Panchapakesa Ayyar, J.
1. These are three connected appeals against the judgment and decrees of the Subordinate Judge of Tirunelveli in O. S. Nos. 131 of 1950 and 101 of 1951.
2. The facts were briefly these: One Subbiah Ayyar of Kesavasamudram was a banker doing business in money-lending. He used to take deposits from persons, including widows and orphans, at an attractive rate of interest, said to be ranging from 7 1/2 per cent to 9 per cent per annum, and lend out the moneys so borrowed to busowners and others, at 12 per cent, compound interest per annum, with yearly rests, such bus owners etc., making high profits and being ready to give such interest which he considered to be quite reasonable in the circumstances. One Sadagopal Naidu, the second defendant in both the suits, and his brother, Srinivasaga Naidu, the third defendant in O. S. No. 101 of 1951 and not a defendant in the other suit, were running some buses even early in 1945, having contracted loans from Subbiah Aiyar and purchased five buses. The loans thus contracted by the brothers with interest amounted to Rs. 65240-10-4 on 17th August 1945, as shown in Ex. A-l, the pass book relating to the debit and credit transactions opened by Subbiah Aiyar himself. On 17th August 1945, both of them agreed to pay Subbiah Aiyar the said sum of Rs. 65,240-10-4, with interest thereon at 1 per cent per month from that day. There was no stipulation for compound interest in that document, and it was only shown in the vaddi chittais, sent first to the brothers, and then to the company, and defendant 2, where compound interest was added not only with yearly rests but at odd and irregular intervals whenever Subbiah Aiyar calculated the balance due. These brothers were also carrying on a forest coupe contract business, a toddy business, and a trade in groceries.
On 14th December 1945, the two brothers formed a private limited company called Balasaraswathi Ltd.. consisting only of two shareholders, via., themselves, for running buses, as a G. O. current then required a company. Then they borrowed Rs. 1,40,000, from Subbiah Aiyar and purchased some 16 more buses and began operating a fleet of buses in the urban area of Tirunelveli district. Under the Articles of Association of this private limited company, the second defendant. Sadagopal, was the managing director and was en-titled to represent the company in all suits and legal proceedings and to contract debts and do all other necessary business of the company. On 1-1-1947, the two brothers, Sadagopal and Srinivasaga, executed a promissory note, Ex. B-ll, in favour of Subbiah Aiyar for Rs. 3,97,671-7-7, the sums advanced, with compound interest added at irregular intervals till that day, and promised to pay the said amount with 1 per cent, interest per month.
Here too, there was no stipulation for compound interest, though it was actually charged at irregular intervals by Subbiah Aiyar later on. On 16-8-1947, Rs. 1,26,400 was paid by the two brothers to Subbiah Aiyar, and this payment was endorsed on Ex. B-ll soon after this, Srinivasaga filed a partition suit, O. S. No. 37 of 1947, on the file of the Sub-court, Tirunelveli against his brother Sadagopal. On 10-12-1947, this suit was compromised, under Ex. A-3, between the brothers. One of the terms of the compromise was that Srinivasaga was to take for his share eleven buses and a lorry, and their routes, and to take over Rs. 2,62,000 out of the debt due to Subbiah Aiyar.
This debt due to Subbiah Aiyar from the two brothers was first entered in a pass book, Ex. A-l, till the formation of the company on 14-12-1945, and thereafter in the pass book, Ex. A-6, and thereafter in another pass book Ex. A-7. In accordance with the arrangement to take over the debt of Bs, 2,62,000, out of the debt due to Subbiah Aiyar, srinivasaga Naidu executed a promissory note, Ex, A-5, for Rs. 2,62,000 to Subbiah Aiyar on 8-12-1947 itself, Subbiah Aiyar, of course, advancing that money by adjustment towards the money due to him from the first defendant company and tile two brothers, thereafter only looking to Srinivasaga for that portion of the debt. Srinivasaga Naidu has discharged that debt in full.
3. After Srinivasaga Naidu had gone out of the company, of which he was a director and a shareholder, Sadagopal took in his wife, Sithalakshmi Ammal, as director and shareholder in his place. He continued his transactions with Subbiah Aiyar. On 28-4-1950, Subbiah Aiyar died, leaving behind his widow, Vengu Ammal, and seven daughters. On 18-6-1950, the second defendant, the managing director of the first defendant company, signed in a settlement of accounts in the pass book, Ex. A-7, acknowledging the balance of Rs. 1,76,989-14-11 as the principal amount due from him on that date.
That has been treated in O. S. No. 131 of 1950 as a promissory note executed by him on behalf of the company and on behalf of himself. He also executed an agreement, Ex. A-8, to Vengu Ammal, undertaking personal liability for the amount. According to him, this agreement was executed in favour of the estate of Subbiah Aiyar, though in the name of Vengu Animal. He had also pledged his life insurance policy of Rs. 75,000 to Subbiah Aiyar as collateral security for the debt due to him. He undertook to pay Vengu Ammal Rs. 100 per day from the net income of the bus services till 1-3-1951 towards the debts of Subbiah Aiyar acknowledged by him, and Rs. 150 per day after that date. But he paid only Rs. 3,500 under the daily payment system, and then defaulted.
4. After Subbiah Aiyar's death, the depositors in his private bank clamoured for their dues. His debtors, the first defendant company and Sadagopal being the most prominent ones, had, as stated before, begun making default in paying up their dues, doubtless taking advantage of the confusion in Subbiah Aiyar's estate consequent on his death. Pour creditors of Subbiah Aiyar filed O. S. No. 62 of 1950 on the file of the lower Court on behalf of all the other creditors, after obtaining the leave of Court to file it as a representative suit, for the administration of Subbtah Aiyar's estate.
