1. This application in which arises the question, whether a suit brought by contractor against a District Board for recovery of money due under the contract for the work done by him is governed by the provisions of Section 192 of the District Boards Act. has been referred to this Bench in order to resolve the supposed conflict among District Board, Allahabad v. Behari Lal, : AIR1936All18 , Dargahi Lal v. Cawnpore Municipal Board : AIR1952All382 and Lucknow Nagar Mahapalikav- Sardar KarmajeetSingh, 1962 All L J. 165 : AIR 1982 All 174 (FB).
2. The facts which are not in dispute are asfollows. A predecessor of the opposite parties enteredinto a contract on 3-9-1952 with the District Board of Budaun, now represented by the applicant Antraim Zila Parishad, for repairs of a road. The relevantterms of the contract were as follows:--
The work should be completed by 30-11-1952 to the entire satisfaction of the officer granting completion certificate. On completion of the work the contractor should send a registered notice to the District Board Engineer requesting him to give him a certificate of completion. The work must be measured by the Engineer whose measurements will be binding. No payment will be made for the work till after a certificate of completion has been given. The work should be executed in accordance with the specifications, drawings, orders, etc. It must be executed under the direction, and subject to the approval of the Engineer. The decision of the Board upon all questions relating to the interpretation of the specifications, designs and instructions, to the Quality of the workmanship or materials used and to other question, claim, right, matter or thing arising out of or relating to the contract, designs etc. or otherwise concerning the works, or the execution of the work or failure to execute the same shall be final and completely binding on the contractor. If the Engineer finds that the work has been executed with unsound, imperfect and unskilful workmanship or with materials of inferior description or otherwise mot in accordance with the contract the contractormust on written notice from the Engineer rectify or reconstruct the work and in default he will be liable to pay compensation at a certain rate on the estimated amount of the work. The work will be completed in all respects by 30-11-52. If the contractor fails to comply with any condition referred to above and the directions given by the Engineer he will be liable to pay penalty of fine which he inflicts on him.
The contractor completed the work in September 1952 and gave a registered notice to the Engineer informing him about the completion of the work and the Engineer got it inspected by an Overseer who reported on 21-11-1952 that it had been done very unsatisfactorily. The Engineer called upon the contractor to do it again and properly and on 27-1-1953 he replied that he had done it again and properly and that it might be inspected and a bill might be prepared at once. There was protracted correspondence but the Board did not pay the sum of Rs. 750/-claimed by the opposite parties under the contract. The opposite parties served upon the Board on 1-11-1955 a notice under section 192 of the District Boards Act calling upon it to pay Rs. 750/. together with Rs. 50/- on account of damages within two months. The Board did not give any reply to the notice and they instituted the suit giving rise to this application on 17-3-1956 for recovery of Rs. 800/-.
3. The suit was contested by the applicant on several grounds, one being that it was barred by time according to section 192 of the District Boards Act. The trial Court decreed the suit for Rs. 750/-, rejecting the claim for damages and the decree was maintained on appeal by a Civil Judge. Then the applicant filed this revision application.
4. Section 192 of the District Boards Act, so far as is relevant in the instant case, reads as follows:--
'(1) No suit shall be instituted against a board ...... in respect of an act done or purporting to have been done in its ...... official capacity, until the expiration of two months next after notice in writing has been ...... left at its office ......... explicitly stating the cause of action, the nature of the relief sought, the amount of compensation claimed, and the name and place of abode of the intending plaintiff ......
(3) No action 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 commenced otherwise than within six months next after the accrual of the cause of action.
(4) Provided that nothing in sub-section (1) shall be construed to apply to a suit wherein the only relief claimed is an injunction ......'
5. There are similar provisions in other Acts regarding local authorities and as I shall have an occasion to deal with some of them, I reproduce them here. Section 80 of the Code of Civil Procedure requires a notice before suing 'a public officer in respect of any act purporting to be done by such public officer in his official capacity.' Section 326 of the U. P. Municipalities Act, 1916, lays down that
'(1) No suit shall be instituted against a board ...... in respect of an act done or purporting to have been done in its ...... official capacity, until the expiration of two months next after notice in writing has been ...... left at its office ...... explicitly stating the cause of action ......'
