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Ragho Prasad and ors. Vs. B. Pratap NaraIn Agrawal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal Nos. 59 of 1967 and 154 and 177 of 1971
Judge
Reported inAIR1976All470
ActsCourt-fees Act, 1870 - Sections 7 and 7(1)
AppellantRagho Prasad and ors.
RespondentB. Pratap NaraIn Agrawal and ors.
Appellant AdvocateM.K. Saraswat, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateStanding Counsel
Excerpt:
.....7 (1) (iv) (b) of court fees act, 1870 - court fees on the memorandum of appeal against the final decree in a suits for accounts to be paid under section 7(iv)(b) and the appellant has to value the relief sought, at the amount by which he seeks variation of the final decree - held, appeal includes both an appeal against a preliminary decree and an appeal against a final decree. - - it is clearly one for recovery of the sum of rs. the sub-section thus provides for the computation of court-fee in suits for accounts as well as in appeals arising out of such suits. their lordships are clearly of the opinion that the memorandum of appeal in the present case did state in terms of the act the amount at which the relief was sought. ' these observations have been held to lay down that..........referred for opinion to this bench:'whether the court-fee on the memorandum of appeal against the final decree in a suit for accounting is to be paid under section 7 (iv) (b) or under section 7 (i) of the u. p. court-fees act ?' 2. the question has been referred at the instance of a division bench which was of the opinion that there was conflict between the decision of a full bench of three judges of this court in ghalib rasool v. mangu lal : air1949all382 and the decision of a full bench of five judges of this court in asharfi lal v. firm thakur prasad kishori lal : air1970all197 . 3. section 7 (iv) (b) of the court fees act as amended in uttar pradesh reads thus:-- 'the amount of fee payable under this act in the suits next hereinafter mentioned shall be computed as follows: (iv) in.....
Judgment:

G.C. Mathur, J.

1. The following question has been referred for opinion to this Bench:

'Whether the court-fee on the memorandum of appeal against the final decree in a suit for accounting is to be paid under Section 7 (iv) (b) or under Section 7 (i) of the U. P. Court-fees Act ?'

2. The question has been referred at the instance of a Division Bench which was of the opinion that there was conflict between the decision of a Full Bench of three Judges of this Court in Ghalib Rasool v. Mangu Lal : AIR1949All382 and the decision of a Full Bench of five Judges of this Court in Asharfi Lal v. Firm Thakur Prasad Kishori Lal : AIR1970All197 .

3. Section 7 (iv) (b) of the Court Fees Act as amended in Uttar Pradesh reads thus:--

'The amount of fee payable under this Act in the suits next hereinafter mentioned shall be computed as follows:

(iv) In suits-

(a) .......

(b) for accounts;

according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum, of appeal;

Provided also that in suits falling under Clause (b), such amount shall be the approximate sum due to the plaintiff and the said sum shall form the basis for calculating (or determining) the valuation of an appeal from a preliminay decree passed in the suit.'

4. There is no dispute that on the memorandum of plaint in a suit for accounts, the plaintiff can value the suit for purposes of payment of court-fees on the approximate sum due to him. There is also no dispute that in an appeal againstthe preliminary decree directing accounts to be taken, the appellant can value the appeal for purposes of payment of court-fee on the basis of the valuation given by the plaintiff in the plaint. The dispute is regarding the valuation to be given in an appeal against the final decree passed in a suit for accounts.

5. In a preliminary decree directing the taking of accounts, the court either appoints a Commissioner to take the accounts or directs the production of the necessary documents before itself, After taking accounts, the Commissioner or the Court ascertains the amount due to the plaintiff from the defendant or due to the defendant from the plaintiff. If the accounts have been taken by a Commissioner, the parties are entitled to file objections to his report and after considering the objections, the court ascertains the amount due to one party or the other. Thereafter the court passes a final decree for the amount so ascertained in favour of the party who is found entitled to the amount. At this stage, Section 11 of the Court Fees Act comes into operation. This section makes provisions for the recovery of ad valorem court-fees on the amount decreed in excess of the amount claimed in the plaint. By virtue of Section 11, the plaintiff has to pay ad valorem court-fees on the entire amount decreed in the suit after making allowance for the amount of court-fees already paid on the plaint. When an appeal is preferred against such a final decree, what is the valuation which the appellant is required to put on the appeal for purposes of payment of court-fees? That is the question we are really required to answer.

