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Rambai Vottery and ors. Vs. Shivaprasad Vottery - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtMadhya Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal No. 114 of 1972
Judge
Reported inAIR1976MP1
ActsCourt-fees Act, 1870 - Sections 7
AppellantRambai Vottery and ors.
RespondentShivaprasad Vottery
Appellant AdvocateM. Adhikari and ;S. Awasthy, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateRameshwarprasad Verma, Adv.
Cases ReferredFaizullah Khan v. Mauladad Khan
Excerpt:
- - but you cannot complain that the amount valued in the memorandum of appeal is not the proper amount. the expression 'according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appear merely implies that the valuation has to be indicated in the plaint as well as in the memorandum of appeal and the court-fee is to be computed accordingly, how the claim is to be valued is a separate matter......purposes of the appeal, a question arose whether, in an appeal by the defendant arising out of a suit for accounts, it is open to the defendant to put his own valuation on the claim. as the matter was not free from difficulty and there has been some divergence of opinion on the point, the division bench hearing the appeal referred the aforesaid question to this bench for opinion.3. before we proceed to take into consideration the divergent views expressed by different high courts on this question, it would be pertinent to refer to the relevant provisions of the court-fees act. it is not disputed that a suit for dissolution of partnership and accounts falls under section 7(iv)(f) of the act, section 7 of the act reads as under:'7. computation of fees payable in certain suits.-- the.....
Judgment:

Raina, J.

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

'Whether in an appeal against a preliminary decree declaring dissolution of partnership and directing accounts a defendant is hound to value the relief in appeal on the valuation that was put by the plaintiff on the plaint, or whether it is open to the defendant to put a different valuation in appeal for purposes of court-fee under Section 7(iv)(f) of the Court-fees Act?'

2. The respondent filed a suit against the appellant for rendition of accounts of a dissolved partnership firm or, in the alternative, for dissolution of the firm and rendition of accounts in the Court of First Additional District Judge, Jabalpur. The claim was valued at Rs. 75,000/-. The defendant (who has since died and is now represented by the appellants) resisted the suit; but ultimately a decree was passed declaring that the partnership stood dissolved with effect from 29-10-1970 and directing the defendant to render accounts of the partnership to the plaintiff. The defendant preferred an appeal in this Court valuing the relief at Rs. 300/- only on the ground that the appeal was in respect of dissolution of the partnership alone and not in respect of accounts because the plaintiff-respondent himself was an accounting party. On an objection raised by the respondent regarding proper valuation of the claim for purposes of the appeal, a question arose whether, in an appeal by the defendant arising out of a suit for accounts, it is open to the defendant to put his own valuation on the claim. As the matter was not free from difficulty and there has been some divergence of opinion on the point, the Division Bench hearing the appeal referred the aforesaid question to this Bench for opinion.

3. Before we proceed to take into consideration the divergent views expressed by different High Courts on this question, it would be pertinent to refer to the relevant provisions of the Court-fees Act. It is not disputed that a suit for dissolution of partnership and accounts falls under Section 7(iv)(f) of the Act, Section 7 of the Act reads as under:

'7. Computation of fees payable in certain suits.-- The amount of fee payable under this Act in the suits next hereinafter mentioned shall be computed as follows:

_(i) For money.-- In suits for money (including suits for damages or compensation, or arrears of maintenance, of annuities, or of other sums payable periodically) -- according to the amount claimed;

(ii) For maintenance and annuities.-- In suits for maintenance and annuities or other sums payable periodically---according to the value of the subject-matter of the suit, and such value shall be deemed to be ten times the amount claimed to be payable for one year;

(iii) For movable property having a market value.--- In suits for movable property other than money, where the subject-matter has a market value--according to such value at the date of presenting the plaint;

(iv) In suits--

(a) For movable property of no market value-- For movable property where the subject-matter has no market-value, as for instance, in the case of documents relating to title;

(b) [Omitted]

(c) For a declaratory decree and consequential relief.-- To obtain a declaratory decree or order, where consequential relief is prayed;

(d) For an injunction,-- To obtain an injunction;

(e) For easements.-- For a right to some benefit (not herein otherwise provided for) to arise out of land; and

(f) For accounts.-- For accounts-- ac-cording to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal with a minimum fee of Twenty Rupees.

