(1) I think this second appeal has to be decided in favour of the appellant who is the State of Andhra Pradesh, on following the principles so clearly laid down by a Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court in a very recent decision reported in Kasturi Lal v. State of U. P., : (1966)IILLJ583SC . In the suit leading to the Second Appeal the main grievance of the plaintiff was that a bullockcart belonging to him was distrained by the local Revenue Officers for realising the land revenue of Rs. 70 due from another person, namely, P. W. 7. The cart was found on a bund which lay between the thrashing floors of the plaintiff and P. W. 7. The officers in spite of the protests of the plaintiff and some others seized the cart and took it away. I do not wish to go into the details of it. I shall proceed on the basis that the distraint of plaintiff's cart for recovering the revenue due to the State from P. W. 7 was high-handed and even malicious on the part of the Revenue Officers. Indeed, both the Courts below have come to the conclusion that the concerned Revenue Officers acted illegally and maliciously. Unfortunately none of them was impleaded in the suit.
It is somewhat strange that in a suit of this kind the actual wrong-does were omitted from the array of defendants and the claim for damages was made only against the Government. Right through this litigation which commenced in the year 1957, no attempt was made to implead the local Revenue Officers who were responsible for the wrong action of distraint. The main question to which I must, however, address myself is whether the State can be made liable for the wrong action taken by the local Revenue Officer, I think the answer must clearly be in the negative. It is not gainsaid that the action complained of was taken by the Revenue Officers for recovering the land revenue due from P. W. 7. I have no doubt that collection of land revenue is a sovereign function. It is no doubt, delegated to certain specified authorities under the Revenue Recovery Act. But, merely because such a delegation is made under a statute, the function will not cease to have the essential character of a sovereign function. That being so, I think it is a complete defence for the State to say that whatever was done was in the exercise of the sovereign powers of the State. This is the principle laid down in the decision of the Supreme Court cited above.
Therefore, I allow this second appeal in so far as it relates to the claim for damages against the State of Andhra Pradesh. But there is the other claim made by the plaintiff that a sum of Rs. 79 which he paid under protest to the Tahsildar, should be refunded to him. The Courts below have ordered that the Government should refund this amount. In the grounds of second appeal this part of the decision has also been challenged. But now the learned 2nd Government Pleader appearing for the appellant-State does not press this contention before me and rightly so. In other words, it must be held that the appellant-State is bound to refund to the plaintiff a sum of Rs. 79 which was paid by him under protest in order to obtain his cart released to him. The decree of the Court below which relates to this amount of Rs. 79 is upheld.
(2) Another matter I would like to refer to is that the appellant should take early steps to deliver the cart to the plaintiff, if it has not already been delivered to him. A direction to this effect will also be embodied in the decree to be passed in this second appeal. Before leaving this case I should state that the action of the local Revenue Officers, including the Village Munsif, in this case was quite unjustified and did not credit to the revenue administration of the District. I hope the concerned higher authorities will take effective steps to prevent the recurrence of such illegal doings by subordinate Revenue Officers. As both sides have partly won and partly lost, I do not make any order as to costs in this second appeal. I further direct that each side will bear the costs in the lower Courts also.
(4) Appeal partly allowed.