6. In Ghalib Rasool v. Mangu Lal : AIR1949All382 , the plaintiff had filed a suit for accounts and had valued the suit at a sum of Rs. 130/-. A preliminary decree was passed and a Commissioner was appointed to examine the accounts. The Commissioner gave a report that a sum of Rs. 12,224/5/9 was due from the plaintiffs to the defendants. The plaintiffs filed objections to the report and the trial court held that nothing was due to either party from the other. It accordingly passed a final decree dismissing the suit. Against this final decree, the defendants filed an appeal praying that the decree of the trial court be set aside and that a correct decree in view of the report of the Commissioner be passed. They valued the appeal at Rs. 130/-, the amount at which the plaintiff had valued the suit. On an objection by the plaintiffs, the appellate Court held that the defendants were liable to pay Court-fee on the sum of Rs. 12,224/5/9. The Full Bench set aside the order of the District Judge and held that Section 7 (iv) (b) of the Act permitted an appellant in an appeal from a final decree in a suit for accounts to put his own valuation upon the relief sought for in the appeal and to pay court-fee accordingly.

7. In Asharfi Lal's case : AIR1970All197 the plaintiff brought a suit for accounting and in the plaint valued the suit at Rs. 300/-. On accounting it was found that a sum of Rupees 11,825.50 was due to the plaintiff from the defendant and a final decree for this amount was passed. The defendant preferred an appeal before the District Judge and he valued the appeal at Rs. 300/- and paid court-fees on that amount. On an objection raised by the plaintiff, the District Judge held that the correct valuation of the appeal was Rs. 11,825.50 and ad valorem court-fee was payable on this amount by the appellant. The defendant preferred an appeal to this court. It was argued for the defendant-appellant before the Full Bench that a suit for accounts always remained a suit for accounts even though a money decree is passed after accounting has been done. The Full Bench rejected this contention, upheld the order of the District Judge and observed:

'Properly analysed a suit for accounts is nothing but a suit for recovery of money but only after the amount has been determined. Consequently we find no justification for the submission that a suit for accounts would always remain a suit for accounts even though the purpose for which accounting is held, i.e., to obtain a decree for the recovery of a specific amount of money, has been achieved and the sum recoverable specified.

We have seen the decree passed in this case. It is clearly one for recovery of the sum of Rs. 11,825.50. As pointed out earlier, the rendition or the taking of accounts is only incidental or ancillary and for the sole purpose of determining the exact amount due to the aggrieved party.'

The Full Bench accordingly upheld the view of the District Judge that the correct valuation of the appeal was Rupees 11,825.50 P. and that ad valorem court-fee was payable on this amount by the defendant-appellant. The decisions of the two Full Benches do appear to becontradictory to each other. The real question, which we have to determine, is as to what is the valuation which the appellant is required to put, for purposes of payment of court-fees, on an appeal against a final decree in a suit for accounts. Though the question referred and framed by the Division Bench is in a slightly different form, we are informed by R. B. Misra, J., who was one of the referring Judges and who is a member of this Bench, that the opinion of this Full Bench was sought on the question relating to the valuation of the relief for payment of court-fees in an appeal against the final decree in a suit for accounts.

