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Kolavakolanu Seetanna and ors. Vs. Poddri Narayana Murthi Somayajulu - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLimitation
CourtChennai
Decided On
Judge
Reported in57Ind.Cas.982
AppellantKolavakolanu Seetanna and ors.
RespondentPoddri Narayana Murthi Somayajulu
Cases ReferredJacob v. Down
Excerpt:
award - provisions in award not made decree of court, whether binding--indemnity clause, breach of--cause of action, accrual of--limitation act (ix of 1908), schedule i, article 83--damages, suit for--costs incurred in meeting litigation, inclusion of--contract act (ix of 1872), section 124. - - there is no doubt that the principle is well recognised that a mere benefit secured by a document would not give the party to whom the benefit is given a cause of action against a person who is placed under an obligation :vide also raghubar rai v. we fail to see why, because a portion of the award could not be embodied in the decree of the court for the reason that the subject matter of the suit was not dealt with in that portion, there should be any difference in principle......1 and 2 and narainswamy were made parties. the 2nd defendant in that suit pleaded that there were family debts and without apportioning the debts the share of one of the brothers purchased from the 1st defendant should not be partitioned. there were other pleas also raised by him. in there circumstances the parties agreed to refer their disputes to arbitration during the pendency of the suit. to this reference the 1st and 2nd defendants and narainswamy were all parties. an award was given by the arbitrators, exhibit ei, in 1900. thereupon a decree e2 was passed in the suit. naturally the decree only related to that portion of the claim which subbarayadu wanted to enforce. the portion of the award which dealt with the rights of the members of the family inter se was not embodied in the.....
Judgment:

1. The facts are somewhat complicated and, therefore, we must state them before dealing with the questions of law arising in the case. Defendants Nos. 1 and 2 and one Krishnamma were members of an undivided family. Krishnamma died leaving a son, Narainswamy. The 1st defendant sold his share in the family property to the plaintiff by Exhibit A in 1898. The plaintiff conveyed that share to one Subbarayudu by Exhibit B in 1899. Subbarayudu brought a suit to recover the one-third share belonging to the 1st defendant. To that suit defendants Nos. 1 and 2 and Narainswamy were made parties. The 2nd defendant in that suit pleaded that there were family debts and without apportioning the debts the share of one of the brothers purchased from the 1st defendant should not be partitioned. There were other pleas also raised by him. In there circumstances the parties agreed to refer their disputes to arbitration during the pendency of the suit. To this reference the 1st and 2nd defendants and Narainswamy were all parties. An award was given by the arbitrators, Exhibit EI, in 1900. Thereupon a decree E2 was passed in the suit. Naturally the decree only related to that portion of the claim which Subbarayadu wanted to enforce. The portion of the award which dealt with the rights of the members of the family inter se was not embodied in the decree but was simply recorded. One of the terms of the award, which is the clause we have to consider, is in those terms, 'that the 2nd defendant do himself bear all the debts alleged to have been incurred by him for family purposes, that the debts incurred by defendants Nos. 1 and 3 be borne by themselves, that the 2nd defendant himself do bear the debts he had agreed to pay, the debts which he undertook in writing and the debts referred to by him in his statement and lists A, B, C and D filed by him and defendants Nos. 1 and 3 shall have nothing to do with them.' That is in paragraph 10. Another portion of the award which must be referred to is in paragraph 11 and it is in these terms: 'The share of the 1st defendant must be put in possession of the plaintiff in the place of the 1st defendant,' and this award was given in 1900. Subbarayadu subsequent to this award and decree after obtaining possession of his one-third share reconveyed the property to the plaintiff by Exhibit F--that was in the year 1901.

2. In 1901 one K. Venkata Reddi, alleging that there was a mortgage debt due to him from the 2nd defendant who had contracted the debt on behalf of the family, brought a suit, Original Suit No. 481 of 1901. To that suit the mortgagor, 2nd defendant, was a party. A decree was obtained and in pursuance of that decree Venkata Reddy purchased the property and became the owner. Meanwhile the plaintiff had recourse to another of the transactions with which this case has been complicated, namely, he sold the property to one Veerasawmi in 1902. After the purchase by Venkata Reddy of the property mortgaged he brought a suit for the delivery of the one-third share of the mortgagor, the 2nd defendant. This was in 1905. To this suit Veerasawmi, the purchaser from the plaintiff, was a party. Venkata Reddy obtained a decree in 1909 and obtained possession in April 1911 and in consequance of that decree Veeraswami was deprived of possession and thereupon Vearasawmi brought a suit against the plaintiff for damages for breach of covenant and he obtained a decree in 1915. Plaintiff had to pay Rs. 838 and odd in satisfaction of the decree. The present suit was instituted by the plaintiff against the 2nd defendant in 1916 for damages for breach of the obligation imposed on the 2nd defendant by the award and for damages which have been caused to him by being obliged to compensate Veerasawmi. Two questions arise for decision under these circumstances. The first is, is there a cause of action to the plaintiff against the 2nd defendant? The second is, is the suit against 2nd defendant barred by limitation? The first Court dismissed the suit, holding that the suit was barred by limitation and that there was no cause of action to the plaintiff against the 2nd defendant. The Subordinate Judge reversed that decree and decreed the plaintiff's claim. This second appeal is against the decision of the Subordinate Judge.

