S. Ramachandra Iyer, C.J.
1. This appeal involves only one question, and that is whether the suit laid by the appellant on the basis of a deposit made with a Nattukottai Chettiar firm resident in this country, but doing banking business in Burma, could be properly laid in the Indian courts. The learned Subordinate Judge of Sivaganga, from whose judgment this appeal arises, has answered that question in the negative.
2. The appellant had certain stridhana moneys belonging to her. According to the usage of the community to which she belongs, such moneys are generally invested with a money-lending firm run by the members of the community. She accordingly, deposited the money with a joint family firm, doing money lending business under the vilasam 'M. AR', at Rangoon. The debtor family consisted of one Ariyan Chettiar and his three sons, Alagappa, Ramaswami and Murugappa. After the death of the father, the sons divided the family assets and liabilities. The amount due under the deposit to the appellant was ascertained to be Rs. 19855-7-6 as on 13th April 1948. The three brothers who divided their properties, also divided their liability to the appellant in equal shares, and that, with the consent of the depositor. Alagappa with his sons, who are respondents 1 to 4 in this appeal, true to his kulachara, commenced a money lending business at Rangoon under the vilasam of M. AR. AL. A third of the amount due to the appellant was recorded in the book of this joint family firm as a deposit, and, in evidence thereof, Alagappa wrote a deposit letter to the appellant on 29th May 1949 in these terms :
'In respect of the amount that was in credit in your name in our partnership firm, M. AR. of this place, the amount inclusive of interest, excluding the amount paid, is Rs. 19855-7-6 as credit as on 1st Chitrai of Sarvadari year. Out of this amount out of 3 shares, excluding the 2 shares of M. AR. RM. and M. AR. MR. of this place, for our one share, the amount in our firm is Rs. 6618-7-9, as on the said date. We have credited this sum c.f rupees six thousand six hundred and eighteen, annas seven and pies nine in your name for two month's thavanai interest of this place.'
It is to recover the amount due under the deposit referred to above that the present suit is brought.
3. It is not in dispute that the transaction evidenced by the letter is a deposit with the money lending firm at Rangoon, that the depositor and all the members of the debtor-firm are all permanent residents of Ramanathapuram District in South India, and that the deposit should be paid back in Indian currency. The terms of the deposit do not, however, expressly say that it should be paid in this country. But it cannot admit of much doubt that there was at any time, an implied understanding between the parties that it should be so paid. But it is contended on behalf of the respondents that, as the deposit was made with a bank, the depositor can call for the moneys or recover them only at the particular place where the banking business was done. It has been held in a number of decisions that Nattukottai Chettiars in South India are indigenous bankers, and that, by tradition and occupation, their principal business is money lending. The question is whether they can be treated as bankers in the proper sense of the word, so as to compel the depositor to call for moneys deposited at the place where the business is being done. The learned Subordinate Judge accepted the contention of the respondents, and dismissed the suit as not maintainable in his court. He also held that there must have been an implied understanding between the parties that the money was to be paid, only in Burma. We have already indicated our view that the implied understanding, between the parties must have been the others way about. The learned Subordinate Judge relies on the fact that the appellant had not let in satisfactory evidence to show that there was an express promise to pay back the deposit amount in India. That is no doubt true; but the circumstances we have set out above, viz., that the moneys invested were stridhana moneys of the appellant, that the respondents who took the money on deposit were permanent residents in the Madras State, and that they agreed to pay in Indian currency and not in the Burmese one, would show beyond doubt that the intention was that . the deposit should be paid in India. Even apart from that consideration, we are of opinion that the defence that, the respondents being bankers, no claim on the deposit could be made except at the place where the bank was doing business, will not be available to the present case. In Ramaswami Chettiar v. Teevaratnammal, : AIR1957Mad106 , a Bench of this court has held that Nattukottai Chettiars who are generally carrying on business in money lending could not be termed to be bankers in the strict sense of the term. For one thing, they do not have the system of keeping current accounts enabling the customers to draw moneys on cheques. Essentially, they are money lenders, and, it is only to facilitate their business on money lenders, that they receive deposit from their constituents, or, some times even raise loans otherwise. Although, they have been described as indigenous bankers, they cannot be said to be bankers in the sense in which that term is understood under the law. Recently, the precise question as to the position of Nattukottai Chettiar as a money lender came up for consideration before a Bench of this Court in Karuppan Chettiar v. Somasundaram Chettiar, : AIR1961Mad122 . The learned Judges held that the essence of the relationship of a banker and a customer would be the affording by the former of the facility to the latter to draw funds by issuing cheques, and that, such an incident being absent in the case of the money lending business carried on by the Nattukottai Chettiars, they could not be termed as bankers in the proper sense of the term and that the rule that the customer should apply to the place where the bank was doing business or at its branch where the money was deposited, could not apply to them. We are in respectful agreement with the principles laid down in that case. The result is that the appellant will be entitled to recover the moneys from the respondent by means of the suit, which has resulted in this appeal.
4. The respondents, alternatively claimed relief under the provisions of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act, stating that they were agriculturists entitled to the protection of that Act. That they were agriculturists, though claimed in the written statement, was admitted in evidence. The learned Subordinate Judge did not give any finding as to the extent of relief claimed by the, respondents, as, in his opinion, the suit had to fail for another reason. Now that we have held that the appellant would be entitled to a decree, it becomes necessary to consider the question as regards the liability of the respondents after applying the provisions of that enactment. As will be seen from what we have stated above, the original liability was split up in 1949, and a fresh liability was incurred by the respondents from that date. This will, therefore, be a debt that will come under the provisions of Section 13 of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act. The appellant will therefore be entitled to recover the original sum of Rs. 6618-7-9 together with interest at five per cent per annum thereon from 29th May 1949 till the date of payment.
5. The appellant will also be entitled to recover her costs here and in the court below.