8. The first question, which needs to be considered, is whether Sub-section (iv) (b) of Section 7 covers an appeal against a final decree in a suit for accounts and whether such an appeal is governed by some other provision of the Act. The main part of the Sub-section says that the amount of fee payable in suits for accounts shall be computed according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in a plaint or memorandum of appeal. Section 2 (iv) defines 'suit' to include a first or second appeal from a decree in a suit and also a Letters Patent appeal. The word 'suit' in the main part of the sub-clause, therefore, includes an appeal. This also appears from the language of the sub-section. The sub-section thus provides for the computation of court-fee in suits for accounts as well as in appeals arising out of such suits. The question is whether, so far as appeals are concerned, the sub-section is confined to appeals against preliminary decrees and does not cover appeals against final decrees. The proviso to this sub-section lays down the basis for calculating the valuation of an appeal from a preliminary decree. If the Legislature intended to confine the main part of the sub-clause to appeals against preliminary decrees, it would have used the words 'an appeal against a preliminary decree', as it has used in the proviso, and not merely the word 'appeal'. The word 'appeal' emrbaces both an appeal against a preliminary decree and an appeal against a final decree. There appears no reason whatever for confining the word 'appeal' in the main part of the sub-section to appeals against preliminary decrees. It thus appears that, Sub-section (iv) (b) governs appeals against final decrees also for computation of court-fees payable thereon.

9. The next question then is: What is the provision that the sub-section makes for the valuation of appeals against final decrees for purposes of payment of court-fees The main part of the sub-section lays down that court-fees in suits for accounts shall be computed as follows :--

(i) On plaints -- according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint;

(ii) in an appeal against a preliminary decree--according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the memorandum of appeal against the preliminary decree; and

(iii) in an appeal against the final decree--according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the memorandum of appeal.'

The proviso to the sub-section lays down how the valuation in the first two cases will be made. In the case of plaints, it provides that the amount, at which the relief sought is valued, shall be the approximate sum due to the plaintiff and, in the case of an appeal against a preliminary decree, it provides that the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the memordum of appeal, shall be calculated on the basis of the approximate sum due to the plaintiff, the proviso does not say anything as to how the amount, at which the relief sought in an appeal against a final decree, is to be valued. The proviso does not apply to such appeals. Therefore, in an appeal against a final decree, the court-fee is payable according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued by the appellant in the memorandum of appeal as provided in the main part of the sub-section.

10. A final decree in a suit for accounts is a decree for recovery of an ascertained sum of money. On the decretal amount the plaintiff pays ad valorem court-fee. When a defendant prefers an appeal against such a decree, he seeks to get rid of either the whole of it or a part thereof. In any case, he seeks relief in respect of a particular amount of money by which he seeks the variation of the decree. The value of the relief is the amount by which the decree is sought to be varied. When a plaintiff prefers an appeal against the final decree, he seeks a variation of the decree by an increase of the decretal amount by a particular sum of money. Again, the value of the relief is the amount by which the decree is sought to be varied. How can it be saidthat, for purposes of payment of court-fee, the defendant-appellant or the plaintiff-appellant can value the relief at some arbitrary amount other than the real value 'of the relief, i.e., the amount by which the decree is sought to be varied. When Sub-section (iv) (b) talks of valuing the relief sought in the appeal, it contemplates valuing it according to the real value of the relief and not according to any arbitrary value.

11. It is important to note that the sub-section requires the appellant to value the relief which he seeks and it is on this amount, at which he values the relief, that the court-fee is payable. The valuation of the appeal has been deliberately linked up with the relief sought in the appeal against the final decree. If the relief sought is in respect of a particular sum of money, can the appellant say that he will value this relief at a smaller amount We think he cannot. Suppose a defendant files an appeal against a final decree and seeks the relief of reduction of the decretal amount by Rs. 50.000/-. The relief sought being for a sum of Rs. 50,000/-, the appellant surely cannot say that he will value this relief at Rs. 5,000/- or at any other arbitrary figure he likes. If the relief sought is for a sum of Rs. 50,000/-, he must value his relief at this amount. Of course, it is open to the appellant to challenge the final decree either in whole or in part and to claim relief in respect of any amount he thinks fit. But when he has decided to challenge the decree in respect of a particular sum of money, in respect of which he seeks relief in the appeal, he has to value the relief at that amount. Thus, if the appellant seeks to get rid of the entire decretal amount, he seeks relief in respect of the entire decretal amount and has to value his relief at this amount; but, if he wants to get rid of a part of the decree, he seeks relief in respect of this part and must value his relief at the amount by which he seeks to vary the decretal amount. Likewise, where the plaintiff-appellant seeks to have the decretal amount increased by a particular amount, he seeks relief in respect of that amount and has to value his relief at that amount. The relief sought has to be valued at the amount in respect of which the appellant seeks the relief. The valuation of the relief cannot be arbitrary. It must be related to the relief sought. The valuation depends on the relief claimed and, since it is for the appellant to decide how much or what relief he will claim in the appeal, it is left to him to value the appeal according to that relief. It was not intended to permit the appellant to give any arbitrary valuation having no relation to the relief sought. The relief bought has to be valued according to the amount in respect of which the relief is sought.