In that suit, one parameswara Aiyar, P. W. 1, a sambandhi, of Subbiah Aiyar, was appointed the sole administrator of Subbiah Aiyar's estate, and was empowered to recover all the dues of Subbiah Aiyar in order to pay the depositors and ensure the balance for his widow and children. He filed Order 8. No, 131 of 1950 against Sri Balasaraswathi Ltd., the first defendant and Sadagopal, the second defendant, adding also Seethalakshmi Animal, the wife of Sadagopal, as the third defendant, later on, 'since the second defendant contended that she had been taken on as a director and shareholder, after Srinivasaga Naidu had left the private limited company on 10-12-1947.
That suit was for recovering Rs. 2,02,074-4-11 from the defendants jointly and severally with subsequent interest and costs. This sum of Rs. 2,02,074-4-11 consisted of the principal amount of Rs; -1,76,989-14-11, acknowledged by the second defendant as the managing director of the first defendant company as the principal amount due from the company and from him on 18-6-1950 in Ex. A-7, and subsequent interest thereon, deducting therefrom the Rs. 3,600 paid under the daily payment system.
5. The defendants strenuously contested the suit on various grounds which will all be clear from the issues.
6. The first defendant company, which consisted only of two shareholders, viz., Sadagopal and his wife, Seethalakshmi, filed through its managing director, Seethalakshmi, O. S. No. 101 of 1951, against Parameswara Aiyar, on 19-7-1951, adding Sadagopal and Srinivasaga Naidu, the two brothers, as defendants 2 and 3, alleging that Subbiah Aiyar had failed to show in his accounts enormous sums paid by the company to him towards the loans contracted by it, and praying for directing Parameswara Aiyar to render a true and correct account of the dealings between the plaintiff and Subbiah Aiyar and his estate from 14-12-1945 to the date of suit, and to appoint a commissioner to scrutinise the accounts and to pass a decree for such amount as might be found payable to the plaintiff-company by Subbiah Aiyar's estate in the hands of the first defendant and for costs.
It was alleged that, according to the accounts of the company, which were not produced, a sum of Rs. 2,41,190 was due to the company from Subbiah Aiyar, but that the plaintiff could not be sure about the exact amount and so was valuing the suit for purposes of jurisdiction and court-fee at Rs. 5250, adding that it was willing to pay any further court-fee due on the amount actually found due to it on taking of accounts. There was an allegation that daily remittances aggregating to Rs. 1,60,125 had not been credited in Subbiah Aiyar's accounts towards the debts due by the company, and that interest amounting to Rs. 30,578-8-7 on the loans, advanced to Sadagopal and Srinivasaga Naidu in their personal capacity, and not for purposes of the company, had been debited against the company.
7. The first defendant administrator characterised the suit as false, frivolous and vexatious. The second defendant filed a statement in consonance with his statement in O. S. No. 131 of 1950. The third defendant, Srinivasaga Naidu, remained ex parte. The contentions arising from the pleadings will be clear from the issues.
8. The lower Court framed the following Issues in O. S. No. 131 of 1950:
1. Whether the second defendant is personally liable for the suit debt?
2. whether the plaintiff is entitled to sue even on the terms of the plaint mentioned agreement?
3. Whether the settlement of accounts relied on by the plaintiff was brought about on account of pressure, coercion, undue influence and fraud as contended by the defendants?
4. If so whether the settlement of accounts cannot be re-opened? .
5. Whether the borrowing is void for all or any other reasons set out in paragraph 4 of the first defendant's written statement?
6. Whether the deceased Subbiah Aiyar has Omitted to give' credit to all or any of the items towards the suit debt, as contended by the first defendant in its written statement?
7. Whether the interest agreed to and claimed is penal and excessive?
8. What is the correct amount, if any, due to the plaintiff arid from which defendant?
9. Is the plaintiff entitled to sue inasmuch as the agreement Is in favour of Vengu Lakshmi Am-mal?
10. Is the alleged negotiation of the instrument valid and proper?
11. Whether the suit debt is not binding in whole or in part on the first defendant company for all or any of the reasons set out in the written Statement?
12. Whether by reason of the agreement dated 38-6-1950 the plaintiff's only remedy is against the motor vehicles and whether the second defendant is not personally liable?
13. Whether the acknowledgments signed by the second defendant are not binding on the first defendant-company?.
14. Is the rate of interest stipulated usurious and excessive, and whether the defendants are entitled to have it reduced?
15. To what relief, if any, is the plaintiff entitled?
9. It framed the following issues in O. S. No. 101 Of 1951:
1. Is Seethalakshmi the duly constituted representative of the plaintiff company? Is the company properly before Court?
2. Was the deceased Subba Aiyar 'accountable' in law to the plaintiff-company, and if so in what capacity?
3. Are the statements of account signed by the second defendant, not binding on the plaintiff-company for all or any of the plaint mentioned reasons?
4 Is the suit liable to be stayed under Section 10, C. P. Code?
5. What reliefs, if any, is the plaintiff entitledto?
10. The evidence was recorded in common in O. S. No. 131 of 1950. After discussing the entire evidence the learned Subordinate Judge found on issue 1 in O. S. No 131 of 1950, that the second defendant was personally liable for the suit debt as he had expressly put in his personal liability also, in addition to the company's liability, when signing in the pass books in token of the balance as found on settlement of accounts and had also executed the agreement, Ex. A-8, wherein he had specifically undertaken personal liability, and had admitted that that agreement was executed in respect of debts due to Subbiah Aiyar.'s estate and not in favour of Vengu Ammal, his widow.
