Decided on June 18,1963



- (1.) The question in this second appeal is whether the Courts below were right in awarding interest by way of damages and costs. The appellant is the State-Bank of India. The respondent's father, one Venkata Rama Gopalarao, had a current account with the State Bank and on the date of his death an 19-7-1956, there was about a sum of Rs. 26,0007- and odd to his credit. After his death, the widow as guardian of the minor sons of Rama Gopalarao approached the Bank to invest three-fourths of the money in Government securities siren as the National Savings Certificates etc., and with respect to the one-fourth since Ramagopalarao left a daughter, she claimed the amount and ultimately obtained a succession certificate and withdrew this amount. In respect of the three-fourths of the amount, the Bank requested the guardian to produce a succession certificate but the guardian instead of doing so filed the suit for a declaration that the amount is part of joint family property and that no succession certificate is necessary and that the respondents have become entitled by survivor-snip under Hindu Law to the suit amount lying in the current account of the bank in the name, of their late father Rama Gopalarao and to direct the bank to invest the same in Government loans as may be desired by the respondent's next friend or otherwise to the best advantage of the minor respondents and to grant a decree for Rs. 30244 Np. against the bank as damages towards loss of interest suffered by the respondents.
(2.) The Bank by its written statement averred that it has no concern to investigate or acquaint itself as to from what source or how many of the depositors depositing monies in current accounts with it have got their monies, that the Bank looks only to the depositor in whose, name the current account stands, that in the event of the death of the depositor having current account with the Bank, unless a grant of legal representation is produced from a competent Court by the person alleging himself to be entitled to the amount standing to the credit of the deceased, the Bank will obviously not be in a position to make any payment as the Bank for its own protection has to he satisfied that the money is paid to the proper persons entitled thereto. The Bank further averred that in the absence of any notice in this behalf it is not aware as to whether the amounts deposited by tha deceased Vetikata Rama Gopalarao are his self-acquisitions or his joint family funds, that the nature of those monies is a matter for the adjudication by a competent Court in the presence of all the parties interested therein and that the Bank cannot enter on any such investigation and undertake any such risk. Several other pleas were taken to which it is unnecessary- to refer except to say that it justified its insistence on the production of legal representation. Lastly, the Bank averred thus : "The defendant Bank is only too anxious to release the amount for payment to the persons entitled thereto as the accredited legal representatives of the deceased Venkata Rama Gopala Rao and it is prepared and willing to deposit the amount in this Honourable Court if the Honourable Court so directs for the amount being paid over by the Court to such persons as may be adjudged entitled thereto on their satisfying the legal requirements. The plaintiffs are minors. The plaint refers to the pendency of a petition O. P. No. 59 of 1957 in the District Court for granting a succession certificate in respect of a 1/4th share in the amount to the plaintiffs and their mother and sister; and hence proper provision will have to be made in respect of this in the event of this Hon'ble Court directing deposit of the entire amount in this Court." The trial Court gave the declaration sought for and directed the Bank to invest the moneys in that account in Government securities as desired by the respondents' next friend, The Bank appealed against this latter direction and the first appellate Court observed that it is no par! of the Bank's duty to invest the moneys and consequently that portion of the direction from the decree was directed. It however maintained the decree with the declaration prayed for and the award of Interest on the suit amount from 124-1957, the date of Ex. B-3, at a rate allowed by the trial Court and for costs.
(3.) In this second appeal, as I have already observed, the question is whether the stand taken by the Bank in asking for a succession certificate was unjustified and whether it is liable to pay interest in lieu of damages and costs. Both the Courts below have not taken into account the fact that it is no part of the duty of the Bank to make any elaborate investigation as to the source of the funds and whether the funds belong to the joint family or individually. Unless the Bank had notice that the funds formed part of the joint family funds, it cannot be said that the stand taken by the Bank in demanding production of a succession certificate" under Section 214 of the Indian Succession Act was unjustified. Section 214 is in the following terms: "214 (1) No Court shall (a) pass a decree against a debtor of a deceased person for payment of his debt to a person claiming on succession to be entitled to the effects of the deceased person or to any 'part thereof, or (b) proceed, upon an application of a person claiming to be so entitled to execute against such a debtor a decree or order for the payment of his debt, except on the production, by the person so claiming, of - (i) a probate or letters of administration evidencing the grant to him of administration to the estate of the deceased, or (ii) a certificate granted under Section 31 or Section 32 of the Administrator General's Act, 1913, and having the debt mentioned therein, or (iii) a succession certificate granted under Part X and having the debt specified therein, or (iv) a certificate granted under the Succession Certificate Act, 1889 of (v) a certificate granted under Bombay Regulation Ho. VIII of 1827, and, if granted after the first day of May, 1889, having the debt specified therein. (2) The word 'debt' in sub-section (1) includes any debt except rent, revenue or profits payable in respect of land used for agricultural purposes.";

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