'(3) No action such as is described in sub-section (1) shall ...... be commenced otherwise than within six months next after the accrual of the cause of action.'
It may be noticed that the provisions of section 192 of the District Boards Act are an exact copy of theprovisions of section 326 of the Municipalities Act. Section 273 of the Cantonments Act, 1924, lays downthat
'(1) No suit shall be instituted against any Board ...... in respect of any act done, or purporting to have been done, in pursuance of this Act or to any rule or bye-law made thereunder, until the expiration of two months alter notice in writing has been left at the office of the Board ......'
'(3) No suit, such as is described in Sub-section (1), shall ...... be instituted after the expiry of six months from the date on which the cause of action arises.'
Section 97 of the U. P. Town Improvement Act contains a similar provision concerning a suit ''in respect of an act purporting to be done under this Act.' Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure requires sanction for prosecution of a public servant accused of an offence alleged to have been committed by him 'while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty.' Lastly there was Section 270 of the Government of India Act, 1935, requiring sanction for civil or criminal proceeding against a person ''in respect of any act done or purporting to be done in execution of his duty as a servant of the Crown in India'.
6. It is no longer in controversy that Section 192 ofthe District Boards Act applies as much when theliability of a Board is contractual as when it istortious and it was not contended before us on behalf of the opposite parties that Section 192 has no application since the liability) which was the subject-matter of the suit of the opposite parties, arose out of a contract.
7. Though the legislatures have used different words such as 'done in the official capacity', 'done in pursuance of this Act', 'done in the execution of his duty as a servant' and 'done while acting in the discharge of his official duty' they all convey more or less the same idea. Official authority or official capacity is a creation of a statute and whether an act is done under the official capacity or official authority depends upon the nature of the act and the provisions of the statute creating the capacity or the authority. If an act comes within the scope of the duties, powers or functions of the authority created by the statute it is an act done under the official capacity or authority and may also be an act done under the Act or statute.
The words 'done under an Act' require moredirect connection between the act and the statute than ''done under the official capacity or authority', it must be an act directly required or permitted,expressly or by necessary implication, to be done bythe statute. If a statute authorises the doing of an act it is an act done under the statute; it is also done under the authority of the statute or in the official capacity of the doer. An act done, though not under an express or implied provision of a statute but in performance of a statutory duty or in exercise of a statutory power or function is done under the authority of the statute. If the statute confers an officialstatus or capacity upon the doer, it is done under the official authority or in the official capacity.
8. In Gill v. King-Emperor, , Lord Simonds speaking for the Judicial Committee said with reference to the words used in Section 270 of the Government of India Act and Section 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure:
'It is idle to speculate why a change of languagewas made ....... it is ........ impossible to differentiate between the two sections ........ A publicservant can only be said to act...... in the discharge of his official duty, if his act is such as to lie within the scope of his official duty ...... The testmay well be whether the public servant if challenged, can reasonably claim that, what he does, he does in virtue of his office.'
In : AIR1962All174 , to which I was a party, it was held that an act done under a statute means an act expressly or specifically required or permitted to be done by the statute. It is said in 29 'Words and Phrases', Permanent Edition, p.372 :
'All acts of officials are not 'official acts' but only such as are done under some authority derived from the law, or in pursuance of prescribed duties'
and at p. 126 of the Supplement it is stated: --
''An official act is an act or duty imposed on an officer by law, that is, an act which the law requires him officially to perform.'
