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Rameshwar Deva Vs. District Magistrate, Saharanpur and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Writ No. 715 of 1957
Judge
Reported inAIR1960All399
ActsUttar Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1916 - Sections 144, 161, 164(2), 166, 167 and 168; Constitution of India - Article 226
AppellantRameshwar Deva
RespondentDistrict Magistrate, Saharanpur and anr.
Appellant AdvocateYudhistra, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateK.N. Sinha, Adv.
DispositionPetition allowed
Excerpt:
.....gazette, the legislature generally shows leniency to the assessees, not guilty of negligence or latches, by making a provision that in genuine cases the delay in the presentation of the appeal may be condoned if the appellate authority is satisfied that the appellant was not aware of the order of assessment and he did appeal within 30 days of the date of knowledge. consequently, the communication of the order of assessment in any form will be the starting point of limitation laid down in section 161. a copy of the order of assessment can be endorsed to the assessee soon after the assessment order i......dated 14-12-1956 of the district magistrate, saharanpur, respondent no. 1, and also the order of assessment dated 26-11-1955 made by the municipal board, hardwar, respondent no. 2,2. the petitioner is the trustee and manager of a religious and charitable institution known asavadhoot mandal ashram jwalapur, district saharanpur, which is managed and administered by a committee of trustees appointed in accordance with the trust deed. the ashram owns a block of buildings in jwalapur which comprise o a temple for worship, a dharamshala for residence of pilgrims and sadhus and quarters for the use and residence of permanent inmates of the ashram. jwalapur lies within the limits of the municipal board of hardwar.the buildings and assets of avadhoot mandal ashram were partitioned by a.....
Judgment:
ORDER

D.S. Mathur, J.

1. This is a petition under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India by Rameshwar Deva for the issue of a writ, direction or order in the nature of certiorari to quash the order dated 14-12-1956 of the District Magistrate, Saharanpur, respondent No. 1, and also the order of assessment dated 26-11-1955 made by the Municipal Board, Hardwar, respondent No. 2,

2. The petitioner is the trustee and manager of a religious and charitable institution known asAvadhoot Mandal Ashram Jwalapur, district Saharanpur, which is managed and administered by a committee of trustees appointed in accordance with the trust deed. The Ashram owns a block of buildings in Jwalapur which comprise o a temple for worship, a Dharamshala for residence of pilgrims and Sadhus and quarters for the use and residence of permanent inmates of the Ashram. Jwalapur lies within the limits of the Municipal Board of Hardwar.

The buildings and assets of Avadhoot Mandal Ashram were partitioned by a registered deed between the two sets of Sadhus on 5-11-1955 and one portion came under the management of the petitioner, and the other is being managed by Swami Ram Parkash. The two portions of the Ashram thus became independant and separate entities.

3. It appears that the Municipal Board, Hardwar, assessed the building under the management of the petitioner to water tax and the assessment list was duly authenticated under Section 144(1) of the U. P. Municipalities Act, 1916, and the list so authenticated was declared by public notice to be open for inspection as required under, Sub-section (2) thereof. The order of assessment was however, not communicated to the assessees individually.

3a. The petitioner's case is that on 17-4-1956, the Municipal Board, Hardwar, served on the petitioner a notice of demand, which under the provisions of the U. P. Municipalities Act can be treated as a bill, for payment of water tax for two years, that is, from April 1, 1954 to March 31, 1956. The notice disclosed that the Municipal Board had made the assessment under order dated 26-11-1955. The petitioner then deposited the water tax under protest and preferred an appeal before the District Magistrate of Saharanpur under Section 160 of the U. P. Municipalities Act within 30 days of the service of the above notice.

The District Magistrate was of opinion that the appeal was preferred beyond the prescribed period of 30 days, but he condoned the delay, and on merits recorded a finding in favour of the petitioner, namely, that the building in question could not be assessed to water tax. The Municipal Board, Hard-war, moved an application for review and it was allowed under order dated 14-12-1956. The District Magistrate thus held that the appeal was presented beyond the period of limitation and was, therefore, not maintainable, with the result that water tax assessed on the petitioner's building was maintained.

4. Two important questions for consideration are if the appeal preferred by the petitioner before the District Magistrate of Saharanpur was within time and secondly, if the order passed on the review application is effective and not void.

