar Corporation? Are they liable to paythis amount?
5) Whether the ex-directors are liable to pay the sum of Rs. 15,000/- on account of the price of stores said to have been purchased on 16-6-47 from the Vijai Lakshmi Sugar Corporation?
6) Whether purchases were made through Messrs. Mathura Prasad and Sons and Messrs. Mathura Prasad and Company?
7) Whether the aforesaid two firms were owned by the ex-directors themselves? If so, have the ex-directors incurred any pecuniary liability towards the Company?
8) Whether the ex-directors' conduct in not issuing share-capital and in providing funds to the Company by advancing loans to it was mala fide?
9) Whether the liquidators failed to make out an inventory of stores and to value them properly when they took over charge of the Mill? If so, how does that affect the ex-directors' liability?
10) Whether the petition is time-barred?
11) Whether the petition is bad for non-joinder of necessary parties?
12) Whether the petition is mala fide?
13) What amount, if any, are the ex'directors liable to pay?
5. During the pendency of the petition the accounts of the company for the years 1946 to 1949 were examined by a firm of chartered accountants Messrs, Basant Ram and Sons. They submitted their re- port on the 31st March 1954. In support of the Sri Kishan Lal Nayyar and Sri Chela Ram kohli application the liquidators examined two witnesses on commission. They also examined Sri Satyavant Pandya of Messrs. Basant Ram and Sons, chartered accountants, who had examined the accounts, and three other witnesses Sri K. L. Mehta, Sri Indra Daman and Sri Shiv Lal. One of the liquidators Sri Om Narain Tankha was also examined. The respondents in their turn examined Sri Roop Chand Kohli and one of themselves Seth Radhev Lal.
6. Out of the issues framed, issues Nos. 6, 7, 8 and 11 were not pressed before me on behalf of the liquidator and are, therefore, decided in favour of the respondents.
7. Issue No. 10 relates to limitation. It was urged in support of the plea of limitation that the application was filed on the 1st August 1952. The five items which were being claimed from the respondents all related to dates prior to the 31st July 1949. It was contended that the period of limitation provided in Section 235 of the Companies Act was three years and had to be calculated from the date of the alleged misapplication, misfeasance, retainer or misappropriation. As in the present case all these acts, according to the liquidator's own case, had been committed more than three years before the date of the application. The application was clearly beyond time. This contention does not appear to be acceptable. As was explained in the case of Jwala Prasad v. Official Liquidator Sp. A. No.304 of 1957, D/- 8-8-1961 : AIR1962All486 the limitation for an application under Section 235 is three years but the period can be counted on an alternative basis. Either the application must be filed within three years of the date of the alleged mis-feasance, misappropriation, retainer or misapplication or within three years from the date of the first appointment of the liquidators. The liquida-tors were in the present case appointed on the 5th August 1949, and the application has been filed within three years of that date. That being so, it was open to the liquidators to charge the respondents with responsibility for items misapplied, misappropriated or retained even more than three years earlier. It was explained in that case that the words 'whichever is longer' used in Section 235 can only mean 'whichever period expires later'. As the application in this case has been made within three years of the date on which the liquidators were appointed it was open to them to rake up earlier transactions also and the respondents cannot be allowed to say that because the acts complained of were committed more than three years before the date of the application, the application could not be entertained in respect of them. The plea of limitation must, therefore, be overruled.
8-9. Two items of Rs. 15,000/- each formed the subject-matter of issues Nos. 4 and 5. The former amount is entered in the account books of the company as having been paid on account of commission in connection with the purchase of the sugar mills from the Vijai Sugar Corporation Ltd. The liquidator alleges that this sum was not paid at all and had, in fact, been misappropriated by the former directors. Seth Radhey Lal has, however, stated that the amount was, in fact, paid and his statement receives corroboration from the evidence of Sri Chela Ram Kohli who was the sales accountant of the Vijai Lakshmi Sugar Mills Ltd. at Doiwala.
(His Lordship considered the evidence and held that there was no material on record on the basis of which it could be held that these items were misappropriated, retained or misapplied by any of the directors).
10. The other three items in dispute are the subject-matter of issues Nos. 1 to 3. The case of the liquidator in respect of these items is stated in details in paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 of the application.
In respect of the first item of Rs. 2,02,082/3/-the only thing alleged is that there is no record in the account books and the registers of the company to show what happened to stores worth that amount and that the former directors had given no satisfactory explanation as to what happened to the stock of stores valued at that figure.
In respect of the other sum of Rs. l,75,508/-/3 the case is the same and it is alleged that there is no record in the account books of the company to show what happened to the stores of that value. It is suggested that the stores worth that amount had disappeared and had presumably been misappropriated by the ex-directors.
So far as the third item of Rs. 2,72,466/14/3 is concerned, it was alleged that stores worth that amount had been shown in the account books ashaving been consumed within ten days; that, it was contended, was impossible. The stores worth the amount had, therefore, mysteriously disappeared and the directors had not accounted for the shortage. In the application no details of these three amounts had been mentioned and it is conceded that the liquidators had taken these figures from the manufacturing accounts appended to the balance-sheets of the company prepared in respect of the three accounting years. These balance-sheets including the manufacturing accounts annexed to them and the other documents have been marked Exts. 10/1, 10/2 and 10/3 in the case. In the manufacturing accounts from which these figures had been taken, these figures are shown as figures relating to general stores and do not include fuel wood, lime or limestone. The figures in respect of fuel wood, lime and lime-stone had been shown separately in the manufacturing accounts.