'Under' has the same significance as 'by virtue of,' 'by or through the authority of,' vide 43, 'Words and Phrases', p. 84 and Supplement, p. 33. In Vithoba Babaji v. Sholapur Municipality AIR 1947 Bom 241 it was said that there is no material difference as to the principle involved between the words of Section 80, C. P. C., and the words 'done or purporting to have been done in pursuance of the Act1, occurring in Section 208 of the Bombay Municipalities Act. In Bradford Corporation v. Myers (1916) 1 A C 242 the House of Lords held that when a municipal corporation authorised by a statute to carry on the undertaking of a gas company and bound to supply the gas to the inhabitants of a district and empowered to sell the coke produced in the manufacture of the gas contracted to sell and deliver the coke to a person and by negligence in delivery of the coke to him caused damage to him, the act complained of by was not done in the direct execution of the statute, or in the discharge of a public duty or the exercise of a public authority. Lord Buckmaster L. C. observed at p. 247.
'......it is not because the act out of which anaction arises is within their power, that a public authority enjoys the benefit of the statute. It is because the act, is one which is either an act in the direct execution of a statute, or in the discharge of a public duty, or the exercise of a public authority.'
Lord Shaw of Dunfermiline observed at p. 264:
'......where the right of the individual cannot becorrelated with a statutory or public duty to the individual, the foundation of the relations of parties does not lie in anything but a private bargain which it was open for either the municipality or the individual citizen, consumer, or customer to enter into or to decline. And an action on either side founded on the performance or non-performance of that contract is one to which the Protection Act does not apply, because the appeal, which is made to a court of law, does not rest on statutory or public duty, but merely on a private and individual bargain.'
9. 'Act' within the meaning of the words used in various statutes may include omission or failure to do an act, but in order that the particular statute covers an omission or failure it must have been done under the statute or in the official capacity or under the official authority. There is no difficulty in respect of a positive act but in respect of a negative act, i.e., an omission or failure to do a certain act there must be a statutory authority for the negative act or it must have been done in the official capacity of the authority concerned. In other words, there must be a provision in the statute requiring or permitting the authority not to do the act. If what is under the scope of the words is a positive act, an omission or failure to do it does not necessarily come within their scope and may not be said to be ''under the Act,' merely because doing a positive act is within the scope of official authority or capacity or the statute it cannot be said that mere omission or failure to do it also is within the official authority or capacity or the statute. It is essential to have a statutory provision expressly or impliedly requiring or authorising the omission or failure. The U. P. General Clauses Act, Section 4 (2), lays down that the words which refer to acts done extend also to illegal omissions when the word 'act' is used with reference to an offence or a civil wrong. This means that an omission or failure itself must be (an offence or) a civil wrong. An omission or failure can be a civil wrong only if there is a law declaring it to be so or prohibiting it. An omission or failure to do a positive act may or may not amount to a civil wrong; it depends upon the statute dealing with the act. If it compels it to be done for the benefit of another person so that he has a right to get it done, an omission or failure to do it may be said to be a civil wrong. But if it does not confer such a right or merely permits or authorises it, an omission or failure to do it cannot be said to be a civil wrong and therefore, is not within the meaning of 'act done,'
The leading case on the subject is Revati Mohan Das v. Jatindra Mohan Ghosh which dealt with the effect of failure on the part of a public officer executing a mortgage on behalf of the proprietor of the estate to repay the mortgage money and the Judicial Committee speaking through Sir George Lowndes held that the failure was not an 'act done' within the meaning of Section 80, C. P. C.. His Lordship referred to the definition of 'act' in the General Clauses Act and observed that there was no illegal omission by the manager's failure to discharge the mortgage and that it was ''difficult to see how mere omission to pay either interest or principal could be an act purporting to be done by the manager in his official capacity.' The mortgage did not impose any personal liability on the manager and simply provided that if the payment was not made the mortgagee was entitled to sue for sale. The manager could have made the payment to avert sale but his failure to exercise the option was not a breach of duty. His Lordship affirmed the distinction between a duty to make payment and an option to make payment and observed at p. 408 that
'a claim based upon a breach of contract by a public officer may......in many cases be sufficient toentitle him to notice under the section, hut they are unable......to agree......that the omission......to payoff the mortgage was such a breach'.