12. In Ghalib Rasool v Mangu Lal : AIR1949All382 (supra), the Full Bench held that the sub-section permits an appellant in an appeal from a final decree in a suit for accounts to put his own valuation upon the relief sought in the appeal and to pay court-fee accordingly. Even though the defendant-appellant, in that case, prayed for a decree for Rs. 12,224/5/9 in terms pf the report of the commissioner, the Full Bench held that the valuation of the appeal at Rupees 130/- was justified under the sub-section. For the reasons given above, with respect, we are unable to agree with the view of the Full Bench.

13. The Full Bench has relied upon the decision of the Privy Council in Faizullah v. Mauladad, AIR 1929 PC 147 = (56 Ind App 232). In this case, the plaintiffs filed a suit for accounts, valuing their suit at Rs. 3,000/-. After the preliminary decree had become final, a final decree was passed in favour of the defendant for Rs. 19,991/-. The plaintiffs filed an appeal in the court of the Judicial Commissioner. The memorandum of appeal stated:

'Claim in appeal -- For reversal of the decree against the appellants and for granting a decree in their favour for such of that amount as may be found due. Value for purposes of Court-fee of Appeal, Rs. 19,991/-.'

Court-fee of Rs. 975/- was paid on this valuation. On this the office reported that the court-fee paid was correct. The Judicial Commissioner allowed the appeal, set aside the decree and remanded the case for taking accounts afresh. He, however, directed that no decree shall be passed in favour of the plaintiffs even if any amount was found due to them as they had not paid court-fee on the second relief prayed for in the appeal. Against this direction, the plaintiffs appealed to the Privy Council. Before the Privy Council the appellants urged that the court-fee paid was sufficient under the provisions to entitle the plaintiffs to the full relief they sought. The respondent contended that there was no valuation of the second relief and so the memorandumin respect of the second relief was a nullity. The Privy Council allowed the appeal, holding that the valuation made and court-fee paid covered both the reliefs and observed:

'Their Lordships are clearly of the opinion that the memorandum of appeal in the present case did state in terms of the Act the amount at which the relief was sought. This determines the appeal.'

These observations have been held to lay down that the plaintiffs were entitled to value the appeal at any figure they liked. These observations were made by the Privy Council in view of the language of Section 7(iv)(f) of the Central Act which differs vitally from that of Section 7 (iv) (b) of the U. P. Act. Section 7(iv)(f) reads thus:--

'The amount of fee payable under this Act in suits next hereinafter mentioned shall be computed as follows:--

(iv) In suits

(f) for accounts-

according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal.

In all such suits, the plaintiff shall state the amount at which he values the relief.'

Section 7(iv)(f) makes no distinction, in the matter of valuation, between a suit and an appeal against the preliminary decree or an appeal against the final decree. In all cases, the plaintiff or appellant is entitled to give his own valuation of the relief. It is on the language of the last sentence of Section 7(iv)(f) that the observations of the Privy Council quoted above are based. The observations meant that the appellants had, in their memorandum of appeal, stated their valuation of the reliefs sought and that thereby they had complied with the requirement of law. For this reason, the valuation was held proper and the court-fee paid on this valuation adequate to cover both, the reliefs. The Supreme Court in Sathappa Chettiar v. Ramanathan Chettiar : [1958]1SCR1021 has also held that Section 7(iv)(f) gives liberty to a plaintiff or appellant to put his own valuation on the relief sought. There is no such provision in Section 7 (iv) (b) of the U. P. Act as is contained in the last sentence of Section 7(iv)(f) of the Central Act. In our opinion, the decision of the Privy Council cannot be applied to cases governed by Section 7 (iv) (b) of the U. P. Act on account of the vital difference between the two provisions.

