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State Vs. Jamnabai Manji Keshavji - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtMumbai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Appeal No. 1159 of 1954
Judge
Reported inAIR1955Bom280; (1955)57BOMLR278; 1955CriLJ1052; ILR1955Bom514
ActsBombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 - Sections 260A, 270-A, 271, 272, 272(2), 272(3), 273, 274, 274(1), 275, 276, 277 and 471; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908
AppellantState
RespondentJamnabai Manji Keshavji
Appellant AdvocateY.V. Chandrachud, Addl. Asst. Govt. Pleader
Respondent AdvocateR.A. Jahagirdar and C.K. Shah, Advs.
Excerpt:
.....fittings' in section 274(1) means fittings in relation to cisterns or is used independently of the word 'cisterns'--applicability of the doctrine of ejusdem generis --construction.; the words 'cisterns' and 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings' in section 274(1) of the bombay municipal corporation act, are used independently of each other and that, therefore, the word 'fittings' must be given a meaning which is assigned to it by its definition in section 260a (e) of the act.;unless there is a genus or category, there is no room for the application of the ejusdem generis doctrine. the mention of a single species does not constitute a genus.;united towns electric co. ltd. v. att.-gen. for newfoundland [1939] 1 all e. r. 423, 428, referred to. - - ' the respondent was told..........sense and means fittings in relation to cisterns or whether it is used independently of the word 'cisterns' and ' has a wider meaning as defined in section 260-a(e). the learned magistrate dealing with this point has said in his judgment: 'the only question that requires consideration iswhether the word 'fittings' should be interpreted independently of the word 'cisterns' or 'ejusdemgeneris' along with the word 'cisterns'.' it is clear that the learned magistrate has failed to appreciate that the doctrine of 'ejusdern generis' has no application in construing the words 'cisterns and fittings'. it is not mr. jahagirdar's contention either that the 'ejusdem generis' doctrine applies to the construction of the expression 'cisterns and fittings'. unless there is a genus or category,.....
Judgment:

Vyas, J.

1. This is an appeal by the State of Bombay from a judgment of the learned Presidency Magistrate, 24th Court, Bombay, acquitting the respondent Jamnabai Manji Keshavji who was charged with having committed an offence under Section 471 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888, upon an allegation that she refused to comply with a notice given to her by the Municipal Commissioner for Greater Bombay, by which notice she was required to provide a tap in the room occupied by Mr. Vora in the premises belonging to her.

2. The facts of the case are that there are certain premises belonging to the respondent. The said premises consist of a ground floor and two upper floors. On the ground floor, there are two tenements, one of which consists of one room only and the other has seven rooms. The occupant of the one-room tenement is one Mr. Vora. This room has no water tap in it. The prosecution case is that the area of this room is 390 sq. ft. On the other hand, the respondent's contention is that the area of this room which is in the occupation of Mr. Vora is 260 sq. ft.

Mr. Alkonde, Inspector of the D Ward, has deposed to the effect that the area of this room is 390 sq. ft. In the compound of the respondent's premises, there is a water tap. It is situated some distance away from the room occupied by Mr. Vora. The prosecution says that there is a distance of only 25 paces between Mr. Vora's room and the water tap in the compound. On the other hand, the respondent's contention is that this distance is about 100 ft. Mr. Vora approached the Municipal Corporation with a request that the room in his occupation may be provided with a water tap. The Municipality advised Mr. Vora to obtain a consefit of the respondent, since the respondent is the owner of the premises.

The respondent refused to give her consent to the provision of a tap in Mr. Vora's room. A certain amount of correspondence ensued between the respondent and the Municipality. The respondent persisted in her refusal to let Mr. Vora have a tap in his room. Thereupon, the Municipal Overseer inspected the respondent's premises and submitted his report to the Hydraulic Engineer. Thereafter, the Municipal Commissioner issued a notice under Section 274, Sub-section (1), of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act to the respondent, calling upon her

'to take a one-half-inch branch with a 3/8' tap from the existing one-half-inch connection feedingthe ground floor, in the room occupied by Mr,Vora.'

The respondent was told that, in case she failed to comply with the requisition, she would render herself liable to the penalty prescribed in that behalf under Section 471 of the Act. The respondent failed to comply with the notice. Thereupon, she was prosecuted for an offence under Section 274, Sub-section (1), of the Act. The prosecution ended in her acquittal. This is an appeal by the State of Bombay against that order of acquittal. .

