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The South Indian Bank Ltd., by Its General Manager, M.G.P. Nambiar Vs. V. Krishna Chettiar and Brother by Its Partner V.K. Palaniappan and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1975)2MLJ431
AppellantThe South Indian Bank Ltd., by Its General Manager, M.G.P. Nambiar
RespondentV. Krishna Chettiar and Brother by Its Partner V.K. Palaniappan and ors.
Cases ReferredSatyanarayanamurthy v. Gangayya
Excerpt:
- .....and even then, the learned judge was satisfied that the movables which formed part of a separate schedule cannot be treated as immovable property and dealt with, as such. the learned judge went on to say 'it also appears to us that on the construction of mortgage deeds the machinery specified in schedule 'c 'was mortgaged not as part of or passing with the immovable property, but independently as immovable property'. we are, therefore in the instant case unable to agree with the contention of the learned counsel for the respondents that the machinery in the instant case should. be considered as movable, which got imbedded to earth so as to metamorphose itself into in movable property and be treated as such, for purposes of this discussion.23. the trial court, therefore, was wrong.....
Judgment:

T. Ramaprasada Rao, J.

1. The plaintiff in O.S. No. 85 of 1966 on the file of the Subordinate Judge, Salem, is the appellant. Defendants 2 to 8, as partners of a registered partnership firm, known as V. Krishna Chettiar and Brother had on application obtained financial aid from the plaintiff-Bank under four different heads, such as Key Loan Advances, Gash Credit Open Loans, Bills Purchases Account, and Cheques Discounting Account. From time to time, under one or other of the Heads of Advances, moneys were lent by the plaintiff-Bank to the partnership firm. The partnership was running an oil mill and a Ginning Factory. The premises in which the machinery of the mill and the factory was situate belonged to some of the partners of the line. But, in connection with the advances made by the Bank to the partnership firm in connection with the partnership business, two kinds of securities were offered by the partners-The first one was under Exhibit A-24, dated 113th May, 1964, wherein some of the partners of the firm, who are the owners of the premises, which contained the machinery deposited the title deeds of the premises at Coimbatore, with the intention of creating an equitable mortgage thereon. The other security which they offered was under Exhibit A-29, dated 20th May, 1964, which was in connection with an express loan granted by the Bank to the tune of Rs. 80,000 on a hypothecation of the machineries and movables contained in the mill premises, but delineated in a particular schedule attached to Exhibit A-29, which was the deed of hypothecation.

2. The case of the plaintiff is that the defendants were operating on the various accounts under which financial aid was given by the Bank to the partnership firm. Originally, the rate of interest at which the amount so advanced by the Bank was repayable by the defendants, was agreed to at 9 per cent, per annum with quarterly rests. Later, admittedly, under Exhibit A-33, having regard to the increased demand in the rate of interest by the Reserve Bank of India, the rate of interest was increased from 9 per cent, to 11 per cent. per annum. The plaintiff has come to Court for the realisation of the amount due and payable by the defendants under the various heads of account and under which advances were made by the Bank to the defendants' partnership firm. The suit was laid for the recovery of a sum of Rs. 1,52,941-50 made up of a sum of Rs. 83,941-77 on the Cash Credit Open Loan and a sum of Rs. 66,725-20 under the Fully Secured Account and a sum of Rs. 95-87 under the Cash Credit Account. The plaintiff claims that it would be entitled to a concurrent remedy against defendants personally for the recovery of the suit debt and also sought for a charge decree against the immovable property, which is the mill premises which was equitably mortgaged with it, under Exhibit A-24 and also sought a charge on the machineries enumerated in the deed of hypothecation, Exhibit A-29, dated 20th May, 1964.

3. The 9th defendant was added on as a party-defendant, as it appears that he is a subsequent mortgagee over the immovable properties.

4. In so far as the defence is concerned the defendants do not dispute the accounts and the principal amount due. Inter alia, the main contention raised by the defendants was that the plaintiff, by virtue of the deed of hypothecation, Exhibit A-29, is not entitled to claim a charge on the machineries and movable properties in the mill premises, as according to the defendants, the said machineries have got imbedded themselves with the premises, which contained them and, therefore, such movable properties or machinery enumerated in the deed of hypothecation should be deemed to be annexed to the immovable property and in the absence of a regular instrument of mortgage, as contemplated under the Transfer of Property Act, and registered under the Registration Act, the deed of hypothecation, by itself, cannot create a right in the plaintiff to seek for a charge-decree as against the movables which are the subjectmatter of the deed of hypothecation.

