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Cantonment Board Vs. (Firm) Hazari Lal Ganga Prasad - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad
Decided On
Reported inAIR1934All436
AppellantCantonment Board
Respondent(Firm) Hazari Lal Ganga Prasad
Excerpt:
- - 6. if goods are supplied to a board on credit without there being any fixed date for payment of the price, it may well be argued that the cause of action to recover the price thereof does not arise till there has been an express or implied refusal by the board to pay the amount. if the argument of the learned counsel for the applicant held good, it would not have been necessary for the legislature to take trouble to define the nature of the suit in sub-section (1), section 273, it would have been enough to say that barring cases of immoveable property or suits for declaration of title to immoveable properties, all suits instituted against a cantonment board would be governed by a rule of six months' limitation, the starting point being the date on which the cause of action arises......rule or bye-law made under the cantonments act. the suit is for the recovery of the price of the goods supplied by the plaintiff to the defendant which is still unpaid. the cause of action for the suit is not the action of the board in omitting to pay the price of the goods, but would ordinarily arise from the fact that goods were supplied by the plaintiff to the board.4. no doubt under section 12, cantonments act, a cantonments board is empowered to acquire and hold property both moveable and immoveable and to contract. it is also clear that the purchase made by the board was by virtue of the power vested in it under the cantonments act. but i am unable to regard the suit of the plaintiff against the board as a suit in respect of an act done by the board in pursuance of the act itself.....
Judgment:

Sulaiman, C.J.

1. This is an application in revision by the Cantonment Board of Allahabad from a decree of the Court of Small Causes granting a relief for recovery of money to the plaintiff. The plaintiff is a shop-keeper who alleged that he had supplied certain materials to the Board between July 1928 and January 1930, but had not been paid the full amount of the price. He claimed nearly Rs. 300 as the amount of the balance with interest. His case was that after having supplied the goods he waited patiently for sometime, but the Board did not make any further payment, in consequence of which he was obliged to sue the Board after serving notice upon it as required by law. The Board denied the receipt of all the materials alleged to have been supplied by the plaintiff and also pleaded that the claim was barred by six months' rule of limitation. The Board however did not assert that prior to the refusal contained in the reply to the notice served upon it by the plaintiff there had been any other refusal by the Board to pay the amount. The plea of limitation has been overruled by the Court below. The learned advocate for the applicant relies strongly on a number of rulings of this Court under Section 326, U.P. Municipalities Act, (2 of 1926), in which a wider meaning to a somewhat similar expression used in the section has been given. Under that section no suit can be instituted against a Board in respect of an act done in its official capacity after the expiry of six months after the accrual of the cause of action. It must however be admitted that there are other rulings in which a somewhat contrary opinion has been expressed. If the question had arisen under Section 326, Municipalities Act, we might have felt compelled to refer this case to a larger Bench. But the relevant section which we have to consider in this case is Section 273, Cantonment Act, (2 of 1924). The words in that section are not identical with the words in Section 328, Municipalities Act, and therefore the rulings relied upon by the learned Counsel for the applicant are not directly in point. Under Section 273, Sub-section (1):

no suit shall be instituted against any Cantonment Authority...in respect of any act done, or purporting to have been done, in pursuance of this Act or of any rule or bye-law made thereunder, until the expiration of two months after notice in writing....

2. Then Sub-section (3), provides that no suit, such as is described in Sub-section (1) shall, unless it is an action for the recovery of immovable property or for a declaration of title thereto, be instituted after the expiry of six months from the date on which the cause of action arises Thus a different period of limitation is prescribed for suits of the nature mentioned in Sub-section (1) and the starting point of limitation for such suits is always the date on which the cause of action arises. The first question is whether a suit for recovery of materials supplied to the Board can be treated as a suit against the Board:

in respect of any act done, or purporting to have been done, in pursuance of this Act or of any rule or bye-law made thereunder

3. It seems to me that the plaintiff is not suing the Board for any act; done by the Board in pursuance of the Cantonments Act; nor is he suing the Board for any act done by the Board or purporting to have been done by the Board under any rule or bye-law made under the Cantonments Act. The suit is for the recovery of the price of the goods supplied by the plaintiff to the defendant which is still unpaid. The cause of action for the suit is not the action of the Board in omitting to pay the price of the goods, but would ordinarily arise from the fact that goods were supplied by the plaintiff to the Board.

