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State of West Bengal Vs. Produce Trader's Corporation (28.01.1959 - CALHC) - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberA.F.O.D. No. 69 of 1953
Judge
Reported inAIR1959Cal597
AppellantState of West Bengal
RespondentProduce Trader's Corporation
Appellant AdvocateN.C. Chakrabortty, Government Pleader
Respondent AdvocateP.N. Mitter and ;Amiya Kumar Mukherjee, Advs.
DispositionAppeal dismissed
Excerpt:
- .....law for the alleged offence and, accordingly, the plaintiff's said manager was discharged.. the seized rice was, however, not released or returned to the plaintiff and the plaintiff's attempt to get back the same having proved abortive, the present suit was instituted, on february 18, 1946. the suit was once decreed by the trial court on february 6, 1947, for rs. 11,166-1-0 including interest to the extent of rs. 1,993-12-0 as claimed in the plaint, after overruling all the defences of the state which were all technical in character. on appeal, the rejection of the said defences was affirmed by this court, but, as, before it, a new legal defence was raised on behalf of the defendant state that the compensation claimed being for tortious acts of the said defendant's servants, for which.....
Judgment:

P.N. Mookerjee J.

1. This is the State's appeal, arising out of a suit for compensation, brought against it under the following circumstances:

2. By an order dated September 4, 1943, Sri T.A. Menon, the then Additional District Magistrate of Midnapore, seized a stock of rice (305 mds. and 29 3/4 srs.) belonging to the plaintiff (Produce Trader's Corporation, having as its sole Proprietor and owner J. C. Hui) and kept by it in the custody of the Bengal Bank Ltd. as security against over draft advances, taken by it from the said Bank. The seizure was for alleged violation or contravention of the Defence of India Rules, for which a prosecution of the plaintiff's manager Provat Chandra Banerjee followed. Eventually, however, it was found that no charge could be framed under the law for the alleged offence and, accordingly, the plaintiff's said Manager was discharged.. The seized rice was, however, not released or returned to the plaintiff and the plaintiff's attempt to get back the same having proved abortive, the present suit was instituted, on February 18, 1946. The suit was once decreed by the trial Court on February 6, 1947, for Rs. 11,166-1-0 including interest to the extent of Rs. 1,993-12-0 as claimed in the plaint, after overruling all the defences of the State which were all technical in character. On appeal, the rejection of the said defences was affirmed by this Court, but, as, before it, a new legal defence was raised on behalf of the defendant State that the compensation claimed being for tortious acts of the said defendant's servants, for which the said defendant (State) could not be made liable except on proof inter alia that the said acts had been ratified by the State or the State had profited or benefited by it, this Court by its judgment and decree, dated August 2, 1930, set aside the trial Court's decree and sent back the case for consideration of the said new defence after necessary amendment of the pleadings or the filing of additional pleadings and taking of further evidence on certain terms. The remand order of this Court also permitted the defendant State to raise a subsidiary point to the effect that the plaintiff's claim of interest in the plaint was excessive.

3. The terms of the remand order having been complied with by the parties, the suit was further heard by the trial Court on the above two points and it was again decreed on September 8, 1952,--this time for a lesser sum, namely, Rs. 10,501-8-0, that is, Rs. 9,172-5-0 by way of compensation, calculated on the price of the seized rice (305 mds. 29 3/4 srs.) at Rs. 30/- per maund, and Rs. 1329-3-0 as interest thereon from September 4, 1943, till February 18, 1946, at the rate of 6 per cent per annum. The present appeal is directed against the said decree.

4. In support of the appeal, the learned Government Pleader has argued that, on the facts before the Court, the State should not have been made liable. He has submitted that the learned Subordinate Judge was in error in holding that there had been ratification by the State of the illegal act of seizure by its officer or officers or that the State had benefited or profited by the said act. He has further submitted that, in any event, the interest awarded was excessive.

5. The learned Subordinate Judge found ratification from the admitted fact that, after the decree of the trial Court on the earlier occasion, the seized rice was made over to the defendant State on its own application upon its contention that, the plaintiff having been awarded compensation, the seized stock of rice should go to the defendant. He also found that the defendant had been benefited by the illegal seizure as it had appropriated the sale proceeds of the seized stock. As to interest, the learned Subordinate Judge's award was Rs. 1319-3-0 at 6 per cent, per annum and his figure, as already stated, was considerably less than the amount, claimed by the plaintiff under that head and awarded by the trial Court under its original or earlier decree.