11. After the evidence of the parties had been closed, when arguments started the liquidator was required to point out specific items which went to make up the three figures so that it could be seen what the entries in the account books of the company were in respect of those items and whethef they had been properly accounted for. At that stage the liquidator was unable to point out tho items. An order was thereupon passed on tho 18th August 1959 which was in these terms:
'When Sri lagdish Swarup started his arguments I found that the parties had not prepared the necessary figures on the basis of which this caso will have to be decided. They have probably been concentrating on the general liability to account of on the fact that the accounts have not been kept pro-perly. Even if that is conceded that will not enable this Court to decide the present case in tho proper manner.
The main question which has to be decided in this case is for what amount the opposite parties can be made liable. For this purpose the Liquidator must decide in respect of which items in a particular year of accounting he wants to press the claim against the opposite parties. If that item has not been valued in the Issue Register it can be valued on the basis of the entries in the General Ledger or the Receipt Register or in the Issue Register itself. In this connection learned counsel for the opposite parties conceded that the entries in the General Ledger and the manufacturing accounts and the balance-sheets may be accepted as correct. It is, therefore, not difficult on the basis of the entries in these registers to find out the approximate value of tho items in question which have not been valued in the Issue Registers. After the valuation has been entered in the manner indicated it will become easy to find out which item and of what value was received by the opposite parties, how much of it was consumed and how much remained unaccounted for. The Official Liquidator is, therefore, given three weeks' time for doing this. He should prepare a chart showing the items, the valuation, the method of valuation, the total items received, the items consumed and the balance which has to be accounted for. A copy of the chart in respect of each year should be sent by registered post to the counsel of the opposite parties at Allahabad, Theopposite parties will be given one week for ascertaining the correctness of the chart prepared and then the case will be listed for further arguments on the 21st of September 1959.
For the preparation of the chart and the finding out of the valuation of the various items the registers filed bv the Liquidator may be for the present returned to him but he must bring them back and file them in Court on the date which has now been fixed for arguments. During the week which has been granted to the opposite parties for checking the chart prepared the Liquidator must make the registers available for the opposite parties for inspection. A copy of the chart prepared must be handed over to the opposite parties or their counsel at the end of three weeks so that they may utilise the week which is being granted to them for checking the same'.
12. In oursuance of this order the liquidator filed certain charts (papers Nos. A 103, A 104, A 105 and A 107). In these charts the liquidator included not only the general stores but also fuel, wood, lime and lime-stone. He also put his own valuation on the different items 'mentioned in these charts and contended that the respondents should be held accountable for all these items.
The respondents had also in the meantime inspected the account books and registers of the company. They pointed out some obvious mistakes and omissions in the charts filed by the liquidator. It was, therefore, not possible to rely on these figures and it became necessary to get the correct figures in respect of the stores received and the stores consumed during the period September 1946 to June 1949. By an order dated the 1st October 1959, therefore, Sri Mukhtar Ahmed, an advocate of this Court, was appointed a commissioner and detailed instructions were given to him to find out the correct fieures and to calculate the value of the stores received and consumed during the years in question.
As an objection had been raised on behalf of the respondents in respect of the inclusion of fuel wood, lime and lime-stone in the liquidator's charts the commissioner was directed to give separate figures in respect of fuel, wood, lime and lime-stone and other stores. The commissioner held prolonged sittings, considered the cases of the parties in respect of each item of stores in detail and submitted his final report (paper No. A 115). At the end of his report he summarised the figures he had found in the following manner and attached a chart to his report showing how these figures had been arrived at:
'My findings, therefore, on both the issues referred to me are as follows:
Totalpurchase of General Store
Totalpurchase of Fuel- wood
Total purchaseof Lime-stone
Totalpurchase of Lime
Total purchase of General stores.
Fuel- wood, Limestoneand LimeRs. 4,66,258-13-0
Value of General stores Rs.
Value of Fuel-woodRs.
Value of LimestoneRs.
Value of Lime Rs.
Total amount of stores consumedaccording to the Issue Register as assessed by me Rs. 1,88,187- 2-8
Balance of stock carried over tonext year as arrived at by me Rs. 2,78,071-10-4
Balance stock brought forwardfrom last year - Rs. 2,78,07 1-10-4>/p>
Total purchases of General StoresRs.
Total purchase of Fuel woodRs.
Total purchase of LimestoneRs.
Total purchase of LimeRs.
Total purchase of General Stores, Fuel-wood, Limestoneand Lime Rs. 3,89,927- 2.9
Total stock available for the year Rs. 6, 67,998-13-1.
Value of General storesRs.
Value of Fuel-woodRs.
Value of LimestoneRs.
Value of LimeRs.
Total consumption as per Issue RegisterRs. 2,07,953.14-1
Balance of stock available at the end of the accountingyear 1948-49. Rs. 4.60,044-15-0
Total purchase of General StoresRs.
Total purchase of Fuel-woodRs.
Total purchase of LimestoneRs.
Total purchase of General Stores, Fuel wood, Limestoneand Lime Rs. 4,53,028-11-0
Balance stock brought forward from previous year asarrived at by me Rs. 4,60,044-15-0
Total stock available for the year Rs. 9,13,073.10-6
Value of General StoresRs.
Value of Fuel-woodRs.
Value of Lime, stoneRs.
Value of LimeRs.
Total consumption as per Issue Register Rs. 2,42,981-7-4
Balance stock as arrived at by me at the end of theaccounting yearRs. 6,70,92-3-2.