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

4. From the provisions of sub-clause (f) of clause (iv) of Section 7 of the Act it is clear that in a suit for accounts the plaintiff has to state the amount at which he values the relief sought and the amount of fee payable on such, a suit has to be computed according to the said amount. The question that arises for consideration is whether, on a memorandum of appeal arising out of a suit for accounts, the defendant is free to put his own valuation or whether he is bound by the valuation put by the plaintiff on the claim in the plaint,

5. It would be pertinent here to refer to the divergent views expressed by the different High Courts on the question. In Binjraj v. Kisanlal AIR 1933 Nag 127 it was held that in an appeal, by the defendant against a preliminary decree in a suit for partnership accounts it is open to him to fix his own valuation provisionally for the purpose of court-fee which may be different from the one put by the plaintiff on the plaint. In. Sheoram v. Atmaram AIR 1943 Nag 13 the Nagpur High Court, however, took a different view without noticing the earlier case. In this case it was held that in a suit for partnership accounts the valuation of the claim in the trial Court continues throughout the litigation and the defendant-appellant has no right to value the relief arbitrarily at a lesser figure. In arriving at this conclusion, reliance was placed on Dhirajsingh v. Rajaram (1910) 6 Nag LR J.64 and Feroze Din v. Mohammad Din ILR (1937) Lah 196 = (AIR 1937 Lah 694). The question of proper valuation in such a case was not, however, discussed and no reasons were given for the view expressed therein apparently under the impression that the law on the point was settled in view of the earlier decisions relied upon.

6. A proper construction of Section 7(iv)(f) of the Act in the context of an appeal by the defendant arising out of a suit for accounts was considered by a Full Bench of the Madras High Court in In re Dhanukodi Nayakkar AIR 1938 Mad 435 (FB). It was held in that case that the defendant appealing from a preliminary decree tor accounts has ordinarily to stamp his memorandum according to the plaintiff's valuation. A similar view was expressed by a majority of the Full Bench of the Lahore High Court in Meghrai v. Rupchand Uttamchand AIR 1946 Lah 280 (FB). Tejasingh, J. in his dissenting judgment expressed a contrary view that the defendant-appellant is free to value his memorandum of appeal in such a case regardless of the plaintiff's valuation in the plaint. In Dat-tatraya v. Ganesh AIR 19S9 Bom 495 the Bombay High Court adopted the view taken fay the Madras High Court in In re-Dhanukodi Nayakkar (supra) and by the Nagpur High Court in Sheoram v. Atmaram (supra). It was held in that case that the privilege of fixing the value of the subject-matter of a suit for accounts is with the plaintiff and it is not open to the defendant in an appeal against the preliminary decree for accounts to alter the valuation made by the plaintiff of the subject-matter for purposes of court-fees. The minority view expressed by Tejasingh, J, in the Full Bench decision of the Lahore High Court in AIR 3946 Lah 280 (FB) (supra) 'is, however, supported by certain decisions of other High Courts.

7. In Chunnilal v. Sheocharanlal AIR 1925 All 787 a Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court held that in an appeal from a preliminary decree in a suit for accounts, the appellant (defendant) is entitled to fix his own value for the relief he claims and is not bound by the valuation put by the plaintiff on his suit. A similar view was expressed by a Full Bench of Rangoon High Court in C. K. Umar v. C. K, Ali Umar AIR 1931 Rang 146 (FB). A Full Bench of the Patna High Court also took the same view in Deoji Coa v. Tricumji Jivandas AIR 1935 Pat 396 (SB), and the Rajasthan High Court adopted it in Tagannath v. KundaJ Mal AIR 1958 Raj 144.

