Norata Singh v Serdara Singh

CourtFederal Court (Singapore)
JudgeM Buttrose J
Judgment Date20 January 1967
Neutral Citation[1967] SGFC 2
Citation[1967] SGFC 2
Defendant CounselP Coomaraswamy and SK Chan (Braddell Brothers)
Plaintiff CounselJB Jeyaretnam (Donaldson & Burkinshaw)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberCivil Appeal No Y6 of 1966
Date20 January 1967
Subject MatterCivil Procedure,Appeals,Findings of fact,Principles on which appellate court may interfere with trial judgeÂ’s findings of fact

In this action the plaintiff, a moneylender, claimed the sum of $6,385.91 from the defendant, also a moneylender, being principal and interest due under a promissory note dated 2 July 1964 whereby the defendant agreed to pay the plaintiff on demand $6,000 being money lent by the plaintiff to the defendant on that date and interest thereon at 18 per centum per annum until payment.

There was a sharp conflict of evidence as to the facts.

The plaintiff`s case was that the sum of $6,000 was actually lent by him to the defendant while the defendant`s case that a sum of only $2,000 was in fact lent.

The evidence as to the details surrounding these two conflicting versions is fully set out in the judgment of the learned trial judge and it is unnecessary, nor do we propose, to restate it.

After carefully considering the matter he came to the conclusion that the plaintiff`s version of the incident was true and the defendant`s false.
He accordingly gave judgment in favour of the plaintiff. It is from that judgment that the defendant now appeals.

It was conceded by counsel for the defendant that the appeal turned almost in its entirety on questions of fact.

It behoves us, therefore, at the outset to ascertain what the trial judge thought of the evidence and what were his findings in relation to it.

This is what he had to say on the matter:

I considered very carefully the evidence that was before me and I found that the plaintiff was a witness of truth. Furthermore his story was supported by his books and his bank statements. On the other hand, the demeanour of the defendant in the witness box convinced me that he was not speaking the truth. It is true that Thaman Singh supported the defendant`s story that $2,000 was handed over but I was not impressed by this witness who I was sure was not speaking the truth. It is unbelievable that the defendant, a moneylender himself, should have signed a promissory note for $6,000 when he actually received only $2,000. What did he say on this point? His evidence was this:

`When I asked him for the loan of $2,000 the plaintiff said he would lend me the money but he wanted me to sign for $6,000 and when that $2,000 was repaid he would return the promissory note for $6,000. I was surprised at his condition. I told him I was from the same community and I wanted only $2,000 and I would sign for that amount and that it would not be right to ask me to sign for more.

I eventually signed a promissory note for $6,000.
I signed it as I was in need of money and he assured me that there would be no dishonesty about it; he said as soon as I paid $2,000 he would return the promissory note to me.`

The probabilities are the transaction as described by the defendant did not take place.

Now it is well established law that before a trial judge`s findings of fact can be disturbed they must be shown to be plainly wrong.
The authorities on this well-worn subject are numerous and clear.

A recent Privy Council decision on the subject and perhaps one most appropriate to the present case is Tay Kheng Hong v Heap Moh Steamship Co Ltd

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