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The General Assurance Society Ltd., Calcutta Vs. M.S. Sivasami and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCommercial
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberAppeal No. 555 of 1966
Judge
Reported inAIR1974Mad257
ActsMarine Insurance Act, 1963 - Sections 57 and 57(1)
AppellantThe General Assurance Society Ltd., Calcutta
RespondentM.S. Sivasami and anr.
Cases ReferredIn Canada Rice Mills Ltd. v. Union Marine and General Insurance Co. Ltd.
Excerpt:
.....- - a-1 are not over-typed, whereas those words are clearly overtyped in the original ex. his evidence is that before the boat left the port, it was in good condition and that the holes were formed in the boat only as a result of rough sea. it is a well recoganised rule of construction of policy that it must be construed as a whole and that if where terms have been added to the printed policy, be treated as overriding the printed words and be deemed to be the final expression of the intention of the parties. , she travelled about 35 miles, that there prevailed strong wind followed by high waves, that the boat was tossed up and that on that account the joints of the planks gave way and leakage was caused. 3 stated in his examination-in-chief that there was storm and that the storm..........first defendant in its branch office at tuticorin, that originally the policy contained the words 'total loss only', that the said expression was scored out subsequently and the expression 'fpa with jettisoning' were added in addition to affixing a rubber stamp containing the words 'fpa and jettison due to stress weather only'. according to the first defendant, these corrections were made without the knowledge of the first defendant. it was therefore contended the policy was un-enforceable and that the plaintiff was not entitled to claim any remedy against the insurance company. it was also contended that if at all the plaintiff had any claim it should be only against the second defendant.3. the second defendant filed a separate written statement contending inter alia that she was an.....
Judgment:

Palaniswamy, J.

1. The General Assurance Society Limited, the first defendant in O. S. No.6 of 1963 on the file of the Subordinate Judge, Tuticorin, is the appellant. On 20-1-1962, the first respondent-plaintiff consigned 175 tons of garnet sand in the second respondent-second respondent's boat No.137 from Kulasekarapatnam to Bombay and insured the cargo with the appellant company. The boat left with the cargo on 20-1-1962. Alleging that on the morning of 21-1-1962 the boat encountered high seas and due to that rough water entered into the boat, that 100 tons of garnet had to be jettisoned, that when the boat was turned back to Kulasekarapatnam to unload the remaining cargo, there was high sea resulting in water entering into the boat and that therefore the remaining cargo had also to be jettisoned and that a protest was made regarding the same which was recorded by the concerned officer in Kulasekarapatnam port, the plaintiff laid the suit for recovery of Rs.11,025/-. Relief was claimed against the first defendant in the first instance. Alternatively relief was claimed against the second defendant in case it should be found that the first defendant is not liable.

2. The appellant-first defendant contended that the policy was materially altered by dishonest and fraudulent means by taking advantage of the ignorance and inexperience of the clerk of the first defendant in its branch office at Tuticorin, that originally the policy contained the words 'total loss only', that the said expression was scored out subsequently and the expression 'FPA with jettisoning' were added in addition to affixing a rubber stamp containing the words 'FPA and jettison due to stress weather only'. According to the first defendant, these corrections were made without the knowledge of the first defendant. It was therefore contended the policy was un-enforceable and that the plaintiff was not entitled to claim any remedy against the insurance company. It was also contended that if at all the plaintiff had any claim it should be only against the second defendant.

3. The second defendant filed a separate written statement contending inter alia that she was an unnecessary party to the suit and that she was not in any way liable for the suit claim.

4. The Court below, on a consideration of the evidence, found that the alleged tampering with the policy as put forward by the first defendant was not true, that all that was found in the policy was incorporated even at the time of issue, that the boat was sea-worthy when she left the port, that the jettisoning had to be done only on account of the leakage of water into the boat during voyage on account of stress of weather and that the plaintiff was entitled to suit amount. In the result, the suit was decreed with costs against the first defendant and the suit was against the second defendant was dismissed without costs. Hence this appeal.

5. Mr. Raghavachari, counsel appearing for the first defendant-appellant, put forward the following contentions:

(i) The finding of the Court below that the policy was not tampered with after it was issued is erroneous and this finding is opposed to the evidence and probabilities.

(ii) 'Total loss' for which alone the insurance company undertook to be liable did not occur as what was contemplated was loss due to the sinking of the boat itself and not loss that may be caused by jettisoning: and

(iii) In any event, the Court below should have held that inasmuch as the alleged jettisoning was made with a view to save the boat and the crew, the second defendant was also liable to contribute.