4. No doubt under Section 12, Cantonments Act, a Cantonments Board is empowered to acquire and hold property both moveable and immoveable and to contract. It is also clear that the purchase made by the Board was by virtue of the power vested in it under the Cantonments Act. But I am unable to regard the suit of the plaintiff against the Board as a suit in respect of an act done by the Board in pursuance of the Act itself as distinct from the act done in the exercise of the power granted to the Board under the Act. In my opinion, Section 273, Sub-section (1) does not contemplate the class of suits of private contracts for which specific rules of limitation are prescribed in the Limitation Act. They contemplate actions brought against the Board in respect of acts done in pursuance of the Act itself or done in pursuance of any rule or bye-law that has the force of law.

5. This view is strengthened by another consideration. A large variety of suits can be filed against a Municipal Board and, in the absence of any provision to the contrary, they would be governed by the Limitation Act. Now in the third column of Schedule 1 there are different starting points prescribed for different classes of actions. They are not always the same; much less is the date of the accrual of the cause of action the starting point for all such suits. It is therefore quite clear that there can be a variety of actions which under Schedule 1, Limitation Act, would have to be brought within different periods from dates other than the date when the cause of action arises. But in Section 273 Sub-section (3) where the period of limitation is reduced, the starting point of limitation is made identical for all classes of actions and is therefore not necessarily the same as those mentioned in the third column of Schedule 1. The result would be that the provisions of the Limitation Act, in cases falling under Sub-section (1), Section 273 would be entirely replaced by Sub-section (3) of the section. The period of limitation would be only six months' but the date from which the time woud begin to run would not necessarily be the date mentioned in the third column of an Article applicable to a corresponding case against private persons, but the starting point would be the date on which the cause of action arises.

6. If goods are supplied to a Board on credit without there being any fixed date for payment of the price, it may well be argued that the cause of action to recover the price thereof does not arise till there has been an express or implied refusal by the Board to pay the amount. The period of six months would then begin to run not necessarily from the date when the goods were supplied, but from the date when the right to sue accrued. If Article 52, which would be applicable to a suit against a private person and under which the starting point is the date of the delivery of the goods, completely replaced by Section 273, Sub-section (3), then the cause of action would not necessarily arise from the date of the delivery of the goods, particularly when the goods were supplied on credit that is to say, on an implied assurance that the price would be paid in due course. In view of these considerations, I am of opinion that the present case is not governed by Section 273 at all and that therefore Article 52, Limitation Act, applies, and I am further of opinion that even if it were covered by that section, the starting of limitation in this case would not be the date of the delivery of the goods.

Mukerji, J.

7. I entirely agree and would add just a few words. By enacting Section 273, Cantonments Act, (1924), Sub-section (1) the Legislature has taken trouble to define a particular class of cases and has required that for those cases a previous notice would be necessary for a correct institution of a suit, and it is further provided in Sub-section (3) that the period of limitation would be a special period, namely, six months from the date on which the cause of action arises. This period of six months is subject to a certain exception as regards immoveable property with which we are not concerned here. If the argument of the learned Counsel for the applicant held good, it would not have been necessary for the Legislature to take trouble to define the nature of the suit in Sub-section (1), Section 273, It would have been enough to say that barring cases of immoveable property or suits for declaration of title to immoveable properties, all suits instituted against a Cantonment Board would be governed by a rule of six months' limitation, the starting point being the date on which the cause of action arises. As My Lord the Chief Justice has pointed out, the suit for recovery of the value of goods supplied does not fall within the description of suits mentioned in Section 273, Sub-section (1), Cantonments Act. It is not a suit; for an act done by the Cantonment Authority in pursuance of the Cantonment Act by any rule or bye law made thereunder. It follows that the ordinary rule of limitation applies and not the special rule of limitation mentioned in Sub-section (3), Section 273, In the case of an interpretation of what may be said to be a corresponding section in the Municipalities Act, namely, Section 326, U.P. Municipalities Act, 1916, there is a conflict of opinion; but we are not interpreting the Municipalities Act, and I therefore do not feel it necessary to refer to those cases. If there be any conflict in the interpretation of Section 326, Municipalities Act, (local of 1916), it will be settled when another case arises. I agree that the decision of the suit was correct and Article 52, Schedule 1, Limitation Act, applied.


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