1. The facts of this case are that one Sahai Gupta, the opposite party in the present revision, wrote to the Municipal Board asking for certain information in respect of Octroi dues chargeable on a certain consignment of goods which he expected. On 19th March 1932, the Octroi Superintendent of the Municipality replied to that letter and intimated to Ram Shai Gupta that the goods mentioned in his letter were dutiable according to the octroi schedule. Ram Sahai Gupta filed an appeal on 2nd April 1932, in the Court of the District Magistrate of Benares purporting to file it under Sections 34 and 160 Municipal Act. The appeal was headed as follows:
Ram Sahai Gupta, importer of electric goods, resident of Kotwalpara, Benares-Applicants.
Municipal Board of Benares and B. Thakur Prasad Sharma, Octroi Superintendent, Municipal Board-Opposite Party.
2. On 12th May 1932, the District Magistrate of Benares passed an order to the effect that the imposition of octroi duty on the goods mentioned in Ram Sahai Gupta's letter was illegal. He was of the opinion that the goods mentioned in that letter were not liable to duty and those goods could not come under any vague definition such as hardware; and until the Municipal Board gets the schedule amended it had no right to detain or levy octroi on the said goods. It is against this order that the present revision has been filed by the Municipal Board. A preliminary objection has been taken by the opposite party, Ram Sahai Gupta, to the effect that no revision lies to this Court inasmuch as the District Magistrate, when he purported to decide Ram Sahai Gupta's appeal, was not acting as a criminal Court and under Section 435, Criminal P.C. the High Court can examine the record of proceedings before an inferior criminal Court only. It is further argued that under Section 164, Municipalities Act. Local Act 2 of 1916 the order of the District Magistrate confirming, setting aside or modifying an order in respect of valuation or assessment or liability to assessment or taxation is final. The contention on behalf of the applicant is that no appeal lay to the District Magistrate under the Municipalities Act against the letter of the Octroi Superintendent and if the District Magistrate entertained the said appeal he cannot be said to have acted under the Municipal Act, and the only capacity in which he could have acted was in the capacity of a criminal Court. I am unable to accede to the contention of the applicant and I think the preliminary objection ought to be sustained.
3. The Criminal Procedure Code in Section 6 says that besides the High Courts there shall be five classes of criminal Courts in British India, namely (1) Courts of Session, (2) Presidency Magistrate, (3) Magistrates of the First; Class, (4) Magistrates of the Second Class, (5) Magistrates of the Third Class, and it is obvious that these five Courts are inferior criminal Courts qua the High Court so far as Section 435, Criminal P.C. is concerned. Under Section 10, Criminal P.C., the Local Government appoints a Magistrate of the First Class in every district outside the Presidency towns who is called the District Magistrate. The powers of these Courts are well defined either tinder the Code or under rules made by the Local Government. There is perhaps a great deal of force in the argument advanced by the learned Counsel for the applicant that the District Magistrate in entertaining Ram Sahai Gupta's appeal usurped a jurisdiction which he did not possess, but there can be no doubt that he purported to act not under the Criminal Procedure Code or as an inferior criminal Court but under the powers which he thought he possessed under the Municipalities Act.
4. Appeals relating to taxation are regulated by Section 160, Municipalities Act, and may be made to the District Magistrate or as such other officer as may be empowered by the Local Government in this behalf. The Local Government might have empowered the Commissioner or one of its Secretaries to hear such appeals and in order to find out whether that officer's action is revisable we have to sec into the Municipalities Act itself and not to see whether and how his action. is ordinarily revisable. In the present case the District Magistrate either acted under Section 160, Municipalities Act, and as such his decision under Section 164 of the same Act is final or he acted under no provision of law in which event his action is entirely uniustified and binding on nobody. In re Dulsukh Ram (1907) 9 Bom LR 1847, the High Court of Bombay held that a Magistrate hearing an appeal under Section 86, District Municipal Act 1901, deals with the question of a civil liability and is not an inferior criminal Court to which alone the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court applies under Section 4 35, Criminal P.C. The Sind Judicial Commissioner's Court in the case of the Karachi Munacipality v. Jafarji Tayabji AIR 1927 Sind 23, followed the Bombay High Court and repelled a contention very similar to the one advanced by Mr. Peary Lal Banerji before me. I find support for my view also from the case of Chote Lal v. Chedi Lal AIR 1923 All 149. In that case the Superintendent of Police granted sanction for the prosecution of one Chote Lal holding that the said Chote Lal had committed a contempt of the lawful authority of a police officer in charge of a certain police station by giving the said police officer false information with such intent as to make the giving of the information an offence punishable under Section 182, Penal Code.
5. The District Magistrate purporting to act under Section 4 of the Police Act No. 5 of 1861 overruled the order passed by the Superintendent of Police. An application in revision was filed before the Sessions Judge who refused to interfere and the High Court in revision held that the District Magistrate under those circumstances was not acting as the Presiding Officer of the Court of a District Magistrate constituted under the Criminal Procedure Code Act 5 of 1898. In Madhusudan Lal v. Emperor : AIR1929All931 Dalai, J., held that a District Magistrate when exercising jurisdiction under the Election Rules of the District Board, although he may be passing an order in connexion with prosecutions under Section 182 Penal Code, does not act as an inferior criminal Court to whom the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court may be extended. Mr. Banerji has argued that a District Magistrate is ordinarily always a criminal Court; he may be given certain superadded powers under the statutes and other Acts, and while exercising those powers he may not be a criminal Court but otherwise every decision of his must be deemed to be the decision of a criminal Court.
6. This is a dangerous argument and I am not in agreement with the same. If pushed to extremes the logical result would be that whenever a District Magistrate's order, say, under the Municipalities Act, is challenged on the ground of its being erroneous it would be said that he was not acting under the Municipalities Act, and therefore Ms order was revisable by the High Court, although the Municipalities Act gives finality to his order. If the Local Government had appointed one of its Secretaries to hear appeals under Section 160, Municipalities Act, his order, if passed without jurisdiction would not have been revisable by the High Court under Section 435, Criminal P.C., because he could not be said to be an inferior criminal Court, and there is no reason why the order of the District Magistrate, when he is acting under similar powers conferred on him by the Local Government be revisable by the High Court. What one has got to see is in what capacity he purported to act and I have no doubt that in the present case the District Magistrate purported to act under the Municipalities Act. If however the applicant believes that the action of the District Magistrate was unjustified, outside the scope of the authority vested in him under the Municipalities Act his action as I have stated in an earlier part of the judgment, is binding on nobody, and he can either ignore it or seek redress in any other manner as he may be advised. The result is that I uphold the preliminary objection and dismiss this application.