5. The second contention is that the rate of 11 per cent per annum with quarterly rests is an arbitrary and usurious rate of interest and on that ground, the claim of the plaintiff was resisted. No doubt, they also contended that there was no proper equitable mortgage acceptable in the eye of law over the 'A' Schedule properties, which are the mill premises, as according to them, there was no proper deposit of title deeds with the intention of creating an equitable mortgage over them, in a manner ordinarily understood in law. These are in the main, the defences to the action.

6. On these relevant pleadings, the following issues were framed:

1. Is the alleged mortgage over the plaint 'A' schedule properties by deposit of title deeds true, Valid and binding on any or all of the defendants ?

2. Is the alleged charge over the plaint 'B' schedule properties true, valid and binding on the defendants?

3. Is there any charge over items 25 to 28 of plaint 'B' schedule properties ?

4. What is the amount for which the charge if any, is available over one or more of plaint 'B' schedule properties ?

5. Is the plaintiff entitled to club together plaint 'A' and 'B' schedule properties for the entire suit amount ?

6. Is the plaintiff entitled to claim interest at 11 per cent. per annum and not at 9 per cent, per annum?

7. Are the alleged mortgages and charge unlawful and do they amount to a fraud on the statute as pleaded by the 9th defendant?

8. What is the amount, if any, due to the 9th defendant in respect of the mortgage deed dated 17th November, 1965?

9. What is the nature of the decree that the 9th defendant is entitled to?

10. To what relief is the plaintiff entitled ?

7. Issue No. 3 having been deleted, the learned Judge found on Issue No. 1, that there was a valid mortgage by deposit of title deeds over the 'A' schedule properties at Coimbatore and that Coimbatore being an area notified under Section 69 of the Transfer of Property Act, the equitable mortgage by the plaintiff is sustainable. There is no cross-appeal over this finding. On the issue whether the hypothecation deed, Exhibit A-29, could be acted upon, so as to vest in the plaintiff a right to claim a charge on it, on foot that it was a mortgage on movable property, the finding of the trial Court is that the deed of hypothecation could not be acted upon or enforced, as the hypotheca, in the peculiar circumstances of the case, ought to be understood as movable property annexed to immovable property and, in the absence of a registered instrument on the foot of which such a relief could be asked, the trial Court negatived the relief for a charge over the 'B' Schedule property for the recovery of the suit claim. On the other question whether the interest at 11 per cent. per annum with quarterly rests, was usurious, it found in favour of the defendants. In the result, the trial Court decreed the suit for a sum of Rs. 1,48,223-82 with subsequent interest from the date of suit upto the date fixed in the usual mortgage decree at 9 per cent, per annum with quarterly rests and at the rate of 6 per cent per annum thereafter and proportionate costs personally as against defendants 1 to 8, and created a charge over the 'A' Schedule properties only. It also incidentally gave a direction that the 9th defendant would be entitled to a sum of Rs. 26,000 with interest from 1st March, 1968, from and out of the surplus sale proceeds, if any, when the 'A' Schedule properties are brought to sale. As already indicated, it negatived the plaintiff's request for a charge-decree over the 'B' Schedule properties, which are the machinery or movables hypothecated under Exhibit A-29.

8. It is as against this, the present appeal has been filed by the Bank.

9. There is no appeal as against this judgment and decree by the 9th defendant. Nor, is there a cross-appeal by the contesting defendants against the finding of the trial Court that there is a valid mortgage over the 'A' Schedule properties and that the usual mortgage decree ought to be pass>ed for the amount due and payable by the defendant-partnership firm to the Bank.

10. The Bank's contention, however, is that the trial Court went wrong in having found that the 'B' schedule properties cannot be proceeded against by the plaintiff on the foot that a charge has been created over it for the amount lent thereon under Exhibit A-29. The submission is that under the hypothecation deed, the' plaintiff has secured a right to obtain a charge as against the hypothecated articles and such deed being an independent and separate one, the Court ought not to have denied the usual charge-decree as against the 'B' schedule properties as well

11. The second contention is that the trial Court, without any material, which is acceptable by Courts of law, barely relied upon the contentions of the defendants in holding that 11 per cent, per annum with quarterly rests, would be usurious. As a matter of fact, the defendants having agreed to pay the said rate of interest, since the Reserve Bank of India, in turn has raised the rate of interest which it could claim from its subsidiaries, the argument is that there is no arbitrariness or usury in the claim of the plaintiff-Bank when it demanded 11 per cent, interest with quarterly rests on the actual amount due under the various accounts of the defendant with the plaintiff-Bank.

