Hiralal & Ors Vs. Badkulal &
Ors  INSC 18 (12 March 1953)
MAHAJAN, MEHR CHAND BHAGWATI, NATWARLAL H.
CITATION: 1953 AIR 225 1953 SCR 758
CITATOR INFO :
R 1961 SC1316 (7)
AcknowledgmentWhether gives fresh cause of
action-Practice -Party in possession of documentary evidence-Duty produce.
Where the defendants who had dealings with
the plaintiffs for several years signed the following entry in the plaintiffs'
account book underneath the earlier entries:
"After adjusting the accounts Rs. 34,000
found correct payable Held, that this amounted to an unqualified acknowledgment
of liability to pay and implied a promise to pay and could be made the basis of
the suit and gave rise to a fresh cause of action.
Maniram v. Seth Rup Chand (33 I.A. 165),
Fateh Chand v. Ganga Singh (I.L.R. 10 Lah. 745) and Kahan Chand Dularam v. Dayalal
Amritlal (I.L.R. 10 Lah. 748) relied on. Ghulam Murtuza v. Fasihunnissa (I.L.R.
57 All. 434) overruled.
It is not a sound practice for those desiring
to rely upon a certain state of facts to withhold from the court written
evidence which is in their possession which could throw light upon the issues
in controversy and to rely upon the mere doctrine of onus of proof.
Murugesam Pillai v. Manickavasaka Pandara (44
I.A. 99) referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 168 of 1952.
Appeal from a Judgment and Decree dated 23rd
July, 1951, of the Court of the Judicial Commissioner, Vindhya Pradesh, in
Civil First Appeal No. 26 of 1951 arising out of the Judgment and Decree dated
14th March, 1951, of the Court of the District Judge, Umaria, in Case No. 32 of
N. S. Bindra (S. L. Chhibber, with him) for
S. P. Sinha (K. B. Asthana, with him) for the
1953. March 12. The Judgment of the Court was
delivered by MAHAJAN J.-The suit out of which this appeal arises was instituted
by the plaintiff-respondents in the court of the district judge of Umaria, for
recovery of Rs. 34,000 principal, and Rs. 2,626 interest, due on foot of mutual
dealings. The suit was dismissed by the district judge but was decreed on
appeal by the Judicial Commissioner of Vindhya Pradesh. A certificate for leave
to appeal to this Court was granted as the case fulfilled all the conditions
and requirements in force relating to appeals to the Supreme Court.
The defendants did not admit the claim and it
was pleaded that no accounts were explained to them when the signatures of
Bhaiyalal and Hiralal were obtained in the plaintiffs' ledger on 3rd September,
1949, acknowledging the suit amount as due from them. It was further pleaded
that no suit could be based merely on an acknowledgment of the debt. In paragraph
4 of the written statement it was alleged that the plaintiff No. 2 Dipchand
having threatened to bring a suit against defendants I and 2 whose financial
position was bad and having represented that plaintiff No. 1 Badkulal would be
angry and abuse plaintiff No. 2, and having assured on oath by placing his hand
on a deity in a temple that no suit shall be 760 brought, and that amount of
interest would be reduced asked defendants 1 and 2 to sign the khata, who
signed the same without going through the accounts, on the faith of these
statements made by Dipchand and that the defendants were not bound by these
signatures. In paragraph 9 of the written statement it was alleged that in fact
Rs. 15,000 or 16,000 as principal sum were due to plaintiffs from defendants
but the suit had been filed for a much larger sum than due.
Issue I framed by the district judge was in
these terms : " Did the defendants Hiralal and Bhaiyala I sign on Bhadon
Sudi 11 Samvat 2006 in the capacity of manager and head of the family, on the
khata of, the plaintiffs after understanding the debit and credit accounts and
accepting Rs. 34,000 as the correct balance due to the plaintiffs." It
would have been more correct had a separate issue been framed on the two points
compositely mentioned in this issue. Be that as it may, the form in which the
issue was framed is not material for the decision of the appeal.
Issue 7 was in these terms :
" Did the plaintiff Dipchand obtain the
signature of defendants 1 and 2, in their bahi under the threat of instituting
a suit and giving the assurance of the suit being not filed and leaving the
interest which is incorrect and very much exaggerated, by saying that Badkulal
shall be very angry with him...".
The frame of the issue shows that the learned
judge at this stage made no effort to ascertain or apprehend the nature of the
plea taken in the written statement. He seems to have acted more as an
automaton than as a judge in the discharge of his responsible duties. Before
framing an issue like this it was his duty to examine the parties and to find
out the precise nature of the plea involved within these facts ; in other
words, whether the defendants wished to plead in defence fraud, coercion, undue
influence or a mistake of fact entitling them to reopen the accounts. Mr.
Bindra for the appellants was unable to tell us
761 what real plea was involved in the facts stated under this issue.