On issue 2, he found that the plaintiff, Parameswara Aiyar, was entitled to sue even to enforce the terms of Ex. A-8, because it was an agreement executed in favour of Subbiah Aiyar's estate of which he had been validly appointed the sole administrator by Court. He consequently answered issue 12 in the negative. On issue 3 he found that the settlement of accounts relied on by the plaintiff was not brought about by pressure, coercion, undue influence and fraud, as contended by the defendants. On issue 4, he found that the settlement of accounts could be reopened only regarding proved mistakes.
On issues 5 and 11, he found that the borrowing was not void or non-binding on the company, except to the extent of a sum of Rs. 5465, advanced by Subbiah Aiyar for payment in respect of the dues Of Kalakad toddy shop, run by these brothers on 2-1-1946, and a sum of Rs. 7547-15-0 advanced to the second defendant for payment in respect of his own life assurance, as these payments were not payments for purposes of the first defendant-company and were ultra vires of the company itself, and not merely of the directors. On issue 6, he found that the deceased Subbiah Aiyar had not ommitted to give credit to any of the payments made to him in respect of his advances to the company.
On issues 7 and 14, he found that the interest agreed to was 12 per cent compound interest, and that it was not penal and excessive, 12 per cent, being a fair rate for Madras State, and compound interest having been accepted by the brothers on behalf of the company in the Vaddi chittais sent to them by Subbiah Aiyar, and they having signed for the balance found, on the basis of compound interest, at the several settlements of account. But he found that the company was entitled to counter Interest on the amounts paid back, and that Subbiah Aiyar should have allowed this counter-interest.
Hence he deducted the counter-interest also from the sum claimed in the suit in addition to the sums covered by the toddy shop payment and the insurance payment. On issue 9, he found that the plaintiff was entitled to sue both under the settlement of accounts, Ex. A-7, and under the agreement in favour of Vengu Ammal, Ex. A-8. Issue 10 he held in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants. Issue 13 also he found in favour of the plaintiff and against the defendants, (11) In the end, he granted the plaintiff a decree for Rs. 1,94,407-5-11 with interest thereon at six per cent, per annum from 19-12-1950, the date of plaint, as against the second defendant, Sadagopal, and directed him also to pay Rs. 6439-7-3 the proportionate costs to the plaintiff. He ordered the first defendant company to pay the plaintiff, out of the aforesaid sum of Rs. 1,94,407-5-11, Rs. 1,76,708-5-11 with interest thereon at six per cent, per annum from 19-12-1950, the date of plaint till realisation, and also to pay the plaintiff Rs. 5865-4-0 as proportionate costs out of the total proportionate costs of Rs. 6439-7-3. He directed all the defendants to bear their own costs.
12. The first defendant company has filed A. Section No. 340 of 1952, contesting the decree against it as unjustified and incorrect and praying to set it aside and to dismiss the suit as against the company. The second defendant, Sadagopal, has filed A. S. No. 357 of 1952, contending that the lower Court went wrong in finding that he was personally liable for the debts he had contracted on behalf of the first defendant company, and contending further that even the amount of the decree against the company was not correct, and that, in any event, the interest charged by Subbiah Aiyar was usurious and unconscionable and that the lower Court, ought to have given relief regarding it by reopening the transactions and allowing only six per cent interest alleged to be the normal rate in these enlightened days of democracy, or, at the most 12 per cent simple interest said to be the legal maximum rate now.
13. The learned Subordinate Judge found issue 1 in O. S. No. 101 of 1951 in favour of the plaintiff. Issue 3 he held against the plaintiff. He held that there was no need to bother about issue 4 as both the suits were being tried jointly. On issue 2 he found that the deceased Subbiah Aiyar was not accountable In Jaw to the plaintiff company, and that the only thing that the Court could do was to hold that the sum of Rs. 5465 advanced in respect of the Kalakad toddy shop dues. and of Rs. 7547-15-0, advanced in respect of the insurance payment, with subsequent interest thereon at 12 per cent, per annum would not bind the plaintiff-company as already held in the other suit. He held that the remaining amounts advanced by Subbiah Aiyar would bind the plaintiff-company and would make it liable for the decree passed against it in the other suit with proportionate costs. He, therefore, passed a decree on those lines in O. S, No. 101 of 1951, and dismissed the suit in all other respects and directed all the parties therein to bear their own costs.
14. The plaintiff-company, by managing director, Seethalakshmi, the wife of Sadagopal, has filed A. S. No. 341 of 1952 against that decree.
15. The plaintiff in O. S. No. 131 of 1950 has not filed any cross-appeal or memorandum of cross-objections regarding either the disallowance of the toddy shop amount and the insurance amount as against the company, or about the lower Court allowing only 6 per cent, interest from the date of the plaint till the date of decree.
16. We have perused the entire records and heard the learned counsel on all sides. Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar, for the appellants, and Mr. K. V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar for the plaintiff in O. S. No. 131 of 1950, took us through the entire evidence and argued on every aspect of the contentions raised in these appeals. We shall take all the contentions in all the appeals together and deal with them one by one.