12. Mr. M. S. Venkatarama Iyer, learned Counsel for the contesting respondents, however, would urge that in the context of events, the hypothecation deed should be interpreted in the light of the equitable first mortgage, and so interpreted, it should be held that the parties understood that the movables which were the subject-matter of the hypothecation were also being mortgaged as if it got annexed to the mill premises to which they were attached, and so understood, it would amount to a mortgage of immovable property and such mortgage not being evidenced by a deed of mortgage, in accordance with law, and registered in accordance with the Registration Act, the relief for a charge decree, as against the movables as if it is a separate transaction is a misconceived one. On the next contention, it is stated that 11 per cent. interest with quarterly rests, would be usurious.

13. In so far as the first question is concerned, it is a vexed one. Movable property has not been defined in the Transfer of Property Act. If some light at all is thrown in the General Clauses Act, movable property is that which is not immovable property. There is no decisive and final test or guidelines to earmark property such as machinery etc. found in a building as immovable property or movable property. The English maxim 'quicguid plantatur solo solo cedit' does not apply to India. Thus, the difficult question as to whether movable properties which are fixed to the earth are an annexation to the land often depends upon the mode of annexation and primarily on the intention of the parties and other relevant surrounding circumstances, in each particular case. It is often presumed that if an owner of machinery which could be annexed to the earth, so annexes it, with his own immovable property in connection with his trace or business, then it is said to assume the character of immovable property. Equally, a prima facie presumption, but not a sure one, is raised in the case of a tenant or a person not owning the immovable property but causing such annexation of movable property, such as machinery etc., to be made to the premises as such, which is to the effect that such annexed property is movable property, because the tenant or a person having only a leasehold interest in the immovable property is often free to remove his movable property, such as machinery, etc. But, in the ultimate analysis, if the intention of either the owner or the tenant in making such annexation of movable property to immovable property is to permanently fix it along with the earth or the said immovable property, then it becomes part and parcel of it. Cases may arise when an article or machinery may be very firmly fixed to the land, but, yet the surrounding circumstances may be such as to show that it was never intended to be a part of the land. Thus, it reduces itself to a question of fact and a matter of proof. The onus is on the person, who alleges that the particular article was always intended to retain the character of movable property. He has to establish it. It ultimately depends upon the intention of the parties. Such intention on the part of either the owner or the tenant, to treat such machinery fixed to the earth as movable property can sometimes be inferred by their voluntary treatment of such property as belonging to one or the other species of property and by their conduct.

14. A true test is contained in the explanation given to the parenthesis 'attached to the earth' appearing in Section 3 of the Transfer of Property Act.

Attached to the earth' means:

(a) rooted in the earth, as in the case of trees and shrubs;

(b) imbedded in the earth, as in the case of walls or buildings:

or

(c) attached to what is so imbedded for the permanent beneficial enjoyment of that to which it is attached.

15. From the above meaning given by the statute to the expression attached to the earth', it is clear that such attachment should be for the permanent beneficial enjoyment of that, to which it is attached.

16. Mulla in his book on Transfer of Property Act, 1966 (Sixth Edition) quoted with approval a decision of the Calcutta High Court in Jan Chand v. Kishore : AIR1960Cal331 and stated:

In a recent Calcutta case, it has been held, it is submitted, correctly, that the test is whether the annexation is with the object of the permanent beneficial enjoyment of the land or building; so machinery for metal-shaping and electroplating which was attached by bolts to special concrete bases and could not be easily moved, was held not to be a part of the structure housing it or the soil beneath it. The Court held that the machinery was not attached for the more beneficial enjoyment of either the soil or the concrete; it was actually a case of the structure being built around the machinery to protect it.

17. We shall now refer to the evidence let in, in the instant case. The plaintiff examined P.W. 2, who was the Agent of the plaintiff-Bank at Salem Branch, at or about the time when the financial aid was granted by the Bank to the partnership firm. While giving out the nature of the machinery in the factory premises and as a person who had first hand knowledge of it, as he had inspected the mills and the machineries, the witness would have it that all the machineries were not permanently fixed to the earth. He went on to describe the important machineries housed in the factory such as the transformer, lathe, the welding transformer, and generator, etc., in cross examination and would say, that each of these and parts of machinery which were in the mills and the Ginning Factory were based on studs or platforms fixed on the earth and they were fitted by bolts and nuts. He was emphatic that almost all the parts inside the factory premises were all so fixed on studs which, in turn, of course, were imbedded to earth.

