Lee Seng Choon Ronnie v Singapore Island Country Club

JurisdictionSingapore
Judgment Date02 April 1993
Date02 April 1993
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No 12 of 1992
CourtCourt of Appeal (Singapore)
Lee Seng Choon Ronnie
Plaintiff
and
Singapore Island Country Club
Defendant

[1993] SGCA 23

L P Thean J

,

Warren L H Khoo J

and

M Karthigesu J

Civil Appeal No 12 of 1992

Court of Appeal

Civil Procedure–Costs–Principles–Court's discretion to deny successful appellant of costs of appeal and costs below so as to record disapprobation of appellant's conduct–Unincorporated Associations and Trade Unions–Friendly societies–Membership–Revocation of club membership–Member in arrears of membership fees–Club writing to demand payment of certain sum–Club rules providing for revocation of membership upon member being posted on club notice board as defaulter–Club revoking membership after member's name posted as defaulter despite member's payment of sum demanded–Whether revocation valid

The appellant (“Lee”) was in arrears of his membership fees as a member of the respondent club (“SICC”). SICC sent Lee a notice to demand that he put his account in credit by paying a certain sum amounting to part of the arrears. Lee did not respond to this notice. Pursuant to r 47 (e) of its rules, SICC sent Lee a second notice stating that unless his account was placed in credit within a further period of seven days, his name would be posted on the club's notice board as a defaulter. Rule 47 (f) of SICC's rules provided that if after being posted as a defaulter the member still failed to place his account in credit, the club's committee would revoke his membership. Some 39 days after his name was posted as a defaulter, Lee made payment of the sum demanded in the two notices. About a week later, SICC's general committee relied on r 47 (f) and terminated his membership for failing to keep his account in credit. Lee applied to court for a declaration inter alia that the decision to delete his name from the register of members of the club was null and void, and that he remained at all times a member. The High Court found for SICC and held that the requirements under r 47 had been complied with. Lee appealed.

Held, allowing the appeal:

(1) The procedural steps to be taken leading to a member's name being deleted from the register of members were contained in paras (e) and (f) of r 47. Strict compliance with the rules did not mean literal compliance, and where the notices specified a certain sum amounting to only part of the arrears as the amount overdue, payment of this sum would have been sufficient to place the member's account in credit: at [17] and [20].

(2) Rule 47 (f) was completely silent as to the period of the posting as a defaulter before the general committee “shall delete his name from the register of members”. In the absence of such provision, the period required for such posting had to be reasonable before the general committee was entitled to proceed to act under the rule. The words “to place his account in credit” meant to pay the amount overdue as demanded of the member under the two notices. While his name was posted as a defaulter but before the general committee met with a view to deleting his name, the appellant had paid the sum demanded in the two notices and thereby placed his account in credit. He had rectified the default and the general committee was not entitled under r 47 (f) to delete his name from the register of members: at [26] and [28].

(3) Although the appellant succeeded in his appeal and was entitled to a declaration that he was at all material times a member of the club, to record the court's disapprobation of his conduct in the dispute and in the proceedings, he was denied the costs of the appeal as well as the costs below: at [31] and [32].

Koh Kok Wah (Wendy Wong & Koh) and Peter Sim (Sim Hill Tan &Wong) for the appellant

Ronnie Quek (Allen &Gledhill) for the respondent.

Judgment reserved.

M Karthigesu J

(delivering the judgment of the court):

1 This is an appeal from the judgment of the learned Judicial Commissioner Kan Ting Chiu in Originating Summons No 287 of 1991 wherein the declarations sought by the appellant for the reinstatement of his membership in the respondent club (“the club”) were denied.

2 The appellant instituted these proceedings after his name had been deleted from the register of members of the club, under r 47 of the club's rules for failing to keep his account in credit. Rule 47 reads as follows:

  1. (a) The account of each member of the club shall be kept as directed by the committee.

  2. (b) Each member shall deposit with the club $300 as security for the payment of all moneys due under his account with the club. Each member shall keep his account in credit and for the purpose of construing whether the member's account is in credit, any deposit made by the member and held by the club as such security shall not be taken into reckoning.

  3. (c) Should any member's account not be in credit, the committee may, after due notification has been given, withdraw the privileges of the club until credit has been established.

  4. (d) No member who has been notified that his account is in debit can enter for or take part in any club competition or in any inter-club match or vote at any meeting so long as his account is in debit.

  5. (e) If any member fails to place his account in credit within seven days after notice from the secretary or honorary treasurer, the secretary or honorary treasurer shall give him a notice stating that unless his account be placed in credit within a further period of seven days, his name will be posted on the club's notice boards as a defaulter.

  6. (f) If the member fails to place his account in credit after his name has been so posted as a defaulter, the committee shall delete his name from the register of members and he shall thereupon cease to be a member but without prejudice to the right of the club to recover all moneys due by him to the club.

3 Before the appellant's name was deleted from the register of members, three reminders were sent to him. The first reminder was printed on his statement of account for the month of March 1989. The reminder printed thereon stated as follows:

First reminder

We would appreciate early payment of your overdue account as indicated below. Please ignore this reminder if payment has already been made.

4 The account showed the following amounts outstanding:

Two months overdue

$419.75

One month overdue

$101.10

...

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