17. The first contention of Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar was that the lower Court went wrong in holding that the two brothers, who were shareholders and directors of the bus company, Sri Balasaraswathi Ltd., had power to contract loans on behalf of the company, as the memorandum and Articles of Association did not give them specifically the right to borrow moneys on behalf of the company. The argument is unsustainable. As Mr. Venkatasubramania Aiyar pointed out Article 11 of the Articles of Association of the company gave the directors without prejudice to their general powers, the right to enter into, carry out, rescind or vary all financial arrangements with any banks, persona or corporations, for or in connection with the company's business or affairs, and pursuant to or in connection with such arrangements, deposit, pledge or hypothecate any property of the company or documents representing or relating to the same. Sub-clause (b) of Article 12 gives the directors power, on behalf of the company to draw, accept, endorse and negotiate all such cheques, bills of exchange, promissory notes, bundles, drafts and Government and other securities as shall be necessary in or for carrying on the affairs of the company and to operate upon banks.
Sub-clause (c) gives them power to invest and deal with the moneys of the company. Besides, Article 1 says that the regulations in Table A of the First Schedule of the Indian Companies Act would be applicable to this company so far as they relate to a private company and in so far as they are not excluded or modified by the articles of the company, and Article 73 of the Table A of Schedule I of the Companies Act presumes that the directors have power to borrow on behalf, of the company subject to the limitation that borrowing in excess of the issued capital should be only with the consent of the shareholders.
The usual presumption is that the directors of the company would be entitled to borrow subject to the restrictions placed on the borrowing powers in the Memorandum and Articles of Association. The Memorandum and Articles of Association do not say that the directors should not borrow at all on behalf of the company. No specific power to borrow was in the circumstances, necessary. The directors could borrow on behalf of the company upto the issued share capital of Rs. 99,000, as contemplated in Article 73 in Table A of the Schedule I of the Companies Act, and even above that amount with the assent of the shareholders.
18. The next contention of Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar was that, even so, the plaintiff's suit must fall regarding the excess over Rs. 99,000, in view of Article 73 in Table A of Schedule I of the Companies Act in the absence of any resolution by the shareholders authorising the contracting of any debts above that amount. He pointed out that there was not even a meeting of the shareholders for considering any such contracting of loan above Rs. 99,000, much less a resolution allowing the contracting of a debt above Rs. 99,000.
Mr. K. V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar urged that it is settled law now that the acquiescence of all the shareholders in such excess loans contracted by the directors ultra vires their powers, but not ultra vires the powers of the company, would be sufficient to validate such excess flats. He relied on paragraph 603 of Volume 6 of Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd Edn. by Lord Simonds (1954), at page 299. It runs as follows:
'All persons dealing with the company are bound to know its constitution, so that it will not be liable under any contract which is ultra vires the directors: but any act of the directors which Is not ultra vires the company, may be ratified by the company in general meeting, or at an informal meeting of all the shareholders; or by the acquiescence of all the shareholders without a meeting.'
He cited Parker and Cooper Ltd. v. Reading, 1926 1 Ch 975 , where it has been held that a company is bound in a matter intra vires the company by the unanimous agreement of all its corporators, and that if all the individual corporators in fact assent to a transaction that is intra vires the company, though ultra vires the Board, it is not necessary that they should hold a meeting in one room or one place to express that assent simultaneously. The earlier rulings in In re, George Newman, 1895 1 Ch 674 and In re, express Engineering Works, 1920 1 Ch. 466 relied on by Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar, were considered in the above rulings, and explained away.
In other words, the ruling in 1926 1 Ch 875 is the law now in England and has been accented by the High Courts in India also, the latest instance being the ruling of a Bench of this Court in the Transport Co. v. Tirunelveli Motor Bus Co., 1955 2 M LJ 141 In the present case, the Balasaraswathi Company consisted only of two shareholders, viz., the two brothers, sadagopal and Srinivasaga, at the time it borrowed the moneys from Subbiah Aiyar for the company-- Sadagopal was the managing director and Srinivasaga was a director and a shareholder. By contracting the debts jointly from Subbiah Aiyar for the company and by acknowledging them, they certainly acquiesced in the loans so far as they were intra vires of the company, though they were ultra vires of the directors by exceeding the Issued share capital of Rs. 99,000. That they consulted one another is obvious, or will be conclusively presumed from the Tact of their jointly contracting the debts and signing in token thereof.
The observations of Lord Davey in Salomon v. Salomon & Co. Ltd., 1897 AC 22 will apply to this case also, and there will be an inevitable inference, from the circumstances of the case, that every member of the company assented, and that, therefore, the debt will be binding on the company to the extent it was intra vires of the company. It was competent of the shareholders to waive all formalities as regards notice, meetings etc. in Palmer's Company Law, 19th Edn. at page 53, it is stated that an act, which is not within the powers of the directors or is not done in a manner provided by the articles, but is within the powers of the company, can be ratified by all the members without a formal meeting being held, and even if no meeting is held, the authority cited for the last part of the proposition being 1926 1 Ch 975 .
It is clear from the evidence that all the debts contracted by the two brothers, Sadagopal and Srnivasaga, for the Balasaraswathi Ltd., were contracted for purposes of the company and were intra vires of the company's powers, though ultra vires of the director's powers, over and above the issued capital of Rs. 99,000, except the two sums borrowed for making the toddy shop payment and the insurance payment, which were disallowed by the lower Court itself.
19. Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar relied on the observations in (1895) 1 Ch 674 and in T. R. Pratt Ltd. v. E. D. Sassoon & Co. Ltd. : AIR1936Bom62 , and in Premila Devi v. Peoples Bank of Northern India Ltd. , to the effect that a joint stock company is a distinct entity, and that, therefore, this company should have given its assent to exceeding the limit of Rs. 99,000 by a resolution, and that the fact all the shareholders of the company had joined in contracting the loans and so they must be presumed to have consulted together and agreed to that course of action and waived a formal meeting and a formal resolution would not apply and save the claim of the plaintiff for the excess over Rs. 99,000.
