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Madras High Court
The Official Assignee Of Madras vs Melapparangavur Sarvajana … on 16 March, 1910
Equivalent citations: (1911) ILR 34 Mad 125
Author: Miller
Bench: Miller, Munro, A Rahim


Miller, J.

1. In this case we do not know what were the contents of the letters which accompanied the remittances in May, July and September. But from Exhibit B-2 we find that all the remittances were held by Arbuthnot & Co. in suspense on the claimants account. The question is whether they held them as bankers or not. I take it from the affidavit that negotiations were proceeding as to the final disposal by way of investment with Arbuthnot & Co. of all the remittances, and from exhibit A that the claimant’s intention if he could do so on his terms was to place all the money on fixed deposit. There is this difference between this case and Official Assignee of Madras v. Smith (1909) I.L.R. 32 Mad. 68 that in that case there was no question of settling terms. The money was to be placed in fixed deposit as soon as a second remittance was received. But I think this makes no real difference. I cannot accept the arguments for the respondent that the money was not held as money of the bankers because the terms on which they could place it on fixed deposit account were not finally settled. The contract as to the form of investment was no doubt not completed, but it by no means follows that pending the completion of the negotiations the money did not belong to the bankers. I agree with what I conceive to be the decision in Official Assignee of Madras v. Smith (1909) I.L.R. 32 Mad. 68, viz., that when a man pays money into a bank, whether he is a customer or not, the presumption in the absence of other evidence will be that he pays the money in to be held by the banker as bankers ordinarily hold the moneys of their customers. Here it is clear that the money was intended to be held by Arbuthnot & Co. as bankers, whether the claimant could have withdrawn the money if he could not coma to terms as to interest, period or minimum amount of fixed deposit is really beside the question. There seems to me to be nothing to suggest that so long as Arbuthnot & Co. held the money they were not holding it as bankers. They held it “in suspense,” but what does that mean? I will take it that they did not give the claimant a cheque book or a pass book, and I will assume that had he drawn cheques against his remittances they would have dishonoured them so long as the money was “in suspense.” Even so 1 cannot see why they should not be held to have the ownership of the money. If the claimant did not mean them to hold as bankers pending the negotiations he need not have remitted the money, or if he remitted it he could have directed them what to do with it, I should draw from the evidence the conclusion that he did intend them to use it as bankers; and so far as they are concerned I see no reason to suppose that their intention was different. They held She money “in suspense,” but in the circumstances seeing that they knew that the money was intended for investment with them, I take it that “in suspense” means no more than that the exact terms as to interest and period of deposit were not fixed, and that once those were fixed the arrangement would take effect from the date or possibly–I do not think it material to the result–from the data of the remittances. It was suggested that the decision of the Privy Council in Commercial Bank of Australia v. Official Assignee of the Estate of Wilson & Co. (1893) A.C. 181 at p. 185 shows that a suspense account is in the nature of an account of a trust fund, but that case it seems to me does not decide anything which could affect the present case one way or the other; whether the bankers in that case were or were not entitled to use the money for their own profit so long as it lay with them was not a question in the case respectfully agreeing as I do with the decision in Official Assignee of Madras v. Smith (1909) I.L.R. 32 Mad. 68, and finding here no evidence to rebut the presumption arising from payment into a bank, I think this appeal ought to be allowed with costs throughout.

Munro, J.

2. I adhere to my former judgment and agree to the proposed order.

Abdur Rahim, J.

3. I regret I am unable in this case to agree with Miller, J., and Munro, J., as to the principle which should govern its decision. It does not seem to me that there is any difficulty in ascertaining the facts, and it does not lie in the mouth of the Official Assignee to ask us to assume that the letters written by the claimant to Arbuthnot & Co., if produced, would have shown that the circumstances in which the amounts in question were paid in were at all different from those to be gathered from Arbuthnot & Co.’s letters. The letters written to Arbuthnot & Co. would be in their custody and should have been produced by the Official Assignee if they were available and he wanted to rely on them. The gist of what is proved is that the manager of the Nidhi and Arbuthnot & Co. could not agree as to the terms on which the latter was to hold the money in deposit, and pending further instructions from the claimant they said they would hold the money in suspense. I do not think that this case can be distinguished from D. Rajam Iyer’s case, and I have heard nothing in the course of agreement which should induce me to change my opinion as I expressed in that ease on appeal from the order of the learned Commissioner. On the other hand, the case of Commercial Bank of Australia v. Official Assignee of the Estate of Wilson & Co. (1893) A.C. 181 p. 185, which has now been brought to our notice, confirms me in the view I hold, That case lays down that money held by a banker to an especial suspense account, even though under an agreement which entitles the banker to appropriate the money to his own use whenever he chooses, does not amount to payment to the banker if the latter has not in fact appropriated the money to his own use. I should therefore dismiss the appeal with costs.

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