8. If we carefully analyse the logic and reasoning in support of the view that the defendant-appellant is free to put his own valuation on a memorandum of appeal against a preliminary decree for accounts, we would find that two considerations have considerably weighed in adopting this view. The first consideration arises out ot the following observations of Lord Tomlin made in the course of arguments in Faizullah Khan v. Mauladad Khan (1929) 57 Mad LJ 281 at p. 283 = (AIR 1929 PC 147 at p. 148).

'In Section 7, the amount of the fee is to be computed, in suits for accounts, according to the amount at which the relief sought, is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal. If, therefore, the appellant values the relief in the memorandum of appeal and pays a fee thereon, that is the amount of fee properly payable. Of course, if the appellant recovers more, he pays the extra fee under Section 11 of the Act. But you cannot complain that the amount valued in the memorandum of appeal is not the proper amount.

Apart from the fact that the aforesaid observations were made casually in the course of arguments and not in the course of judgment, it would appeal that the question before us was not at all in issue in that case. The case before their Lordships of the Privy Council arose out of a suit for rendition of accounts. The suit was valued in the plaint at Rs 3,000/-for purposes of court-fees, Defendant No. 1 asked for a decree in his own favour for Rs. 29,000/-, The Subordinate Judge passed a final decree with costs and interest. Under that decree Rs. 19,991/- were declared to be due to defendant No, 1 by the plaintiffs. In the appeal filed by the plaintiffs, they challenged the decree against them and prayed that their own claim of Rs. 3,000/- should be allowed. They valued the appeal at Rupees 19,991/- and that was held to be the proper valuation.

9. As regards the question as to what was the intention or purpose of the legislature in introducing the expression 'memorandum of appeal' in the sentence just below Sub-clause (f), it is necessary to remove one confusion, which seems to have been largely responsible for the divergence of views on the subject. The expression 'according to' the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal with a minimum fee of Twenty Rupees' not only governs the said sub-clause but all the preceding sub-clauses in Clause (iv) of Section 7. This is clear from the language of Section 7. So far as suits falling under Clauses (i), (ii) and (iii) of the section are concerned, it is indicated in each clause how the amount of fee payable shall be computed in respect of a suit falling thereunder. In Clause (iv) a number of suits are grouped together and for all the suits specified in Sub-clauses (a) to (f) it has been provided that court-fee shall be computed according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal. The confusion that the aforesaid expression relates only to Sub-clause (f) and not to the other sub-clauses of Clause (iv) has arisen because of a printing error in some of the hooks on the Court-fees Act. However, ii we carefully examine the language of Section 7 as a whole, there will be no doubt that the expression relates to all the sub-Clauses, (a) to (f), and not merely to sub-Clause (f) because otherwise there would be nothing to indicate how the amount of fee payable shall be computed in suits specified in Sub-clauses (a) to (e) of Clause (iv).

10. It is, therefore, clear that in all the suits specified in Sub-clauses (a) to (f) of Clause (iv) of Section 7 the amount of court-fee is to be computed according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal. In the context of suits falling under Sub-clauses (a) to (c) it has been consistently held that the valuation put by the plaintiff is the valuation which must remain constant throughout the litigation and when the defendant, prefers an appeal against a decree in such a suit, he must value his relief at the amount at which the suit was valued in the plaint by the plaintiff.

11. Learned counsel for either side was unable to point out to us any case in which a controversy such as has arisen in the context of a suit for accounts may have arisen in the context of suits of other categories as specified in Sub-clauses (a) to (e) of Clause (iv) of Section 7. There appears to be no reason whatsoever for distinguishing a suit for accounts from suits falling under Sub-clauses (a) to (e) of Clause (iv) in the matter of proper valuation of an appeal preferred by the defendant from a decree in such suits; and whatever view we may adopt must apply uniformly to such suits, including a suit for accounts. It was not disputed before us that it has been the consistent and unquestioned viow that in suits falling under Sub-clauses (a) to (e) of Clause (iv), the valuation of the claim in the trial Court will govern the valuation of an appeal by the defendant against a decree in such suit. There is, therefore, apparently no reason to take a different view in the context of a suit for accounts.

