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G.J. Subbarayulu and anr. Vs. A. Rm. A.N. Annamalai Chettiar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectContract
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1945Mad281; (1945)1MLJ460
AppellantG.J. Subbarayulu and anr.
RespondentA. Rm. A.N. Annamalai Chettiar
Cases ReferredKnatchbull v. Hallett
Excerpt:
- - then a court of equity when applied to for relief, had to be satisfied that the remedy in damages to the value of the goods, which alone was available for the plaintiff at common law, would not be adequate, or that some specially equitable right of the plaintiff's under a trust for example, was involved. , said :it has been established for a very long period, in cases at law as well as in cases in equity, that the principles relating to the following of trust property are equally applicable to the case of a trustee, using the term in the narrow and technical sense which is applied to it in the court below, and to the case of factors, bailees, or other kinds of agents. 14. this statement clearly recognises that a bailee holds a fiduciary character. but without authority we consider..........answer to the question really turns on the meaning to be given to clause (a) of section 11 of the specific relief act. this section says:any person having the possession or control of a particular article of movable property, of which he is not the owner, may be compelled specifically to deliver it to the person entitled to its immediate possession, in any of the following cases:(a) when the thing claimed is held by the defendant as the agent or trustee of the claimant(b) when compensation in money would not afford the claimant adequate relief for the loss of the thing claimed : (c) when it would be extremely difficult to ascertain the actual damage caused by its loss:(d) when the possession of the thing claimed has been wrongfully transferred from the claimant.9. pollock and mulla's.....
Judgment:

1. This appeal is from an order passed in execution proceedings instituted on the original side of ihe Court. It raises a question of law, but a statement of the facts is necessary in order to understand the position.

2. Under a contract in writing dated the 21st August, 1941, the respondent delivered to the appellants a cinematograph projector. The contract purported to be a hire purchase agreement, but it did not in law amount to such an agreement because there was no option in the appellants to terminate the hire. The contract contemplated the appellants paying for the projector in instalments and it expi-essly provided that the ownership of the machine should not pass to them until the price had been paid in full. In default of payment of an instalment, the respondent had the option of cancelling the contract, in owhich event he had the right to forfeit a sum of Rs. 1,000 which the appellants had deposited with him as security for the fulfilment of their part of the bargain, and of recovering from them hire at the rate of Rs. 350 a month for the period during which the projector remained in their possession. As an alternative, the respondent was given the right of demanding payment of the balance of the agreed price, after giving credit for any amount which the appellants might have paid. The appellants defaulted in the payment of the instalments and the respondent exercised his option of demanding the return ot the machine, of forfeiting the deposit and of recovering hire at the agreed rate. He made the demand, and the appellants did not comply with it. Consequently, he hlfd a sult on the original side for inter alia the following reliefs : (i) the payment of the arrears of hire; (a) the payment of Rs.- 350 per mensem fromnhe date of the suit to the date of the delivery of the projector to him; and (3) an order directing the delivery of the projector to him on or before such date as the Court might fix or to pay to him Rs. 4,500 as its value. 1

3. The respondent was very anxious to recover the projector, as owyjig to the war it was very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain such articles and this was the main object of the suit, but the prayer was not drafted in accordance with form 32 of Appendix A of the Civil Procedure Code, which is suggested as a mo'del for a plaint where the plaintiff seeks delivery of a specific article. The prayer there suggested, is for the delivery of the article and in case delivery

cannot be had, for a decree for itsvaiue. This is in accordance with the provisions of Order 20, Rule 10. The art of pleading is little understood in India and in order to do justice in a case the Court is often constrained to look at a plaint or a written statement as a whole, rather than to what is actually said in a particular paragraph, in order to ascertain the real nature of the claim or defence. Looking at the plaint in this case as a whole, rather to the actual wording of the prayers for relief, we are convinced that what the plaintiff wanted was a decree for delivery of the phattel and a monetary payment if delivery could not be had.

4. The suit was tried by Bell, J., who inter alia directed, that in default of delivery, t the appellants should pay to the respondent Rs. 4,500 being the value of the projector and its accessories. The appellants appealed. The appeal was heard by this Bench which reduced the amount of Rs. 4,500 to Rs. 2,250 See (1944) 2 M.L.J. 74 . The appellate decree so far as it relates to the delivery of the projector reads as follows :

That the said appellants defendants do deliver to the respondent herein, the plaintiff, within 14 days from this date the Erko Projector and its accessories set out in the schedule hereto or in the alternative do pay the respondent (plaintiff) a sum of Rs. 2,250 the present value of the Erko Projector and its accessories.

5. The direction followed the wording of the plaint. The appellants read it as giving them an option to retain the projector on payment of the Rs. 2,250 and they promptly paid the amount into Court. The respondent refused to accept it. He maintained that as the appellants were in a positioiuto deliver the machine to him, they should be compelled to do so. Consequently he applied in execution for an order directing the appellants to deliver the projector to him and in the meantime he asked for the appointment of a receiver. The Court appointed a receiver, who took charge of the machine which is now in the receiver's possession.

6. By an order dated the 29th April, 1944, the Master dismissed the application for an order directing delivery to the respondent of th'e projector as he considered that the appellate Court gave the appellants an option in the matter. The respondent appealed to the Judge. His appeal was heard by Kunhi Raman, J., who reversed the decision of the Master and directed the receiver to deliver possession to the respondent. The learned Judge construed the decree as a direction for the payment of the value as an alternative remedy and not as an alternative course which the defendants were permitted to, adopt at their option. This appeal is from the order of Kunhi Raman, J.

