1. This is the plaintiff's appeal from an order returning the plaint for presentation to the proper Court in a suit instituted by him in the City Civil Court.
2. The suit out of which this appeal arises was instituted by the plaintiff in the City Civil Court after valuing it at Rs, 7,001. According to him a partnership was formed between him and the defendant on May 5, 1949; and that this partnership owned a number of establishments in Bombay and inAhmedabad. In his suit he sought for the dissolution of the partnership and accounts thereof, a declaration to the effect that certain establishments which were admittedly being run at Ahmedabad by the defendant also belonged to the partnership and a direction that the profits arising from this establishment should be taken into account when the accounts of the partnership were being taken. Another declaration which the plaintiff sought was that the sale proceeds of certain establishments at Bombay belonged to the partnership and that the defendant should be directed to account for them. The defendant denied the plaintiff's claim with regard to the establishments in Ahmedabad and as also with regard to the establishments at Bombay which were sold. While the suit was at the stage of trial Mr. Divan, the learned Judge of the City Civil Court, Bombay, felt that the plaintiff had. undervalued his claim for the purpose of court-fees and jurisdiction. Therefore, acting under Section 8A of the Court-fees Act which was amended by the Bombay Act XII of 1954, read with Order VII, Rule 10, of the Civil Procedure Code and Section 8 of the Suits Valuation Act, he returned the plaint to the plaintiff for being presented to the proper Court as, according to him, the value of the suit for the purpose of court-fees was very much over Rs. 25,000, which is the pecuniary limits of the jurisdiction of the City Civil Court.
3. It seems to me that the learned Judge had no power to return the plaint for presentation to the proper Court before having come to a definite conclusion as to the value of the suit for the purpose of court fees and jurisdiction. It is abundantly clear that the learned Judge purported to exercise the power given by Section 8A of the Court-fees Act to consider whether the suit was properly valued for the purpose of court-fees. Now, this section, while it empowers the Court to revise the valuation of a suit for the purposes of determining the court-fee in a case where according to it the subject-matter has not been properly valued by the plaintiff, requires the Court to determine the precise valuation. The order of the Court below does not show what, according to the learned Judge, was the value of the suit for the purpose of court-fees. What he has done is to consider certain statements made by the plaintiff in his evidence and certain documents which have been placed on the record of the case and the admissions contained in them and then come to the conclusion that the value of the suit is far in excess of Rs. 25,000. Clearly, that is not a determination of the valuation of the suit for the purpose of court-fees.
4. Mr. Chagla, the learned Counsel for the appellant, contended that in view of Section 11 of the Court-fees Act, Section 8A must be deemed to be confined only to those suits the claim in which is inherently capable of valuation. I am afraid I cannot accept this contention in view of the fact that a Division Bench of this Court has in Govind Baboo Mendon v.Bharat Dyes and Chemical Co. (1958) First Appeal No. 183 of 1957, decided by S.T. Desai and K.T. Desai JJ., on November 28. 1958 (Unrep.). proceeded upon the view that the provisions of Section 8A would apply also to a suit for accounts.I may, however, point out that before a Judge comes to the conclusion that the suit has not been properly valued for the purpose of court-fees, he must make an inquiry in the manner set out in Sections 8B to 8D. Of course, where the plaint itself discloses an objective standard, it may not be necessary for him to make such an inquiry but where, as here, the Judge has not regarded the plaint as furnishing an objective standard, he cannot base his conclusion upon any material other than that placed on record in an inquiry made by him under the provisions of Sections 8B to 8D of the Act.
5. I may point out that in Kashinath v. Tukaram A.I.R. Nag. 195, a DivisionBench of the Nagpur High Court had expressed the view that in considering the question of correct valuation the Court is not confined to what appears in the plaint but it is open to it to rely upon admissions by the plaintiff even in interlocutory matters in the suit. In this connection I would like to refer to the decision in Sathappa Chettiar v. Ramanatham (Chettiar : 1SCR1021 . There their Lordships of the Supreme Court have held that the question of court-fees in a case falling under Section 7(iv) of the Court-fees Act, paras, (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) and (1) of the Act must be considered in the light of the allegations made in the plaint and the decision of the Court cannot be influenced either by the pleas in the written statement or by the final decision of the suit on the merits. Therefore, the view taken by the Nagpur High Court is not correct. Of course, in the case before their Lordships there were no provisions like Sections 8A to 8D of the Court-fees Act. Therefore, the result of this would be that where such provisions exist, it is open to the Court to rely upon such other material as may be brought to light after making an investigation in the manner provided for by such provisions. No such investigation was made by the learned Judge in this case and it was not open to him to consider the evidence which was adduced before him during the trial. In these circumstances it must be held that he had erred in holding that the suit was in fact incorrectly valued for the purpose of court-fees.
6. Now the learned Judge returned the plaint for presentation to the proper Court because in his opinion the value of the subject-matter for the purpose of court-fees would be in excess of Rs. 25,000, and, therefore, under Section 8 of the Suits Valuation Act the value for jurisdiction would also be in excess of Rs. 25,000 and consequently the City Civil Court would have no jurisdiction to entertain this suit. Section 8 of the Suits ValuationAct provides that the value of a suit for the purpose of jurisdiction will be the same as that for court-fees in the classes of cases referred to in that section. Therefore, before that section can be applied to a case the Court must come to a definite conclusion as to what would be the value of the suit for the purpose of court-fees. Without coming to a definite finding upon that point it is not open to the Court to resort to Section 8 and throw out the suit on the ground that it is not within its pecuniary jurisdiction. Section 8A of the Court-fees Act itself requires that the Court, has to revise the valuation if in its opinion the subject-matter of the suit has been wrongly valued. The learned Judge has not troubled himself to revise the valuation of the suit but was merely content to come to the conclusion that the value of the subject-matter was in excess of Rs. 25,000. That is not the way in which the provisions of Section 8A are to he applied. On this ground also his order returning the plaint cannot be sustained. I would like to point out one more fact and that is that in a suit to which Section 11 of the Court-fees Act applies, there is no danger of any loss being caused to the public revenues by reason of an under-valuation of the claim because the plaintiff, who has obtained a decree for an amount in excess of that specified by him as the value of the subject-matter of the suit for the purpose of court-fees and jurisdiction, the decree cannot be executed till the deficit is made good by him. In a suit for accounts there is considerable difficulty in valuing the subject-matter of the suit and, as pointed out by their Lordships of the Supreme Court, that is one of the reasons why the plaintiff is given liberty by the Legislature to make his own valuation. No doubt under the provisions of Sections 8-A to 8-D of the Court-fees Act, the Court can go behind the plaintiff's valuation and ascertain the correct valuation of the subject-matter. But where, as in a suit for accounts, the inquiry which the Court would have to make before revising the valuation made by the plaintiff would be of the same type and would cover the same ground as an inquiry which the Commissioner appointed by the Court, after a preliminary decree for taking accounts is passed would have to make, it would be inconvenient and in some cases somewhat incongruous to make it.
7. For the reasons stated above I allow the appeal and set aside the order of the learned Judge of the Court below and direct him to proceed with the suit in accordance with law and with advertance to the above remarks.
8. [The rest of the judgment is not material to this report].