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Jogendra Nath Chakravarti Vs. New Bengal Bank Ltd. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Decided On
Reported inAIR1939Cal63
AppellantJogendra Nath Chakravarti
RespondentNew Bengal Bank Ltd.
- .....damages are claimed owing to the loss of gratuity which the plaintiff was expecting from one mrs. minnie lall, who is the widow of a well known zamindar in bihar, and who was formerly his employer. the questions for decision resolve themselves into two : (1) was there the agreement alleged by the bank? if so, the bank are absolved from liability. (2) the second point for decision is, supposing that agreement is not established, is the plaintiff entitled to damages? the issues framed are as follows:(1) was there any agreement as mentioned in, para. 2 of the written statement and in the particulars contained in the letter dated 4th january 1938 from j.m. chodhury to s.n. sen?(2) did the plaintiff draw the three cheques, nos. co 74803, go 08244, and co 74804 contrary to such.....

McNair, J.

1. This is ahe plaintiff against the defendant Bank for failure to honour 4 cheques drawn by him upon the Bank although his account was in funds. The defendant Bank repudiates liability alleging an arrangement between the Bank and the plaintiff amongst other creditors, that they would not draw cheques other than of an urgent and personal nature during the period of financial stress which the Bank was experiencing. The cheques dishonoured are alleged to have been drawn in breach of this agreement. The plaintiff assesses his damages in his plaint at Rs. 8000. The only particulars he gives are ' Rs. 5000 general damages, and Rs. 3000 special damages.' It appears now that the Rs. 3000 special damages are claimed owing to the loss of gratuity which the plaintiff was expecting from one Mrs. Minnie Lall, who is the widow of a well known zamindar in Bihar, and who was formerly his employer. The questions for decision resolve themselves into two : (1) was there the agreement alleged by the Bank? If so, the Bank are absolved from liability. (2) The second point for decision is, supposing that agreement is not established, is the plaintiff entitled to damages? The issues framed are as follows:

(1) Was there any agreement as mentioned in, para. 2 of the written statement and in the particulars contained in the letter dated 4th January 1938 from J.M. Chodhury to S.N. Sen?

(2) Did the plaintiff draw the three cheques, Nos. Co 74803, Go 08244, and Co 74804 contrary to such arrangement?

(3) Was the cheque 74802 dated 21st July 1937 and drawn in favour of Mr. Hayes ever presented for payment to the defendant Bank?

(4) Has the plaintiff suffered any loss or damage?

(5) Is the plaintiff entitled to the damages given in the particulars; are they remote or excessive?

(6) To what relief, if any, is the plaintiff entitled?

2. I will deal first with the agreement which has been set up by the defendant Bank. (His Lordship then discussed the evidence and proceeded.) I hold that there was no agreement on 15th or 16th July such as has been alleged by the defendant bank, and that there was no agreement as alleged at any time when these cheques were dishonoured. The first two issues must therefore be answered in favour of the plaintiff.

3. With regard to the third issue, this refers to a cheque for Rs. 135 which was drawn in favour of a Mr. Hayes, the manager of the Grand Hotel at Ranchi. The Grand Hotel at Ranchi is the property of Mrs. Minnie Lall. ff he plaintiff was Mrs. Minnie Lall's agent and constituted attorney, and he had received from Mrs. Lall before she went to England about Rs. 1000 or Rs. 1200 to be used in the interests of Mrs. Lall, and apparently for the most part for repairing the Grand Hotel at Ranchi. The cheque for Rs. 135 was for the purpose of paying the taxes to the Ranchi Municipality. Mr. Hayes has not been called, but the plaintiff has purported to give evidence as to various statements made to him by Mr. Hayes. These statements, of course, are not evidence. It appears that the cheque for Rs. 135 was sent to the Bank of India Ltd. for collection and was returned with the statement 'no means of collection.' It is quite clear that this cheque was never presented to the bank and therefore was not dishonoured and no cause of action lies with regard to it. Issue 3 is answered in the negative.

4. The other three cheques were all drawn in favour of a Mr. K.P. Dutt, who is a contractor at Ranchi. Mrs. Minnie Lall left for England in June 1937 and she gave the plaintiff Rs. 1100 or Rs. 1200 for the purpose of getting the Grand Hotel put into proper repair prior to the rush which would be expected during the puja holidays in the following October. The special damage which has been claimed is in regard to a sum of Rs. 3000 which Mrs. Minnie Lall had promised to pay to the plaintiff as a reward for his services on her behalf during the litigation which ensued on her husband's death. The plaint was filed on 26th August 1937 and although the Rs. 3000 was claimed as special damage, no particulars were given. The solicitor for the defendant bank wrote some time in December asking for particulars, but still no particulars were furnished. The written statement was filed on 7th December. In para. 4 the defendant states that 'no special damage has been suffered and no particulars of special damage have been given.' In May 1938 the plaintiff applied for leave to amend his plaint by giving particulars of the special damage which he had sustained. He sets out the fact that he was general manager of Mrs. Minnie Lall and that the cheques were drawn for payment of repairs to her property and for taxes in regard to her property, and alleges that the dishonour of the cheques was the reason for Mrs. Minnie Lall refusing to pay him the Rs. 3000 which she had promised. Now, as far back as 6th September 1937, Mrs. Minnie Lall wrote a letter to the plaintiff in which she complains about the dishonour of the cheques and of the 'muddle' with regard to her affairs. She was particularly annoyed that the repairs to the Hotel would not tie completed by the puja holidays and that she would suffer considerable loss on that account. She then says:

Please understand I will not pay you the Rs. 8000 which I was pleased to offer you as a reward for your good services in connexion with the litigation in the High Court.

5. So, as early as September 1937 there was a statement by Mrs. Minnie Lall that she was not going to pay the Rs. 3000. Mrs. Lall returned to India in December 1937, but she did not dismiss the plaintiff until April 1938 and it is difficult not to draw the conclusion that the plaintiff only gave particulars of his special damage after he had been dismissed and possibly after he had had an interview with Mrs. Minnie Lall. Her evidence is that he was ill on her return and that she also has been ill, and that she really does not know what has happened. If that is a fact, it is curious that she should have waited so long before she dispensed with the plaintiff's services, and then even without knowing how far he was to blame for what had happened. She has however given evidence in which, although she stressed the fact that she was annoyed by the dishonour of these cheques, she has also stated that there are many other matters which she found unsatisfactory in the actions of the plaintiff. Prom Mrs. Lall's letter of 6th September 1937 it is clear that she was very annoyed at the time and that she was definitely saying that she would revoke the promise to pay the Rs. 3000. (His Lordship then discussed the evidence and proceeded.) It appears to me that Mrs. Minnie Lall is amply warranted in refusing to give the plaintiff the gift that she had promised him, if he is unable to give her a better account than he is able to give the Court of the way in which he has dealt with her funds. Again the plaintiff was asked : 'Therefore having paid Mr. K.P. Dutt, there was no occasion for the repairs being stopped' and he replied 'that is so.' In evidence the plaintiff has stated that he is not a trader, and this has an important bearing on the damages to which he might become entitled. The liability of a banker has been set down clearly in Hart's Law of Banking, Bdn. 4, Vol. 1, page 443. The learned author says:

Where the banker, being bound to honour his customer's cheque, has failed to do so he will be liable in damages. If special damage naturally ensuing from the dishonour is proved, it will be properly taken into account in assessing the amount of the damages. If the customer be a trader, the jury may properly award substantial damages, in the absence of the proof of special damage. In other cases the customer will be entitled to such damages as will reasonably compensate him for the injury which, from the nature of the case, he has sustained. All loss flowing naturally from the dishonour of a cheque may be taken into account in estimating the damages.

6. On behalf of the bank Dr. Roy has argued that the loss of the Rs. 3000 bonus from Mrs. Minnie Lall is not a loss flowing naturally from the dishonour of the cheque. It is very difficult for me to say what really operated in the mind of Mrs. Minnie Lall when she refused the Rs. 3000 to the plaintiff. But, it is clear both ifrom her evidence and from her letter of 6th September that she was definitely upset at the dishonour of the plaintiff's cheques which she thought reflected on her own credit. But her irritation appears to me to be more with the plaintiff for having put the money into a bank with whose financial stability he was not satisfied, and -where the plaintiff and through him Mrs. Minnie Lall might be subject to the results of having their cheques dishonoured. It is further noticeable that the plaintiff, although he was dealing with somebody else's money, put that money into this defendant bank in order that some distant relative of his might draw some sort of commission from the bank for introducing a new constituent. Such a method of dealing with funds which he holds more or less in trust is distinctly reprehensible.

7. Mrs. Minnie Lall complains of the loss which she has suffered owing to the repairs not being completed. There is no evidence which shows that the dishonour of these cheques was responsible for the non-completion of the repairs. The damage assessed by the contractor Mr. K.P. Dutt for failure to get his money he assessed at Rupees 10. I cannot limit the plaintiff's damage to a similar sum. The plaintiff has undoubtedly suffered damage, though it is difficult, as I have already observed, to say how far his loss of this Rs. 3000 is due to the dishonour of the cheques. It certainly is a contributory factor, which must be taken into consideration. The plaintiff is also a person who is well-known in the Ranchi District inasmuch as he has been manager for this wealthy lady for over 12 years. I hold on Issue 5 that he is not entitled to the damages he claims which in my opinion are excessive, but I consider that his credit and reputation were damaged by the dishonour of his cheques, and I assess that damage at Rs. 500. There will be a decree for that amount with costs. The costs of the application for amendment of 11th May 1938 must be paid by the plaintiff.

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