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The Sholapur Municipal Corporation Vs. Umkant Shankarrao Bhagwat - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. Appln. No. 1058 of 1967
Judge
Reported inAIR1974Bom174; (1973)75BOMLR766; 1974MhLJ146
ActsBomaby Provincial Municiapl Corporation Act, 1949 - Sections 406; Taxation Rules - Rule 8, 8(1) and 8(3); Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Sections 115
AppellantThe Sholapur Municipal Corporation
RespondentUmkant Shankarrao Bhagwat
Appellant AdvocateB.N. Nail, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateU.R. Lalit, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....is one which clearly inserted in the public interest so that the commissioner may be able to fix the rateable value by getting the necessary information and, what is more, waiver cannot invest the civil court with the jurisdiction he hear an appeal by the assessee under section 406 which he is precluded from filing by reason of sub-rule (3) of rule 8. moreover, even factually, there is no basis for invoking the doctrine of waiver in the present case, in so far as it is sought to be based on an oral statement made to the assessee by an officer of the corporation that he need not reply to the notice under rule 8 (1) served upon him, a contention which, in the absence of anything more cannot beaccepted......above, the construction which i have placed upon rule 8 (3) creates no conflict whatsoever between rule 8 and rule 15, since there is no bar to the assessee filing a complaint and being heard in respect of that complaint. as far as the third contention of mr. lalit is concerned, it is based on an entire misconception, in so far as rule 8 does not completely abrogate the right of appeal conferred by section 406, but only precludes an appeal in the particular case of the assessee not complying with the notice under rule 8 (1). there is no inequity in the legislature creating such a bar for a recalcitrant assessee who fails to furnish the information necessary for the fixation of rateable value to the commissioner. such information may very well be only within his own special knowledge, and.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. This is an applicaiton made by the sholapur Municipal Corporation to revise the order made by the Assistant Judge at Sholapur on 6th March 1967 in Civil Appeal No. 371 of 1966 confirming with slight modification, the fixation of th annual letting value by the learned Joint Civil Judge, Senior Diviosn, sholapur by his order dated 26th July, 1966. The learned Joint Civil Judge, sholapur heard the matter in appeal under Section 406 of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, 1949, from the order of the Municipal Commissioner fixing the annual letting value of the sai premises for assessment year 1964-65 at Rs. 1,00,330. That appeal was allowed by the learned Joint Civil Judge, Senior Division at Sholapur and the letting value for the said assessment year was reduced to RS. 42,580. On further appeal from that order, the learned Assistant Judge modified that figure by substitution for the figure of Rs. 2,580, the figure of Rs. 44,850.70.

2. The present opponent is the owner of the building in question which is situate in sholapur. The said building originally consisted of a ground floor and a mezzanine floor in respect of which for the year 1964-65, the rateable value had been fixed at Rupees 15,550. The opponent carried on some additional construction and three more floors were added on that building, which were designed for housing the cinema theatre, that construction being completed on the 18th Auguste, 1964. On the 17th of September, an agreement for lease for a period of 7 years (Ex. 46) was executed between the opponent and a firm entitled Bhagwat Theatres in which the partners were the opponent himslef, his tow brothers and his father. The rent of the said three newly-constructed floor which were agreed to be let as aforesaid was fixed by the said agreement for lease at Rs. 1,750/- per month, one of the terms of lease being that the lessees were to incur the necessary cost for the fittings and fixtures that would be necessary for using the said premises as a theatre. In due course, a lease (Ex. 36) was executed and registered on the 26th of March, 1965 consequent of that agreement for lease.

3. On the 28th of October, 1964 the present opponent was served tih a notice under rule 8 (1) of the Rules contained in the Schedule to the Bomaby Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, 1949 which under Section 453 thereof, are to be deemed to be part of the Act itself. The said notice which was signed by the Tax Superintended under powers delegated to him by the Commissioner called upon the present opponent to furnish, within the time specified therein, certain information which was required by the Commissioner to enable him to determine the rateable value of the said building. It is common ground that the present opponent did not comply with that notice and did not furnish the required information in response to the same, though it is his case that some of that information was subsequently furnished by him orally to some officers of the corporation when they came on the site for inspection. On the 12th March of 1965 the Assessor and collector revised the rateable value of the said building and fixed, it for the assessment year 1964-65, at Rs. 1,00,330, as already stated above,. By a notice dated 13th March, 1965 issued under Rules 15 (2) and 20 (2) of the said Rules, the present opponent was informed that any complaint against the same should be filed within the prescribed time. On the 29th of March, 1965 the present opponent filed his complaint and he was given a hearing in respect of that complaint on the 31st of March, 1965, after which the rateable value as fixed on the 12th of March, 1965 was confirmed, a supplementary bill for the assessment year 1964-65 was in due course affixed to the premises. It is from that order that the proceedings above referred to ensured. It is unnecessary for me to set them out again.