13. Objections were filed against this report only on behalf of the respondents. One of the ob-jections taken was that the commissioner's figures contained some arithmetical mistakes. The commissioner was, therefore, required to reconsider trie matter in the light of the objections and after doing that he submitted a supplementary report (paper No. A 119). He conceded that in some respects his calculations were incorrect and, therefore, reported that the final fugure for the stores consumed during the year 1946 to 1949 should be Rs. 2,43,019/1/4, that the final fieure of the balance of stores when the company closed its accounts immediately before the liquidation should be Rs. 9,12,663/2/6 and that the final figure of the balance of stores at the close of the accounts of the company immediately before the liquidation should be Rs. 6,69,644/1/2 instead of Rs. 6,70,092/3/2. The various items of stores of every kind which had been purchased by the company and had been issued for consumption by it were duly entered in the registers of the company. In respect of a large number of items, however, the valuation was not mentioned with the result that at the end of the year when the manufacturing account and the balance-sheet were being prepared the exact value of the stores consumed or stores in hand could not be calculated. The total value of the stores consumed was, therefore, estimated approximately by the authorities of the company and entered in the manufacturing account. With the help of the figures so entered the balance-sheet was prepared. It was thus natural that there should be a difference between the liquidator and the directors about the correct value of each item of stores which had been received and consumed but the value of which was not entered in the registers of the company.
In the lists originally filed by him the liquidator put his own valuation in respect of each item. The respondents in their turn put their own value of each item in the list which they filed. The main work of the commissioner was, therefore, to find out the correct value of each item and the best material on the basis of which he could make his estimate was furnished by the entries in the account books and the registers of the company itselt. Where such material was available he naturally based his conclusion on that material. Where such material was not available he generally accepted the valuation of the respondents but for some items he preferred the valuation of the liquidator and in respect of others he gave his own estimate.
14. The objections filed by the respondents against the commissioner's report contained no less than fifteen paragraphs. So far as the mistake of calculation is concerned, in the supplementary report the commissioner has corrected these mistakes. The three points that were pressed in connection with the other objections were:
(1) That the commissioner ought not to have allowed the liquidator to alter his own valuation of some of the items;
(2) that if the liquidator was to be allowed to alter his valuation of some items the same facility should have been given to the respondents; and
(3) that in respect of some items the commissioner has given arbitrary valuations without there being any evidence to support his view.
15. The amount involved in the items of the last mentioned kind cannot, it is conceded by both the parties, be more than ten or twelve thousands.
The final figures arrived at by the commissioner are only approximate and there will be no material difference if the amount finally arrived at by him as the value of the balance of stores is reduced by ten or twelve thousand. The other two objections do not appear to have much force. The liquidator has been allowed to alter his valuation only in respect of those items whose value could be determined on the basis of the entries in the account books of the company and that material was, as has already been observed, the best material to find out the valuation. The alteration which the respondents wanted to make in their own valuation of the various items was not based on any reliable material that was available to the commissioner and could not, therefore, be allowed.
16. It was also urged that the commissioner should have allowed oral evidence to be produced before him but the oral evidence had already been closed by the parties before the commissioner was appointed and no request was ever made to the Court that further evidence should be allowed to bo produced. The commissioner had not been authorised to take oral evidence. The final figures entered in the commissioner's report must in the circumstances be held to represent the fair valuation of the various items of stores which were received by the company and consumed by it in the years in dispute.
17. These final figures show clearly that the figures mentioned in the manufacturing accounts or in the balance-sheets prepared in respect of the years in question were not correct. The reason apparently was that the correct value of the stores consumed could not be calculated because the valuation was not mentioned against the various items in the stores issue register and at the end of each year the value had to be estimated approximately by the Chief Chemist, the Chief Engineer and the Chief Accountant of the company sitting together in consultation with the head Store-keeper (vide the statements of Sri K. L. Nayyar and Seth Radhey Lal). The respondents are, however, not charged in the present case with having prepared incorrect balance-sheets or incorrect manufacturing accounts and no laibility can, therefore, be fixed upon them simply on the ground that the balance sheets or the manufacturing accounts were not prepared correctly.
In the application, as I have already pointed out, no specific charge of mis-application, retainer, misfeasance or misappropriation was made in respect of the three items with which we are now dealing. The only thing that was said was that the account books of the company did not show what happened to the stores worth those amounts and they had presumably disappeared or been misappropriated. At the trial, however, an attempt was made to prove that some of the stores were removed by the respondents to their own house. The omission to set up the case in the application makes it suspicions. The evidence on the point consists of P. W. 2 Sri K. L. Mehta and of two witnesses Indra Daman and Shiv Lal (P. Ws. 3 and 4). (His Lordship considered their evidence and proceeded). The allegation of the liquidator that the respondents removed any stores to their own house has, therefore, not been substantiated in any way.
18. The contention on behalf of the liquidator, however, is that even if he has failed to prove that any stores were actually removed by the respondents, if during the period when the respondents were in charge of the company accounts in respect of the stores were not properly kept, the value of each item issued or purchased was not entered in the account books and the balance of the stores which ought to have been shown at the end of each year in the account books was shown incorrectly the respondents must be held accountable for the actual balance, which, according to the commissioner's finding ought to have been there when the company went into liquidation. The respondents have not accounted for those stores and must, therefore, be compelled to restore the same to the company or to pay to the company their value.