5. Section 164 (2) of the U. P. Municipalities Act runs as below :

'The order of the appellate authority confirming, setting aside or modifying an order in respect of valuation or assessment or liability to assessment or taxation shall be final; provided that it shall be lawful for the appellate authority, upon application or his own motion, to review any order passed by him in appeal by a further order passed within three months from the date of his original order.' It will be found that the Legislature used the word 'passed' not only after the order which was sought to be reviewed but also after the 'further order', meaning thereby the order to be passed, if any, on the review application. After the words, 'further order passed'', there is no comma showing thereby that the words 'within three months from the date of his original order' govern the 'further order passed', and not the application for review. In case the Legislature had any intention to provide the period of limitation for moving an application for review, the period of limitation would have been indicated after the clause pertaining to cognizance of the review application by the appellate authority, and not at the end of the sub-section, where it was being indicated in what circumstances and at what stage 'a further order' could be passed.

It is a well settled rule of interpretation that if any provision is capable of only one interpretation, the Courts of law cannot depart from that view on grounds that such a view, if adopted, would cause hardship to one party or the other. . The Courts of law are to deduce the intention of the legislature from the words used in the enactment. They cannot be influenced by any extraneous matter.

They can, of course, depart from this rule if the enactment is capable of two interpretations, or there is ambiguity which cannot be resolved unless some substitution is made or certain words are omitted while interpreting the enactment. In the present case, the wording of Sub-section (2) is not ambiguous, nor is it capable of more than one interpretation. In other words, therefore, what has been laid down in Sub-section (2) of Section 164 is that the order of the appellate authority confirming, setting aside or modifying an order in respect of valuation or assessment or liability to assessment or taxation shall be final unless it is reviewed by a further order passed within three months from the date of the original order.

6. In the present case the appellate authority passed the original order on 4-6-1956 and the further order on the review application on 14-12-1956, that is, after more than six months. The review application was thus disposed of beyond the prescribed period of three months. When the appellate authority had no jurisdiction to pass an order on a review application beyond three months, the order passed beyond this period would be without jurisdiction, and shall have to be set aside.

7. When the order dated 14-12-1956 is set aside, there remains the order dated 4-6-1956 which the appellate authority had passed on the appeal preferred by the petitioner.

8. The other point of importance to be considered in this connection is whether this Court should or should not exercise its discretionary powers under Article 226 or 227 of the Constitution of India in favour of the petitioner. In case his appeal was beyond time, it will not be proper for this Court to interfere with an illegal order simply to give advantage to a party which was not entitled to such leniency, i.e. to further the cause of injustice. In other words, if it appears that the appeal preferred by the petitioner was beyond time, this Court may refuse to issue the writ even though the order passed on the review application is without jurisdiction.

9. The period of limitation of appeals preferred under Section 160 of the U. P. Municipalities Act has been prescribed in Clause (a) of Section 161. It will be found that there are two parts of the clause: the first applies to appeals in the case of a tax assessed on the annual value of buildings or lands or both, and the other part to cases of any other tax. Water tax is assessed on the annual value of building or land or both, and consequently an appeal against the imposition of water tax shall be governed by the first part of the clause, and not the second part.

The period of limitation for such appeals is 30 days and it is to commence next after the date of communication of the order. If the order of assessment is not communicated to the party, the period of limitation does not commence and it will be for the party to appeal any time he desires, subject to the limitation that the appeal should be filed within 30 days of the date which can be deemed to be the date of communication of the order. The material point for decision would be what is, in the eye of law, the date of communication of the order.

10. An assessment list is finalized under section 144 of the U. P. Municipalities Act by authenticating the list after hearing and disposing of the objections made to entries contained in the assessment list. Under Sub-section (2), the list so authenticated is deposited in the Municipal office and thereafter the list is declared by public notice to be open for inspection.

It was contended on behalf of respondent No. 2 that the date of publicity of the authenticated list should be treated as the date of communication of the order to all the assessees. It is true that it has not been laid down in the U. P. Municipalities Act that the order of assessment or the entries contained in the authenticated list shall be communicated to the assessees individually; but it is significant that the words used in Clause (a) of Section 161 are different to those used in Section 144. Section 144(2) speaks of giving public notice of the authentication of the list while Section 161 of the communication of the order.

The difference becomes of importance when the provisions of corresponding laws are kept in mind. Section 69 of the Cantonments Act is similar to Section 144 of the U. P, Municipalities Act. It also contemplates not only authentication of the list but also gives publicity thereof. Under Clause (a) of Section 87 of the Cantonments Act the period of limitation of 30 days commences from the date o authentication of the assessment list under Section 69 of the Act.

As it is not possible for every member of the public to know the date when the assessment list is authenticated or is given publicity, it is provided in Clause (a) of Section 87 that an appeal may be admitted after the expiry of the period prescribed therefor by this section if the appellant satisfies the Court before whom the appeal is preferred that he had sufficient cause for not preferring it within that period.