14. In Asharfi Lal v. Firm Thakur Prasad Kishori Lal : AIR1970All197 (supra), the Full Bench of five Judges held that a defendant appealing against a final decree passed against him in a suit for accounts should pay ad valorem Court-fee on the amount by which the decree is sought to be varied. With respect, we are in agreement with this view. But we are unable to share the view of this Full Bench that such an appeal is governed by Sub-section (i) of Section 7 and not by Sub-section (iv) (b). For the reasons which we have already given above, a suit for accounts, at all its stages including the stage of appeals against the preliminary and final decrees, is governed by the provisions of Sub-section (iv) (b). At the stage of the final decree and of the appeal against that decree, it cannot be said that the suit has become a suit governed by the provisions of Sub-section (i) of Section 7. It is true that a final decree in a suit for accounts is exactly like a decree passed in a suit for money governed by Sub-section (i). It will be difficult to find a rational reason for valuing an appeal against a final decree in a suit for accounts differently from an appeal against a decree in a suit for money governed by Sub-section (i).

15. Learned counsel for the respondent cited a number of decisions of other High Courts in support of his contention. As all these cases relate to the interpretation of Section 7(iv)(f) of the Central Act, they give no guidance in the interpretation of Section 7 (iv) (b) of the U. P. Act, and we need do no more than to just mention them. These cases are In re Dhanukodi Mayakkar, AIR 1938 Mad 435 (FB), Kanti Chandra v. Radha Raman : AIR1929Cal815 , Kashiram v-Ranglal, AIR 1941 Bom 242, Khem Raj v. Hem Raj, AIR 1956 J & K 35 and In re Kudappa Subbamma, AIR 1957 Andh Pra 6. In all these cases, it has been held that in an appeal against a final decree in a suit for accounts or for mesne profits, the valuation for purposes of court-fees has to be the amount by which the decree is sought to be varied.

16. We may now dispose of the last argument of the appellant based on Section 8 of the Suits Valuation Act. This section as it obtains in Uttar Pradesh reads thus:

'Where in suits other than those referred to in Section 4, court-fees are payable ad valorem under the Court-fees Act, 1870, as in force for the time being inthe Uttar Pradesh, the value as determinable for the computation of court-fees and the value for purposes of jurisdiction shall be the same.'

17. The argument proceeds in this manner. The valuation for purposes of jurisdiction has to be the same in the plaint as in the memorandum of appeal, the valuation for purposes of payment of court-fees on the memorandum of appeal has to be the same as the valuation for purposes of jurisdiction and, therefore, the valuation for the purposes of payment of court-fees in the memorandum of appeal has to be the same as that in the plaint. The argument is fallacious. The case relied upon by the appellant Sathappa Chettiar v. Ramanathan Chettiar : [1958]1SCR1021 does not support his argument. The Supreme Court has held, considering Section 8 of the Central Suits Valuation Act, that it is the amount at which the relief sought is valued for purposes of court-fees that determines the value for jurisdiction and not vice versa. If the provisions of the Court Fees Act require an appeal to be valued in a particular manner, it has to be valued in that manner irrespective of the valuation in the plaint for purposes of jurisdiction or payment of court-fees. Therefore, the valuation for the purposes of payment of Court-fees has first to be determined irrespective of the valuation for purposes of jurisdiction.

17-A. We accordingly answer the question referred as follows:

Court-fees on the memorandum of appeal against the final decree in a suit for accounts is to be paid under Section 7 (iv) (b) and the appellant has to value the relief, which he seeks in the appeal, at the amount by which he seeks variation of the final decree.

18. The appeals may now be listed before the Bench concerned with our opinion.


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