19. The respondents' reply to this is three-fold.
20. It is urged in the first place, that, as the application stands the respondents were sought to be made liable in connection with the stores only for three sums of Rs. 2,02,082/3/-, Rs. l,75,508/-/3 and Rs. 2,72,466/14/3. Each of these three items related only to the general stores and the three figures had been taken from the manufacturing accounts appended to the balance-sheets , of the three years in dispute. The figures relating to fuel wood, lime or lime-stone are different and are not included in the three items above mentioned. It is, therefore, not open to the liquidator now to contend that the respondents should be made accountable for the balance of fuel-wood, lime or lime-stone also. The figures relating to these items in the commissioner's report must, therefore, be excluded altogether from consideration,
21. It is secondly urged that conceding for the sake of argument that the figures arrived at by the commissioner are correct and that stores worth six lacs and odd ought to have been there with the company at the time when liquidation started, there is no material on record to show that stores worth that amount were not there when the liquidators took over charge. No inventory of the stores was prepared at that time and the stores that were present with the company were not valued. Subsequently some stores were sold along with the mills to one Mr. Haveliwala and the liquidtaor claimed more than two lacs from the purchaser as the price of the stores. Some stores were also stolen or removed after the liquidators had taken over charge. Unless, therefore, the liquidator is able to show that when the respondents ceased to function as directors the stores which ought to have been there were not in fact there no liability can be fastened on the respondent. It is pointed out that under Section 235 of the Companies Act it is necessary that actual loss to the company should be proved in addition to the fact that the officer or director sought to be made liable was responsible for that loss. In the present case, it is contended, no loss to the company has been proved at all.
22. The third contention is that the respon-dents can be made liable under Section 235 only if they were guilty of misapplication, retainer, misfeasance, misappropriation or breach of trust. The liquidator has not proved against the respondentsthat they had been guilty of any of these acts. The-respondents Nos. 1 and 2 were only directors. The respondent Seth Radhey Lal was the director in-charge. Keeping in view the nature of the business carried on by the company the directors could not be expected to personally scrutinise the accounts or to see that the entries in the various account books and the registers kept by the company were properly made. They had to rely o& the officers employed by the company whom they had no reason to suspect. They cannot, therefore, be held liable simply because the store-keeper did not enter the valuation of the various items of stores received or issued for consumption. As soon as the Managing Director came to know that the account books were not being kept properly he dismissed the Store-keeper and the Accountant. They, however, went up to the Conciliation Officer and on their tendering apology they had to be re-employed. Steps were then taken to have the entries-in the Stores Register completed. Entries were completed in respect of about a year and then the company went into liquidation. In these circumstances it cannot be held that the respondents committed any act of negligence or misfeasance.
23. The validity of the first contention depends. on the construction that is to be put on Section 235 of Companies Act of 1913, which reads as follows:
'235. (1) Where, in the course of winding up a company, it appears that any person who has taken part in the formation or promotion of the company, or any past or present director, manager or liquidator, or any officer of the company has misapplied or retained or become liable or accountable for any money or property of the company or been guilty of any misfeasance or breach of trust in relation to the company, the Court may, on the application of the liquidator, or of any creditor or contributory made within three years from the date of the first appointment of a liquidator in the winding up or of the misapplication, retainer, misfeasance or breach of trust, as the case may be, whichever is longer, examine into the conduct of the promoter, director, manager, liquidator or officer, and compel him to repay or restore the money or property or any part thereof respectively with-interest at such rate as the Court thinks just, or to contribute such sum to the assets of the company by way of compensation in respect of the misapplication, retainer, misfeasance or breach of trust as the Court thinks just
(2) This section shall apply notwithstanding that the offence is one for which the officer may be criminally responsible'.
24. It is conceded on behalf of the liquidator that the figures mentioned in paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 of the application had been taken from the manufacturing accounts that were appended to the balance-sheets of the three years and that those figures related only to general stores and not to fuel wood, lime or lime-stone.
It is however, urged that Section 235 does not contemplate the making of any specific claim. An application under the section cannot be treated as a suit. The only thing which an applicant under that section has to do is to bring to the notice of the Court certain facts which show that the persons sought to be made liable have misapplied, retain-ed, become liable or accountable for any money or property of the company or have been guilty of any misfeasance or breach of trust in relation to the company. He has to do nothing more. The Court has then to investigate into the matter and to examine the conduct of the person sought to to be made liable. If it is satisfied that he is guilty of one of the acts mentioned in the section it can compel him to repay or restore the money or property or any part thereof or to contribute such sum to the assets of the company by way of compensation as it may consider just. Action can therefore, be taken by the Court under the section even in respect of matters not mentioned in the application provided that they come to light during the investigation into the conduct of the respondent and the Court is satisfied that the respondent is liable to compensate the company or to make good the loss he had caused to it. No advantage, it is contended, can on this interpretation of the section be taken by the respondents of the omission of the liquidator in the present case to mention in the application the amounts relating to fuel-wood, lime or lime-stone also. If as has now been found, misfeasance or breach of trust was committed in respect of these items of stores also there is no reason why the respondents should not be held liable to pay the compensation to the company in respect of those items.
25. It is pointed out that in Reference under Section 28 of Act 7 of 1870, ILR 17 All 238 an order under the corresponding Section 214 of the Companies Act of 1882 was not held to be a decree or an order having the force of a decree and it was observed:
'The proceedings leading up to such an order,if it be an order, are not in the strict and technicalsense judicial proceedings at all. No procedure isimposed at any stage, no person need be formallycited, no plaint need be filed, no party has a rightto prove his case in such way as he chooses... Thewhole power is in the Court, which may examineinto the conduct of the person complained of, andafter such examination may 'compel' repayment orcontribution by way of compensation'.
26. It is also pointed out that in case of Official Liquidator v. Liaqat Husainv : AIR1933All205 proceedings under Section 235 were not held to be a suit or proceeding under Section 280 of the Companies Act.