6. The appellant urges that the act or fact, relied on by the learned Subordinate Judge for finding ratification, could not afford a legal basis for that finding as it meant no approval of illegal seizure and as, again, it was a post-decree act. The act it is said, might have amounted to an acceptance of the trial court's decree, made on the earlier occasion, but that was never pleaded by the plaintiff. So far as the above submission was concerned, possibly there is some force in it, even though the act in question may not be regarded as a post-decree act in view of the remand order. But that does not put an end to the plaintiff's claim.

7. It is clear from the records before us that the State prosecuted the plaintiffs manager for the alleged violation or contravention of the Defence of India Rules, on which the illegal seizure was founded, and in point of fact, in the course of the said criminal proceedings (which must be taken to be part of one continuous course of conduct on the part of the State) supported the detention of the seized stock of rice and resisted its return to the plaintiff and even its sale or disposal at the plaintiff's instance. That, in our opinion, was sufficient ratification by the State to make it liable for compensation for the above illegal seizure, subject to what we say hereafter on the State's extreme contention that, in law, there can be no ratification of the above illegal act.

8. We agree also with the learned Subordinate Judge that the State eventually appropriated the sale proceeds of the seized stock of rice which it sold or disposed of after getting possession from the court at its own instance as its own property. The inference, made by the court below on this point, is amply justified by the materials and circumstances, appearing on the record, and the State's evidence to prove the contrary has been rightly rejected by the learned Subordinate Judge. On this finding also the State would be liable for compensation to the plaintiff.

9. In view of our last finding, it is not strictly necessary to discuss the third as the extreme question which was raised and argued before us by Mr. Chakravartty that, in law, there could be no ratification of the illegal seizure as the State itself could not have legally seized the rice, there being no law, empowering it to do so at the time. But, as the point was canvassed with some force before us and argued in some detail, we would briefly express our views on the same. The substance of the argument is that, as, in law, ratification can only be made by one having the competence to do the act to be ratified, the State cannot, in law, ratify the illegal seizure when it had no power, under the law, to make the seizure itself. The argument is, no doubt, plausible and attractive but we do not think that it merits acceptance. Ratification in the present context, that is, in relation to the State's liability for the illegal or unlawful acts of its officers, is to be understood in its loose or popular sense or dictionary meaning of approval or confirmation of the act and adoption of all its benefits and liabilities (obligations), that as, all its consequences, and not in its strict legal sense, if that means that there can be no ratification except by a person or authority, competent and or having the power to do the act, to be ratified, validly, as, otherwise, by ratification the illegal act itself would become valid, being rendered by such ratification, the legal act of such a competent person or authority, and the liability or claim for damages for the same would disappear. By the ratification, in its said legal sense, the tort would disappear and, along with it, the claim or liability for damages. It would then be useless, --& unmeaning too--to say that the State would be liable for the tortious acts of its officers and servants if it ratified the same and that proposition which is now a well-established and firmly settled or accepted proposition would become a meaningless platitude. We would, therefore, reject this submission of Mr. Chakravartty.

10. In support of his above submission, the I learned Government Pleader sought to make out inter alia that there could be no agency in tort. But, in the light of what has been stated above, that attempt must fail, so far, at least, as the present case is concerned. Salmond's view also appears to be against Mr. Chakravartty's above contention that there can be no agency in tort (vide the opinion or observations of the said distinguished authority, as quoted or reproduced at pages 65 to 69 of his well known treatise on the Law of Torts, 11th Edition). A similar view appears to have been taken by another eminent jurist, Dr. Winfield (vide 'Winfield on Tort,' 6th Edition, p. 127, quoting his opinion on a corporation's liability for ultra vires torts).

11. The only thing that remains to be added to the foregoing discussion is that on the above point there exists no material distinction between 'express authority' and 'ratification', as, for the above purpose and in the relevant context, ratification will be equivalent to antecedent authority and will relate back for the inception of the particular act or transaction in question and will have a complete retrospective or retroactive effect or efficacy, having the same effect as original authority.

12. As to interest also, we do not think that the learned Subordinate Judge's award calls for any interference. He has given the plaintiff interest at six per cent per annum from the date of the seizure up to the date of the institution of the suit. That is only just and fair and equitable and at any rate, it does not certainly err on the side of excess. We would, therefore, leave the award of interest as it is.

13. The appeal then would fail and it is dismissed with costs, hearing-fee being assessed at five goldmohurs.

14. The State Appellant must pay the decretal amount (including costs) to the successful plaintiff-respondent within three months from this date.

Sarkar, J.

15. I agree.


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