But in Section 161 of the U. P. Municipalities Act no provision has been made for the condonation of delay in making the appeal, apparently for the reason that limitation commences not from the date of authentication but from the date of the communication of the order. In cases where an order is deemed to have been communicated to or served on the party by the order being given publicity by beat or drum or by publication in a newspaper or in the Official Gazette, the legislature generally shows leniency to the assessees, not guilty of negligence or latches, by making a provision that in genuine cases the delay in the presentation of the appeal may be condoned if the appellate authority is satisfied that the appellant was not aware of the order of assessment and he did appeal within 30 days of the date of knowledge.

But in cases where the limitation is to commence from the date of actual service of the order of assessment, no such provision becomes necessary as the assessees would know on the date of service that he had been assessed to a house or water tax and if he wishes to appeal against the order he can prefer the appeal within the prescribed period. The only inference which can, therefore, be drawn from the non-existence of a condonation clause in the U. P. Municipalities Act is that the limitation commences from the date of actual communication or service of the order of assessment.

11. In the end, it may be mentioned that the term 'communication of the order' has a meaning of its own, that is, the order concerned must be forwarded to and served on the person likely to be affected by the order. An order of assessment given publicity, may be by publication in newspapers, may not come to the notice of assessees and will not, therefore, be an order which was duly communicated to him. In my opinion, therefore, the period of limitation laid down in Section 161 (a) commences from the date of actual communication of the order of assessment, and not from the date when the list so authenticated is given publicity under Section 144 of the U. P. Municipalities Act.

12. There is no provision in the U. P. Municipalities Act prescribing the form in which an order of assessment has to be communicated to the assessee. Consequently, the communication of the order of assessment in any form will be the starting point of limitation laid down in Section 161. A copy of the order of assessment can be endorsed to the assessee soon after the assessment order i. e. authentication of the list. The order of assessment can also be communicated by presenting a bill as contemplated by Sections 166 and 167 of the U. P. Municipalities Act, or by serving a notice of demand under Section 168.

In the present case the bail was presented to the petitioner on 17-4-1956. It was contended OH behalf of respondent No. 2 that the bill was originally sent by registered post, but the petitioner refused to take delivery thereof on 6-3-1956. Reliance was placed upon Annexure A to the counter-affidavit. The petitioner has mentioned in his rejoinder-affidavit that on this date, that is, 6-3-1956, he was in Bombay and returned to the Ashram on 6-4-1956 and that on his return he was not told by any inmate of the Ashram that any such letter had been received by post in his name. In the circumstances, the bill cannot be deemed to have been presented to the petitioner on 6-3-1956, and in the eye of law, the order of assessment was communicated to the petitioner on 17-4-1956 and the appeal preferred by him against the assessment of water tax was within time,

13. While disposing of the appeal the District Magistrate of Saharanpur had expressed an opinion on the merits of the case though, as mentioned above, he admitted the appeal by condoning the delay. This latter part of the order is illegal and can be disregarded. As this Court does not usurp the functions of a Court of Appeal, it cannot interfere with an order of a subordinate authority where it rests purely upon facts unless, of course, the order passed is perverse and the error amounts to a defect in the exercise of jurisdiction. The order of the District Magistrate so far as the merits of the case were concerned was probably not sought to be reviewed. Consequently, this would be an additional ground for not interfering with the order of the District Magistrate passed in the appeal.

14. In the counter--affidavit the respondent No. 2 has given additional facts to show that the building under the management of the petitioner could be assessed to water tax. This additional evidence cannot be entertained by High Courts while entertaining petitions under Article 226 for the simple reason that they do not sit as a Court of Appeal and must decide the case on the basis of such material as may have been produced before the subordinate authority.

15. To sum up, the District Magistrate of Saharanpur, respondent No. 1, had no jurisdiction to review his earlier order after expiry of the preseribed period of three months. The order passed on the review application is beyond jurisdiction and is void and ineffective with the result that the original order passed by the District Magistrate is still In force and the petitioner is not liable to pay water tax for the period in question in the present proceeding.

16. The petition is hereby allowed and it isordered that a writ of certiorari be issued to quashthe order dated 14-12-1956 of the District Magistrateof Saharanpur. As the order of assessment dated26-11-1955 had been set aside by the District Magistrate under order dated 4-6-1956 which is theonly valid order in force, the petitioner shall not beliable to pay water tax for the period in question.Costs on parties.


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