7. As we have already indicated, the appellate decree was based on the wording of the plaint, but this does not mean that it must be read as giving an option to the appellants. The question whether the appellants were entitled to retain the projector on payment of the value fixed by the Court was never raised before us. The main question urged was whether the respondent was entitled to forfeit the deposit and insist on the return of the projector with hire at the rate agreed upon. It was not suggested that if we decided this question in favour of the respondent he could not insist on the machine being delivered back to him and would be compelled to rest content with its value. We consider that the decree must be read as giving the plaintiff the right to delivery of the projector if this form of relief is under the law of India open to him.

8. The answer to the question really turns on the meaning to be given to Clause (a) of Section 11 of the Specific Relief Act. This section says:

Any person having the possession or control of a particular article of movable property, of which he is not the owner, may be compelled specifically to deliver it to the person entitled to its immediate possession, in any of the following cases:

(a) when the thing claimed is held by the defendant as the agent or trustee of the claimant

(b) when compensation in money would not afford the claimant adequate relief for the loss of the thing claimed :

(c) when it would be extremely difficult to ascertain the actual damage caused by its loss:

(d) when the possession of the thing claimed has been wrongfully transferred from the claimant.

9. Pollock and Mulla's 'Specific Relief Act ' (6th edition, page 662) contains a commentary on the section :,

It is hard to see on principle why the right should be confined to special categories. The framers of the. Act seem to have forgotten that the Indian Courts are not merely Courts of English equitable jurisdiction. In England a person entitled to the immediate possession of a specific chattel was in principle, entitled to recover it by an action of detinue. The writ in that action demanded specific delivery,, But owing to the defective procedure for the execution of common law judgments, this could not in practice be enforced. Then a Court of Equity when applied to for relief, had to be satisfied that the remedy in damages to the value of the goods, which alone was available for the plaintiff at common law, would not be adequate, or that some specially equitable right of the plaintiff's under a trust for example, was involved. Under a more rationally developed system the burden would be on the defendant to show cause why it should not be just and equitable to avoid specific restitution.

10. We are in entire agreement with this statement. In Jaldu Venkatasubbarao v. The Asiatic Steam Navigation Co. of Calcutta (1914) 29 M.L.J. 342 : I.L.R. 39 Mad. 1 , a Full Bench of this Court said this:

But in order to entitle the plaintiff to obtain delivery of specific movable property by suit and enforce the decree so obtained by the stringent methods provided in Order 21, Rule 31, Civil Procedure Code, it is necessary that he should allege and prove facts which entitle him to compel the delivery of the specific movable under the provisions of Section 11 of the Specific Relief Act, because unless he does so, he cannot have a decree for the return of the specific movable property. There is no allegation in the plaint that the defendant is in possession of the plank in question and it is obvious from the correspondence that he is not. That being so, the case does not come within Clause (a) of Section 11 of the Specific Relief Act, and it certainly does not come within Clause (b), (c) or (d)

11. There the claim was for the return of a plank and it was held that as the suit did not fall within Section 11, it could not be maintained. The effect of this judgment is that a plaintiff cannot obtain specific restitution of a chattel unless his claim falls within Section 11 of the Specific Relief Act and we are bound to follow it. It is obvious that clauses (b), (c) and (d) of Section 11 do not apply to the present case and therefore we have only to consider Clause (a). If the appellants are in the position of agents or trustees within the meaning of that clause, the Court can direct them to deliver over the projector to the respondent.

12. Mr. Braddell on behalf of the respondent has conceded that the appellants cannot be regarded as agents; but he says that they are trustees within the meaning of Clause (a). The word 'trustee ' here does not mean a trustee within the meaning of the Trusts Act. Section 3 of the Specific Relief Act says the word ' trustee ' includes every person holding, expressly, by implication or constructively, a fiduciary character. Therefore if the appellants held the projector in a fiduciary capacity after the respondent had demanded the return of his machine, as he had the right to do, he will be entitled to an order directing its delivery to him.

13. In In re Hallett's Estate : Knatchbull v. Hallett (1880) 13 Ch. D. 696 ., Thesiger, L.J., said :

It has been established for a very long period, in cases at law as well as in cases in equity, that the principles relating to the following of trust property are equally applicable to the case of a trustee, using the term in the narrow and technical sense which is applied to it in the Court below, and to the case of factors, bailees, or other kinds of agents.

14. This statement clearly recognises that a bailee holds a fiduciary character. In Katta Ramaswami Gupta v. Kamalammal (1921) 42 M.L.J. 32 : I.L.R. 45 Mad. 173, a Bench of this Court, while holding that a bailee is not a trustee within the meaning of the term in the Trusts Act, recognised that he may in some respects be in a fiduciary position as regards his bailor and the observations of Thesiger, L.J., in In re Hallett's Estate : Knatchbull v. Hallett (1880) 13 Ch. D. 696 which we have just quoted, were referred to.

15. We have here authority for holding that the appellants held the projector in a fiduciary capacity within the meaning of Clause (a) of Section 11 after the respondent had terminated the contract and demanded its seturn. But without authority we consider that this must be the decision when the facts are borne clearly in mind. The property in the article had never passed to the appellants. When the contract was terminated they had no right to deal with it or even use it. They held it on behalf of the respondent and it was their duty to deliver it up to him. They were not trustees in the technical sense, but they held the article in a fiduciary character sufficient to satisfy Section 11 of the Specific Relief Act. It would indeed be remark able if in the circumstances of this case, especially when the Court holds the article on behalf of the party entitled to it, it could not direct delivery to be given to the true owner.

16. For these reasons, we dismiss the appeal with costs.


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