4. It would be convenient to refer to the relevant statutory provisions, at this stage. Under Section 406 of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act, 1949, appeals against rateable value fixed under the said Act were to be heard and determined by the 'Judge' which expression is defined in Section 2 (29) of the Act as meaning (except for poona City) the civil Judge (Senior Division) having jurisdiction in the City in question. Section 453 of the said Act enacts that the rules contained in the Schedule thereto as amended from time to time 'shall be deemed to be part of this Act:'. Rules 7 to 20 contained in the said schedule must next be referred to. Rule 7 days down how the rateable value is to be determined. Rule 8 which is very material for the purpose of the present petition is in the following terms:-

'8 (1) To enable him to determine the value of any building or land and the person primarily liable for the payment of any property tex leviable in respect tjherreof, the Commissioner may require the owner or occupier of such building or land, or of any portion thereof, to furnish him, within such reasonable period as the Commissioner prescribes in this behalf, with information or with a written return signed by such owner or occupier:-

(a) as to the name and place of abode of the owner or occupier, or of both the owner and occupier of such building or land;

(b) as to the dimensions of such building or land, or of any portion thereof and the rent, if any, obtained for such building or land, or any portion thereof; and

(c) as to the actual cost or other specified details connected with the determination of the value of such building or land.

(2) Every owner or occupier on whom any such requisition is made shall be bound to comply with the same and to give true information or to make a true return to the best of his knowledge or belief.

(3) Whoever omits to comply with any such requisition or fails to give true information or to make a true return to the best of his knowledge or belief shall, in addition to any penalty to which he may be liable, to precluded from objecting to any assessment made by the Commissioner in respect of such building or land of which he is the owner of occupier.

(4) The Commissioner may also, for the purpose aforesaid, make an inspection of any such building or land'.

Rule 9 requires the Commissioner to maintain an assessment book containing, inter alia, entries in respect of the rateable value of building and lands. Rule 10 empowers the Commissioner to maintain, if necessary, a separate assessment book for each ward. Rule 11 empowers the commissioner to make separate assessments in respect of each flat or holding. Rule 12 lays down the procedure to be followed when the name of the person primarily liable for the payment of property taxes cannot be ascertained. Rule 13 provides for public notices to be given of the place where the assessment book can be inspected, after the entries required by R. 9 have been completed, and Rule 14 entitles every owner or occupier to take inspection of the same. Under Rule 15, the Commissioner is required to give a notice inviting complaints against the rateable value as entered in the assessment book, and Rule 16 lays down the procedure for the filing of such complaints. Rule 17 provides for a notice of hearing being given to the complainant and R. 18 lays down what is to be done at the hearing of the complaint. Rule 19 provides for authentication of assessment books after complaints have been disposed of. Rule 20 which is to specific rule with which the Court is concerned in the present cas, provides for amendment of the assessment book by the Commissioner at any time during the official year, inter alia, by increasing or reducing the amount of rateable value and of the assessment based thereupon. sub-rule (2) of Rule 20 provides that the procedure to be followed for that purpose has to be, 'as far as may be' the procedure as laid down in Rules 15 (2), 16, 17 and 19. These are all the relevant statutory provisions to which I need refer in the present case.

5. Mr. Naik who appeared for the petitioner Corporation has formulated the two points which he urged in the course of the hearing before me and they were as follows: - (1) The opponent was precluded from filing an appeal to the Court under Section 406 of the Act by reason of the provisions of R. 8 (3) in view of his non-compliance with the notice served upon him under Rule 8 (1) and (2); and 92) the fixation of the rateable value was erroneous, particularly in regard to the deduction granted for fixtures and fittings. I will now proceed to deal with each of these contentions of Mr. Naik.