In Debendra Nath Roy v. Official Receiver : AIR1938Cal191 , Nasim Ali and Remfry JJ. held that failure by an official receiver to pay rent is not an act done by him in his official capacity. In Jolliffe v. Waliasey Local Board 1873) 9 C. P. 62, Brett J. said at p. 87:--
'......it is now settled by authority that an omission to do something that ought to be done in order to the complete performance of a duty imposed upon a public body under an Act of Parliament, or the continuing to leave any such duty unperformed, amounts to an act done.'
This statement was approved of by the Judicial Committee in The Queen v. Williams, 1884) 9 AC 418 at p. 433. In Prasaddas Sen v. K. S. Bannerjee, : AIR1931Cal61 . Rankin C. J. and Buckland J. had to consider whether a suit against an official receiver for damages for wilful default and neglect in his duty as such by failing to realise the rents, issues and profits of the property under his charge required a notice under Section 80, Civil P. C., and they answered the question in the affirmative. The learned Chief Justice observed at p. 1133 (of ILR Cal): (at p. 63 of AIR), that there was undoubtedly a diffculty in seeing how an omission can be said to purport to be done in an official capacity but relied upon the General Clauses Act and stated that
'The plaintiffs are complaining of a failure to use reasonable diligence in doing the very thing which the Official Receiver had a public duty to do, namely, to realize the rents, issues and profits of property'.
If it was found, that the Official Receiver was bound to realise the rents etc., his failure to realise them could be said to be an unlawful act and, thereforet within the meaning of 'act' in the General Clauses Act. In : AIR1962All174 , (supra), I had said that a negative act or omission cannot amount to an act done under a statute unless it expressly enjoins or permits the non doing or omission.
10. There was considerable discussion at the Bar about the nature of the suit instituted by the opposite parties against the Board. I have no hesitation in saying that it was for specific performance of the contract entered into by the Board and not for damages for a breach of it. The Board had contracted to pay the price of the work done and the suit was for specific performance of the contract the opposite parties asked for a decree for the price of the work done and not for damages for the failure to pay the price.
11. A suit is always based on a cause of action; there can be no suit without a cause of action and in the absence of a statutory provision such as one regarding the giving of a notice nothing more than the accrual of a cause of action is necessary for the institution of a suit. A cause of action consists of all facts which it is essential for the plaintiff to allege and to establish (it denied or controverted) e. g,, the bundle of facts which taken with the law applicable to them gives him a right to some relief against the defendants. It must include some act done by the defendant, because in the absence of any act by the defendant no cause of action can possibly accrue. If a defendant threatens to do an act against his proprietary or possessory interest he may sue for a declaration or injunction, it he refuses or fails to do an act which he was bound to do he may sue him for damages or specific performance, and if he takes possession of his property he may sue him for its recovery. He cannot create a cause of action solely by his own effort; it must be created for him by some act of the defendant. Consequently some act of the defend act must be a part of the cause of action. So long as the act which is essential for the cause of action is not done there is no cause of action even though other acts which also are essential for it have been done because the law does not recognize an incomplete cause of action. Either there exists a cause of action or there does not and if only some of the acts, and not all the acts, required for a cause of action are done there is no cause of action.
12. A suit is filed only when a cause of action exists and is filed through a plaint in which the cause of action has to be stated in full. A suit, however, does not lie merely because a cause of action has accrued, it does not He it other conditions for its institution are not fulfilled or if the cause of action has been discharged by satisfaction or by lapse of time to by a valid compromise. Hence a plaint must state not only the cause of action but also other circumstances such as that the Court has jurisdiction and that the cause of action has not been dead or discharged. These circumstances which are stated in the plaint do not become part of the cause of action on account of their being stated along with it in the plaint. The statement of the circumstances is the requirement of a plaint and not of a cause of action. Forms Nos. 1 to 13 of Appendix A of the Code of Civil Procedure show that a plaintiff suing for money must plead non-payment in the plaint but it does not follow that the non-payment is a part of the cause of action. The non-payment is a part of the cause of action only in a suit for damages for the non-payment, that is, in a suit for a breach of the contract. The essential facts giving a cause of action to the opposite parties in the instant case are, (1) the Boards entering into a contract to pay to them a certain sum on their doing a certain act in accordance with certain conditions and (2) the opposite parties doing the act in accordance with the conditions. When the cause of action accrued the opposite parties became entitled to the money and when it was not paid by the Board they became entitled to sue. If it had been paid they would not be entitled to sue even though the cause of action had accrued to them.