3. in resisting the charge against her, the respondent contended that if she Were to consent to Mr. Vora having a separate tap in his room, her other tenants would also make a similar request and this would involve her in considerable expenditure. She also said that Mr. Vora's request for a tap in his room, if acceded to, would result in the digging of the floor of her premises and defacing of her walls. These objections of the respondent did not appeal to the learned Magistrate and he rejected them. But the learned Magistrate upheld the respondent's contention that, under Section 274, Sub-section (1) of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, the Municipal Commissioner had no power to issue a requisition to her, requiring her 'to take one-half-inch branch with a 3/8' tap from the existing one-half-inch connection feeding the ground floor, in the room occupied by Mr. Vora'. Accordingly, he acquitted the respondent of the charge under Section 471 of the Act.

4. Now, the contention which was taken by the respondent, namely, that the Municipal Commissioner had no power to require her to provide Mr. Vora's room with a branch connected with the main municipal water supply which was feeding the ground floor of her premises, was taken on the ground that the expression 'cisterns and fittings' in Section 274, Sub-section (1) of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act meant 'fittings of cisterns' and did not mean fittings in a wider sense as defined in Section 260-A(e). According to the respondent, the Municipal Commissioner, under Section 274, Sub-section (1), could call upon her to put up a cistern for storing water and provide the said cistern with fittings, but he could not ask her to provide fittings to connect a tenement in her premises with the pipe line conveying water from the Municipal water works.

Therefore, the point of law which falls to bo determined in this appeal is whether the term 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings', in Section 274, Sub-section (1), is used in a restricted sense and means fittings in relation to cisterns or whether it is used independently of the word 'cisterns' and ' has a wider meaning as defined in Section 260-A(e). The learned Magistrate dealing with this point has said in his judgment:

'The only question that requires consideration iswhether the word 'fittings' should be interpreted independently of the word 'cisterns' or 'ejusdemgeneris' along with the word 'cisterns'.'

It is clear that the learned Magistrate has failed to appreciate that the doctrine of 'ejusdern generis' has no application in construing the words 'cisterns and fittings'. It is not Mr. Jahagirdar's contention either that the 'ejusdem generis' doctrine applies to the construction of the expression 'cisterns and fittings'. Unless there is a genus or category, there is no room for the application of the 'ejusdem generis' doctrine. (Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 10th edn., p. 338). The mention of a single species does not constitute a genus. --'United Towns Electric Co. Ltd. v. Att. Gen. for Newfoundland', 1939 1 All ER 423. Thus, the mention of a single species, for example cisterns, does not constitute a genus and, therefore, there is no scope for the application of the 'ejusdem generis' doctrine in construing the word 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings' in Section 274, Sub-section (1).

The general principle is that the terms aro to receive their plain and ordinary meaning and Courts are not at liberty to impose on them limitations not called for by the sense or the objects of the enactment. (Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, p. 337). Clearly the object of the provisions of Chap. X of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act is to make an equitable distribution of the municipal water supply amongst the members of the public, and Sections 270-A to 277 provide for making private water supply of the owners of premises available to the occupants of the various tenements in those premises. Where such is the object of a statute, Courts must lean towards putting upon its wording a construction which is more beneficent to a subject.

We must remember that in construing the wording of this statute in Section 274, Sub-section (1), we must have regard to the generality of premises and not restrict our consideration merely to the premises which have got cisterns installed upon them. Now, if we construe the term 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings' in a limited sense as meaning only the fittings of cisterns, it would be open to the Municipal Commissioner to call upon the owner of premises to put up a cistern upon his premises and ask the owner to connect it up with the tenements in his premises by means of fittings.

On the other hand, if the words 'cisterns' and 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings' are to be construed independently of each other and in their ordinary sense, in other words if the term 'fittings' is to he construed as defined in.Section 260-A (e), it would be competent to the Municipal Commissioner to call upon the owner of premises to do one of the two things. The owner may be called upon to put up a cistern upon his premises, in which case the cistern may further be requiredto be connected with the tenements by means of fittings, or the Municipal Commissioner may require the owner to connect the tenements in his premises directly with the pipe line, conveying water from the Municipal water works, by means of fittings, to which case the term 'fittings' must be given the meaning assigned to it by the defining Section 260-A(e). There is no doubt that as between the two constructions, the latter construction is a more beneficent and less onerous construction to a subject, .and in our view that is the construction towards which the Courts should lean in interpreting the wording of the statute, the, object whereof is to provide for equitable distribution of private water supply amongst the occupants of the various tenements. As I have said above, the general principle of construction of the wording of a statute is not to impose restrictions upon the plain meaning of words.

5. We are assisted in this construction by the marginal note against Section 274, Sub-section (1) of the Act, which marginal note also, be it remembered, is the creation of the Legislature itself. That marginal note reads : 'Provisions as to cisterns and 'other' fittings etc., to be used for connections with water works.' The word 'other' which occurs after the words 'cisterns and' and before the word 'fittings' in the marginal note clearly shows that the term 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings' in Section 274, Sub-section (1), is not to be read in relation only to the word 'cisterns', but is to be construed independently of 'cisterns'.