3. Mr. Somasundaram in a very elaborate argument contended that the plaintiff has no cause of action against the 2nd defendant. His contention is that the covenant, if there is one, in Exhibit E1, the award, is a personal one, that the 1st defendant alone is entitled to take advantage of it, that it would not pass to an assignee of the 1st defendant and that, consequently, there is no privity of contract between the plaintiff and the 2nd defendant. He relies on Mannath Veettil Itti Panku Menon v. Dharman Achan 43 Ind. Cas 625 : 41 M. 488 : 22 M.L.T. 543 : (1918) M.W.N. 98 : 34 M.L.J. 193 : 8 L.W. 118 in which a majority of Judges of this Court have held following Tweddle v. Atkinson (1861) 124 R.R. 610 : 1 B. & S. 393 : 30 L.J. Q.B. 265 : 8 Jur. (N. s.) 332 : 4 L.T. (N.S.) 468 : 9 W. K.781 : 121 E.R. 762 that the mere fact that a benefit is accrued is not a ground for giving a third party a right of suit on a contract to which he was no party. There is no doubt that the principle is well recognised that a mere benefit secured by a document would not give the party to whom the benefit is given a cause of action against a person who is placed under an obligation : vide also Raghubar Rai v. Jaij Rai 14 Ind. Cas. 244 :34 A.P 429 : 9 A.L.J. 534 and Gopala Aiyar v. Ramaswami Sastrigal 10 Ind. Cas 320 : 22 M.L.J. 207 : 10 M.L.T. 496. But in the present case it is not a case of mere benefit being secured to the plaintiff as against the 2nd defendant. The 2nd defendant expressly pleaded in toe suit that without apportioning the family debts to the various members of the family a decree for the share of the 1st defendant should not be given to the plaintiff. It was in these circumstances that the matter was referred to the decision of arbitrators. It was not denied by Mr. Somasundram that, if there was a suit for partition to which the alienees were made parties and if under the decree in that suit the equities between the alienees and the members of the family were adjusted by embodying a covenant of this kind, the aliences would be entitled to bring a suit for the breach of it. We fail to see why, because a portion of the award could not be embodied in the decree of the Court for the reason that the subject matter of the suit was not dealt with in that portion, there should be any difference in principle. The award of the arbitrators is as binding on the parties to the reference as if it were a decree of Court. No doubt, if it, becomes a decree of Court it could be executed Barring that, an award is binding on the parties as if there has been a decree of Court. In these circumstances we are of opinion that there was covenant in this case to which the 2nd defendant has submitted himself and that covenant enured to the benefit not only of the 1st defendant but to all persons claiming under the 1st defendant. The plaintiff in terms was given the share of the 1st defendant by the award. For these reasons we are of opinion that there was a cause of action to the plaintiff against the 2nd defendant.

