1. In this second appeal both the Courts below have held that the plaint must be rejected owing to insufficient Court-fees having been paid by the plaintiffs. The legality of the order rejecting the plaint under Order VII, Rule 11(6), of the Civil Procedure Code, is the only question for consideration.
2. The suit is nominally one for accounts of the rent recovered by the defendants and for payment of the plaintiffs' share in those rents, when the amount recovered has been ascertained. The plaintiffs had previously given notice to the defendants (exhibit 80), calling upon them to pay to them a sum of Rs. 1,699-12-0. In the suit the plaintiffs put a valuation of Rs. 1,500 for pleader's fees, but no more than Rs. 200 for Court-fees. It was held by both the Courts that the valuation of Rs. 200 for the purpose of Court-fees was purely fictitious. The trial Court ordered that the plaintiffs should pay Court-fee upon the amount claimed in their notice (exhibit 80), holding that this would be a correct valuation of the plaintiffs' claim in the suit. When they failed to do this, their plaint was rejected, and on appeal the District Judge confirmed the order of the lower Court, holding that the plaintiffs' valuation for Court-fees at Rs. 200 only was a deliberate attempt to defeat the provisions of a fiscal enactment.
3. A preliminary point is taken in this appeal to the effect that no appeal lies by reason of Section 12 of the Court-fees Act. That section provides that every question relating to valuation for the purpose of determining the amount of any fee chargeable on a plaint shall be decided by the Court in which the plaint is presented, and shall be final, as between parties to the suit. It has however been held in Dada v. Nagesh I.L.R. (1898) 23 Bom. 486, that though there is no appeal against a decision as to the correct valuation for any particular class of suits, still there is an appeal against a decision that any particular suit falls within a particular class. Here, though the suit is nominally one for accounts, still it is part of the case for the defendants that the suit is really one for an ascertained sum of money, falling under Section 7 (iv) (f) of the Court-fees Act. Thus clearly even on the case of the defendants there is a conflict between the plaintiffs and the defendants as to the class within which the suit falls. There is, therefore, an appeal available.
4. The first question then is to decide the class in which this case falls. Nominally it is a suit for accounts. But the plaintiffs have issued a notice in which they claim a definite sum, and it is evidently the view of both the Courts below that this has the effect of the making the suit fall under Section 7 (i). In my opinion the present case is a suit for accounts in spite of the plaintiffs having claimed a fixed sum by their notice. The written statement itself says that the defendant was ready to pay what might be found due on taking proper accounts; and in the notice to which reference has been made the plaintiffs say that according to their calculation the amount due from the defendants is a certain fixed sum, but ask the defendants to examine their own accounts and .reply accordingly. I do not see how it would be possible to decide this case without going into accounts, and I regard it as really a suit for accounts. The next question is whether, this being a suit for accounts, the plaintiffs are entitled to value it for the purposes of Court-fees as they like, or whether they are bound to give a value which is reasonably approximate to the correct value of the amount that they are likely to obtain, and to pay ad valorem Court fees accordingly. In Jageshra v. Durga Prasad Singh I.L.R. (1914) All. 500 the plaintiff claimed two reliefs, one being a declaration and the other being an injunction. She valued the claim for a declaration at a very high figure and paid only a nominal Court-fee upon it, and she valued the claim for consequential relief at a very low figure and paid an ad valorem Court-fee upon it. It was held that as she had given a definite valuation upon the two reliefs which she claimed, she must pay Court-fees upon the combined reliefs and could not split them up in this way. I do not think that this case is any authority which will help towards the decision in the present case, where the plaintiffs have not claimed a multiplicity of reliefs; but it was cited because in the course of his judgment the learned Judge said that he had considerable doubt as to whether it was open to the plaintiff to put an arbitrary and fictitious valuation upon the reliefs which she sought. As, however, that question did not directly arise in the case, no decision was arrived at. In the present case it can hardly be said that the valuation put by the plaintiffs upon the relief claimed is even approximate. If there is any truth in the notice which they gave to the defendants, the value of the reliefs claimed must be in the neighbourhood of Rs. 1,600 or Rs. 1,700; and yet they have valued it at only Rs. 200. Nevertheless I do not know of any clear authority to show that it is not open to them to do so if they wish. In Khatija v. Shekh Adam : AIR1915Bom59 it was held that in a case where the plaintiff had valued the suit for the purpose of jurisdiction at Rs. 3 lakhs, and the District Judge came to the conclusion that her share would be approximately Rs, 68,000, still the plaintiff was entitled to value it for the purpose of Court-fees at Rs. 130, as it was a suit for accounts. It was there stated that there did not appear to be any reason why the suit should not be treated as a suit for accounts and for the share which might be found due to the plaintiff upon taking of such account, and if it was a suit for an account falling under Section 7 (iv) (f) of the Court-fees Act, the plaintiff was at liberty to value it at Rs. 130 or any other sum she pleased. It seems to me that both the Courts below were wrong in refusing to allow the plaintiffs to value their suit as they pleased and in rejecting the plaint, because they had not valued it according to the orders of the learned trial Judge. According to Section 7 (iv) (f)' of the Court-fees Act, it was open to the plaintiffs to value their plaint as they pleased, and their plaint as valued by them ought to have been accepted.
5. The appeal is, therefore, allowed and the suit is ordered to be restored to the file to be heard according to law. The appellants will have their costs from the defendants in both the appeals and costs in the trial Court will be costs in the cause.