27. It is true that Section 235 does not contemplate the filing of a plaint. It is also true that the provisions of the C. P. C. are not applicable and an order passed under the section is not a decree of order within the meaning of the term as defined in the Code. It does not. however, follow from this that the investigation contemplated by Section 235 can be a general and roving enquiry into the conduct of the person sought to be made liable and that it can be started without any definite allegations being made which the respondent can be called upon to meet. The procedure to be followed may not be that laid down in the C. P. C. but the enquiry is a Judicial one. If there are rulse framed under the 'Companies Act, they will have to be followed. In the absence of such rules, the principles of natural justice will have to be followed.
Allegations of misfeasance, misapplication, retainer and breach of trust are serious allegations. The second clause of Section 235 recognises that for act mentioned in this section an officer may be criminally responsible also. Before the amendment of Section 235 by the Companies (Amendment) Act, 1936 the limitation for making an application under this section was to be calculated as that in respect of a suit.
It is, therefore, not possible to accept the contention that the only thing which the applicant under the section has to do is to make some for of allegation good enough to start an enquiry and then seek to make the respondent liable for anything that is discovered in course of the enquiry. Specific allegations must be made before the Court can start investigation into the conduct of the respondent. Enough particulars must be furnished so that the respondent may meet the charges levelled against him. If something is discovered during the course of the investigation it may in appropriate case be open to the Court to allow an amendment of the application and then to give the respondent an opportunity of meeting the additional allegations. It will be grossly unfair to him if he is ultimately made liable for something discovered during investigation which he had never been called upon to meet. That the proceedings under the section do not amount to a suit or that a plaint is not required to be filed cannot justify dispensing with the requirement of making definite allegations about the acts complained of in respect of whict the respondent has to explain his conduct
The observations of Burkitt, J. in ILR 17 All 238 have to be understood keeping in view the context in which they were made, The question with which the learned Judge was dealing was only whether an order under Section 214 of the Companies Act of 1882 amounted to a decree or an order having the force of a decree. What he said cannot, therefore, be taken to mean that he was for permitting an investigation in the absence of clear and categorical allegations or that he was countenancing the compelling of repayment or contribution by way of compensation even in respect of something which had only been accidentally discovered in course of the investigation and about which the respondent had not been given a right to have his say.
28. In In re Jehangir B. Karani and Co., Ltd., ILR 19 Bom 88 it was laid down with reference to Section 214 of the Companies Act of 1882:
'I would at the same time point out that where it is sought to make an officer of a company liable for misapplication of the funds of a company, of for misfeasance or breach of trust in relation to its affairs, the sum sought to be recovered should be definitely stated in the summons, and the grounds upon which the application is based should be fully and adequately set out in an affidavit or affidavits.'
Then after quoting certain observations of Salwyn, L. J. in Stringer's case, (1869) 4 Ch A 475 the learned Judge continued:
'These observations show the spirit in which proceedings under the sections in question (as in all other litigation in British Courts) should be-conducted, openly and fairly with full notice to the persons charged of the facts and circumstanceupon which the petitioners rely, and of the pointa and grounds upon which they propose to rest their case'.
29. In In re New Mashonaland Exploration Co., (1892) 3 Ch 577 Vaughan Williams, J. dealing with a summons issued under Section 10 of the Companies (Winding up) Act, 1890, which corresponded to Section 165 of the Companies Act, 1862 and Secj tion 235 of the Indian Companies Act of 1913, laid down that summons in such cases should be in the form given in Mr. Palmer's Company Precedents and should sufficiently define the grounds upon which the liquidator says the directors ought to be ordered to pay the money claimed. It should also say on what grounds it is suggested that the payments made by the directors were wrongful or acts of misfeasance for which the directors were responsible.
30. When, therefore, the application made by the liquidator was confined so far as the liability in respect of stores was concerned to the general stores in which fuel-wood, lime or lime-stone were not included it was in my opinion not open to the liquidator at the time of arguments after the evidence had been closed to include in the lists which he filed items of fuel wood, lime and lime-stone also . The inclusion of these items at that stage deprived the respondents of the opportunity to give an explanation in respect of the items or to lead evidence to show that the claim made on the basis of those items was not well founded.
For instance, if those items had been mentioned jn the application evidence may have been led by the respondents to prove that weight of fuel-wood is reduced by dryage or that fuel-wood was also used in preparing lime or lime-stone. As the items of fuel-wood and lime had not been made the subject-matter of the application no defence had been put in in respect of the items, no issues were framed about them. The items were really discovered after the evidence was closed. The respondents appear to be correct in their contention that these items must be left entirely out of consideration so far as the present case is concerned. No attempt was made by the liquidator at any stage to have the application amended in respect of those items. He cannot, therefore, get them included in the subject-matter of investigation 'in this case simply by mentioning them in the list he filed when arguments commenced.
31. Under Section 235 of the Companies Act of 1913 liability can be fixed on the respondents only for acts amounting to
(iii) becoming liable or accountable for any money or property of the company,
(v) breach of trust.
Though the words 'loss to the company' have not been mentioned in the section it is obvious that such loss is implied in all acts of misapplication, retainer becoming liable for account and breach of trust. Cases of nonfeasance are not covered by the section vide Re Wedgwood Coal and Iron Co., (1882) 47 LT 612. Cases of misfeasance may ormay not involve loss to the company. It is, however, well settled that only that case of misfeasance will fall under Section 235 which involves loss to the company. Thus in In re Canadian Land Reclaiming and Colonising Co., (1880) 14 Ch D 660 Bramwell, L. I. laid down at page 673 with reference to Section 165 of the English Companies Act, 1862:
'The section authorizes the Court to direct persons chargeable under it to pay a sum of money by way of compensation. Therefore, the official liquidator has to shew, first of all, the misfeasance, and then the damage in respect of which the company is to be compensated'.
