Vasudevan Menon v Singapore Island Country Club

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeLim Teong Qwee JC
Judgment Date08 March 1994
Neutral Citation[1994] SGHC 59
Citation[1994] SGHC 59
Defendant CounselTan Chuan Thye (Allen & Gledhill)
Plaintiff CounselP Suppiah (P Suppiah & Co)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 714 of 1993
Date22 July 1994
Subject MatterMembership,Failure to keep account in credit,Whether defaulter's name was posted on the 'club's notice boards' in accordance with rules,Whether name was posted as defaulter for a reasonable time,Relief against cessation of membership,Friendly societies,Whether member was given final opportunity to pay,Unincorporated Associations and Trade Unions,When relief is available despite breach of covenant by applicant

The plaintiff, a tax consultant who resided in Johor, Malaysia, claimed:

(1) a declaration that his cessation as a member and his name being struck off from the register of members of the defendant club under r 47 of the club`s rules were null and void;

(2) a declaration that he still was a member of the club; or

(3) alternatively, relief against cessation of membership; and

(4) damages and other reliefs.

He filed an affidavit in which he said that he was a member of the club until he was informed by the club`s letter of 9 April 1991 that the general committee of the club at its meeting on 2 April 1991 had decided to delete his name from the register of members under r 47.
He referred to r 47 which provides:

(e) If any member fails to place his account in credit within seven days after notice from the secretary or the 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.

(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.

He said he did not know if his name was posted as a defaulter and if so for how long.
He then referred to r 40 which relates to expulsion, suspension and cessation of membership for subscriptions being unpaid for six months (which was the rule he had referred to in the originating summons originally when he filed his affidavit and before it was amended) and proceeded to offer what he called a `satisfactory explanation` on the basis of which under r 40 the committee could reinstate him as a member. Further affidavits were filed and at the hearing the plaintiff and the senior manager (administration) of the club were cross-examined on their affidavits. At the conclusion of the hearing I dismissed the claim and I now give my grounds of judgment.

The club is situated in two separate locations which are commonly referred to as the Bukit and the Island locations.
In each are to be found the clubhouse and the usual buildings and facilities of a golf and sports club. It is not disputed that by notice dated 7 February 1991 from the general manager/secretary of the club the plaintiff was informed that according to his statement of accounts for December 1990 $150.63 was overdue. The notice was from `the secretary` for the purpose of the rules. See r 29. The evidence is that at 31 January 1991 the plaintiff was in fact owing the club $3,000.13 (after taking into account the dishonour of a cheque for RM2,500 tendered in January 1991) but $150.63 was the amount overdue for more than two months. His account was not in credit. He was asked to pay within 14 days of the date of the notice. He did not and by another notice dated 22 February 1991 from the general manager/secretary he was informed that the $150.63 had not been received and he was asked to pay the overdue amount in full within the next seven days failing which there would be `no alternative but to post [his] name on the club`s notice boards as a defaulter and proceed with the necessary consequential action under r 47 of the club to delete [his] name from the register of members`. He was notified that with immediate effect and until he put his account in credit he was not allowed to visit the club or use any of its facilities. He failed to pay. He was seriously injured in a motor accident on the evening of 28 February 1991 and was in hospital first at Kota Tinggi Hospital, then at Johor Baru General Hospital and finally Johor Specialist Hospital from which he was discharged on 5 May 1991. It is said by the club that on 6 March 1991 his name was posted as a defaulter. By letter dated 15 March 1991 which he instructed his secretary to write he informed the club of his accident but he made no payment. On 2 April 1991 the committee of the club took the decision to delete his name from the register of members and he was informed by letter dated 9 April 1991. He made several appeals to the club and when they had all been turned down he commenced these proceedings. His case is that:

(1) he did not have the final opportunity to pay as he was physically incapacitated through no fault of his;

(2) reasonable time had not elapsed since the posting of his name as a defaulter when the committee decided to delete his name from the register of members on 2 April 1991;

(3) there was failure to comply with r 47(e) in that his name had not been posted on the `club`s notice boards` since there was no evidence as to:

(a) ) posting of his name on the notice board at the main entrance to the clubhouse at the Bukit location, and

(b) ) when his name was posted on any other notice boards at the bukit location; and

(4) he was entitled to relief against cessation of his membership.

