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Colonial Cases

In Re The Maharajah Duleep Singh Deceased-Griffithes v.Singh 1895

[master and servant]

In Re The Maharajah Duleep Singh, Deceased-Griffithes v.Singh (Abdul Rassoul's Case)

Court of Appeal
Lindley, Lopes and Kay LJJ, May 1895
Source: The Times, 17 May, 1895

In Re The Maharajah Duleep Singh, Deceased-Griffithes
v.
Singh (Abdul Rassoul's Case)
(Before Lords Justices Lindley, Lopes and Kay.)
  This was an appeal against a decision of Mr. Justice Kekewich, dated the 12th of February, 1895, dismissing a claim of Abdul Rassoul against the estate of the late Maharajah Duleep Singh for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the service of the Maharajah and arrears of salary for services rendered to him. The claimant's case as it was now presented was shortly that between the years 1886 and 1891 he acted as secretary and special envoy to the Maharajah; that he was to receive £50 a month for his services and travelling expenses; and that, except occasional sum for travelling expenses, he had received nothing. According to the claimant's affidavit, he was appointed secretary to the Maharajah in England some time before 1886. In that year the Maharajah was arrested in Aden by the British Government while he was on his way to India, and was detained for some months, after which he went to live in Paris. The claimant frequently received instructions from the Maharajah to visit him in Paris, and he travelled over there on several occasions from England. In 1887 he was sent to Constantinople by the Maharajah to carry on negotiations with the Sultan of Turkey, and the Maharajah then agreed to pay him £50 a month and hotel expenses.  From Constantinople the claimant went to join the Maharajah at Moscow, where he remained in his service for some months. In 1889 he was sent by the Maharajah upon important business in India, and, according to the claimant's account, it was again agreed that he should be paid £50 a month as before, with a further sum of £26,000 for his special remuneration in the matter, or, as he also stated, "by way of an honorarium." On his arrival at Bombay he was arrested by the British Government and detained in prison without trial for nine months, and was then sent back to London. In 1891 he left the service of the Maharajah.  In 1892 the claimant commenced proceedings against the Maharajah (who was then residing in Paris) in the French Courts, in which he claimed several thousand pounds as an indemnity for what he had suffered in India; but the action was dismissed upon some question of jurisdiction.
  In February, 1893, he commenced an action against the Maharajah in the Queen's Bench Division for £16,000 for services rendered and a further sum of £5,000 for arrears of an annuity of £1,600 alleged to be due to him from the Maharajah, but that action was dropped because the claimant failed to obtain an order for service of the writ on the Maharajah, who then resided in Algiers. In January, 1894, the Maharajah having died in October, 18993, the claimant commenced an action in the Queen's Bench Division against the Maharajah's creditors. The claim in the writ was for £16,000 for work done, services rendered, journeys undertaken, and moneys paid by the plaintiff to the Maharajah between February, 1887, and November, 1890. This action was stayed owing to the administration of the Maharajah's estate by the Court, and the writ in the action was treated as a claim in the administration. The amount ultimately claimed in the administration action was reduced to £1,800. Mr. Justice Kekewich held that the claimant had not made out his case and dismissed the claim. The claimant appealed.
  Mr. Fullartin, Q.C., and Mr. Poulter were for the appellant; Mr. Warrington, Q.C., and Mr. Vaughan Hawkins were for the respondents, the executors.
  The Court dismissed the appeal.
  Lord Justice Lindley said that this was a claim made by an Asiatic gentleman against another Asiatic gentleman, the Maharajah Duleep Singh. The claim was made in respect of services alleged to have been rendered to the Maharajah on various occasions between 1886 and 1890. The Maharajah died in 1893. The claim, as it was now presented to the Court,  was, first, for repayment of expenses  incurred in the performance of services to the Maharajah; and, secondly, for remuneration at the alleged agreed salary pf £50 per month.  The total claim was for £1,800. The claimant had not a scrap of writing in favour of his contention.  There was not a single letter or memorandum or note of any kind to strengthen his statement.  There was no document showing any promise to pay the claimant at the rate of £50 a month.  Further than that, the claimant commenced an action against the Maharajah in France on the footing of an indemnity for what he had suffered in India. There was no trace in that action of the present claim. Then an action was commenced in the Queen's Bench Division, in which a claim was made for an annuity of £1,600. The alleged rule that there must be some corroboration of the claimant's evidence was not a rule of law, but was a rule of prudence; but such claims ought to be looked at with suspicion and examined very carefully.
  Looking carefully at this claim, what inference could be drawn from the evidence in this case?> It appeared that some services were rendered to the Maharajah by the claimant, but his Lordship had the greatest difficulty in arriving at the terms upon which these services were rendered.  There was no proof that the claimant was to be paid a single farthing for them, and there was some indication that he was not. That reference to the claimant's evidence to the £20,000 pointed to there being honorary services on the one side to be paid by an honorary fee on the other.  The learned Judge below had come to the right conclusion on the evidence.  The appeal therefore failed.
  Lords Justices Lopes and Kay concurred.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School