32. In Kumarpuram Sheshadri Doraswamy v. Pestonjee Jamasjee Padshah, 5 Bom LR 633 with reference to Section 214 of the Indian Companies Act of 1882 Jenkins, C. J. quoted with approval the observations of Lord Watson made with reference to Section 165 of the English Companies Act where he had stated:
'I think it is material to attend to the specific nature of the claim authorized by the section. It authorizes the recovery at the instance of the liquidator, creditor or a contributory of the Company in liquidation, first of monies for which the defendant has become accountable to the Company and secondly the pecuniary loss sustained by the Company through the misfeasance or breach of duty of the defendant'.
33. In In re Etic Ltd., (1928) 1 Ch 861 Maugham, J. observed:
'The conclusion at which I have arrived is that Section 215 is not applicable to all cases in which the company has a right of action against an officer of the company. It is limited to cases where there has been something in the nature of a breach of duty by an officer of the company as such which has caused pecuniary loss to the company'.
34. The same view was taken more recently in Karnataka Films v. Official Receiver, Madras : AIR1952Mad481 , Krishnaswami Nayudu, J. observed:
'In order to make the directors personally liable under Section 235 for misfeasance, it is necessary to show that the directors have dishonestly acted, or abstained from acting in conflict with their plain duty and that by reason of the act of the directors, the company has incurred a loss.'
35. Before the present application can, therefore, succeed it is necessary for the liquidator to establish either the respondents accountable for some goods or money of the company or that they are guilty of misapplication, retainer or breach of trust. If they are guilty of misfeasance it must also be proved that their misfeasance has resulted in loss to the company which they can be compelled to compensate.
36. The only facts established in the present case so far as the general stores are concerned are:
(i) That Seth Mathura Prasad and Seth Ladli Prasad were only directors of the company while Seth Radhey Lal was not only a director but the director in-charge in accordance with the term's of the Memorandum of Association of the Company.
(ii) That all general stores purchased by the company during the three accounting years in dis-pute were duly entered in the registers of the company but the values of a number of those items were not mentioned.
(iii) That all items of stores which were issued for consumption were also duly entered in theIssue Register and none were taken out of the premises of. the company without gate passes but the Store-keeper incharge or his assistant did not enter against each item of stores issued by Mm the value of that item.
(iv) That the result was that at the end of each year of accounting when the manufacturing account and the balance-sheet had to be prepared it was found that the value of the stores purchased or consumed could not be definitely ascertained. TheChief Chemist, the Chief Engineer and the Chief Accountant then sat down and in consultation with each other estimated the approximate value of the stores consumed and mentioned in the manufacturing account that figure as the value of the stores consumed. The result was that the figures of the stores consumed and the balance taken forward to the next year as well as the balance of the store-in-hand at the time when the company went into liquidation were incorrect.
(v) That the values estimated in the above manner had not been correctly estimated. A more correct estimate of the value of the stores received and consumed in the years in dispute and of the value of the stores which ought to have been in hand at the commencement of each year and on the date on which the company went into liquidation is represented by the figures noted by the commissioner in %is amended report.
(vi) That there is nothing to show that Seth Mathura Prasad or Seth Ladli Prasad at any time knew that the Store-keeper or the Accountant incharge bad not entered in the registers the correct value of each item of general stores received or issued or that the estimates made at the end of the year for the preparation of the manufacturing account were not correctly made. When Seth Radhey Lal, who was the director in-charge, learnt of the omission of the Store-keeper and the Accountant he dismissed them. The matter was referred to the Conciliation Officer and as the officials concerned apologised, presumably at the instance of the Conciliation Officer, they had to be re-employed. Seth Radhey Lal then directed the Store-keeper toenter the valuation of each item in the Issue Register. He too complied with the directions and began to value each item but the task could not be completed. The company then went into liquidation.
(vii) That there is no material available about the stores that were actually in hand on the date when the company went into liquidation or on the date on which the joint liquidators Sri J. B. Saxena and Seth Radhey Lal were appointed as liquidators. No inventory of stores was prepared at the time and no valuation of stores was made. It cannot therefore, be said that the stores which ought to have been there in hand according to the report of the commissioner were not there. There is also no material to show how the stores were dealt with subsequently.
(viii) The aljegation that the directors got the stores removed to their house is not correct.
Some stores were admittedly sold to Sri Haveliwala by the liquidators. There was a dispute about the price of the stores sold to Sri Haveliwala. Ultimately there was a compromise between the liquidator and Sri Haveliwala and the latter paid to the former a particular amount as the price of the stores that bad been delivered to him. There is nothing to show what happened to the rest of the stores.
37. The question is whether on the above facts the respondents can be held guilty of any of the acts mentioned in Section 235 of the Companies Act.
38. It is obvious that no case of misapplication, retainer or breach of trust can be said to have been made out. The respondents have not misapplied any property of the company for any purpose for which it was not meant. The suggestion that they removed any stores to their house has not been substantiated. It has not been suggested that stores meant for the company have been utilised for any other purpose. All stores were entered in the issue register before being issued and there is nothing to show that the stores so issued were not actually consumed in the mills and were utilised in any other way.