13. Section 192 of the District Boards Act applies to a suit in respect of an act done. A suit has to be based on a cause of action. For the applicability of Section 192 it must be in respect of an act done by the Board. Combining the two requirements one arrives at the requirement that an act done by the Board must complete the cause of action against it. The Board's act is the act without which there is no cause of action in the plaintiff's favour and Section 192 requires that it is this art which must have been done by the Board in its official capacity. The meaning of the words 'a suit in respect of an act done by the defendant' is that it is one challenging the correctness or validity of the act. A suit is filed by a plaintiff because he is aggrieved by an act done by the defendant; so a suit in respect of an act done by the defendant evidently means a suit by a plaintiff feeling aggrieved by the act for relief against it. In other words it is a suit challenging the act of the defendant. This is what was held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the case of Revati Mohan Das . The manager had executed the mortgage in his official capacity but the Judicial Committee held that the suit was not in respect of that act because the mortgagee did not 'complain in any way of the execution of the mortgage'. Similarly in the instant case the suit could not be said to be in respect of the contract entered into by the Board because the opposite parties do not challenge its validity. Hence it is immaterial to consider the capacity in which it was executed by the Board.
There are some dicta to the contrary in Lucknow Improvement Trust v. P. L. Laitly & Co. AIR 1930 Oudh 105 in which a Bench of the Chief Court of Oudh held that Section 97 (1) of the U. P. Town Improvement Act did not govern a suit by a contractor for recovery of the price of the work done for the Improvement Trust, Lucknow under a contract. The ratio of the decision was that the learned Judges could not 'discover any provision in the Act authorising the Trust to enter into contracts in their character as such and of the nature of the present contract' and that even the act of entering into the contract was not one done under the Act. With great respect I think that the learned Judges irrelevantly went into the question whether it had entered into the contract under the Act because the suit could not be said to be in respect of the act of entering into the contract. The inquiry whether it is done under the Act or not is to be made for purposes of Section 97 (1) of the Act only in respect of the act in respect of which the suit is filed and not in respect of any other act. As the suit against the Trust could not be said to have been filed in respect of its act of entering into the contract it was irrelevant to consider whether it had entered into it under the Act or not.
In Cantonment Board, Allahabad v. Hazari Lal Ganga Prasad, 1934 All LJ 805 : AlR 1934 All 436, Sulaiman C. J., with the concurrence of Mukherji J.,held that a suit for the price of materials supplied to a Cantonment Board cannot be said to be in respect of an act done by it under the Cantonments Act. He observed at p. 807 (of All L J) : (at p. 437 of AIR).
'The cause of action. .... 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.'
In Mathura Prasad v. Chairman, District Board, Sitapur AIR 1928 Oudh 297, Stuart C. J. and Razi J., held that Section 192 of the D. B. Act is not applicable to a suit by a contractor for the price of the work done by him for a Board. The contractor did not allege in the plaint that the Board had refused to pay the price and the learned Judges held that no act had been done by the Board at all and, therefore, the suit could not be said to be in respect of an act done by the Board.
