(1) The plaintiff is the petitioner herein. He filed a respresentative suit for a declaration that the defendant Muncipality of Masulipatam had no jurisdiction over French Loge in which he resides, for the reason that the order passed by the State Government vesting French Loge in the Masulipatam Muncipality was void in that it did not follow the mandatory provisions of S. 4, District Municipalities Act. According to the plaint in the absence of valid order vesting French Loge in the Municipality, it had no right to collect taxes from the residents of French Loge. French Loge belongs to the French Government and it was handed over to the Government of India after the attainment of independence on 6.10.1947.
This enabled the Provincial Government to vest this part of the erstwhile French possession in Masulipatnam Muncipality. But before they could do so, certain procedure has to be followed as prescribed in S. 4, District Muncipalities Act. The suit is filed by the plaintiff in the Subordinate Judges's Court of Masulipatnam on behalf of the residents of French Loge challenging the validity of the vesting order and the right of the Municipality to collect taxes from him and the other persons of the French Loge.
(2) The plaintiff values the suit under Art. 17-B of the Second Schedule to the Court-fees Act and paid a court-fee of Rs. 100/-. On an objection taken by the office the Subordinate Judge directed the plaintiff to pay an additional court-fee of Rs. 400/- being of the opinion that the case was governed by Art. 17-A (i) of the II Schedule.
(3) The question for consideration is whether it is Art. 17A (i) or 17-B that governs this case.
(4) Article 17-B as amended in Madras, prescribes a court-fee of Rs. 100/- for a plaint filed in a Distreict Court or Subordinate Judge's Court, where it is not possible to estimate at a money value the subject-matter in dispute and which is not otherwise provided for by this Act. This Article would cover this case if it is found that it is not possible to assess the money value of the subject-matter of the suit. What is recited in the plaint is that the Muncipality had no right to collect taxes from the residents of French Loge. There is no dispute with regard to the title to any of the properties situated in the locality, as erroneously assumed by the lower Court.
The Muncipality has not forwarded any claim to any of the properties therein. They only wanted to collect some taxes from the reseidents of French Loge in respect of the properties owned by them in that locality. Therefore, the market value of all the properties in the French Loge has absolutely no bearing on the question of court-fee payable on the plaint. It is only in cases where there is any dispute as to the right or title to any property dispute as to the right or title to any property that Art. 17-A (i) could be invoked and can have no application in a case like this where only the right of the Muncipality to exercise jurisdiction over this locality is questioned.
(5) The dispute in the suit does not involve any title to the property nor interference with possession and enjoyment thereof, the only question as already stated, being whether the Municipal Council could exercised jurisdiction over this area and collect property-tax from the people living there and this right is incapable of being valued in terms of money.
(6) A similar question arose in the High Court of Madras in -- 'Venkateswara Rao v. Minicipal Council, Masullipatam', : AIR1954Mad284 (A). There the suit was filed against this very Muncipality for a declaration that the resolution passed by it and all that was done it pursuance thereof waere illegal, ultra vires and void. There was also a prayer for injunction restraining the Municipal Council from acting any further in pursuance of that resolution. It was valued under Art. 17-B, Court-fees Act, and a fixed court fee of Rs. 100/- was paid. The Subordinate Judge held that the court-fee should be assessed under Art. 17A (i) of Schedule II. This order was revised by Rajamannar, Chief Justice, who took the view that, this case was governed by Art. 17-B. The facts are 'ad idem' with the present case.
(7) There is another decision of the same Chief Justice in -- 'Thirugnana Sambhandam Pandara Sannadhigal v. State of Madras', : AIR1954Mad262 (B). This embodies the same principle. In the second case the declaration sought was that a particular village was not an estate within the meaning of the Estates Land Act and that Madras Act 30 of 1947 was not applicble to that village. The learned Judge expressed the opinion that case also fell under Art. 17-B. The view taken by Krishnaswamy Nayudu J. in -- 'Marimuthu Nadar v. Tuticorin Municipality', : AIR1955Mad212 (C) accords with these two rulings. I express my respectfull agreement with the principle adumbrated in these three cases and hold that the suit was rightly valued under Art. 17-B and court-fee paid is sufficient. It follows that the order of the Appellate Court calling upon the appellant to pay additional court-fee is not right and should be set aside.
(8) The Civil Revision Petition is allowed. No. order as to costs.
(9) Revision allowed.