6. Ex. B-2 is the original policy issued to the plaintiff and Ex. A-1 is a copy of the same. In Ex. B-2 we no doubt find the words 'covering total loss only' typed in the first instance. But that expression is over-typed and below we find the expression 'warranted FPA including the risks of sling and craft'. Below this expression, we find the rubber stamp affixed containing the words 'Premium paid'. Further below, we find the following expression affixed in rubber stamp 'FPA and jettison due to stress weather only'. In Ex. A-1, the over-typing 'with' is seen above the expression 'covering total loss only', with the result, the said expression is not over-typed. Below that expression, we find the particulars found in Ex. B-2. This policy was issued by Thambiah Fernando, D.W. 1, the agent of the first defendant company, who was working in the Tuticorin branch. His evidence is that at the time when he issued Ex. B-2 there was no correction, that two days after the issue of Ex. B-2, he came to know through his clerk, Usman, D.W. 2, that a representative of the plaintiff came to the office and asked the corrections to be made and the said corrections were made by D.W. 2 without his knowledge. To show that there was no correction previously, he referred to Ex. B-15, which, according to him, was copy sent to the head office. No doubt, in that copy the words 'covering total loss only' are left intact and we find nothing below that expression. The question is whether Ex. B-2 was altered after it was issued. On a consideration of the evidence and probabilities of the case we have no doubt, in agreeing with the view of the Court below, that no correction was made after Ex. B-2 was issued. The evidence of the plaintiff is that one forwarding agent Soundarapandiyan brought the policy from the first defendant. He denied that after he got Ex. B-2 it was corrected as alleged by the first defendant. The evidence of the D.W. 1 is that he used to get blank policies signed from the head office without date, that at the time of issuing the policy, he used to fill up the particulars and dates and issue the policies to the parties, that four copies would be prepared that out of the four, two would be in printed form and two would be in plain sheets and that the printed copies would be given to the party and the plain sheet copies would be retained in office. His admission is that during his absence his clerk would not issue policies. He claims to have known about the alleged alteration a day after the issue. But significantly he did not protest by writing a letter to the plaintiff stating that the corrections were made illegally without his knowledge. This extraordinary conduct is not explained. D.W. 1 claims to have informed his head office by writing a letter on 24-1-1962. But significantly, though he is maintaining a despatch register, admittedly he did not give the despatch number as regards the letter said to have been addressed to the head office. The version of D.W. 1 is that more amount should have been paid as premium if the words now found therein had been typed in the original itself and that only less amount was collected. If really corrections had been made without the knowledge of D.W. 1, he would have not only protested to writing a letter to the plaintiff but would have called upon the plaintiff to pay the difference. No such claim was made. In Ex. B-2 it is noted that premium had been paid. It has to be presumed that correct amount of premium was paid. D.W. 2, who is said to have made the corrections, is a clerk of D.W. 1. Though he is said to have been called upon to explain for his alleged conduct in correcting, no punishment was imposed on him. Far from imposing a punishment, he has been given an increment and still he continues in the service of D.W. 1. A perusal of the evidence of D.W. 2 shows that it is utterly unbelievable. He says that a person, whose name he did not know, brought Ex. B-2 and asked him to make the alterations and that because the said person pressed him to make the alterations, he had no alternative except to oblige him by making the necessary corrections. It is his admission that without the instruction of his master, D.W. 1, he would not type the policies. On the face of it, it is unbelievable that D.W. 2 would have obliged an unknown person by making material alterations in a valuable document. We have no doubt that the story that the policy was altered is unacceptable.

7. No doubt, the words 'covering total loss only' found in the copy Ex. A-1 are not over-typed, whereas those words are clearly overtyped in the original Ex. B-2. No adverse inference can be drawn against the plaintiff on that account. A perusal of the position of the typed matter as seen in Ex. B-2 and Ex. A-1 would show that in the process of taking copies, Ex. A-1 should have been placed in a lower position, with the result, when overtyping was made on the expression 'covering total loss only' in the original Ex. B-2, the carbon impression of Ex. A-1 fell above the expression 'covering total loss only' found in the Ex. A-1. We are unable to place any reliance upon Ex. B-15, said to be the plain copy sent by D.W. 1 to his head office. On the evidence we find, agreeing with the trial Court, that the policy was not altered as contended by the first defendant.