14. What I have said was stated differently by Sri Yashodananadan for the opposite parties; he stated that Section 192 applies only to a suit based on a breach of contract and not a suit for specific performance of the contract. In a suit of the former nature the cause of action consists of the contract entered into by the defendant, the plaintiff's performing his part of it and the defendant's failure or refusing to perform his part of it while in a suit of the latter nature it consists of the defendant's entering into a contract and the plaintiff's performing his part of it. In a suit of the latter nature it is not enough to allege that the defendant had entered into the contract; it must further be alleged that the plaintiff had performed his part of it because otherwise he would not be entitled to any relief. Thus in the instant case, it was not enough that the Board had promised to pay the price of the work done; the opposite parties had to prove that they had done the work. So the suit could not be said to be in respect of the promise made by the applicant because merely on proving it the opposite parties would not have been entitled to a decree. It was their act of doing the work which brought into existence the cause of action. Hence the suit could not be said to be in respect of an act done by the Board and Section 192 obviously did not govern it.
Of course the learned counsel was wrong in relying upon the words 'the amount of compensation claimed' in Section 192 (1) of the District Boards Act; they do not mean that in every suit governed by Section 192 (1) the amount of compensation must be stated, i.e., every suit is for compensation. The amount of compensation is to be stated in the notice only if the suit is for compensation; if it is for specific performance there is no question of compensation and the provision becomes inappliable. In case of a contract the suit to be governed by Section 192 must be for a breach of it but in case of tort the suit can be only for compensation and Section 192 embraces cases of contract and tort both.
15. Sri N. Lal relied upon certain terms of the contract and certain provisions of the District Board Manual and argued on their basis that the Board was required or bound to withhold the payment be-cause of certain facts including the important fact that the opposite party had not obtained a certificate from the Engineer about completion of the work. Even if the Board was justified in withholding, or even bound to withhold, the payment by certain provisions of the District Board Manual (for instance, Rules 9. 28 31, 32, 33 and 36 of Public Works Department Rules which are printed at page 418 of the District Board Manual read with Sections 64 and 65 of the District Boards Act), it would still be irrelevant to consider whether its act of witholding was done in the official capacity or not because the suit cannot be said to be in respect of this act. If the Board was justified in withholding the payment it would be a good defence to the suit but the question before us is quite different. Within what period the opposite parties should have sued or whether they should have given a notice referred to in Section 192 to the applicant or not has nothing to do with the question whether the Board has a good defence to their suit. The suit is not against the Board's Engineer's failure or refusal to grant to them a completion certificate and it is not necessary for me to go into the question what remedy there is against his failure or refusal to grant a completion certificate and when he can be deemed to have failed or refused to grant it.
16. The words ''purporting to have been done' in Section 192 (1) do not present any problem. It is not the case of the Board itself that if the suit brought by the opposite parties could not be said to be in respect of an act done by it was certainly in respect of an act purporting to have been done by it. Since I have found that the suit is not in respect of an act of the Board the question whether it had done it in its official capacity or not does not arise. The question whether it purported to do it in its official capacity or not would arise only if it was found that it had not done it in its official capacity and the latter finding could have been given only if the question was relevant.
'Purporting to have been done in the official capacity' means 'done under colour of office.' 'Under colour of office' is defined as a pretence of official right to do an act made by one who has no such right and is distinguished from 'by virtue of office implying a lawful power.' 'Under colour of law' means under pretence of law. See 43 'Words and Phrases' Permanent Edition, Supplement page 33. An act comes within the scope of Section 192 even though it was not done in the official capacity, if at the time when it was done the Board claimed or gave it to understand that it was doing it in its official capacity. Whether an act is done in the official capacity or not raises a question of law but whether it purports to have been so done or not raises a simple question of fact, namely that of the profession by the Board at the time of doing it. The profession may be express or implied but must be simultaneous with the act so that the other party is warned of the law applicable to an act purporting to have been done in the official capacity. It is not open to a Board to assert for the first time after a suit has been instituted against it that it had purported to do the act in its official capacity; cannot lull a prospective plaintiff into the belief that it did not profess to do the act in its official capacity and later when it is too late for him to do anything to tell him that it had done it in its official capacity.
