(1) The only question argued in this second appeal is whether the money for the recovery of which the suit was instituted was 'money lent under an agreement that it shall be payable on demand', or whether it was 'money deposited under an agreement that it shall be payable on demand'. If the former, Art. 59 of the Limitation Act would apply and the suit would be barred by limitation. If the latter, Art. 60 would apply and the suit would be in time.
(2) Both the lower Courts have held that the suit was, as regards limitation, governed by Art. 60 and was in time.
(3) The plaintiff is a Nattukottai Chettiar woman by name Meenakshi Achi. The defendant is a Nattukottai Chettiar money-lender. The money which he received from her was her stridhanam. When he received the money, he gave her the document Ex. A. 1. It may be thus translated:
'Credit Meenakshi Achi (plaintiff) wife of Meyyappa Chettiar and debit S. Kr. A. Kr. Adappa Chettiar (defendant) Rs. 4,000. The said sum of Rs. 4,000 will be paid on demand, with interest at.......... per cent per annum.'
The document is dated 29-8-1941, is signed by the defendant and is stamped with four one anna revenue stamps. It contains a postcript that the ''thavanai'' agreed on was 12 months.
(4) The plaintiff's son-in-law as P.W. 1 stated that the money was voluntarily deposited with the defendant. The defendant as D.W. 1 stated that he asked for and obtained the money as loan. Both the lower Courts accepted the evidence of P.W. 1 that the money was deposited. But since the question whether the money was received as a deposit or as a loan is a mixed question of law and fact, the lower Court's finding that the money was received as a deposit cannot be said to be a question of fact which should necessarily be accepted in second appeal. The question remains for determination by this Court on the language of the document and the circumstances in which the money was received by the defendant from the plaintiff.
(5) The document passed by the defendant to the plaintiff specifies the rate of interest which the principal would carry and contains an express promise to repay. In Suleman Haji v. Haji Abdulla , the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council considered a bailment of money which they held was a deposit. In arriving at the conclusion that the money had been deposited, their Lordships said:
'The appellate Court noted the total absence, on admitted facts, of features one or more of which it would have expected to be present, had these bailments or any of them been a loan, the absence namely, of any security for the alleged loans, of any receipt in writing, of any promissory note, or of any agreement as to what rate of interest the loan was to carry. If any one of these bailments had been a loan it would have been reasonable to expect it to be attended by one or other of these things.'
In the case before us, we have a document acknowledging receipt of the money and containing a promise to pay the money on demand with interest at a specified rate. These circumstances, argues the appellant's learned counsel, show unmistakably that the money was lent and not deposited. Their Lordships of the Privy Council did not say, in the passage quoted above that, if there was a document acknowledging receipt of money and promising to repay the money with interest at a specified rate, the transaction should necessarily be regarded as a loan and not as a deposit. There might indeed be cases where the document acknowledging receipt of the money expressly states that the money was received as a deposit payable on demand and at the same time contains a promise to pay the money with interest at a specified rate.
It would plainly be wrong in a case of that kind to hold that the money was received as a loan because the document contains a promise to pay the money interest at a specified rate, notwithstanding that the document expressly states that the money was received as a deposit under the agreement that it shall be payable on demand. Therefore, while the presence or absence in a document of a promise to repay the money with interest at a specified rate would be material in considering whether the money was received as a deposit or as a loan, that circumstance would not be conclusive on that question. In this case, the circumstance that the document contains a promise to repay the money with interest at a specified rate should be duly taken note of in deciding whether the money was received as a deposit or as a loan.
On that question, the language of the instrument is significant. It does not speak of the money received as money borrowed. What on the other hand, the document says is that the money was credited to the plaintiff and debited to the defendant. These obviously are terms used with reference to the books of account that the defendant was maintaining. The document states in effect that, in the defendant's books of account, the plaintiff was credited with Rs. 4,000 and that, in the ledger folios relating to the capital invested by him, there was a debit of Rs. 4,000 showing that the money had been received from her to be used in his money lending business. That statement in the document indicates plainly that the money was received by him in this capacity as a banker and that the transaction was a deposit of money.
(6) The document bears four one anna revenue stamps. That, in my opinion, was intended merely to ensure that, if sued on, no question of admissibility would be raised. The document states that the money was 'payable on demand'. Article 60 of the Limitation Act provides for suits for recovery of money deposited under an agreement that it shall be 'payable on demand'. The fact that the words 'payable on demand' are used in the instrument does not exclude the inference that the money was deposited, or lead to the inference that the money was lent.
(7) In so far as the language of the instrument differs from the language of the instrument considered in Murugappa Chetti v. Ramanathan Chetti : AIR1935Mad734 , the difference serves to emphasise the nature of the transaction as a deposit. The document in that case was in these terms:
'We have credited to your account Rs. 4,500 on 6th, Rs. 500 on 27th, amounting in all to Rs. 5,000. As agreed between us the said amount of Rs. 500 is credited for 12 months' thavanai, the rate of interest being one anna less the current new rate. So the said amount of Rs. 5,000 and interest will be paid to your order in 12 months' thavanai.'
There was no express term in that document that the money would be paid after the period of the 'thavanai'. But this Court held that a promise to pay the money on demand after the period of 'thavanai' could be implied that the money was received as a deposit, and that the suit for its recovery was, as regards limitation, governed by Art. 60. In the case before us, the document contains a promise that the money would be paid on demand and a postscript that '12 months' thavanai' had been agreed on. The document, thus, makes it clear that the money would be on fixed deposit not liable to be recalled within a period of 12 months and that thereafter it would be payable on demand.
The term relating to liability to repay on demand after the expiry of the 'thavanai' which was missing in the document considered in AIR 1935 Mad 734 and which was supplied by the Court, is expressly present in the instrument before us. In the light of the terms of the document. Ex. A. 1, the lower Courts were right in accepting the evidence of P.W. 1 and rejecting the evidence of the defendant. P.W. 1 says that the money was voluntarily paid to the defendant as a deposit. I accept that evidence as true.
(8) The lower Courts placed some reliance on the fact that, in the endorsements appearing on Ex. A. 1, the document is referred to as a letter. The decision in Arunachalam Chettiar v. Murugappa Chettiar : AIR1956Mad629 , notices that the expression 'letter' is used by Nattukottai Chettiars to denote promissory notes as well as other documents. That being so, nothing turns on the description of the document as a letter in the endorsements appearing on it.
(9) I hold that the lower Courts were right in the view that they took of the transaction, namely, that the money received by the defendant from the plaintiff was deposited by her under an agreement that it should be payable on demand and that the suit was, as regards limitation, governed by Art. 60 of the Limitation Act.
(10) The appeal is dismissed with costs. No leave.
(11) Appeal dismissed.