8. Mr. Raghavachari next contended that the loss was not due to storm but was said to be due to rough sea and leakage and that it is likely that the boat itself had holes before she was put on sea. There is no warrant for this argument. P.W. 3 was the tindal of the boat in question. His evidence is that before the boat left the port, it was in good condition and that the holes were formed in the boat only as a result of rough sea. Not a single question was put to him in cross-examination to suggest that the boat was leaky even before she was put on the sea. In the absence of such a suggestion and also in the absence of specific plea to that effect in the written statement, the counsel was not entitled to advance an argument without any basis.

9. It was next contended by Mr. Raghavachari that 'total loss' means total loss due to the destruction of the carrier itself and not loss due to jettisoning. In support of this argument he referred to Section 57 of the Marine Insurance Act, 1963. Sub-section (1) of that section, which is relevant for consideration in this context, reads thus :

'57(1) Actual total loss:--(1) Where the subject-matter insured is destroyed or so damaged as to cease to be a thing of the kind insured, or where the assured is irretrievable deprived thereof, there is an actual total loss.'

The argument of Mr. Raghavachari was that the expression 'irretrievably deprived thereof' means irretrievably deprived of the subject-matter on account of the total loss of the carrier. We find no warrant for this argument. We asked the counsel to support this argument with reference to any decided case. In spite of out putting a specific question in this respect, the counsel was unable to site any authority and stated that his investigation did not help him to trace any authority to support the argument. As the plain language of the section stands, there is no warrant for the contention that only in case of total loss of the cargo and the carrier, the assured is entitled to claim relief for the total loss of the cargo.

10. Mr. Raghavachari next contended that 'covering total loss only', which was the only condition stipulated, would not include loss due to jettisoning and that the said clause alone should be applied in considering the rights and liabilities of the parties. This argument is based upon the assumption that the policy was issued containing only the clause 'covering total loss only'. We have already pointed out that this expression was, though originally typed, scored out subsequently and the expression 'warranted FPA including the risks of sling and draft' was incorporated in addition to the expression 'FPA and jettison due to stress weather only'. The policy is in a printed form. It contains among other things, this expression 'And touching the adventures and perils which the Capital stocks and funds of the said Society are made liable unto or are intended to be made liable....... they are of the seas, men of war, fire...... jettisons.......'. Therefore, the policy contemplates liability of the company even for jettison. Total loss may be due to jettison also. Jettison is the voluntary sacrifice in time of peril of something in or upon the ship, by throwing it overboard, with the intention of preserving the residue of the ship and cargo. Even if we concede for the sake of argument that the policy was for 'total loss only', still total loss on account of jettison would also be covered by the said expression. It is a well recoganised rule of construction of policy that it must be construed as a whole and that if where terms have been added to the printed policy, be treated as overriding the printed words and be deemed to be the final expression of the intention of the parties. When there is no inconsistency between the added words and the printed words, both should be given effect to. Therefore, the expression 'covering total loss only' does not exclude loss of the entire cargo on account of jettisoning.

11. The circumstances under which the cargo was jettisoned were spoken to by P.W. 3. His evidence is that after the boat left at about 5 a.m., she travelled about 35 miles, that there prevailed strong wind followed by high waves, that the boat was tossed up and that on that account the joints of the planks gave way and leakage was caused. His evidence is that despite his efforts to pump out the water, the water could not be pumped out and that, therefore, he had to jettison half the goods into the sea. His further evidence is that the boat was directed towards Kulasekarapatnam, that while going to Kulasekarapatnam also large quantities of water entered into the boat and that he had to anchor the boat near Manakkatuvilai. His evidence is that he went to the shore in a life boat to engage kattumaran and labourers, and that as none was available he had to proceed to Kulasekarapatnam and there he lodged a protest and after returning he found it impossible to pump out the water from the boat completely and therefore he had to jettison the remaining goods also. Therefore he went back to Kulasekarapatnam and gave a second report. The first report is Ex. B-3 dated 22-1-1962 and the second report is Ex. B-4 dated 24-1-1962. The circumstances under which the cargo had to be jettisoned in two instalments as spoken to by P.W. 3 are set out in clear terms in Exs. B-3 and B-4. Though P.W. 3 referred to these documents in his evidence in examination-in-chief, not a single question was put to him in cross-examination with reference to these documents. Therefore, what P.W. 3 stated in his evidence cannot be said to be an afterthought, as that is consistent with the earliest statements contained in Exs. B-3 and B-4. Mr. Raghavachari brought to our notice that though P.W. 3 stated in his examination-in-chief that there was storm and that the storm lasted for about 43 minutes, in cross-examination he stated that there was no storm, but there was only heavy wind like storm. P.W. 3 also stated that the heavy wind continued for about 45 minutes while returning. The sum and substance of his evidence is that there was heavy wind resulting in high waves which tossed the boat causing leakage. The policy covers among other things losses and misfortunes. The loss caused by the jettisoning due to high winds causing leakage in the boat is undoubtedly a misfortune, for which provision is contained in the policy. The plaintiff, on whom the burden of proof lay, satisfactorily established the circumstances under which jettisoning had to be done.

