The doctrine of indoor management, also known as Turquand rule is a 150-year old concept, which protects the outsiders against the actions done by the company. Any person who enters into a contract with the company shall ensure that the transaction is authorised by the articles and memorandum of the company.
There is no requirement to look into the internal irregularities, and even if there are any irregularities, the company shall be held liable since the person has acted on the grounds of good faith. To absorb the concept of this doctrine, it is important to understand the concept of the doctrine of constructive notice.
1. Doctrine of Constructive Notice
Section 399 of the Companies Act, 2013 states that any person may, after payment of the prescribed fees:
– Inspect by electronic means any documents kept with the registrar.
– Require a copy of any document including certificate of incorporation.
In line with this provision, the Memorandum of Association and the Articles of Association are public documents once filed with the registrar. Any person may inspect the same after payment of the fees prescribed.
The doctrine presumes that every person has knowledge of the contents of the Memorandum of Association, Articles of Association and every other document such as special resolutions. The special resolutions are required to be registered with the Registrar under the Companies Act, 2013. This principle has been upheld in the landmark case of Oakbank Oil Co. V. Crum (1882) 8 A.C.65.Thus, if any person enters into a contract, which is inconsistent with the company’s Memorandum and Article, he shall not acquire any rights against the company and shall bear the consequences himself.
2. Origin of Doctrine of Indoor Management
The doctrine originated from the landmark case Royal British Bank V Turquand (1856) 6 E&B 327. The Articles of the company provided for the borrowing of money on bonds, which required a resolution to be passed in the General Meeting. The directors did acquire the loan but failed to pass the resolution. The repayment on loan defaulted, and the company was held liable. The shareholders refused to accept the claim in the absence of the resolution.
Held, the company shall be liable since the person dealing with the company is entitled to assume that there has been necessary compliance with regards to the internal management.
The rule was further endorsed by the House of Lords in Mahony V East Holyford Mining Co.  LR 7 HL 869. 6. In this case, the Articles of the company provided that the cheque shall be signed by two directors and countersigned by the secretary. It later came to light that neither the directors nor the secretary who signed the cheque was appointed properly. Held, the person receiving such cheque shall be entitled to the amount since the appointment of directors is a part of the internal management of the company and a person dealing with the company is not required to enquire about it. This view is supported by Section 176 of the Companies Act, 2013, which states that the defects in the appointment of the director shall not invalidate the acts done.
3. Exceptions to the Doctrine of Indoor Management
Listed below are the exceptions to the doctrine that have been judicially established, which provide circumstances under which the benefit of indoor management cannot be claimed by a person dealing with the company.
- Knowledge of Irregularity: This rule does not apply to circumstances where the person affected has actual or constructive notice of the irregularity. In Howard V Patent Ivory Manufacturing Company (1888) 38 Ch D 156, the Articles of the company empowered the directors to borrow up to 1,000 pounds. The limit could be raised provided consent was given in the General Meeting. Without the resolution being passed, the directors took 3,500 pounds from one of the directors who took debentures. Held, the company was liable only to the extent of 1,000 pounds. Since the directors knew the resolution was not passed, they could not claim protection under the Turquand’s rule.
- Suspicion of Irregularity: In case any person dealing with the company is suspicious about the circumstances revolving around a contract, then he shall enquire into it. If he fails to enquire, he cannot rely on this rule. In the case of Anand Bihari Lal V Dinshaw & Co, (1946) 48 BOMLR 293, the plaintiff accepted a transfer of property from the accountant. The Court held that the plaintiff should have acquired a copy of the Power of Attorney to confirm the authority of the accountant. Thus, the transfer was considered void.
- Forgery: Transactions involving forgery are void ab initio since it is not the case of absence of free consent; it is a situation of no consent at all. This has been established in the Ruben V Great Fingall Consolidated case  1 AC 439. A person was issued a share certificate with a common seal of the company. The signature of two directors and the secretary was required for a valid certificate. The secretary signed the certificate in his name and also forged the signatures of the two directors. The holder contented that he was not aware of the forgery, and he is not required to look into it. The Court held that the company is not liable for forgery done by its officers.
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