6. As far as the first contention of Mr. Naik is concerned, Mr. lalit who appeared for the assessee contended that R. 8 must be construed as being merely directory and not as being amendatory in view of the scheme of ht Rules read as a whole to which I have already referred. It is true that even when a rule is obligatory, it may be directory or mandatory and there are a large number of cases on that point to which, in the view which I take it is unnecessary to refer. In all such cases, the question was, what is the intention to be attributed to the legislature. This is clear form the statement in Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, 12th Edition, page 314 where in th very first paragraph this position is made clear. In the case of Modern Builders v. Hukmatrai N. Vadirani, : AIR1967Bom373 , a Division Bench of this Court has also said that the real question in whether th legislature 'intended' that non-compliance with the rule should result in the nullification of the subsequent proceedings (at page 239). The question a sto what the legislature intended can only arise in cases in which the legislature has not expressly declared the consequences of non-compliance with the provisions in question. This is apparent from the way in which the question has been formulated in Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes (at page 314) where it is stated that the first question is, 'when a statute requires that something shall be done, or done in a particular manner or form, without expressly declaring what shall be the consequence of non-compliance', is the requirement to be regarded as mandatory or directory. No such question can possibly arise, and indeed no case has been cited before me, in which a statutory provisions has been held to be directory not with standing that legislature has specified the consequence of non-compliance, for to hold it to be so must nullify the consequence expressly specified by the legislature. This view which I have taken on first principles derives direct support form the observations of a Division Bench of the Patna High Court in the case of Sant Prasad Singh v. Dasu Sinha, : AIR1964Pat26 in which, in relation to a provision in the Representation of the people Act, 1951, providing that an election petition which does not comply with the provisions of Section 81 of that Act must be dismissed, the High Court observed as follows:-

'It is thus clear that where a specific penalty has been provided for in a Statute for non-compliance with the particular provision in the Act itself, no discretion is left to the Court to determine whether such a provision is directory or mandatory. Learned Counsel for the appellant has urged, however, that the Supreme Court has taken a different view of the matter. In my opinion the principle of interpretation governing a case where a mandatory provision is incorporated in the Act, accompanied by the consequences of non-compliance in the self-same Act, leaves no room for interpretation as to whether the mandatory provision can also be directory and this proposition is settled beyond reasonable doubt. If it were not so, there would be no sense in the Legislature laying down the consequence of non-compliance'.

The passage just quoted by me expresses precisely my own views in the matter.

7. Turning next to R. 8, the consequence of non-compliance is clearly specified in sub-rule (3) thereof as being that the assessee who does not comply with the notice served upon him under R. 8 (1) is 'precluded from objecting to any assessment made by the Commissioner'. It is impossible to construe sub-rule (3) in any manner other than as a mandatory provision without rendering it altogether nugatory. To put it in another way, it is just not possible to give sub-r. (3) of Rule 8 any lesser force than the force of a mandatory provision. The only question that arises is, at what stage should the bar of Rule 8 (3) come into effect? The words quoted by me from sub-rule (3) show that the bar laid down therein comes into operation only after the assessment is made by the Commissioner, since it speaks of the assessee being precluded form challenging the 'assessment'. The procedure for objecting to the assessment, when made, is by means of an appeal as provide for under Section 406 of the Act. I therefore hold that what the assessee is precluded form doing is that he cannot file an appeal from the assessment made by the Commissioner which he could have otherwise filed by reason fo the provisions of Section 406 of the Act. Sub-Rule (3) of Rule 8 does not bar the assessee from taking part in the assessment proceeding for which the procedure is ladi down in Rules 9 to 20. So construed sub-rule (3) of Rule 8 falls into a proper scheme and does not create any conflict which could be said to be intrinsic in those rules. Actually, the rule applicable in the present case is Rule 20 in so far as the question is one of amending the assessment book in the course of the official year by reason of the addition of three floors to his building by hte assessee but sub-r. () of R. 20 makes the procedure in Rr. 15 (2), 16, 17 and 18 applicable mutate standi to cases of amendment of the assessment book also. Once the scheme of the Rules is considered in that manner no question of waiver by reason of the Commissioner having issued notice under Rr. 13, 15 (2) or 20 (2) can possibly arise.