17. The Board was certainly under a duty to pay the opposite parties the price of the work done by them; it had no such option as the manager-mortgagee had in Revati Mohan Das's case . Whereas in Revati Mohan Das's case the mortgagor could sue for sale of the mortgaged property in the instant case the opposite parties could sue only for the money. To this extent it may be said that the present case differs from Revati Mohan Das's case , still the observations made by their Lordships are applicable. The opposite parties' suit being one for specific performance and not for compensation for a breach of a contract, it is irrelvant to consider the nature of the act of the Board in withholding the payment. Since, the suit is not based on the withholding of the payment, the non-payment is not a civil wrong within the meaning of General Clauses Act and, therefore, does not come within the definition of act' used in Section 192. Had the suit been for a breach of the contract, Section 192 would have been applicable. Section 80, Civil P. C. was held not applicable in the case of Revati Mohan Das, because the suit there was found to be not one for damages for a breach of the contract. The manager, mortgagee had two alternatives before him and when he selected one he could not be said to have committed a breach of the contract in, : AIR1936All18 . Sulaiman G. J., with whom Naimatullah and Bennet JJ. concurred, held that a suit by a contractor for refund of the deposit made by him as a security was not governed by Section 192. The basis of their decision was that the word 'act' did not include a mere omission to perform a contract.
18. : AIR1952All382 was a case which attracted the provisions of Section 326 of the Municipalities Act but the plaintiff was a municipal servant and the suit was for recovery of arrears of salary. Malik, C. J. and Bhargava and Brij Mohan Lall, JJ. held that the Board's omission to pay the salary was an act within the meaning of Section 4 (2) of the General Clauses Act and that it was done in the official capacity. Payment of salary is an official act but with great respect to the learned Judges I find it difficult to agree that non-payment of salary also is an official act or even an act. The former is an official act because there are provisions in the Municipalities Act (including the Rules) which require the Board to pay the salary and there is no provision in it requiring or permitting it not to pay it. An omission to do an act does not become official merely because the act, if done, could be official. Where one has to determine the capacity in which an act is done one has necessarily to consider the rights and the duties of the doer. If he is bound or expressly permitted to do a positive act he does it in the official capacity and similarly if he is prohibited from doing an act or permitted not to do it his omission to do it is an official act (if the omission can be said to come within the definition of 'act' in the General Clauses Act) but not otherwise. The learned Judges have not considered in this connection the above-mentioned decisions.
19. : AIR1962All174 decided that a suit by a bidder at an auction held by an Improvement Trust for refund of the one-fourth price deposited by him on his bid being accepted but subsequently forfeited, is not a suit in respect of an act purporting to be done by the Trust under the Act. Abdul Wahid v. Municipal Board Allahabad, 21 All L J 161 : (AIR 1923 All 267 (1)) relied upon by the Board is similar to the instant case and Grimwood Meats C. J. held that a Board's refusal to pay the price of work done by a contractor is governed by Section 326 of the Municipalities Act; the view taken by the learned Chief Justice was that the cause of action was the refusal by the Board, with great respect I do not agree that the refusal was a part of the cause of action. No demand and refusal is required for a suit to recover the price of the work done under a contract.
20. I am, therefore, of the view that Section 192, District Boards Act, did not govern the suit brought by the opposite parties.
21. It was contended by Sri N. Lal that even otherwise the suit was barred by time because it would have been governed by article 56 of First Schedule of the Limitation Act prescribing for a suit 'for the price of work done by the plaintiff for the defendant at his request, where no time has been fixed for payment' the period of three years commencing 'when the work is done.' Work can be said to be done at the defendant's request even though it is done under a contract; the words ''at his request' in Article 56 do not exclude a request contained in a contract. The very fact that time for payment can be fixed even in the case of a request shows that it may be in the form of a contract. When time for payment is fixed it is ordinarily a case of contract. It seems to me that the words 'at his request' were added to exclude a case of work done by a plaintiff gratuitously for a defendant. Such a suit was held to be governed by Article 56 in AIR 1928 Oudh 297 (Supra). A suit for the price of goods supplied was held to be governed by Article : AIR1934All436 (Supra). In Abdul Ati v. F. Von Gold-stein, 4 Ind Cas 902 (Lah) the Punjab Chief Court applied Article 56 to a suit by a contractor for price of the work done by him for the defendant. That Article 56 applies to a contract for work was held by Chatterji and Rattigan JJ. in Daulat Ram v. Woollen Mills Co. Ltd., 95 Pun Re 1908, p. 440.
