Pagavathi Amma v. The Ceylon Lawyers’ Benevolent Assn.
1'942Present: Moseley S.P.J. and Soertsz J
PAGAVATHI AMMA v. THE CEYLON LAWYERS’BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION
301—D. C. Colombo, 12,534.
Ceylon lawyers’ Benevolent Association—Contribution payable on death ofmember—Not claimable on suicide Benevolent Association Rule 21.
The contribution payable to the nominee of a member of the CeylonLawyers’' Benevolent Association cannot be claimed in the event of thesuicide of a member.
^^PPEAL from a judgment of the District Judge of Colombo.
N. Nadarajah, K.C. (with him H. W. Tambiah and Renganathan),for plaintiff, appellant.
H. V. Perera, K.C. (with him N. K. Cholcsy), for defendants,respondents.
Cur. adv. vuli.
> 20 X. L. It, 257.
84 SOERTSZ J.—Pagavathi Am-ma v. The Ceylon iMuryers' Benevolent Assn.
November 25, 1942. Soertsz J.—
P.Balasubramaniam, a proctor of this Court, was a member of anAssociation called and known as The Ceylon Lawyers’ Benevolent Asso-ciation. This Association of some five hundred members was formed,as stated in the plaint, for promoting thrift, and giving relief to membersin times of sickness and distress, aiding them when they were in pecuniarydifficulties, and making provision for their widows and orphans. Therewere rules governing this Association.
Rule 21 provided inter alia that—
“ on the death of a member the amount available at his credit lessany sum in which he is indebted to the Association shall be paid to hisnominee or nominees upon application. In addition to this payment,if the deceased had had been a member for twelve months- or moreimmediately preceding his death, the committee shall pay to thenominee a contributory call calculated as follows ”….
P. Balasubramaniam died by his own hand on July 26, 1938. Theevidence shows, and it is not seriously disputed, that he was sane at thetime of his suicide. The amount that would have been payable at thetime of his death, if it was due to be paid, is said to be Rs. 4,334.50It is to recover this amount that the plaintiff, who is his mother andnominee, instituted this action.
The defendants, who are the Honorary Secretary, and the HonoraryTreasurer of this Association, were appointed to represent it, for thepurpose of this , case, in terms of section 16 of the Civil Procedure Code!They filed answer denying liability to pay the amount claimed inasmuchas Balasubramaniam had died by his hand. They, however, expressedtheir willingness to pay the sum of Rs. 24.50 which was the amountto the credit of his account with the Association. We are not concernedwith that in this appeal.
The two questions submitted to us are : —
Is the amount claimed by the plaintiff due on the contractbetween him and the Association ?
If it is, is the plaintiff’s claim defeated by considerations ofpublic policy ?
As observed by Lord Atkin in his speech in the case of Beresford. v.Royal- Insurance Co. these questions are apt to be confused, but must beconsidered apart.
In that case, it was a clear term of the contract that the amount dueon the Policy of Insurance would be paid on death, even if the assuredihad caused his own death, provided it was so caused after1 a lapse of oneyear from the date of the Policy. The question that created difficultiesand that was fully considered in that case was the second question,namely, whether although that was a term of the contract, the contractwas enforceable.
But, here, we are dealing with a different kind of case for there is noterm in this contract concerned with the contingency of suicide. The
(1938) A. C. 586, p. 594.
SOERTSZ J.—Pagavathi Amma v. The Ceylon Lawyers’ Benevolent Assn. 85
agreement is that a certain sum would be payable on death. In such acase Their Lordships who made speeches in the case of Beresford v. RoyalInsurance Co. (supra) declared that there was no difficulty at all because,in the words of Lord Atkin :
“ on ordinary principles of insurance law an assured cannot by hisown deliberate act cause the event upon which the insurance money ispayable. The insurers have not agreed to pay on that happening.The fire-assured cannot recover if he burns down his house nor themarine-assured if he scuttles his ship, nor the life-assured if hedeliberately ends his own life
Or, as Lord Macmillan put it;
“ if the policies had contained no reference at all to suicide, I shouldhave been of opinion that they did not cover the contingency of theassured committing suicide while sane, or in other words that theevent of the assured’s death did not mean or include the event of hisself-caused death while sane ”.
Counsel for the appellant sought to escape from this conclusion bycontending that this Association was a purely Benevolent Associationand not a “ business concern ”, to use his words, like any InsuranceCompany and that for that reason different principles applied. Hefurther submitted that the Association had, on previous occasions,paid the full amount due in cases of suicide. I do not think that eitherof these facts makes any material difference. The principle enunciatedin the House of Lords holds good whether we are dealing' with an agree-ment with an Insurance Company, or an agreement among members of aBenevolent, Provident, or Family Benefit Association or just anagreement among a group of persons banded together for the purpose of. providing for payments to be made by the survivors to persons named orindicated by those dying. In each of these cases the event contemplatedis that of natural death. In regard to the point taken that paymentssuch as that claimed here were made on previous occasions, I understoodit to mean that that fact might have induced some of the members of theAssociation to join it, in the view that payment would be made to thewidows, orphans or nominees in the event of death however broughtabout, and that, therefore, it should be taken into account. But I fail tosee how it could bear on the matter by way of- creating a right or givingrise to an obligation.-
On this answer to the first question there is no occasion to consider thesecond question in order to ascertain whether, in regard to it, we aregoverned by Roman-Dutch law, and, if we are, whether the resultingposition is different under that law.
In my opinion, the appeal fails and it must be dismissed.
Moseley S.P.J.—I agree.
PAGAVATHI AMMA v. THE CEYLON LAWYERS BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION