1. This is a plaintiff's appeal against an order of a learned Judge of this Court. The appeal arises out of a suit for the recovery of Rs. 48. Briefly the relevant facts are as follows: On 4th and 6th September 1934 the licensing inspector of the Municipal Board of Meerut stopped two thelas, the property of the plaintiff, and demanded a licensing fee of Rs. 12 in respect of each thelas. The thelas were taken to the Municipal Office and detained there. The thelawallas were allowed to return with their buffaloes and report to their employer. The plaintiff thereupon under protest paid the licensing fee demanded. In the suit out of which this appeal arises the plaintiff claimed a refund of Rs. 24 and further Rs. 24 in name of damages.
2. The learned Munsif granted decree for the refund of the Rs. 24 and for Re. 1 in name of damages. The defendant appealed and in the lower Appellate Court the learned Civil Judge dismissed the suit on the finding that the Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the plaintiff's claim in view of the provisions of Section 164, Municipalities Act of 1916. The decree of the lower Appellate Court has been upheld in this Court in second appeal. It was contended for the appellant that the Municipal authorities were not entitled to charge him a licensing fee in respect of his thelas under the provisions of the Municipalities Act. Section 128 of the Act upon which the defendant relies empowers a. Municipality to impose a tax on vehicles and other conveyances plying for hire or kept within the Municipality or on boats moored therein. Now the finding of the trial Court and of the lower Appellate Court is that the plaintiff's thelas do not ply for hire nor are they kept within the Municipality of Meerut. Clearly therefore the Municipal authorities were not entitled to exact from the plaintiff a fee in respect of this thelas. The defendant maintained however that the plaintiff's remedy was not by way of a suit in the Civil Court but in the manner described by the Municipalities Act. Section 164(1), Municipalities Act, enjoins:
No objection shall be taken to a valuation or assessment, nor shall the liability of a person to be assessed or taxed be questioned in any other manner or by any other authority than as provided in this Act.
3. Section 160(1) declares the method by which a tax-payer who is aggrieved may challenge the assessment by the Municipal authorities. Section 160(1) enacts:
In the case of a tax assessed upon the annual value of buildings or lands or both an appeal against an order passed under Sub-section (3) of Section 113 or under Sub-section (3) of Section 147 and in the case of any other tax an appeal against an assessment, or any alteration of an assessment, may be made to the District Magistrate or to such other officer as may be empowered by the Local Government in this behalf.
4. It is to be observed that this Section provides for an appeal against an assessment. There is no provision for any appeal against an impost such as the one which has been exacted from the plaintiff in the present instance. It is abundantly plain that the Municipal authorities had no right to demand a tax from the plaintiff in respect of his thelas. It is further clear that the Municipalities Act does not provide any method by which the plaintiff could challenge the tax. The sum of Rs. 24 has been exacted from the plaintiff in a highhanded and arbitrary manner. His thelas did not ply within the Municipality of Meerut nor were they kept there. The plaintiff must have a remedy in these circumstances. No remedy is provided for him in the Municipalities Act. He is therefore entitled to seek redress in the Civil Court. It may be observed that the fee which the Municipal authorities have demanded from the plaintiff was not in any sense of the term an assessment. Under the Act, and bye-laws framed thereunder, the duty is cast upon the owner of a vehicle plying for hire or kept within the Municipality to apply for a license. If he fails to do so the Municipality under their rules may prosecute him and he may be fined. In the present instance the conduct of the servant of the Municipality in exacting payment of a licensing fee from a person who was not under the bye-laws bound to take out a license was quite irregular. In the result the appeal is allowed, the order of this Court is set aside and the decree of the trial Court restored. The plaintiff is entitled to his costs throughout.