We cannot agree. That will be going against the express ruling in 1926 1 Ch 975 , which has been accepted as good law by Courts in India and by the Privy Council and in acknowledged books of authority, like Halsbury's Laws of England and Palmer's Company Law. We fail to see any point in setting up the company as a metaphysical entity apart from all the shareholders. The object of Article 73 in Table A of Schedule I of the Companics Act is to ensure the interest of shareholders, and not to ensure compliance with any such metaphysical requirements. Besides, as the lower Court itself has pointed out, the excess over Rs. 99,000 will be binding on the company on two other principles, viz., that the loans were advanced by Subbiah Aiyar, a stranger to the company, who was entitled to assume that the internal management of the company was being done regularly by its directors and shareholders, and, secondly, because the amounts borrowed for the company by its only two shareholders were received by the company and utilised by it for its benefit for purposes intra vires of the company, like buying buses, tyres etc. See the rulings in T. R. Pratt Ltd. v. M. T. Ltd. .
20. Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar next contended, that even so, there were several amounts included within the decree of the lower Court passed against the company which were actually utilised not for company purposes but for the purposes of toddy shop business grocery business and forest coupe contract business of the two brothers. The argument is unsustainable. The lower Court has carefully considered the evidence and held that, except the two sums borrowed for the payment of the toddy shop debt and the insurance amount, all other debts borrowed by the two brothers for the company from Subbiah Aiyar were debts contracted for running buses and allied inevitable expenses and would be binding on the company.
It was upto Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar to prove by producing the company's accounts that there were other debts contracted for this company by the two brothers and diverted for purposes unconnected with this company. He failed to prove it by producing the company's accounts or by adducing other reliable evidence. The failure to produce the company's accounts was itself fatal to his contention. The company was paying income-tax & had accounts, and we agree with the lower Court that the defendants could have produced the accounts if they so wanted. They did not produce them, leading to the very reasonable inference that the accounts would not have helped them in proving this contention.
21. Mr. Ramamurthi urged that Rs. 79,654 contracted before the company came into being, represented Rs. 65,240-10-4, the prior debts of the two brothers and interest thereon, and should not be saddled on this company which came into being only later on. But, as pointed out by the lower Court, Rs. 65,240-10-4 represented the price of the buses owned by the two brothers, and run by them before they started this private limited company, and their company run the very same buses thereafter, with the additional buses bought for the company with Rs. 1,40,000 borrowed from Subbiah Aiyar, P. W. 1, Narayana Moopanar, the Manager of the first defendant-company, admitted this in his evidence:
'In December 1945, there was a private company known as T. P. T. S- B. O. U. with five buses running in the town. These five buses were purchased by defendant 2 and then Handed over to the company. Rs. 65,000 entered on 10-12-1945 (a mistake for 17-8-1945) in Ex. A-l represented the price of these five cars..... .As soon as the first defendant-company was started it became the owner of the four buses already belonging to the two brothers the T. P. T. S. B. O. U. buses, the dairy farm buses and the Sivakasi Nadar buses. The value of all these buses is entered in the accounts of the first defendant company as the purchase price of the cars and credited Subba Aiyar with this amount.'
The Rs. 1,40.000, borrowed from Subbiah Aiyar on 14-12-1945 represented the purchase price of the Dairy Farm Buses. It is obvious that many companies take over the assets of some other existing business in order to begin operations at once, and the price of those assets, like buses will naturally be shown in the company's accounts, and the company will be bound to pay the debts contracted for purchasing those buses etc. It was urged by Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar that only Rs. 1,00,000 was paid for the Diary Farm Buses and that Subbiah Aiyar had added on a dishonest and concealed commission of Rs. 40,000 and bloated the amount to Rs. 1,40,000. The evidence did not prove this allegation against Subbiah Aiyar any more than the allegation that he swallowed away the commission due to the two brothers and the company in respect of tyres and charcoal.
The buses were purchased in 1945, a period for the Dairy Farm Buses, and that Subbiah Aiyar when buses were not readily available, and when the ostensible prices, covered by receipts differed from the real black market prices paid as a matter of fact. Whatever it be, there is no proof that only Rs. 1,00.000 was paid in respect of those buses and that Subbiah Aiyar swallowed away Rs. 40,000. The lower Court considered that the underlings of Subbiah Aiyar and the two brothers might have swallowed away the commission regarding the tyres and the charcoal. It is possible that the underlings might have swallowed away something at this purchase of buses, though it is inconceivable that they swallowed away Rs. 40,000. In any event, it is not proved that Subbiah Aiyar swallowed away any such amount. We are satisfied that the lower Court was right in holding that all the amounts borrowed by the two brothers, except the toddy shop and insurance amounts, disallowed by it, were borrowed for purposes of this company, and were actually utilised for this company, and would be binding on this company.
22. Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar next contended that Sithalakshmi, the present managing director of the company, had not joined in the loans contracted for the company or in acknowledging then liability, and that she was also a shareholder and so the rulings cited above would not apply and bind the company, as one of the shareholders had not joined in any way with or without a meeting and had not signed anywhere. This contention too has no value as we are satisfied that Sitalakshmi is only a puppet and a benamidar of her husband Sadagopal, and has been brought in in the eleventh hour simply to have the minimum number of two shareholders, if not also to defeat and defraud the plaintiff's claim on the company.
