Sri Lanka Law Reports
vUNION BANK OF COLOMBO
COURT OF APPEALAMARATUNGA, J.
CALA. 488/2002' D.C. COLOMBO No. 813/DRMARCH 13, 2003
Debt Recovery Act, No. 2 of 1991 – No. 9 of 1994 – Section 4(4), and 30 -Affidavit to be made by a Principal Officer – Who is a Principal Officer ?
The Affidavit accompanying the Plaint was signed by one “B" who is thePersonal Banking Officer. It was contended that “B” was a person who didnot come within section 30 of the Act. The District Court held that “B" is aPrincipal Officer of the Bank.
Held:The word Officer suggests a position of trust and authority. An Officeris a person holding such position.
Personal Banking is one important service in the Bank. The docu-ments relating to the facilities obtained by the defendant were acces-sible to her and she was a signatory of some of them. Material indi-cate that “B” is a Principal Officer of the Bank.
APPLICATION for leave to Appeal from the Order of the District Court ofColombo.
Case referred to:1. New Delhi & London Bank Ltd. v Oldham and others, ILR 21 page 20.Faizer Musthapa for the petitionerNigel Hatch for the respondent
September 5, 2003
AMARATUNGA, J.This is an application for leave to appeal against the order of thelearned Additional District Judge of Colombo directing the defendant-petitioner to deposit a sum of Rs. 50 lakhs in order to grant leave to
Idress v Union Bank of Ceylon
file answer and defend the action filed against him by the plaintiff-Bank under the Debt Recovery (Special Provisions) Act, No. 2 of1990 as amended by Act, No. 9 of 1994.The defendant by his peti-tion filed for the purpose of obtaining leave to appear and defend hasraised, among other objections, an objection to the affidavit annexedto the plaint in terms of section 4(4) of the Debt Recovery Act, No. 2of 1990 as amended by Act, No. 9 of 1994. The said section, as itnow stands reads as follows:
“The affidavit to be filed by the institution under subsection (1)shall be made by a principal officer of such institution havingpersonal knowledge of the facts of the cause of action andsuch person shall in his affidavit swear or affirm that he depos-es from his own personal knowledge to the matters thereincontained and shall be liable to be examined as to the subjectmatter thereof at the discretion of the judge.”
The word principal officer in relation to an institution has beendefined in section 30 of the Act as follows:
“Principal officer in relation to an institution means, a director,secretary or other officer not below the rank of a manager ofsuch institution and shall include any other officer of such insti-tution specially authorized by such director, secretary or otherofficer not below the rank of a manager.”
In this case, the affidavit accompanying the plaint has- beensigned by one Sajeewani Bakmeedeniya who has given her desig-nation as the Personal Banking Officer of the plaintiff Bank. Theobjection raised on behalf of the defendant was that there was noth-ing to show that she was a person who came within the definition ofprincipal officer given in section 30 and that she was not a personspecially authorized in the manner set out in section 30. This was thematter in respect of which leave was sought at the inquiry. Thereforewhat this Court has to consider is whether the Personal BankingOfficer of the plaintiff Bank is a principal officer of that institution com-petent to sign th'e affidavit.
The word ‘office’ generally suggests a position of trust and author-ity. An officer is a person holding such position. In relation to corpo-rations and companies the word principal officer may denote a per-son whose oversight or authority exists either over the whole or some
Sri Lanka Law Reports
 3 Sri L.R
particular department of the general business of the corporation orthe company. The words Chairman, President, General Manager andManaging Director signify persons who have authority and generaloversight over the entire business of a company or a corporation.There are others who have authority and oversight over particularbranches of a business. A secretary has authority and oversight inrespect of records and a treasurer, over the money.
Personal banking is one important service in any bank. The factthat the personal banking officer had the authority to offer large sumsof money to the Bank’s customers as banking facilities (over drafts) 50is apparent from documents P2 (Rs. 2500000/-) P3 (Rs. 4000000/-)
P3Q Rs. 13000000/-). The Personal Banking Officer was a signato-ry (along with the Chief Credit Officer) to all those documents. Thisdemonstrates that she in any way was not below the rank of a man-ager. Can the defendant, who has accepted large amounts of moneyoffered to him by way of overdrafts under her signature now contendthat the Personal Banking Officer of the plaintiff Bank was not a prin-cipal officer of that institution? In the circumstances of this case it ishighly technical objection which cannot qualify as a good defence.
The Indian Civil Procedure Code of 1882 enacted in section 435 60“In suits by a corporation…. the plaint may be subscribed and verifiedon behalf of the corporation…. by any Director, Secretary or otherprincipal officer of the corporation…Who is able to depose to the factsof the case.” In the absence of the Manager who had the authority totransact all business of the plaintiff Bank’s branch at Luchnow, anaccountant was given a power of attorney authorizing him to conductall business of the Bank but the power of attorney did not contain thewords giving him authority to 'sue for and recover’ (debts). In NewDelhi and London Bank Ltd v Oldham and others (reproduced inThe Indian Decisions) (new series) Vol. X. – page 672, the Privy 70Council held even in the absence of power to sue for or recover, theaccountant was a principal officer within the meaning of section 435who was competent to subscribe and verify a plaint for the recoveryof money due on a promissory note.
In this case, on the material available it is clear that the PersonalBanking Officer of the plaintiff-Bank is a principal officer of that insti-tution. The documents relating to the facilities obtained by the defen-dant were accessible to her. In fact she was a signatory to some of
Idress v Union Bank of Ceylon
those documents. Therefore she is a person who could have hadpersonal knowledge of the facts of the cause of action. She was sotherefore a person who could affirm to the affidavit which accompa-nied the plaint. As such the affidavit of the said SanjeewaniBakmeedeniya was a proper affidavit. The objection raised to the affi-davit is a mere technical objection and did not raise a good defence.There is no reason to grant leave to appeal on the question urged insupport of leave. Leave to appal is accordingly refused and the appli-cation is dismissed with costs in a sum of Rs. 10000/-.
IDRESS v. UNION OF COLOMBO