39. The respondents can also not be said to have retained any of the stores which reached their hands. They did not take any stores themselves. Retention is a positive act. To prove that the respondent had retained any property of the Company the applicant ought to have proved that the respondent bad received and taken some stores which they were bound to return, but have wrongfully kept them and have not restored them to the company,
40. Liability or accountability for any stores belonging to the company can also be fastened on the respondents only if it is established that they have dealt with some property of the company in an unauthorised manner or that some property of the company which was to be accounted for has not been accounted for and the responsibility of the accounting rested on the respondents. So far as the stores in questions are concerned, this has not been established at all.
41. As directors, the respondents had a fidu-ciary capacity and were bound to take as much care of the property of the company as a reasonable man could be expected to take in the circumstances of the case. No stores belonging to the company were at any time specifically entrusted to them fof any particular purpose. It is not alleged that any of the respondents committed any breach of trust in respect ot any items of stores or that any off them actually misappropriated the stores of the company in any manner. There is nothing to show that any of them utilised any store of the company for his own use or allowed it to be used in any manner in which it ought not to have been used.
42. It is, however, urged that all the respdn-dents were directors and Seth Radhey Lal was the director in-charge. All of them and in any case Seth Radhey Lal must be held to be guilty of misfeasance because they did not perform their duty as directors in a proper manner.
The question whether the acts or omissions of the respondents could amount to misfeasance shallbe discussed presently. Let us for the present assume that they were guilty of misfeasance in the sense that they neglected their duties and did not take the necessary steps to have the stores properly valued. But mere neglect of duty even if it amounts to misfeasance cannot be enough for making the respondents liable in these proceedings. It must be shown in addition that on account of that misfeasance the company actually suffered loss. This could have been proved only if it was established that the stores which ought to have been there according to the finding of the commissioner were not actually there at the time when the company went into liquidation and that the joint liquidators did not get charge of those stores. The mere fact that the figures that were entered in the manufacturing accounts or in the balance-sheets were incorrect does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the stores which ought to have been there and whose value was this incorrectly shown were not actually there. In the absence of any evidence as to what stores were actually in hand on the 5th August 1949 when the resolution of voluntary winding up was passed or when the joint liquidators took over charge, in the absence also of any evidence as to how the joint liquidators dealt with the stores after they had taken over charge it is not possible to record a finding that the stores that ought to have been there were not there and that the company actually suffered a loss on that account. For all we know the stores may have been there and the liquidator may have taken them over. They may have been lost later or may bave been sold to Sri Haveliwala. It is therefore not possible to record a finding that the company suffered any actual loss on account of any act or omission of the respondents.
43. The question whether the respondents can be held guilty of misfeasance in the circumstances of the present case can now be considered.
44. The earliest case relating to misfeasance which has been brought to my notice is In re Wincham Shipbuilding, Boiler, and Salt Co., (1878) 9 Ch D 329. In that case a director was sought to be made liable on the assumption that he knew about a resolution entered in the Minute Book of the company said to have been passed at a meeting which he had attended. It was, however, held that there was no presumption of law that a director knew the contents of the books of the company.
45. The next case is In re Forest of Dean Coal Mining Co., (1878) 10 Ch D 450. Certain amount had been paid in that case improperly as promotion money. Mr. Barrett knew about the payment. He subsequently became a director of the company but made no attempt to recover it for the company. When the company was being wound up Mr. Barrett was sought to be made liable for wilful default or misfeasance under Section 165 of the Companies Act of 1882. Refusing to entertain the claim Jessel, M. K. laid down:
'But I should be very sorry to 'hold that under those words (used in Section 165), I have a sum-mary jurisdiction to inquire whether a man had of had not properly exercised his discretion as a director as to suing or not suing a debtor to the com-pany, even where the debt was not disputed, and a fortiori where it is a demand of this kind'.
46. In re Denham and Co., (1883) 25 Ch D 752, dividend had been paid out of capital and accounts had fraudulently been manipulated by the book-keeper. The directors were, therefore, sought to be made liable. It was laid down by Chitty, J. that the directors were not bound to examine entries in the company's books, that constructive notice could not be attributed to them and that a director could not be held liable for the acts and omissions of another director of which he had no knowledge.
47. In In re Faure Electric Accumulator Co., (1888) 40 Ch D 141 it was contended that the directors were liable for having approved certain transfers made on behalf of the company. They were not charged with fraudulent dealings. It was held that the approval of the transfers not being an ultra vires act could not amount to a misfeasance or breach of trust within Section 165 of the Companies Act of 1882 so as to render the directors liable in the winding up.
48. In In re National Bank of Wales, Ltd., (1899) 2 Ch 629 it was held that, (I am quoting from the head-note)
'A director who is acting honestly himself is entitled to trust the officers of the company not to conceal from him what they ought to report to him, if he has no reasonable ground for suspecting that they are deceiving him.
Directors are not liable for alt their mistakes but only for negligence which is in a business sense culpable or gross. Nor is a director liable for untrue representations made to the share-holders it he honestly believed the representations to be true and had at the time reasonable grounds for his belief.
49. In Dovey v. Cory, (1901) AC 477 the House of Lords had before it a case in which Mr. Cory, a director of the company, was being made liable for misfeasance on the ground that he was guilty of neglect of duties. Dealing with the charge of neglect Lord Halsbury observed:
'The charge of neglect appears to rest on the assertion that Mr. Cory, like the other directors, did not attend to any details of business not brought before them by the general manager or the chairman, and the argument raises a serious question as to the responsibility of all persons holding positions like that of directors, how far they are called upon to distrust and be on their guard against the possibility of fraud being committed by their subordinates of every degree. It is obvious if there is such a duty it must render anything like an intelligent devolution of labour impossible. Was Mr. Cory to turn himself into an auditor, a managing director, a chairman, and find out whether auditors, managing directors, and chairman were all alike deceiving him? That the letters of the auditors were kept from him is clear. That he was assured that provision had been made for bad debts, and that he believed such assurances, is involved in the admission that he was guilty of no moral fraud; so that it comes to this, that he ought to have discovered a network of conspiracy and fraud by which ho was surrounded, and found out that his own brother and the managing director (who have since beenmade criminally responsible for frauds connected with their respective offices) were inducing him to make representations as to the prospects of the concern and the dividends properly payable which have turned out to be improper and false. I cannot think that it can be expected of a director that he should be watching either the inferior officers of the bank or verifying the calculations of the auditors himself. The business of life could not go on if people could not trust those who are put into a position of trust for the express purpose of attending to details of management'.
50. In Prefontaine v. Grenior, (1907) AC 101 a director was charged with negligence and it was held that the charge of negligence could not be established simply by reason of the director having in good faith failed to detect the cashier's concealment of overdrafts.
51. In In re City Equitable Fire Insurance Co., Ltd., (1925) 1 Ch 407 dividend had been paid out of capital and losses had been occasioned by unjustified investments and loans. The liquidator sought to make the directors responsible for the loss on the ground that they had been guilty of breach of duty and their act on that account' amounted to misfeasance. The five principles which Romer, J. laid down in connection with the duty of directors were:
(1) A director is only liable for gross or culpable negligence, this means that he does not owe a duty to his company, to take all possible care. It is some degree of care less than that. The care that he is bound to take has been described by Neville, J. in the case referred to above as 'reasonable care' to be measured by the care an ordinary man might be expected to take in the circumstances on his own behalf.
(2) A director need not exhibit in the performance of his duties a greater degree of skill than may reasonably be expected from a person of his knowledge and experience.
(3) A director is not bound to give continuous attention to the affairs of his company. His duties are of an intermittent nature to be performed at periodical board meetings, and at meetings of any committee of the board upon which he happens to be placed. He is not, however, bound to attend all such meetings, though he ought to attend whenever, in the circumstances, he is reasonably able to do so.
(4) In respect of all duties that, having regard to the exigencies of business, and the articles oi association, may properly be left to some other official, a director is, in the absence of grounds foi suspicion, justified in trusting that official to perform such duties honestly.
(5) Directors are not bound to examine entries in the company's books.
52. The principles laid down in the above mentioned cases have been followed by Indian Courts also. Reference may be made by way oi example to three cases, which will be found reported in S. C. Mitra v. Nawab Ali Khan, AIR 1926 Oudh 153, National Bank of Upper India, Lucknow v. Dina Nath Sapru, AIR 19~26 Oudh 243 and Thinnappa Chettiar v. Rajagopalan : AIR1944Mad536 .
53. If the principles discussed above are applied to the present case it will be found that a distinction must be made between the respondents Seth Mathura Prasad and Seth Ladli Prasad who were only directors on the one hand and Setb Radhey Lal on the ether because the latter was the director in-charge. The former two cannot be held responsible for the acts and omissions of the third in the absence of any proof that they knew of these acts and omissions and could take any steps to mend matters.
54. Seth Radhey Lal also has not been proved to have been guilty of any fraud or dishonest conduct. The business of sugar manufacture was a new one for him and he naturally had to rely on the officials which had been employed to carry on the day-to-day work of the company. There were the Chief Engineer, the Chief Chemist, the Chief Accountant, the Chief Store-keeper and the assis-tants of these officers. From the very nature of things Seth Radhey Lal could not be expected to look into the accounts and registers of the company himself. He could proceed on the assumption that all the entries were being properly made. He could not be imputed with any knowledge of the fact that the valuations had not been entered against a large number of items in the registers for the receipt and issue of stores. At the end of each year the accounts were audited and the auditors never raised any question about the valuation of the stores consumed during the year. The final figures of the valuation of the stores consumed were arrived at after a joint consultation between the chief officers of the company. When the fad that the Chief Storekeeper and the Chief Accountant were not doing their duties properly was brought to the notice of Seth Radhey Lal he took immediate action and dismissed the two employees. They were, however, re-employed as they promised to make up their deficiencies. The deficiencies were also made up to a certain extent. In these circumstances it cannot be said that any of the respondents was guilty of such gross and wilful negligence and breach of duty as could amount to misfeasance within the meaning of the term as used in Section 235.
55. The respondents are, therefore, justified in their contention that on the materials brought on record they cannot be held liable for any of the acts mentioned in Section 235. No liability can, therefore, be fixed upon them for the items in respect of which issues Nos. 1, 2, and 3 have been framed.
56. The ninth issue has already been discussed in connection with issues Nos. 1 to 3. The liquidators when they took over charge failed to prepare an inventory of the stores or to value them properly. The effect of that omission was that it could not be proved that any loss had been suffered by the company on account of the fact that stores had not been properly valued in the course of the years in dispute.
57. In connection with issue No. 12 it was urged that the application was a mala fide one as it has been filed to defeat the claim for several lacs of rupees which the respondents had preferred against the company. No materials have, however, been brought on record to show that the applica-tion was made with any such ulterior motive. The figures mentioned in the manufacturing accounts and the balance-sheets needed explanation and the explanation furnished by the directors in their case under Section 195 was not very satisfactory. The liquidator could, therefore, in good faith think that the respondents were responsible. I am in the circumstances not satisfied that the application was a mala fide one.
58. The result of the above discussion is thatthe respondents cannot be held liable to pay anyamount to the company and the application mustfail. It is accordingly dismissed with costs.