18. In fact, D.W. 2, examined on the side of the defendants, would not speak about the machineries being annexed to earth, or imbedded on earth, in chief examination, and even in cross-examination, his case is that all the machineries have been fixed on concrete platforms

19. Thus, therefore, the principle in the Calcutta decision, cited above, squarely applies to the facts of this case. The machineries are attached by bolts to special concrete bases or studs, or platforms and no one interested in saying so, would say that they are so attached to earth, so as to make it appear that such articles have been so imbedded for the permanent beneficial enjoyment of the mill premises itself. We accept the evidence of P.W. 2, in the absence of any contrary materials before us, to say that the imbedding is as urged by Mr. Venkatarama Iyer.

20. One other aspect, which also prompts us to hold that the parties intended to treat the machinery and other articles in the factory premises as movable property and not property attached to earth or imbedded to earth, within the meaning of the provisions of the Transfer of Property Act, is that when they secured financial aid from the Bunk, they executed an independent hypothecation deed, wherein they say that they have hypothecated in favour of the Bank, machineries and other movables described in general terms in the schedule to that deed. They have described the hypotheca as 'hypothecated goods'. They have explained the meaning of the expression as meaning all the machineries and other movables of any kind now fixed to the earth, installed in, or kept in, or chat will be hereafter fixed from time to time, or which shall be brought in and installed, or mounted or kept in use at the borrowers' premises or workshop. The schedule to this deed gives the description of the machineries. There are 24 items in it and almost all these items have been referred to by P.W. 2 in his evidence. We have already referred to his testimony. He would say that all such items are either fixed to a platform or affixed to a stud over the earth by bolts and nuts. The parties, therefore, intended, at all material times, and at the crucial time when they borrowed money under Exhibit A-29 that the machineries which they had and the machineries to be brought in, on which they obtained financial aid from the Bank, have to be treated as movable property. If their evidence was that this property should also be treated as annexed to their mill premises, nothing prevented their from including these movables as an additional schedule under Exhibit A-24, whereunder they deposited their title deeds to their properties with the intention of creating an equitable mortgage.

21. From the conduct of the borrowers and from the intrinsic value of the recitals in Exhibit A-24, which is the hypothecation deed, we are unable to resist the reasonable conclusion which flow from the surrounding circumstances and the facts of this case, that the parties intended that the machineries delineated in Exhibit A-29 were to be understood and meant as movable property rather than as immovable property in the sense that they become imbedded to earth so permanently as without it, the mill premises cannot be beneficially enjoyed.

22. One other circumstance, which also reflects such an intention of the parties is that whilst the deposit of title deeds was made on 15th May, 1964 under Exhibit A-24, the deed of hypothecation deed over the movables was made 5 days later, under Exhibit A-29. This conduct of the borrowers is also a pointer to the fact that the intention was to keep the mortgage over immovable property distinct, separate and different from the hypothecation over movables. This treatment of the machineries as independent goods, different from the premises which contained them makes the intention of the parties clear. That in such matters, it is the intention of the parties, which often looms large, is clear from the decision of a Division Bench of our Court in Satyanarayanamurthy v. Gangayya : AIR1939Mad684 Varadachariar, J., speaking for the Bench, found as a fact, that the machinery which formed part of the building was dealt with independently in an independent schedule and even then, the learned Judge was satisfied that the movables which formed part of a separate schedule cannot be treated as immovable property and dealt with, as such. The learned Judge went on to say 'It also appears to us that on the construction of mortgage deeds the machinery specified in schedule 'C 'was mortgaged not as part of or passing with the immovable property, but independently as immovable property'. We are, therefore in the instant case unable to agree with the contention of the learned Counsel for the respondents that the machinery in the instant case should. be considered as movable, which got imbedded to earth so as to metamorphose itself into in movable property and be treated as such, for purposes of this discussion.

23. The trial Court, therefore, was wrong in having applied certain principles in certain, well settled decisions of this Court and other Courts, which obviously depended upon the facts and circumstances in those relevant decisions. But, as it appears to us, and on the facts and circumstances of this case, and having regard to the conduct and intention of the parties, which is explicit, we find that the hypothecation related to movable property and that the plaintiff, therefore, in terms of Exhibit A-29, is entitled to claim a charge-decree over the properties described in the 'B Schedule to the plaint, which are the movables enumerated in Exhibit A-29. To this extent, the judgment of the trial Court is reversed.