23. So, we are satisfied that the amounts decreed by the lower Court against the company and against Sadagopal were correct and do not require to be interfered with in the least, as the amount decreed against the company was required in full for company purposes, and was utilised in full for such purposes, and that the balance decreed against Sadagopal was also admittedly borrowed by him, though it was proved that those two amounts, viz., the toddy shop amount and the insurance amount, were not required for company purposes and so would not bind the company.
24. It follows from the observations above that the lower Court was right in dismissing O. S. No. 101 of 1951 filed by the company for accounts, as the evidence showed beyond all doubt that the company had no right to call upon Subbiah Aiyar to render accounts regarding his transactions with the company, and that the lower Court's decree against the company did not comprise a pie more than what had been borrowed by Sadagopal on behalf of the company and what was proved to have been spent by him for company purposes and that Subbiah Aiyar, Vengu Ammal and Parameswara Aiyar had not failed to bring to account a pie of what had been paid towards the debts contracted. We, therefore, dismiss A. S. No. 341 of 1952 with the costs of Parameswara Aiyar. The other parties to this appeal will bear their own costs.
25. The contention of Mr. Raghavarama Sas-tri was that the lower Court went wrong in holding the second defendant Sadagopal, personally liable for any portion of the decree, or, at any rate, regarding the portion of the decree against the first defendant-company, as he had contracted those debts only as managing director and for the purposes of the company, and had utilised them only for such purposes. We cannot agree. It is clear to us that the lower Court was perfectly right in holding the second defendant personally liable and in passing a decree against him. He has signed in the accounts of Subbiah Aiyar not only as managing director of the Balasaraswathi company, but also in his own personal capacity several times. (See the entries in the accounts on 25-4-1949, 16-5-1949 and 18-6-1950).
The omission of mention in the entry of 18-6-1949 about his signing in his personal capacity also is not material, as it was merely an accidental omission, and he had signed in his personal capacity before and after that date acknowleding the entire debts as personally binding on him. Besides, he has under, Ex. A-8, on 18-6-1950, entered into a separate agreement to be personally liable for all these debts. It was urged by Mr. Sastri that the agreement was in favour of Vengu Ammal, Subbiah Aiyar's widow, and not in favour of Subbiah Aiyar, and that she had not assigned her rights under Ex. A-8 to Parameswara Aiyar and that Subbiah Aiyar died on 28-4-1950, and so, the agreement could only be in favour of his widow, Vengu Ammal. The argument is unsustainable.
The contention that Vengu Ammal had not transferred her rights under Ex. A-8 to the administrator, Parameswara Aiyar, and, so Parameswara Aiyar could not sue on that agreement, is without force as the second defendant himself had stated that the agreement, Ex. A-8, was intended to enure for the benefit of Subbiah Aiyar's estate, represented by Vengu Animal, and not for the benefit of Vengu Ammal at all, any more than the acknowledgment in EX. A.7 of the entire debts on the same day was for the benefit of Vengu Ammal. In that view, the lower court was right in holding that Parameswara Aiyar, the sole administrator appointed by Court in 'respect of Subbiah Aiyar's estate, could rely on Ex. A.8 also for fixing the personal liability of Sadagopal. We, therefore, reject this contention and are of opinion that the lower court was right in holding that Sadagopal was personally liable and in passing a decree against him personally.
26. It follows from this that Sadagopal's appeal, A. S. No. 357 of 1952, has to be dismissed. It is accordingly dismissed with the costs of the first respondent, Parameswara Aiyar. The other parties will bear their own costs.
27. There remains only the contention of Mr. Ramamurthi Iyer that the lower court erred in not applying the provisions of the usurious Loans Act and reducing the 12 per cent compound interest charged by Subbiah Aiyar on those loans into a fair and reasonable rate.
He urged that 12 per cent compound Interest would certainly be penal, usurious and unconscionable, and that, in these enlightened days, any rate beyond 12 per cent simple interest would be unthinkable, and that we should, therefore, give only simple interest at 12 per cent per annum at the most, even if we did not hold in favour of 6 per cent, with counter interest at the same rate for payments made towards the loans, and grant a decree only for the balance.
He said that there was no stipulation In the promissory note or in the acknowledgments in the accounts to pay compound interest, the stipulation being only to pay simple interest at 1 per cent per month, i.e., at 12 per cent per year, but that Subbiah Aiyar, the money lender, had, in his avarice, cunningly claimed compound interest in the accounts, and added not only compound interest yearly but had added it at odd intervals, whenever the spirit moved him, and that Sadagopal had to sign In the accounts in spite of such unstipulated and irregular compound interest being added, because he required money badly and could not pay back the loans at once, and Was domineered and financially coerced by Subbiah Aiyar taking advantage of his helpless financial position.
Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar stated that it must be considered that, from 26th January 1950, the coming into operation of the Constitution of India and change-over to a state on the socialistic pattern, compound interest of any description would by itself be penal, usurious and unconscionable and should never be allowed by any court, whatever the state of affairs before the coming into operation of the Constitution of India was.
He also relied on the judgment of a Bench of this Court consisting of Govinda Menon and RamaswamI Gounder JJ. in Venkatarao v. Venkatratnam : AIR1952Mad872 where it was held that 12 per cent simple interest per annum was a very reasonable and proper rate of interest in India, as held by the Privy Council in Naraindas v. Abinash Chandar, 44 MLJ 728 : AIR 1922 PC 347 and that it was in their opinion also, a fair, proper and reasonable rate in Madras State,
So he urged that we should not allow anything more than 12 per cent simple interest, which he contended, has been, held under that ruling, to be The maximum rate allowable in any case in Madras State, especially because this was not a case where no security at all had been given, or where the debts were irrecoverable, but where the security of an insurance policy of Rs. 75000 had been given and also a varthamanam letter, agreeing to the lender's taking over the entire bus cervices, with all Its equipment and running it and Faking the net profits towards his dues till the debt was discharged, if the daily instalments were not regularly paid, as agreed to under Ex. A.8.