8. Mr. Lalit addressed to me an unduly protracted argument for several house with the result that I had to ask him to crystallise in the form of propositions which he then formulated as follows: - (1) The assessee is not precluded by Rule 8 (3) because at the time of the notice under R. 8 (1) no entry in respect of the new construction had been made in the assessment book. (2) Rule 15 should prevail over Rule 8 in case of conflict, because the former confers a right on the tax payer to be heard which Rule 8 cannot take away. (3) Rule 8 which has been framed under Section 453 cannot take away the right of appeal conferred by section 406. (4) Rule 8 is not mandatory because (a) the consequences would be prejudicial to the assessee; (b) it lays down alternative methods for collecting information with regard to circumstances which would affect the rateable value; (c) it would lead to the absurd result that even slightly incorrect information would prejudice the assessee and (d) the purpose of Rule 8 is merely to collect data; (5) even if Rule 8 (3) operates, the assessee can show that the assessment is not in accordance with law; (6) The Municipal authorities have waived Rule 8 (3) in the present case by (a) stating orally that it was not necessary to fill in the form, (b) giving notices under Rules 15 and 20; (c) the Assistant Commissioner stating in his order made on 31st March, 1965 that the assessee was entitled to be heard because a notice under Rules 15 and 20 had been served upon him and (7) the consequence under Rule 8 (3) applies only if the notice is given by the commissioner and not if it is given by the tax Superintendent, as in the present case.

9. I shall now proceed to deal with each of these propositions propounded by Mr. Lalit. As far as the first proposition is concerned, I asked Mr. Lalit to state in what conceivable case, according to him, R. 8 (3) could come into operation. He thereupon stated that Rule 8 (3) could come into operation only in cases in which the notice under Rule 8 (1) had been issued at or after the stage of the Rules because the right of appeal conferred by Section 406 would otherwise be useless. Mr. Lalit's argument was that if before the stage of the hearing under R. 18, the bar of Rule 8 (3) comes into play and an appeal by the assessee under Section 406 is precluded, there would be no check on the taxing authority making a proper assessment since he would know that it was incapable of being challenged in appeal under Section 406. There is no substance whatsoever in this contention of Mr. Lalit, for the simple reason that the argument urged by Mr. Lalit would apply equally to a case in which a notice under Rule 8 (1) has been served on the assessee at the stage of the hearing or at any stage thereafter. Even in such cases, the taxing authority would know that his decision, whatever it be, would not be open to challenge in appeal by reason of the assessee's non-compliance with that notice. Moreover, ther is no warrant for limiting the plain language of Rule 8 in the manner suggested by Mr. Lalit. As Mr. Lalit has himself pointed out, the object of Rule 8 is to enable the Commissione to collect data, and in my opinion, the proper and logical stage for giving that notice would therefore be the stage prior to the actual bearing of the complaint by the Commissioner. This contention of Mr. Lalit must, therefore, be rejected. As far as the second contention of Mr. Lalit is concerned, as already pointed out above, the construction which I have placed upon Rule 8 (3) creates no conflict whatsoever between Rule 8 and Rule 15, since there is no bar to the assessee filing a complaint and being heard in respect of that complaint. As far as the third contention of Mr. Lalit is concerned, it is based on an entire misconception, in so far as Rule 8 does not completely abrogate the right of appeal conferred by Section 406, but only precludes an appeal in the particular case of the assessee not complying with the notice under Rule 8 (1). There is no inequity in the legislature creating such a bar for a recalcitrant assessee who fails to furnish the information necessary for the fixation of rateable value to the commissioner. Such information may very well be only within his own special knowledge, and it is, therefore, in the fitness of things that he should be put under such a disability. Moreover, R. 8 is not in any manner subordinate to S. 406 in view of the fact that section 453 enacts that it is to be deemed to be a part of the Act itself. As far as the fourth proposition by me earlier I this judgment, the question as to whether Rule 8 is mandatory or directory does not arise in a case in which the consequence of non-compliance is expressly provided for, as in sub-rule (3) thereof in the present case. As far as the fifth proposition of Mr. Lalit is concerned, where sub-rule (3) of rule 8 applies, the assessee cannot even be permitted to show that the assessment is not in accordance with law in view of the fact that the plain language of sub-rule (3) of Rule 8 precludes him altogether from objecting to the same on any ground. As far as the sixth proposition of Mr. Lalit is concerned, having regard to the construction which I have placed upon Rule 8 (3), no question of the Municipal Authorities having waived compliance with Rule 8 (1) arises since the assessee is free to file a complaint against the assessment in proceedings under Rule 15 of the said Rules even though he may not have complied with the notice under Rule 8 (1). Moreover as pointed out by the Division Bench of this court in : AIR1967Bom373 to which I have already referred in another context, whilst it is true that even a mandatory. Provision can be waived; ther are two well recognised limitations to the application of the principle of waiver, the first of them being that a party cannot waive a statutory requirement which has been inserted by the legislature in the public interest as distinguished from the interest of the parties to an action, and secondly that the parties cannot be waiver invest a tribunal with jurisdiction which he does not have. In my opinion, both these limitation apply to the present case in so far as the provision in Rule 8 (3) is one which clearly inserted in the public interest so that the commissioner may be able to fix the rateable value by getting the necessary information and, what is more, waiver cannot invest the civil court with the jurisdiction he hear an appeal by the assessee under Section 406 which he is precluded from filing by reason of sub-rule (3) of Rule 8. Moreover, even factually, there is no basis for invoking the doctrine of waiver in the present case, in so far as it is sought to be based on an oral statement made to the assessee by an officer of the corporation that he need not reply to the notice under Rule 8 (1) served upon him, a contention which, in the absence of anything more cannot beaccepted. Mr. Lalit sought to contend that there are concurrent findings of fact by both the lower courts that the assessee was asked not to fill in the form or to send a reply to the notice under Rule 8 (1) served upon him, but I am unable to find any such concurrent findings of fact in the passages pointed out to me by Mr. Lalit. The plea of waiver urged by Mr. Lalit must therefore be rejected. As far as the seventh proposition of Mr. Lalit is concerned, the question as to whether the tax Superintendent has been dully authorised to issue the notice under Rule 8 (1) has admittedly not been raised in either of the courts below and, under those circumstances, he cannot be permitted to raise it at the stage of revision, for the simple reason that, if it had been raised at the earlier stage, the Municipal Corporation would have been in a position to prove the delegation of authority to issue notice under Rule 8 (1) by the Commissioner under Section 69 of the Act. The original of the commissioner's order of delegation of that authority to the Tax Superintendent dated 24-7-1964 was produced before me, but in the view which I have taken above that the assessee is not entitled to raise this plea for the first time in revision, I need not go into the same. All the contentions of Mr. Lalit, therefore stand rejected. I hold that the opponent-assessed was precluded from filing an appeal in the court of the civil judge, Sholapur and under those circumstances, under section 413 of the Act the fixation of the rateable value by the Commissioner has become final.