24. The other contention of the learned Counsel for the appellant is that the plaintiff is entitled to interest at 11 per cent. per annum with quarterly rests. The learned Judge referred to various decisions, which touched upon usury and unreasonable rate of interest and suddenly concluded that the 11 per cent, interest with quarterly rests is excessive, having regard to the security offered by the borrowers. No doubt under Exhibit A-21, the interest originally agreed to on the advances to be made by the Bank was only 9 per cent. per annum with quarterly rests. But, under Exhibit A-33 the contesting defendants were informed that the Reserve Bank of India has increased the Bank Rate from 5 to 6 per cent. and placed restrictions on borrowings by scheduled Banks from it. It is also claimed that the Reserve Bank advised that the rates of interest on Savings Bank and time Deposit should be stepped up in order to enable the Banking System to attract more deposits. In those circumstances, the plaintiff-Bank, in turn said, that it was constrained to increase the rate of interest on its advances from 9 per cent. to 11 per cent, on overdraft, open loan, and key loan facilities. That was to take effect from the 18th of February, 1965.

25. On receipt of this communication, one partner of the first defendant firm, who is a defendant in the action, agreed to the enhancement in the rate of interest, as stated in Exhibit A-33. There was, therefore, a contract openly entered into between the borrowers on the one hand and the Bank on the other, whereunder due to certain known circumstances, the rate of interest was increased from 9 per cent. to 11 per cent. per annum with quarterly rest.

26. To find whether a particular rate of interest is usurious, excessive or unreasonable, the aggrieved party should at least let in evidence to show that such was not the rate of interest which the other Banks charged under similar circumstances. There should also be telling evidence before the Court to establish that on a prima facie examination of the facts of a particular case it would ordinarily prompt the Court of law to opine that the rate of interest is exorbitant or excessive. Each case has to be decided on its own merits. No hard and fast rule can be invoked merely on the mathematics of the rate per cent to hold that the rate of interest was excessive. In the instant case, the parties were appraised of the increase in the rate of interest, not because the Bank wanted to make unreasonable gain and make the borrowers suffer unreasonable loss, but the increase itself was attributed to the increased demand of rate of interest by the Reserve Bank of India. This was, therefore, a circumstance, which was of universal application, in the sense that it applied to all banks and borrowers in similar circumstances. Therefore, it cannot be said that the increase from 9 per cent. to 11 per cent., having regard to the circumstances and time, at which the rate was increased, was an unreasonable or excessive rate.

27. The next question is whether the interest payable with quarterly rests would automatically be assumed or presumed to be an excessive payment made by the Bank. Here again, Mr. M. S. Venkatarama Iyer did not refer to us any circumstances, or the testimony of the partner, to say that the plaintiff-Bank has chosen to adopt the method of recovery of interest with quarterly rests unusually and quite differently from the other banking institutions in the State. It is not even brought out to us that the resultant of the interest calculated On the basis of 11 per cent. per annum with quarterly rests, would be unconscionably high, or would be unreasonably excessive. It is only in those circumstances when the Court's conscience is shaken on a prima facie understanding of the facts, that such demand for interest, in the circumstances of a particular case would place the defendant in a pitiable situation that the Courts will interfere with the contract rate openly agreed to by parties. No such evidence has been let in and no such materials have been placed before us for consideration to decide whether the 11 per cent. interest with quarterly rests, would result in a great prejudice to the borrowers in the instant case. In this respect also, the Trail Court went wrong in referring mechanically to certain decisions of our Court wherein the rate per cent. was held to be usurious. Having regard to the time at which the increase in the rate of interest was made and as the borrowers themselves did not raise any protest to it, at any time, until they were called upon to repay the principles with interest at that rate, we feel that the objection is merely an afterthought. Even otherwise, the materials before us do not compel us to hold that the 11 per cent. interest per annum with quarterly rests, even though it is secured by the property of the borrowers, can be said to be an excessive, exorbitant and an unreasonable rate of interest.

28. The trial Court's decision on this aspect is also reversed.

29. The above contract rate of interest will be applied until the date of suit. Thereafter the contesting defendants are liable to pay interest at the rate of 11 per cent, per annum without being further charged with additional interest at quarterly rests.

30. The result is that there will be a decree, as prayed for, and together with interest thereon at 11 per cent. with quarterly rests, upto the date of plaint and thereafter at the rate of 11 per cent. from the date of suit till the date of payment and the usual mortgage-decree will be passed including Schedules A and B, as the hypotheses or the security from which the plaintiff could realise the decree amount. The appeal is allowed with costs.

C.M.P. No. 14045 of 1974.

31. The plaintiff has filed a petition to include a sum of Rs. 3,485.70 to the principal amount claimed on the foot that it has paid the insurance premia in connection with the fire insurance on the suit building and machineries. The plaintiff is entitled to it and this amount will be added to the principal, provided the plaintiff pays the court fee on this account,

32. He would be entitled to interest thereon at 6 per cent. from the date of payment.

33. The appeal and the civil miscellaneous petition are allowed. There will be no order as to costs.


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