Mr. Venkatasubramaniam, for the plaintiff Parameswara Aiyar, urged that compound interest will not by itself become penal, usurious and unconscionable, as the provisions of the usurious Loans Act themselves only raise a presumption that such interest is penal, usurious and unconscionable regarding 'agriculturists.' within the meaning of that term in that Act, and not regarding all persons, and that even that presumption was rebuttable and was not conclusive.
He also urged that the ruling in : AIR1952Mad872 referred to a secured debt where the security was ample, and would not apply to a case, like this, of a shaky, uncertain, doubtful and worthless security. He pointed out also that a later Bench of this court had in Paramasiva Mudaliar v. Rangachariar : AIR1954Mad764 to which one of us was a party, had considered the ruling in : AIR1952Mad872 cited before it and refused to follow it as a binding ruling even in all cases of mortgage and had held that each case must be considered on its own merits, and had finally upheld in that appeal the ten per cent compound interest, with yearly rests, allowed by Basheer Ahmed Sayeed J. though it amounted to more than the 12 per cent simple interest, allowed in : AIR1952Mad872 (I).
He also pointed out that a Bench of this court, consisting of Varadachariar and Burn JJ. had, in Nageswara Ayyar v. Ramanathan Chettiar : AIR1935Mad468 allowed 18 per cent compound interest with yearly rests, when the contract was for 18 per cent compound interest with half yearly rests, and that the Privy Council had in Lala Balla Mal v. Ahad Shah. 35 M LJ 614 : AIR 1918 PC 249 allowed 50 per cent simple interest, and that it had allowed 15 per cent compound interest in Chethambaram Chetti v. Loo Than Poo, 1940 1 M LJ 68 : AIR 1940 PC 601 merely reducing 24 per cent compound interest to 15 per cent compound interest.
Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar pointed out that a Bench of this court consisting of Mack and Krishnaswami Nayudu JJ. had in Rajayya v. RamaChandra Rao : AIR1954Mad488 awarded only 9 per cent simple interest where the contract was for 9 per cent compound interest and that the Supreme Court had in Nageswaraswami v. Viswasundara Rao : 4SCR894 , reduced 71/2 per cent compound interest, to 7 1/2 per cent, simple interest and that we had recently in A. S. No- 349 and 361 of 1948 allowed only 12 per cent simple interest reducing it from 12 3/8 per cent compound interest.
28. From the various rulings cited before us, three propositions emerge:
1. No absolute maximum rate of interest, beyond which it will automatically become usurious or unconscionable, can be laid down, even after the coming into operation of the Constitution of India. Courts will have to see the circumstances of each case, and judge whether the rates in those circumstances will be penal, usurious and unconscionable.
Of course, there may be some cases where the rate is so excessive that there may be a conclusive presumption that it is penal, usurious or unconscionable, as where the rate is 100 per cent per annum, or it is compound interest at even 10 per cent per annum with daily rests. Even the Hindu law of damdupat where the ancient Hindu law givers held that no man can recover an interest more than the principal Itself at any given time, will not apply now to all cases.
Non-agriculturists, for instance, can be made to pay more than twice the principal in an appropriate case, where they have enjoyed the loan for several years and the -rate of interest is not penal, usurious and unconscionable, though we doubt whether, after the coming into operation of the Constitution of India, and in the spirit of the rulings after 1950, 50 per cent simple interest allowed by the Privy Council in 35 Mad LJ 614 : AIR 1918 PC 249 or ten times the principal money advanced will ever be allowed, where the loan was only of 20 years standing.
It was a ruling of 1918, when modern notions of social justice had not much play. In fact, in the days of Jagat Sait and Umichand, in the last quarter of the 18th century, the Supreme Court of Calcutta even held 75 per cent simple interest (an anna per rupee per month, even now charged by Kabuli money lenders to impecunious persons) advanced to princes and zamindars for uneconomic purposes could be recovered; as their successors would not be bound by the loans.
But, as the Hindu law givers have said, the law changes with the times, the laws of Manu being held to operate in the Krita age, of Gautama in the Treta age, of sankha and Likhita in the Dwapara age, and of Parasara in the Kali age. It is no use, therefore, relying on these old rulings allowing 75 per cent and 50 per cent simple interest or 18 or 15 per cent compound interest.
In normal cases, where the security is ample to cover the loan and there is no danger at all to the principal and interest, the court will hold more than 12 per cent simple interest to be excessive, as held by Govinda Menon and Ramaswami Goundar JJ. in : AIR1952Mad872 , and by us recently in A. S. Nos. 349 and 361 of 1948 (Mad) (Q), where the security is not so sound ten per cent compound interest can be allowed, as in : AIR1954Mad764 .
We doubt whether 15 per cent and 18 per cent compound interest will ever be allowed in these days in cases of secured debts where the security is ample, It may be that nine per cent or even 7 1/2 per cent simple interest may alone be allowed in exceptional cases where the security is very ample, and there is not the least danger to the principal or interest, and the money market is not tight, as in : AIR1954Mad488 and in the Supreme Court ruling in : 4SCR894 .
