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The Corporation of Madras Vs. the Secretary of State for India in Council - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMotor Vehicles
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1940Mad653; (1940)1MLJ576
AppellantThe Corporation of Madras
RespondentThe Secretary of State for India in Council
Cases ReferredGeneral v. Carlton Bank
Excerpt:
- - the court must no doubt ascertain the subject-matter to which the particular tax is by the statute intended to be applied, but when once that is ascertained, it is not open to the court to narrow or whittle down the operation of the act by seeming considerations of hardship or of business convenience, or the like......the plaintiff to pay the sum of rs. 16,170 as the amount of tax alleged to be leviable upon these steam rollers under the provisions of the madras motor vehicles taxation act, 1931 (hereinafter called 'the local act') for the period from 1st april, 1931 to 30th april, 1934. the plaintiff contended that these rollers were not motor vehicles within the meaning of the local act and that no tax was leviable upon them. correspondence took place between the plaintiff and the local government eventuating in 1936 by a letter addressed to the corporation informing it that if payment of the sum of rs. 16,170 was not made, the local government would adjust this sum by an equivalent deduction from the grant payable to the plaintiff during that year. thereupon, on 30th march, 1936, the plaintiff.....
Judgment:

Gentle, J.

1. The plaintiff, the Corporation of Madras, was the owner of 21 steam rollers which were used in connection with the discharge of the duty of making, repairing and maintaining roads within the city. Acting through the Commissioner of Police, the defendant (hereinafter called 'the local Government') required the plaintiff to pay the sum of Rs. 16,170 as the amount of tax alleged to be leviable upon these steam rollers under the provisions of the Madras Motor Vehicles Taxation Act, 1931 (hereinafter called 'the local Act') for the period from 1st April, 1931 to 30th April, 1934. The plaintiff contended that these rollers were not motor vehicles within the meaning of the local Act and that no tax was leviable upon them. Correspondence took place between the plaintiff and the local Government eventuating in 1936 by a letter addressed to the Corporation informing it that if payment of the sum of Rs. 16,170 was not made, the local Government would adjust this sum by an equivalent deduction from the grant payable to the plaintiff during that year. Thereupon, on 30th March, 1936, the plaintiff paid the above sum under protest, see Exs. P-1 and P-2. On 14th August, 1936, by Ex. P-4, the plaintiff claimed repayment of the above amount and gave notice of the intention to file the present suit. This demand not having met with compliance, this suit was filed on 14th December, 1936.

2. The plaintiff claims-

a declaration that no tax is leviable upon the steam rollers under the provisions of the local Act;

(b) a decree for the sum of Rs. 16,170; and

(c) interest upon that sum at the rate of six per cent, per annum from 30th March, 1936, the date when payment was made to the local Government.

3. The defendant in his written statement alleges that the tax is leviable on the steam rollers under the provisions of the local Act and denies that in any event the plaintiff is entitled to recover interest.

4. No tax upon the plaintiff's steam rollers has been demanded or paid for the period following 30th April, 1934, as under Section 11(1)(ii) of the local Act, the local Government may by notification make an exemption in regard to the tax payable in respect of any motor vehicle or class of motor vehicles and pursuant to this provision, road rollers belonging to the Government or local bodies were exempted from payment of tax after the above date. No oral evidence was given and the facts to which 1 refer are agreed between the parties.

5. If a steam roller is a motor vehicle within the meaning of the local Act, the tax was properly leviable, and the plaintiff cannot succeed. On the other hand, if 'motor vehicle' under the Act does not include a steam roller, the plaintiff was wrongly chargeable with the tax and is entitled to a decree for the amount paid. There is no dispute in regard to the amount of the claim. It is conceded by the plaintiff that if the tax was payable under the Act, the sum of Rs. 16,170 is the correct amount and the learned Advocate-General on behalf of the defendant conceded that if steam rollers were not taxable, then the above sum is a debt due and recoverable by the plaintiff from the defendant.

6. The relevant provisions of the local Act are:

Section 2(iii). 'Motor vehicle' has the same meaning as in the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1914.

Section 4(1). The local Government may, ... direct that a tax shall be levied on every motor vehicle kept or used in the presidency of Madras.

7. Section 2 of the Indian Motor Vehicles Act, 1914 (hereinafter called 'the Imperial Act') provides that a

'Motor vehicle' includes a vehicle, carriage or other means of conveyance propelled, or which may be propelled, on a road by electrical or mechanical power either entirely or partially.

8. Mr. Vijayaraghavan, in the course of his able agrument on behalf of the plaintiff, contended that a steam roller is not included in the definition of 'motor vehicle' in the Imperial Act and consequently is excluded from the local Act, and further that even if included in the definition in the Imperial Act, it is excluded from the local Act which is a taxing or revenue statute, the object of which is different to that of the Imperial Act, and its provisions must be construed differently or at least more strictly than other legislation. Except in the respect mentioned below, no question arises that a steam roller fulfils the requirements of the definition in Section 2 of the Imperial Act. It is necessary in the first instance to consider whether a steam roller is a 'motor vehicle' within the meaning of that statute.

