Case Briefs
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Biddomoye Dabee v Sittaram


Author: Shefali Chaudhary, 2nd year B.A.LL.B., ICFAI University Dehradun.

Citation: (1879) ILR 4 Cal 497 

Date of Decision: July 24, 1878

Original Copy: N/A

Bench: R Gargth, Markby

Statues Involved: Indian Contract Act 1872

 

Issues in Question:

  • Whether the plaintiff or the defendant are entitled to judgement having regard to the Section 178 of the Indian Contract Act?

 

Background of the Case:

  • The plaintiff in this case is a woman who had two houses, one in the district of mymensingh and the other the lodging house in Calcutta. The plaintiff left Calcutta in June 1877 and came back in February 1878. When she went from Calcutta she gave her Jemedar Sheoruttun charge of her house.
  • Sheoruttun was the trusted servant and was known to the plaintiff for a long time. The plaintiff even helped him with money several times. The articles which are in question in the given case were locked in a box and the key was given to Sheoruttan tewary. 
  • When the plaintiff returned to Calcutta she found that the articles from the box were missing. On the investigation Sheoruttan was found entrusted with two silver jewelleries and 43 vessels. 
  • Subsequently Sheoruttan was found guilty and was sentenced to six months imprisonment. Sheoruttan further pledged about the articles that his mistress was in need of the money to pay her rents and later the defendant was relieved from any charge which may come under provision of Section 178 of The Indian Contract Act. 
  • The whole question arises on to the Section 178 of The Indian Contract Act, which renders it on to the laws about the person in possession of the goods. 

Judgement:

  • Calcutta High Court stated that as per the circumstances stated the plaintiff is entitled to judgement in both the cases. The Court stated that during the plaintiffs absence from her house the jemadar Sheoruttun was in charge of her home. He was never in possession of the articles. He had just the custody of them, and had no position to deal with them in any capacity whatsoever. It did not consider that such custody is ‘possession” within the importance of the Contract Act, Section 178.
  • The Court said that, regardless of whether the jemadar could be considered as having brought the articles into his own possession, the case was  within the extent of the second provision of the Section. The moment that they were taken out by him, to be pawned to the legitimate owner.
  • The court mentioned that in the case of Greenwood v. Holquette (10 B.L.R42) where a piano had been hired from the plaintiff with a choice of purchase and the hirer sold the piano to the respondent before he had exercised that option it was held by Sir R. Lounge chair, C.J., and Phear J., that the respondent was liable  in trover to the plaintiff, in spite of the fact that he was acting in good faith. The Court found that the possession, which was obtained by the hirer of the piano, was not such a possession  as was by Section 108 of the Contract Act.
  • The Calcutta High Court stated that this case is lot more grounded one than the present, on the grounds that there the hirer of the piano was without a doubt entitled to the possession of it for the time in his own right; though here, the possession of Sheoruttun was in real the possession of the plaintiff. The plaintiff in the prior suit will be qualified for judgment for Rs. 490, and in the second suit for Rs. 150.

Critical Analysis:

  • The judgement of this case specifies that goods in custody of any servant cannot be considered to be in possession. He is a mere custodian of the articles. He cannot bring trover, as he is not having possession, he is not a bailee. 

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