The manner in which the learned judge dealt
with this issue lends support to our view that he did not at all apprehend what
he had to decide. It was held that the defendants did not sign the entry after
understanding, settling, and adjusting of the accounts, but that plaintiff
Dipchand obtained their signatures without explaining the accounts to them.
The fact that the entry was signed by both
the defendants who represented their family was not denied. Hiralal, defendant,
in the witness box admitted that the defendants deal in gold, silver and kirana
and maintain regular books of account. It was also admitted that two or three
muneems are in their employ for maintaining regular books of the business
dealings. Hiralal was questioned " How much money was due from the
defendants-firm to the plaintiffs" He couldn't firm?". The answer was
evasive, viz., say how much was due". When questioned about his accounts,
he replied that he had not filed them as he was ill. He further deposed that he
had looked into his accounts and Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 15,000 as principal and
interest were due but he could not say what was the correct amount. When asked
whether on the date of signing the acknowledgment he looked into the books to
see what amount was due from him, his answer was in the negative. He further
said that even after receiving notice he did not look into his own accounts to
check as to what the correct balance was. A leading question was put to him
Whether on Bhadon Sudi 11 Samvat 2006 there Was an entry of Rs. 34,000 in the
defendants' khata as being the balance due from them to the plaintiffs.
The answer was again evasive. He said "
I could not say whether there was any such entry in his books." In these
circumstances there was no justification for throwing out the plaintiffs' suit
on the ground that the accounts were not explained to the defendants by the
plaintiffs. The defendants had written the accounts in their own books from
which the true balance could 762 be ascertained. An inference from the
statement of Hiralal can easily be raised that the balance entry of Rs. 34,000
also existed in his own books. Mr. Bindra tried to get out of this situation by
urging that it was no part of the defendants' duty to produce the books unless
they were called upon to do so and the onus rested on the plaintiffs to prove
their case. This argument has to be negatived in view of the observations of
their Lordships of the Privy Council in Murugesam Pillai v. Manickavasaka
Pandara(1), which appositely apply here. This is what their Lordships observed:
"A practice has grown up in Indian
procedure of those in possession of important documents or information lying
by, trusting to the abstract doctrine of the onus of proof, and failing,
accordingly, to furnish to the courts the best material for its decision. With
regard to third parties this may be right enough they have no responsibility
for the conduct of the suit; but with regard to the parties to the suit it is,
in their Lordships' opinion, an inversion of sound practice for those desiring
to rely upon a certain state of facts to withhold from the court the written
evidence in their possession which would throw light upon the
proposition." This rule was again reiterated in Rameshwar Singh v. Rajit
On the evidence of the parties it is clear
that both parties are businessmen and each party has been maintaining accounts
of their mutual dealings, and they met on 3rd September and in the plaintiffs'
book the defendants signed an entry on page 58 of the ledger which runs thus: ``
Rs. 34,000 balance due to be received up to Bhadon Sudi 11 Samvat 2006 made by
check and understanding of accounts with Hiralalji's books." This
acknowledgment was made below a number of entries made in this khats, on the
credit and debit side and the mutual dealings had continued since (1) (1917) 44
I-A. 99. (2) A.I.R. 1929 P.C. 95, 763 several years. The acknowledgment is
signed by Hiralal and Bhaiyalal, with the following endorsement:
"After adjusting the accounts Rs. 34,000
found correct payable." In these circumstances we are not able to
understand the view of the district judge that it was not proved that the
accounts were explained to the defendants by Dipchand. It was unnecessary to do
so because the defendants themselves were keeping accounts and they would not
have signed the balance for Rs. 34,000 with the endorsement above cited,
without reference to their own books or in the manner suggested in the written
statement. Plaintiff Dipchand in the witness box supported the plaintiffs' case
as laid in the plaint. He deposed that " This accounting was done by my
muneem Puranlal and Ram Prasad, muneem of Hiralal............ Muneems explained
and Hiralal signed after understanding it." In cross-examination he said
that muneems were checking the accounts and when both the muneems said that so
much was the balance, Hiralal then signed and that Hiralal and Bhaiyalal
themselves did not check any account. The learned district judge and Mr. Bindra
criticized the evidence of this witness and it was urged that he had made false
and highly improbable statements with regard to the manner and circumstances in
which the entry was signed. The discrepancies in the statement relate to matters
of no consequence. In our opinion, his evidence along with the entry was
sufficient to hold the plaintiffs' case proved when the best evidence of their
own books to disprove the plaintiffs' case had been withheld by the defendants.
No satisfactory explanation had been given for the non-production of the
defendants' books, and the evidence given by Hiralal does not do much credit to
Mr. Bindra contended that it should have been
held that Bhaiyalal did not sign at the same time when the entry was written
but he signed later on. On this point Hiralal deposed that when be signed
Bhaiyalal 99 764 was not present, that he signed afterwards, that Kulai muneem
came with, the bahi saying that Badkulal and Dipchand had quarrelled among
themselves that there should also be the signature of Bhaiyalal, that Bhaiyalal
questioned him as to why the witness had signed, that he replied that Dipchand
had told him after pointing his hand towards God that he would take no action
so long as he lived, so he did not check, nor any one explained him the
accounts, that on this he asked Bhaiyalal to sign and on his asking he signed.
