1. Prem Kumar Jain, Manager of Kiran Cinema, Patti, has filed this petition under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India for quashing the tax demand bills, copies Annexures 'C', 'D' and 'E' order of the Sub-Divisional Officer, Patti, dated 24th Dec., 1968 (copy Annexure 'F' to the petition) and the order of the State Government dated 9th July, 1968 (copy Annexure 'B' to the petition).
2. The facts of the case, in order to appreciate the controversy raised before me, may briefly be stated thus :--
3. A building bearing house No. 151/12 situate in Patti, District Amritsar, is being used for non-residential purpose, i.e., for running a cinema known as Kiran Cinema. The Municipal Committee, Patti, wished to impose house tax and consequently objections were invited against the assessment after publication of the list of assessment. The petitioner filed objections, but the same were rejected and an amount of Rs. 675/- per annum was imposed as house tax. Feeling aggrieved from the imposition of the house tax, the petitioner preferred an appeal under S. 84 of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) which was allowed by the Sub-Divisional Officer (Civil), Patti, vide his order, dated 30th March, 1966 (copy Annexure 'A' to the petition) on the ground that under the rules, the building was exempt and no house tax could be imposed up to 22nd April, 1967 and, therefore, the order of the Committee, dated 2nd Jan., 1966, imposing house tax on the building could not legally be sustained. A copy of the order is attached with the petition as Annexure 'A'. It appears that fresh proceedings for the assessment of the house tax were taken, and on the basis of those proceedings the tax bills dated 17th Feb., 1968 (copies Annexures 'C', 'D' and 'E') were issued by respondent No. 2, demanding the house tax at the rate of Rs. 675/- per annum from the petitioner. Feeling aggrieved from the demand, the petitioner again filed an appeal under S. 84 of the Act, but the same was rejected on the basis of the order of respondent No. 2, dated 9th July, 1968 (Annexure 'B') the relevant portion of which reads as under :--
'In exercise of powers conferred by Section 237 of P. M. A. 1911, the Governor of Punjab is pleased to rescind the orders of S. D. O. (Civil), Patti dated 30-3-66 granting exemption to Kiran Cinema, Patti from house tax up to 22-4-67.'
It is in these circumstances that the present writ petition has been filed calling in question the legality of the demand notices and of the order of respondent No. 2, dated 9th July, 1968.
4. The petition came up for motion hearing on 10th April, 1969, and was admitted.
5. Separate written statements have been filed on behalf of respondents Nos. 2 and 3 in which the material allegations made by the petitioner have been controverted.
6. The only point urged before me by the learned counsel for the petitioner was that the order of the Sub-Divisional Officer, dated 30th March, 1966 (Annexure 'A' to the petition) passed on appeal under S. 84 of the Act was a judicial order and that the said order could not legally be rescinded by the State Government in exercise of its power under S. 237 of the Act. On the other hand, it was submitted by the learned Additional Advocate General, whose contention was adopted by Mr. Gandhi, learned counsel appearing for respondent No. 3, that the State Government was empowered under Section 237 of the Act to set aside any order that may have been passed by any officer under the Act, and that no distinction has been drawn between the orders passed on appeal or the orders passed which may be executive in nature.
7. In order to find out as to which argument is more plausible, it would be appropriate to notice and analyse the provisions of Section 237 of the Act, which read as under :--
'Notwithstanding anything in this Act, the State Government shall have the power of reversing or modifying any order of any officer of the State Government passed or purporting to have been passed under this Act, if it considers it to be not in accordance with the said Act or the rules or to be for any reason inexpedient, and generally for carrying out the purposes of this Act the State Government shall exercise over its officers all powers of superintendence, direction and control.'
8. From the bare perusal of the above quoted section, it is quite evident that very wide and unfettered power has been given to the State Government to reverse or modify any order of any officer of the State Government passed or purporting to have been passed under this Act. There can be no gainsaying that the order of the Sub-Divisional Officer on appeal is passed under the Act. That being, so, I do not find any justification in the contention of Mr. Sarin, learned counsel for the petitioner, that under Section 237 of the Act, an order passed by the Sub-Divisional Officer on appeal is not liable to be reversed or modified. The Legislature has not drawn any distinction between the order passed under S. 84 and the orders passed under any other provision of the Act. The language employed in the section is not at all ambiguous. The Legislature, in its wisdom, had thought it proper to cover all orders that may be passed under the Act and overall power of superintendence and control has been given to the State Government over its officers. The Sub-Divisional Officer, who hears the appeal, is an officer of the State. In this view of the matter, I find no escape from the conclusion that an order passed under S. 84 of the Act would be amenable to review by the State Government in exercise of its power under S. 237 of the Act. The contention of Mr. Sarin, therefore, has no merit and is consequently rejected.
9. No other point has been urged.
10. For the reasons recorded above, this petition fails and is hereby dismissed. However, in the circumstances of the case, I make no order as to costs.
11. Petition dismissed.