2. It cannot be said that compound interest, without more, by itself will be presumed to be penal, usurious and unconscionable, either regarding secured or unsecured debts, even after the coming into operation of the Constitution of India. It is obvious that three per cent compound interest, with yearly rests for a loan enuring for three or four years, will be more advantageous to the borrower than 12 per cent simple interest.
In such a case, no modern court of justice and equity will hold the compound interest at that rate to be penal, usurious and unconscionable. It is all a question of the circumstances of each case and how the interest works out in practice.
3. Where there is no security and the principal and interest are in danger and the borrower cannot get in the money market any loan even at 12 per cent simple interest, a court can allow something more than 12 per cent simple Interest per annum. No case has held to the contrary. Even in : AIR1952Mad872 , there was ample security. That is why the learned Judges held that 12 per cent simple interest per annum was quite sufficient.
It is also clear that, even in the borrower's interest, a slightly higher rate than 12 per cent per annum should be allowed by courts in such cases, as otherwise the borrowers may get no loan whatever from any one and may not be able to start any trade or business and eke out their living,
29. In ancient Hindu law, the just Interest was held to be 11/4 per cent per annum (See Vyasa and Kautilya) where there was no risk to the principal and interest, though 5 per cent per month was allowed for risky commercial loans, and ten per cent per month for very risky loans to timber contractors in the impenetrable forests, and even twenty per cent per month for hopelessly speculative loans to ocean and overseas traders, subject in all cases to the overriding proposition of damdupat, which disabled any lender from recovering more than twice the amount of the principal at any given time.
But more than two thousand years have passed since those rates were fixed, and 12 per cent simple interest per annum has been now held by the Privy Council and our High Courts as the just and reasonable interest where there is ample security and, therefore, no risk, and slightly higher rates where there are risks.
30. It is often the case that a man with no resources has yet the ability to buy goods in the market and sell them within a few days at 20 to 25 per cent profit which he cannot make unless he gets a loan and nobody will give him a loan even at 12 per cent simple interest. In such a case it will be profitable for him to pay a little more interest, say even upto 18 3/4 per cent per annum.
Many a man buys vegetables in the shandies with money borrowed at 18 3/4 per cent per annum and sells them within 24 to 48 hours at a profit of 20 to 25 per cent. It cannot be said that in such cases interest of even 18 3/4 per cent per annum (charged in the country parts even today on loans to impecunious creditors) will be penal and usurious or unconscionable, as he gets a good balance as profit for himself alter paying such interest.
While we cannot therefore, agree with Mr. Venkatasubramania Aiyar that simply because the borrower gets high profits by investing the Joan in business he can be made to pay 15 or 18 per cent compound interest, much less 50 to 75 per cent simple interest, as held in the old cases, we are of opinion that 12 1/2 per cent to 183/4 per cent simple interest or 2 or 3 pies per rupee per month, may be quite reasonable in such cases.
31. It is clear to us that the argument that Subbiah Aiyar was always lending only at 12 per cent compound interest, and that this company and others were always borrowing only at 12 per cent compound interest will not be a weighty circumstance to be taken into account when considering the fair and reasonable rate of interest, or whether the contract rate is excessive.
A usurer's habitual interest is no test to go by, and a helpless borrower's agreeing to that usurious interest will be equally no test to go by, in these days when India has resolved to become a State on the socialistic pattern and to bring about social justice, regardless of contracts willingly and knowingly entered into by the parties. That is why the Zamindari Abolition Act, the Madras Agriculturists Belief Act, the Temple Entry Act, etc. have been passed, though they have to some extent ridden roughshod over contracts and customs.
32. After carefully considering the entire circumstances in this case, we are of opinion that simple interest at 12 per cent per annum throughout should be allowed on the loans advanced by Subbiah Aiyar, with counter-interest at the same rate on the amounts paid back, and that the decrees passed against the company and Sadagopal should be modified accordingly, and costs allowed on the amounts found thus due, with subsequent interest at 6 per cent per annum On the principal and interest, from 17-12-1950 till realisation, and the rest of the suit dismissed without costs.
The lower court has allowed only six per cent per annum from the date of the plaint and there has been no appeal or memorandum of cross objections regarding it, arid, so we confirm that rate even regarding the period from the filing of the plaint till the date of the decree.
Mr. Ramamurthi Aiyar represented to us that he had filed in the lower court a statement, Ex. B.58, showing that, if 12 per cent simple interest were to be allowed on the loans, and counter interest at the same rate on the repayments, the defendants would be entitled to a total relief of Rs. 32989-6-0 regarding Exs. A.6 and A.7 (leaving out Ex. A. 1) and that the learned counsel for the plaintiff had accepted the working out in Ex. B.58 as correct, though he had demurred to the reduction of the interest 12 per cent simple interest per annum.
So, he stated that we can adopt this figure as the basis, and work out the relief due to the defendants under the decree including Ex. A.1 also, at the rate of 12 1/2 per cent simple interest per annum, and counter interest at the same rate. Doubtless, when drafting the decree, the office will bear this in mind, but will, of course, work out the correct figures independently, on the basis of this judgment.
It will work out the interest and counter interest at 12 1/2 per cent per annum from 17-8-1945 and deduct Rs. 262000 paid by Sreenivasaga on 9-12-1947.
33. With the above modification regarding therate of interest, A. S. No. 340 of 1952 will be dismissed. The first respondent, Parameswara Aiyar,Will get his proportionate costs on the amountallowed by us from the company and Sadagopal,the appellant and the second respondent, who willbear their own costs.