Right to sue for damages is not transferrable, says court

A defamation suit claiming damages for loss of reputation can be filed only by an aggrieved individual and he cannot assign, authorise or depute another individual to file such a suit in a representative capacity, the Madras High Court Bench here has held.

Justice G. Rajasuria passed the ruling while dismissing a civil revision petition filed by a person hailing from Ramanathapuram district.

The petitioner, S. Sundar, had challenged the refusal of Paramakudi Sub-Court to declare him as a pauper in order to seek exemption from paying court fees for the claim of Rs. 8 lakh as damages.

The Sub-Court had refused to entertain his pauper application on the ground that he was a proxy of an advocate who wanted to sue two private individuals Ramdass and Vijayalakshmi besides the Ramanathapuram Collector. The court had said that the right to sue for damages could not be transferred by one person to another.

Agreeing with the stand taken by the lower court, Mr. Justice Rajasuria said that a mere reading of Section 6 of the Transfer of Property Act 1882 would make the point clear that the right to sue was not a transferrable one. Sub-clause (e) of the provision specifically stated that a mere right to sue could not be transferred. The judge said that a right to sue for damages for breach of contract would have been an ‘actionable claim,’ before the amendment of the Act in 1900.

The effect of the amendment was to make clear the distinction between property and a right to sue.

Though Section 130 of the Act provides for transferring ‘actionable claim,’ the term had now been defined in Section 3 to mean that it was restricted only to a claim to any debt other than a debt secured by mortgage of immovable property or by hypothecation or pledge of movable property.

Actionable claim would also mean a claim to any beneficial interest in movable property not in the possession of the claimant.

He also recalled that the Supreme Court in one of the cases had said that the reason behind not permitting transfer of the right to sue was because the law would not recognise any transaction which was likely to savour of champerty (a legal doctrine aimed at precluding frivolous litigation).

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