10. In the view which I have taken above, namely, that the assessee was not entitled to maintain the appeal which he filed in the court of civil Judge, Sholapur, it is not necessary for me to consider the second point raised byMr. Naik in regard to the merits of the fixation of rateable value, moreover, such a contention, being purely factual, cannot be raised in revision. It is true that in determining the rateable value the court cannot proceed on the basis of any rent high than the standard rent, As laid down by the Division Bench of this court in the case of Filmistan V. Municipal Commr. : AIR1973Bom66 for the purposes of determining the annual letting value of the property, regard must be had to the standard rent of that property under the rent Control Act and the Court must consider what would be the standard rent of the property. That has not been done in the present case in so far as, whilst both the courts have not accepted the actual rent as furnishing the proper basis for the purpose of fixation of rateable value, they have not arrived at any decision as to what was the standard rent of the premises in question. What is more, apart from the survey reports, there does not seem to be adequate material on record for the lower courts to have proceeded on the basis of a 5 per cent, return on the capital of the assessee in respect of the said building. It, therefore, I am wrong in the view which I have taken in regard to bar of Rule 8 (3) I would, after setting aside the orders of the lower courts, remand the matter back for disposal according to law. No question of remanding the case back to the lower courts, however, arises in view of the fact that I have held the appeal filed in the court of the Civil Judge, Sholapur, to be not maintainable by reason of provisions of R. 8 (3) this revision application therefore succeeds and the rule is made absolute. The orders passed by both the lower courts are set aside and I hold that the fixation or rateable value by the commissioner has become final by virtue provisions of Section 413 of the Act. The appointment must pay the petitioner costs of this revision applicatio.

11. Rule made absolute.


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