1. This is an appeal by Om Prakash, plaintiff against the appellate order of the Additional Civile Judge, Muzaffarnagar returning the plaint for presentation to the proper Court.
2. The plaintiff filed a suit in the Court of the Munsif for dissolution of a partnership firm and for accounts on the allegation that the said firm came into existence on 31-10-1953 and carried on its business till 16-11.1955. It was alleged that the defend-dants dissolved the said firm on 16-11-1955 without his knowledge or consent. In para. 5 of the plaint it was asserted that the plaintiff made a capital investment of Rs. 22,000/- in the partnership business which was going on well till it was dissolved, and that he owed a sum of Rs. 4,383-4-9 only to the partnership in respect of the accounts of an old firm. In para. 7 o the plaint it was pleaded that it was not possible of the plaintiff to ascertain the exact amount due to him from the firm and he was, therefore, valuing the suit at Rs. 1,000/- for the purpose of jurisdiction and the payment of court-fees.
3 The defendants admitted that the plaintiff was' a partner in the firm but denied that he had made any investment. It was also asserted that the firm had suffered losses in its business, and lastly that on the allegations made in the plaint the suit was undervalued and the valuation of Rs. 1,000/-was arbitrary.
4. The Munsif came to the conclusion that the suit was beyond his pecuniary jurisdiction and rejected the plaint, on appeal the Civil Judge agreed with the finding of the trial Court that the suit was under-valued and ordered the return of the plaint for presentation to the proper Court.
5. The plaintiff filed the present appeal and it came on for hearing before a learned Single Judge who thought that there was divergence of opinion between the case of Inayat Hussain v. Bashir Ahmad 0049/1932 : AIR1932All413 and the case of Jumman Khan v. Bhoorey Khan : AIR1949All161 on the question as to whether in a suit for accounts the plaintiff can put an arbitrary value upon his claim with a view to choose his forum. The learned Single Judge observed that the view expressed in the case of Jumman Khan (Supra) indicated that the Court in order to ascertain the correct valuation can also go into the allegations made by the defendants in their written statement, and in case the defendants say that nothing is due to the plaintiff they cannot be allowed? to take the plea that the suit was not cognizable by the Court. He was of the view that a contrary opinion had been expressed in the case of Inayat Hussain 0049/1932 : AIR1932All413 (Supra) in which it was said that where the valuation can be ascertained correctly the plaintiff cannot be allowed to put an arbitrary value upon his claim, nor permitted to over-value or under-value his claim with a view to choose his forum. The learned Single Judge was, therefore, of the view that the case should be decided by a larger bench, and this is how the matter has come up before us.
6. Section 8 of the Suits Valuation Act lays down that the value as determinable for purposes of court-fees and the value for purposes of jurisdiction in a suit for accounts shall be the same court-fee in such suits has to be paid in accordance with Section 7(iv) (b) of the U. P. Court Fees Act, which, so far as is material, reads as follows :
(b) for accounts :
according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal:
''plaint or memorandum of appeal :
Provided further, that in suits filed 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 preliminary decree passed in the suit.'
The second proviso to this sub-section is new and was added by the U. P. Amendment Act of 1938. The language of the proviso leaves no room for doubt that in suits filed under Clause (b) the valuation shall be the 'approximate' sum due to the plain-tiff, according to 'the allegations in the plaint. The word 'approximate' means very near, closely re-sembling or fairly correct. Therefore, when the plaintiff is required to put down an approximate valuation of the suit it means that the valuation is as nearly as may be, the sum in respect of which he seeks relief in the suit. If it is possible to ascertain the approximate valuation on the basis of the allegations made in the plaint, then the plaintiff cannot be allowed to put down a fictitious value for the purpose of jurisdiction.
7. The averments made by the plaintiff in his plaint clearly go to show that he was claiming a sum of Rs. 17,000/- and odd by way of his contribution towards the capital of the firm, besides profits which according to him had been earned by the partnership during its continuance. In the present case, therefore, there was no difficulty in ascertaining the approximate valuation of the suit having regard to the relief claimed in the suit.
8. The ratio of the decision in : AIR1949All161 (Supra) as stated by the learned Judges, was as follows :
'It cannot be the intention of the law that the valuation of the suit for purposes of jurisdiction and payment o court-fees must be determined upon a regular inquiry to be made about the amount due to the plaintiff ..... The expression 'approximate sum due to the plaintiff' in Section 7 (iv) (b) as amended must inevitably refer to the statement of the plaintiff himself as to what he thinks is the approximate sum due to him.'
The learned Judges, however, made it clear that-
'Where the plaintiff himself has admitted in the body of the plaint that on the checking of accounts such and such amount will be found due to him, but has deliberately under-valued his claim for purposes of payment of court fees; or where the plaintiff admits that there are no liabilities and the value of the assets is also admitted, then, in such cases, the Court will be justified in not accepting the valuation as put by him in the plaint, and in calling upon him to correct it according to his own admission.'
9. The observations quoted above go to show that in a case where the plaintiff has clearly stated that a particular sum is due to him from the partnership firm and it is alleged that the said partnership bad earned profits in the course of its business, the plaintiff cannot be allowed to put an arbitrary or fictitious valuation on the suit for the purpose of jurisdiction. There may, however, be cases where the plaintiff states that it is not possible for him to ascertain the amount due to him without a proper accounting; there the plaintiff would be justified to give a notional valuation in the plaint for purposes of jurisdiction and payment or the court-fees. It would, therefore, depend on the facts of each case whether the valuation put down by the plaintiff in the plaint was the approximate sum due to him for the purpose of determining the valuation of the suit and the payment of court-fees. No hard and fast rule can be laid down for the purpose of determining, the proper valuation that may be put by the plaintiff in a suit for accounts. The question has to be decided with reference to the facts and circumstance of each case.
10. We are, therefore, of opinion that there is no real conflict between the views expressed by the Division Benches in the two cases of 0049/1932 : AIR1932All413 and : AIR1949All161 . It seems to us that in a case where the plaintiff asserts that a particular sum of money is due to him from the defendants on account of the business of partnership, it would be correct to say that that is the 'approximate sum' due to the plaintiff within the meaning of the second proviso to Clause (b) of Section 7 (iv) of the U. P. Court Fees Act as amended, and the plaintiff cannot be heard to say that the amount due to him cannot be ascertained without proper accounting.
The argument that since the defendants denied the claim of the plaintiff in their written statement) and alleged that the partnership had incurred losses, the valuation put by the plaintiff could not be said to be arbitrary, cannot be countenanced. The jurisdiction of the Court to entertain a suit must ordinarily depend on the allegations made in the plaint and not upon the denial of the plaintiff's claim in the written statement. The plaintiff cannot be allowed to choose his forum by deliberately undervaluing his suit. It is the function of the Court in which the suit is instituted to find out whether on the allegations made in the plaint the suit would be cognisable by that Court or not. If prima facie the allegations in the plaint disclose that the Court has no jurisdiction to grant the relief claimed in the suit and the plaintiff has deliberately under-valued the suit, the Court would have no option but to return the plaint for presentation to the proper Court. We are satisfied that in this case the plaintiff had deliberately under-valued his claim in order to give jurisdiction to the Munsif to entertain the suit. This he could not be allowed to do merely to escape the payment of court-fees.
11. The result, therefore, is that this appeal fails and is hereby dismissed with costs.