12. Mr. Raghavachari placed considerable reliance upon Ex. B-8, which is an extract from the Daily Log of the port of Kulasekarapatnam for the period from 20th to 22nd and 24th of January, 1962 showing the direction of the wind, general weather condition, barometer reading, thermometer reading and the state of sea. As against the date of 20th the state of the sea is stated to be 'smooth' at 8 a.m., and 'slight' at 4 p.m. Similar entries are made as regards 22nd January, 1962. As against 24th January, the state of the sea was to be 'slight' at 8 a.m. and 'moderate' at 4 p.m. Placing reliance upon these results Mr. Raghavachari contended that the evidence of P.W. 3 that there was heavy wind cannot be believed. We are unable to accept this argument. Ex. D-2 gives only the reading as recorded at the port of Kulasekarapatnam. The evidence of P.W. 3 is that he encountered with the heavy winds after the boat travelled about 35 miles from the port. There is no evidence to show that the condition of the sea even at a place 35 miles away from the port was or should have been the same as that prevailed in Kulasekarapatnam.

13. Mr. Raghavachari contended that it is not safe to place reliance upon the uncorroborated evidence of P.W. 3. He submitted that the plaintiff should have examined someone else also among the crew to corroborate the evidence of P.W. 3. His submission was that the evidence of P.W. 3 was interested in that he was an employee of the second defendant. We are unable to appreciate this argument. If the evidence of P.W. 3 is liable to be rejected on the ground that it is interested, then the evidence of any other member of the crew is also liable to be rejected for the same reason. As we have already pointed out, the evidence of P.W. 3 is consistent with his earliest statements contained in Exs. B-3 and B-4. We hold that the plaintiff has satisfactorily established that he sustained loss of the entire cargo on account of the leakage caused in the boat as a result of high winds.

14. The last argument which Mr. Raghavachari advanced was that the first defendant alone was not liable, as, according to the evidence of P.W. 3, the cargo had to be jettisoned in order to save the boat and the crew. His submission was that the liability for the loss should be shared by defendants 1 and 2. No such contention was put forward in the written statement and no argument also appears to have been advanced before the Court below on this aspect. As a matter of fact, no specific ground is taken in the appeal memorandum in this appeal. The second defendant has not been put on notice of this claim so far and therefore it is not open to the counsel for the appellant to urge a ground, which, if accepted would throw a liability on the second defendant without giving an opportunity to the second defendant. We, therefore, do not accept this argument.

15. We have already found that the boat was sea-worthy at the time when she was put on waters and that the leakage in the boat occurred only as a result of high winds. We have also found that the tindal had to jettison the cargo in order to save the boat and the crew. We should think that he was prudent in jettisoning, for, he did not straightway jettison the entire cargo in the first instance itself. He jettisoned only a part hoping perhaps that he could take the boat safely to the shore with the rest of the cargo. But finding that he could not do so, he had to jettison the remaining part of the cargo also. No blame can be attached to him. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the loss was not due to any fault on the part of the crew. The loss was due to the jettisoning which became inevitable in the circumstances. In Canada Rice Mills Ltd. v. Union Marine and General Insurance Co. Ltd. AIR 1941 PC 68 the ventilators of a ship during voyage were closed to prevent incursion of sea water and the closing of the ventilators damaged the rice cargo by causing it to heat and ferment. The question arose whether the loss was due to the perils of the sea. Their Lordships of the Judicial Committee held that though the loss was not strictly recoverable as a loss by perils of the seas, still it was within the general words 'all other perils, losses and misfortunes' etc., which were contained in the policy, as in the instant case, and held that damages were recoverable. The same principle applies to this cargo also.

16. In the result, the appeal fails and is dismissed with costs of the plaintiff.

17. Appeal dismissed.


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