If it is to be interpreted independently of the word 'cisterns', it must be given a wider mean-ing as assigned to it by its definition in Section 260-A(c). Mr. Jahagirdar says that we should not look to the marginal note for construing the section, and in support of his contention, he has invited our attention to a decision of the Privy Council in - 'Thakurain Balraj Kunwar v. Rae Jagatpal Singh', 31 Ind App 132 (PC) (B).

In that case, their Lordships of the Privy Council observed (p. 142) :

'It is well settled that marginal notes to the sections of an Act of Parliament cannot be referred to for the purpose of construing the Act. The contrary opinion originated in a mistake, and it has been exploded long ago. There seems to be no reason for giving the marginal notes in an Indian Statute any greater authority than the marginal note in an English Act of Parliament.'

This decision was considered by a division bench of this Court in -- 'State v. Heman Alreja', : AIR1952Bom16 , where the learned Chief Justice said (pp. 24-25) :

'In this particular case the learned Chief Justice was referring to Thakurain Balraj Kunwar v. Rae' Jagatpal Singh (B)' their Lordships were construing Act I of 1869 and the construction which commended itself to their Lordships gave a meaning to every part of the sections under consideration. It is perfectly true that if the sections by themselves make the meaning of the words used by the Legislature plain and explicit, marginal notes cannot be invoked for the purpose of adding to, subtracting from or altering the words used by the Legislature. But when the words are ambiguous, there should bo noobjection to looking at the marginal note in order to understand, to use the language of Collins M. R., the drift of the section.' There is also another decision of this Court in -- 'Emperor v. Fulabhai Bhulabhai', : AIR1940Bom363 , where also it was held : 'Generally a marginal note cannot be looked at for interpreting the provisions of a section; but where a possibility of ambiguity may arise by the words of a section, it could be used to clear it.'

Therefore, in this case, where the contention of the State is that the words 'cisterns' and 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings' must be read independently of each other and where Mr. Jahagirdar for the respondent submits that the word 'fittings' should be read in relation to 'cisterns', we are entitled to look at the marginal note to understand the drift of Section 274, Sub-section (1), of the Act.

6. Furthermore, in our view, if the Legislature had intended to say that the term 'fittings' should have relation to 'Cisterns', it would have used the phraseology 'cisterns and fittings thereof. We are fortified in this view by turning to Sections 270-A to 277. Sections 270-A to 277 occur under the same heading, namely, the heading 'Private water supply'. Now, Sub-section (2) of Section 272 lays down:

'In every case where a new connection with a municipal water-work is made or an existing connection requires renewal, all necessary communication-pipes and fittings thereon, shall etc., etc.'

The word 'thereon' is used in this Sub-section because the term 'fittings' in the Sub-section is used in relation to communication-pipes.

Let us turn now to Sub-section (3) of Section 272 which also says :

'Every such communication-pipe and fittings thereon shall vest in the corporation and be maintained at the charge of the municipal fund as a municipal water-work.'

Here again, the word 'thereon' is used for a similar reason as stated above. Therefore, if the intention of the Legislature, while enacting Section 274, Sub-section (1), had been to use the word 'fittings' in relation to 'cisterns', we have no doubt that they would have used the words 'with cisterns and fittings thereon' instead ot the expression 'cisterns and fittings'.

7. For the above-mentioned reasons, we are of the view that the words 'cisterns' and 'fittings' in the expression 'cisterns and fittings' in Section 274, Sub-section (1), are used independently of each other and that, therefore, the word 'fittings' must be given a meaning which is assigned to it by its definition in Section 260-A(e). Accordingly, it would be an offence on the part of the respondent not to comply with the requisition issued to her by the Municipal Commissioner which, in our view, was a valid requisition under Section 274, Sub-section (1), of the Act. The order of acquittal passed by the learned Magistrate in favour of the respondent must, therefore, be set aside and the appeal filed by the State of Bombay must be allowed. The respondent is convicted of an offence under Section 274, Sub-section (1), of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act and is sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 10.

8. The learned advocate Mr. Jahagirdar hascontended before us that, if the respondent is called upon to supply the room occupied by Mr. Vorawith a water tap, Mr. Vora's instance would befollowed by several other tenants of hers, and ifshe is called upon by the Corporation to furnishthe rooms occupied by all the tenants with watertaps, it would involve her in heavy expenditure andput her to considerable inconvenience. It is opento the respondent to make those representations tothe Municipal Commissioner and we have no doubtthat, if such representations are made to him, theywill be taken into consideration.

9. Appeal allowed.


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