It was for Bhaiyalal to explain his signature by going into the witness box but
he did not give evidence in the case and there is no explanation why he did not
do so. Mr. Bindra's contention therefore that it should be held that Bhaiyalal
was not present when the acknowledgment was signed cannot be sustained.
The defendants tried to support their case by
the statements of Kulai Prasad, muneem, and the other two muneems Ram Prasad
and Puranlal. So far as Kulai Prasad is concerned, he was in the plaintiffs'
service and was dismissed by Badkulal, plaintiff, on 31st March, 1950. Much
reliance cannot be placed on the statement of a dismissed and disgruntled employee.
He stated that Hiralal was not made to understand any accounts and Dipchand
assured him on oath that he would raise no trouble during his life and asked
Hiralal to sign and that Bhaiyalal signed on a different date. This evidence is
of a partisan character and no reliance can be placed on it.
Rain Prasad stated that he did not check the
accounts of the plaintiffs from Bhadon Samvat 2006 and that Hiralal did not
sign in his presence. In cross-examination he admitted that there were mutual
dealings between the parties and that Hiralal might have signed after
accounting was done. He pretended ignorance of what happened on Bhadon Samvat
As regards Puranlal, he stated that after
looking into the accounts and after mutual talk, Exhibit P-1 765 was written on
Dip Chand's asking, that accounts might have been told by Dipchand on the basis
of the statement which he had with him, that no accounts were explained. He
further stated that Hiralal said to Dipchand "Please see me", on
which Dipchand replied after raising his hand towards the temple " I shall
not do anything unfair in my lifetime." In cross-examination he admitted
that the words " signed Bhurey Naik Raghunandan Prasad Bakalam Hira Lal
", and the words " after adjusting the accounts Rs. 34,000 found
correctly payable signed Hiralal " were written by Hiralal himself.
It was further elicited in cross-examination
that the witness had forged a receipt and for forging that receipt he was
sentenced to one year's imprisonment in a criminal case started by Badkulal,
plaintiffs This evidence therefore is not of much consequence in this case.
In these circumstances we are satisfied that
the district judge not only approached the decision of the case from an
erroneous point of view but he also incorrectly appreciated the material on the
record. The learned Judicial Commissioner was therefore perfectly justified in
reversing his decision and. in holding that on 3rd September, 1949, there was
an adjustment of accounts actually done by the muneems and accepted by the
principals and the story of coercion and misrepresentation was false.
Mr. Bindra next urged that the plaintiff's
suit should have been dismissed because it could not be maintained merely on
the basis of an acknowledgment of liability, that such an acknowledgment could
only save limitation but could not furnish a cause of action on which a suit
could be maintained. The Judicial Commissioner took the view that an
unqualified acknowledgment like the one in the suit, and the statement of the
account under which the entry had been made, were sufficient to furnish a cause
of action to the plaintiffs for maintaining the present suit. We are satisfied
that no exception can be taken to this conclusion.
It was held by the Privy Council in 766
Maniram v. Seth Rupchand(1), that an unconditional acknowledgment implies a
promise to 'pay because that is the natural inference if nothing is said to the
contrary. It is what every honest man would mean to do. In Fateh Chand v. Ganga
Singh(2) the same view was taken. It was held that a suit on the basis of a
balance was competent. In Kahanchand Dularam v. Dayaram Amritlal(3) the same
view was expressed and it Was observed that the three expressions "balance
due ", " account adjusted " and "balance struck" must
mean that the parties had been through the account. The defendant there
accepted the statement of account contained in the plaintiff's account book,
and made it his own by signing it and it thus amounted to an " accounts
stated between them " in the language of article 64 of the Limitation Act.
The same happened in the present case. The acknowledgment which forms the basis
of the suit was made in the ledger of the plaintiffs in which earlier mutual
accounts had been entered and truly speaking, the suit was not based merely on
this acknowledgment but was based on the mutual dealings and the accounts
stated between them and was thus clearly maintainable.
Mr. Bindra drew our attention to a decision
of the Allahabad High Court in Ghulam Murtuza v. Fasihunnissa(4) , wherein it
was held that even if an acknowledgment implies a promise to pay it cannot be
made the basis of suit and treated as giving rise to a fresh cause of action.
We have examined the decision and we are satisfied that it does not lay down
For the reasons stated above this appeal has
no merits and we accordingly dismiss it with costs.
Agent for the appellants: Govind Saran
Singh., Agent for the respondents : A. D. Mathur.
CO 2,0.3 (i) (1906) 33 I.A. 165.
(2) (1929) I.L.R. Io Lab748.
(3) (1929) I.L.R. to Lah. 745.
(4) (1935) I.L.R. 57 All434.