12. We may now proceed to consider why the words 'memorandum of appeal' were introduced in the aforesaid expression below Sub-clause (f). It appears to us that these words were introduced merely to indicate that in the case of a memorandum of appeal arising out of a suit of this nature, the court-fee has to be computed according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the memorandum of appeal. An appeal by the defendant may not necessarily be directed against the entire claim as laid in the plaint. In such a case the valuation of the memorandum of appeal may differ from the value of the claim in. suit; but where the appeal is directed against a preliminary decree for accounts, the defendant cannot be permitted to put a different valuation than the one put by the plaintiff on the plaint. A claim for accounts, to begin with, is of an indefinite character because it is not clear at that stage as to what amount may ultimately be found due to the plaintiff on going through the accounts. The plaintiff has, therefore, been permitted to put his own valuation on the relief sought; and for this purpose the following provision has been made at the end of Clause (iv):

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

This provision is equally applicable to suits falling under Sub-clauses (a) to (e) of Clause (iv); but it is clear that liberty is given to the plaintiff alone to value the relief sought in such suits. It is, however, open to the defendant to challenge the valuation put by the plaintiff and invite a decision. If he does not challenge the valuation put on the claim by the plaintiff in the trial Court, he would not be at liberty to put a different valuation in appeal. It is significant that it has not been expressly provided in Section 7 that the defendant is free to put his own valuation on the memorandum of appeal against a decree in suits falling under Sub-clauses (a) to (f) of Clause (iv). In the absence of such a provision, there is no justification for giving the defendant a right which has not been expressly conferred on him by the statute.

13. To sum up, the position appears to be as follows. The expression 'according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appear merely implies that the valuation has to be indicated in the plaint as well as in the memorandum of appeal and the court-fee is to be computed accordingly, How the claim is to be valued is a separate matter. The plaintiff has been expressly given the right to state the amount at which he values the relief sought. Thus, it is for the plaintiff primarily to state the value of the claim in suits falling within the purview of Clause (iv) of Section 7 of the Act and the court-fee payable shall be computed according to such valuation. In case the valuation put by the plaintiff is arbitrary or unreasonable, it may be challenged by the defendant and, then it would be for the Court to determine the proper valuation. Once the value of the claim has been determined, it would be the proper valuation for purposes of, appeal but if the valuation put by the plaintiff is not challenged by the defendant, it shall be deemed to be accepted by implication and it shall have to be treated as the proper valuation of the claim for purposes ol appeal.

14. From a careful scrutiny of the language of Section 7 of the Act we find no force in the suggestion that it is open to the defendant to put his own valuation on the memorandum of appeal in the case of suits falling within the purview of Clause (iv) thereof As we have already pointed out above, no controversy over arose regarding valuation of suits falling under Sub-clauses (a) to (e) of Clause (iv) and it has been a settled proposition that in an appeal arising out of such suits, the valuation of the relief in the memorandum of appeal shall be the same as stated in the plaint by the plaintiff, The controversy arose only in regard to a suit for accounts falling under Sub-clause (f) of, Clause (iv). Looking to the language of the section we do not find any justification for treating a suit account differently from suits falling under the other sub-clauses of Clause (iv), in the context of valuation of the claim in appeal.

15. We, therefore, answer the question posed for consideration before us as under;

'In an appeal against a preliminary decree declaring dissolution of partnership and directing accounts, the defendant is bound to value the relief in appeal according to the value put by the plaintiff on the plaint unless, on an objection by the defendant, a different valuation has been determined by the Court. It is not open to the defendant to put a different valuation in appeal for purposes of court-fee under Sub-clause (f) of Clause (iv) of Section 7 of the Court-fees Act, unless such valuation is determined by the Court to be proper valuation for purposes of the suit itself.'


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