4. The 2nd question is whether the suit is barred by limitation. The learned Vakil for the appellants mainly relied upon Dorasinga Tevar v. Arunachalam Chetti 23 M. 441 : 8 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 709 and the decisions following it, and argued that if there was an obligation under the award it was broken as soon as it was made or within a reasonable time after the promise and that the suit ought to have been brought within three years of the promise or three years after the lapse of a reasonable time from the date of the award. As was pointed out already, this class of cases stands, upon a peculiar footing. They must be understood as if there was the relationship of principal and agent between the contracting parties and it must be taken that it was held in the decisions referred to that where an agent does not carry out the terms of the contract the principal is entitled to recover the money. Therefore, if without waiting to see whether he was damnified the principal brings a suit, such a snit should not be regarded as premature. That is the ratio decidendi in Doraisinga Tevar v. Arunachalam Chetti 23 M.P 441 : 8 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 709 The same observation applies to Baghttnatha Chariat v. Sadagopa Chariar 12 Ind. Cas. 353 : 36 M.P 348 : (1911) 2 M.W.N. 227 : 10 M.L.T. 300 : 21 M.L.J. 983, Gopala Aiyar v. Ramaswami Sastrigal 10 Ind. Cas 320 : 22 M.L.J. 207 : 10 M.L.T. 496 The question for our consideration in this case is what is the nature of the undertaking which the 2nd defendant entered into under this award--is it purely a personal undertaking or a covenant in the language of Sadasiva Iyar, J. in Bhavani v. Anantha Kamthi 35 Ind. Cas. 789 : 31 M.L.J. 556 : 20 M.L.T. 263 : (1916) 2 M.W.N. 244 : 4 L.W. 357 undertaking to do any act absolutely within a particular period? In the latter case it was held that if the absolute obligation was not fulfilled, there would be a cause of action immediately and a suit should be brought within three years. But in our opinion the undertaking given in this case is not an undertaking to do an act absolutely and within a particular time. Therefore, Dorai-singa Tevar v. Arunachalam Chetti 23 M.P 441 : 8 Ind. Dec. (N.S.) 709 and Gopala Aiyar v. Ramamami Sastrigal 10 Ind. Cas 320 : 22 M.L.J. 207 : 10 M.L.T. 496 have no direct bearing upon the case. Then it was argued by citation of English authorities that the moment there was a breach of the covenant the liability to pay compensation arose and that the plaintiff was not entitled to wait until he was damnified. To the first place the English cases refer to two classes of covenants, one a covenant which is in the nature of a contrast for the breach of which there would be a cause of action at once : the second which is in the nature of a stipulation for quiet enjoyment, in which case the cause of action would arise not at the moment when the covenant is entered into but only when the breach of the stipulation occurs. Battley v. Faulkner (1820) 3 B. & And 288 : 106 E.R. 668 : 22 R.R. 390 Howll v. Young (1826) 108 B.R. 97 : 8 D. & R. 14 : 5 B. & C. 259 : 4 L.J. (O.S.) K.B. 160 : 2 C. & P. 238 : 29 R.R. 237 : Smith v. Fox (1848) 6 Hare. 386 : 17 L.J. Ch. 170 : 12 Jur. 130 : 77 R.R. 152 : 67 E.R. 1216. and East India Co. v. Oditchurn Paul (1849) 7 Moo. P.C. 85 : 14 Jur. 253 : 18 E.R. 811 : 5 M.I.A. 43 : 1 Sar P.C. J. 394 : 18 E.R. 810 are all cases belonging to this class. But the present covenant does not come under either of the above two categories. It is really in the nature of an indemnity clause : and as was pointed out in Parvataneni Venkataramayya v. Lanka Rambrahman 47 Ind. Cas. 92 : 35 M.L.J. 134 : 8 L.W. 142 : 24 M.L.T. 104, the cases of indemnity differ materially from cases of covenants : in the former case it is only when the parties are damnified or when damage is sustained a cause of action arises. It was also pointed out in that case, following Jacob v. Down (1900) 2 Ch. 156 : 69 L.J. Ch. 493 : 83 L.T. 191 : 45 W.R. 441 : 64 J.P. 552 that a mere breach of one of the terms in the indemnity clause does not start the cause of action at once but that it is open to the party to waive the right and to wait till he is damnified. In the present case the covenant was entered into to relieve the 1st defendant and his assignees from all liability for debts contracted on behalf of the family. It is only when a suit was brought by the creditor to enforce an obligation which is binding on the family that the cause of action can be said to have arisen. Beading the clause in questions an indemnity clause, it is only when the plaintiff actually suffered damages he became entitled to sue for reparation. It was not, therefore, until Veeraswami brought a suit to recover damages and the plaintiff was compelled to meet that decree that, he was damnified. That was in 1915 and the suit was brought within 3 years from that date. The Article applicable to this case is Article S3 and the suit having been brought within 3 years of the damages, it is within time.

5. Mr. Somasundaram raises lastly the question of quantum of damages and contends that what was awarded by the lower Court was excessive. His argument is that as the 2nd defendant's undertaking was to pay the debts, he was only bound to pay the amount of debt and interest thereon. But as Mr. Narayanamurthi points out, under Section 124 of the Contract Act the costs which a man incurs in meeting a litigation are a portion of the damages which he is entitled to recover from the party who is bound to indemnify him. Therefore, the amount of damages awarded is not excessive in this case.

6. For all these reasons we agree with the lower Appellate Court and dismiss the second appeal with costs.


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