Final opportunity to pay

Mr Suppiah referred to Lee Seng Choon Ronnie v Singapore Island Country Club where speaking of r 47(f) which was the same in that case Karthigesu J (as he then was) said at p 464:

The rule obviously contemplates the posting of the defaulter for some time, and the posting is intended to serve two purposes: (i) it acts as a kind of social sanction for failing to pay up the overdue amount, and (ii) it gives a final opportunity to the defaulter to pay up the overdue amount.

He submitted that the plaintiff was completely bedridden and was unable to do anything for himself until the end of April 1991 as a result of the accident on 28 February 1991.
If his name had been posted on the club`s notice boards before it was deleted from the register of members it all happened when he was in that state and it could not be said that he had been given a final opportunity to pay. I am unable to agree. The plaintiff was admitted to the Johor Specialist Hospital on 5 or 6 March 1991 and between either of those dates and 30 March 1991 he incurred RM55.40 in telephone charges. On 12 March 1991 he made a police report of the accident at the hospital. This is his evidence under cross-examination:

Q: Used phone after 12 March 1991?

A: Yes, remember called once. Can`t remember when extension set up by my bed.

Q: Called office?

A: Remember calling my secretary, Ms Teo.

Q: Once or more often?

A: Can`t remember but not very often.

Q: Called your family?

A: Wife visited me everyday. Children also. I did not call.

Q: Affidavit of Leet Peng Kow 3 March 1994. Page 4. 1 April 1991. `Others ...` Phone calls. RM55.40. Why so high?

A: Some trunk calls. Two sisters in KL. Friends, ex colleagues, cousin in KL.

Q: Between 12 March 1991 and 30 March 1991 capable of making trunk calls?

A: Yes.

Q: Your affidavit p 30. 15 March 1991. You asked Ms Teo to write?

A: Yes.

Q: Other letters?

A: Can`t remember. Three years ago.

Q: March 1991. Any family member worked in your office?

A: No.

Q: Who Joyce Vasudevan?

A: My daughter. Auditor with Ernst & Young in Johor Baru.

Q: Director of TACS?

A: Yes. In name only.

Q: In hospital how office functioned?

A: My secretary trained by me to run office in my absence.

Q: Page 33. 2 September 1991. Page 34. `I was living ...` Confirm wife and children visited everyday?

A: Yes. Prior to accident wife and I estranged. Due to serious accident in which I almost died wife reconciled with me and visited me.

Q: Page 31. 6 May 1991. Para 1. `Due to ...` Not accurate?

A: What I wrote in letter meant I was not there to attend to my profession.

Q: In contact with office by phone?

A: Yes.

Whatever his condition might have been he was certainly not unable to do anything for himself in regard to availing himself of the opportunity to pay - and to pay only $150.63 which was the amount demanded.
His secretary was trained to run his office in his absence. He said his club bills were paid by his office and when he was asked if she normally prepared the cheques for payment of entertainment such as club bills he agreed that she did so most of the times. When asked why he had not asked his office to pay his club bills in March 1991 he answered:

Very bad time for me. Remember vaguely some moneys due to be paid. Therefore instructed secretary, Ms Teo, to inform club my condition.

The information on his condition is in the letter dated 15 March 1991.
His daughter was an auditor with a well known firm of professional accountants. When asked if he did not ask his family members to attend to his outstanding bills he answered:

No. Financial matter my own affairs. Bills sent to my house. Not my office.

It was certainly not a case of his not having been given a final opportunity to pay.
The opportunity was there. He could have paid at any time before the decision was taken by the committee on 2 April 1991. For reasons personal to him he did not avail himself of the opportunity.

Reasonable time

In Lee Seng Choon Ronnie v Singapore Island Country Club Karthigesu J continued at p 464:

The rule is completely silent as to the period of the posting 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 must be a reasonable period before the general committee is entitled to proceed to act under the rule.

Mr Suppiah submitted that the period from 6 March 1991 if the plaintiff`s name was posted on that day to 2 April 1991 when the committee took the decision was not a reasonable period of time.
He said the plaintiff was physically...

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