22. Article 113 of the Limitation Act prescribes for a suit specific performance of a contract the period of three years commencing on the date fixed for the performance or when the plaintiff has notice that performance is refused but neither the Board nor the opposite parties have relied upon it. The opposite parties' case is that limitation for their suit is governed by Article 115 or 120. Article 115 applies to a suit for compensation for breach of a contract but I have already explained how their suit cannot be said to be one for compensation for a breach of a contract. Further if it could be said to be such a suit the opposite parties would have to encounter a formidable argument that the Board committed the breach in its official capacity because of the rules prohibiting payment in the absence of a completion certificate. Article 120 applies only to a suit for which no period of limitation is provided elsewhere in the Schedule. The opposite parties have to show that neither Article 58 nor Article 113 applies before they can rely upon Article 120. When I have found that the suit is for specific performance of a contract I do not know why Article 113 should be held to be not applicable. 1 have not considered whether the suit was barred by time or not under Article 113 because neither party has relied upon it but I am not precluded from deciding that it is applicable for the purpose of holding that Article 120 is not applicable. It is immaterial that the Board contended that the suit was barred only under Section 192 of the District Boards Act and not under Article 56 or Article 113 of the Limitation Act.
The opposite parties relied upon Mst. Rukhmabai v. Lala Laxminarayan : 2SCR253 wherein Subba Rao J. speaking for the Court said at p. 349 :
'The right to sue under Art 120 of the Limitation Act accrues when the defendant has clearly and unequivocally threatened to infringe the right asserted by the plaintiff in the suit. Every threat by a party to such a right, however ineffective and innocuous it may be, cannot be considered to be a clear and unequivocal threat so as to compel him to file a suit. Whether a particular threat gives rise to a compulsory cause of action depends upon the question whether that threat effectively invades or jeopardizes the said right.'
23. It would have been necessary to consider these observations only if Article 130 had been found applicable. They do not deal with the question when Article 120 is applicable are not applicable; they simply deal with the questions when the right to sue accrues when no period of limitation is provided elsewhere in First Schedule of the Limitation Act.
24. In the result I hold that though Section 192 of the District Board's Act was not applicable the suit was barred by time under Article 56 of the Limitation Act. The revision should be allowed and the suit should be dismissed with costs on parties.
B. Dayal, J.
25. I entirely agree.
S.K. Varma J.
26. I agree and have nothing to add.
Mahesh Chandra, J.
27. I agree.
28. I have had the benefit of reading the judgment proposed to be delivered by my Lord the Chief Justice with which my brothers Bishambhar Dayal and Shahsi Kant Verma have also agreed. It is with regret that I find myself unable to agree with the view that, if a certain payment by a Municipal Board or Zila Parishad would be an act done in official capacity, the omission to make the payment would not be an act at all even though the word 'act' is defined in the General Clauses Act to include an omission or that such omission amounting to an act would not be in official capacity and would be in some other capacity. I still adhere to the view expressed in : AIR1952All382 , by the Full Bench of which I was a member. I do not, however, consider it necessary to reiterate my reasons in detail as the conclusion reached by me would also result in holding that the suit of the plaintiff was barred by time and that is the decision which has been arrived at by the majority though on a different ground, viz. that the suit is barred under Article 58 of the Limitation Act. Since the conclusion would be the same, I agree with the order pro-posed by my Lord the Chief Justice.