9. It was contended that the words in the Imperial Act 'vehicle', 'carriage' and 'other means of conveyance' must be read ejusdetii generis and consequently, a vehicle which is not used or constructed for the purpose of conveying passengers or goods is not a vehicle within the definition, a steam roller being used solely for the purpose of making, repairing and maintaining roads and is not a means of conveyance. In Shortt's Dictionary, a vehicle is defined as a means of conveyance on wheels or runners used for the carriage of persons or goods, A steam roller has three wheels, a wide one in front and two narrower wheels at the rear (which are usually wider than wheels of vehicles). These wheels are of heavy manufacture and when the roller is employed in road making are used as the rollers. When it moves from place to place and in order to progress, these wheels fulfil the ordinary functions as such, and they are no less wheels because another purpose is fulfilled by them. A steam roller is one inseparable implement with a large superstructure containing its machinery and driver's cab and it travels on a road by means of its wheels. In Smith & Sons v. Pickering (1915) 1 K.B. 326, the question was whether a heavy threshing machine and a straw trusser or presser, each travelling on four wheels, were included in Section 17(1) of the Locomotives Act, 1898, which defines a 'wagon' as including 'any truck, cart, carriage or other vehicles'. Scrutton, J., as he then was, in his judgment pointed out that the words 'any truck, cart, carriage or other vehicle' would seem to imply that a wagon must be constructed to carry something and if not so constructed there was support in some provisions of the locomotives Act for the contention that it was not a 'wagon', but if it were not regarded as a wagon, other provisions in the Act for the public safety would; be inapplicable and at page 331 he said : 'I come to the conclusion that it is not necessary to read into the meaning of the;, word 'wagon' any condition that the particular structure shall be capable of carrying any load other than itself. I see no reason why a heavy superstructure upon wheels should not be described as a vehicle.' If a steam roller were not included in the definition of 'motor vehicle' in Section 2 of the Imperial Act, then the provisions of Sections 3, 4 and 5 in Part II and Sections 16 and 17 in Part 5 of the Statute would not apply to it. These sections forbid a person under 18 years of age from driving a motor vehicle, required the driver to stop when directed by a police officer and others specified so to do, make it an offence to drive recklessly, specify the Tribunal by which offences are triable and the punishment. The Legislature could not have intended, for example, to exempt a driver of a steam roller from any penalty, although he was guilty of driving to the danger of the public or refusing to stop when required in the interests of public safety. In Dennis v. Leonard (1929) 141 L.T. 94, an 'Austin' motor tractor was held to be a vehicle. This is an implement upon which the driver rides and is used for the purpose of towing or pulling. Avory, J., in his judgment at page 96 points out that it was available for the purpose of carrying a person upon it. This must of course be the driver. In Taylor v. Goodwin (1879) 4 Q.B.D. 228, a bicycle was held to be a vehicle or carriage within Section 78 of the Highway Act, 1835, which prohibits the furious driving of any carriage, and it would seem that in that case the words 'carriage' and 'vehicle' were considered to be correlative terms. That decision was followed in Emperor v. Kikabhai I.L.R.(1917) Bom. 464. A steam roller is propelled on a road by mechanical power, it conveys the driver, and if he has one, also his assistant. Without the former, it could not travel. With respect, I agree with the opinion of Scrutton, L.J., in Smith & Sons v. Pickering (1915) 1 K.B. 326, that a heavy superstructure upon wheels is a vehicle, and it must follow that if it propels itself by mechanical power, it is a motor vehicle. Whether a steam roller is kept or used by a private person, firm or company or by a local authority, there can be no difference as to its nature. I cannot think that it was intended by the Legislature that a private person who is the owner of a steam roller used for roadmaking could send it upon a highway to travel in any town or other part of the country and the driver should not be liable for the consequences of infringements of the provisions in the Act enacted for the purpose of public safety. In my view, a steam roller is a motor vehicle within the meaning of the definition in Section 2 of the Imperial Act. It is to be noticed that under Section 13 of this Act the Governor in Council by order dated 29th November, 1916, exempted road rollers from the operation of Part III of the Act, which deals with licensing and control of motor vehicles. If a steam roller is not a motor vehicle within the meaning of the Act, then it could not be exempted from its provisions as they would otherwise be inapplicable.

10. Section 2(iii) of the local Act expressly provides that a 'motor vehicle' has the same meaning as in the Imperial Act. It is contended on behalf of the plaintiff that as the object of the local Act was, as set out in the Preamble, to abolish the levy of taxes on motor vehicles by local bodies and to provide for the levy of a provincial tax, and by Section 10(1), from the proceeds of the tax, the local Government shall pay to each local body such sum as represents the average annual income in tolls or taxes theretofore levied, that the local Act was a revenue legislation and consequently the meaning of 'motor vehicle' is different to that in the Imperial Act, and the legislation being of a revenue nature, the same principles of construction do not apply. I do not agree with this contention. Whilst undoubtedly if a statute purports to impose a tax the intention so to do must be shown by clear and unambiguous language, but the same rules of construction apply to all statutes. In Attorney-General v. Carlton Bank (1899) 2 Q.B. 158, Lord Russell, C.J., at page 164 said:

I see no reason why special canons of construction should be applied to any Act of Parliament, and I know of no authority for saying that a taxing Act is to be construed differently from any other Act The duty of the Court is, in my opinion, in all cases the same, whether the Act to be construed relates to taxation or to any other subject, viz., to give effect to the intention of the Legislature, as that intention is to be gathered from the language employed having regard to the context in connection with which it is employed. The Court must no doubt ascertain the subject-matter to which the particular tax is by the statute intended to be applied, but when once that is ascertained, it is not open to the Court to narrow or whittle down the operation of the Act by seeming considerations of hardship or of business convenience, or the like.

11. The wording of Section 2 of the local Act is clear and expressive and provides that a motor vehicle within the statute shall have the same meaning as in the Imperial Act. It must follow, in my opinion, that a motor vehicle within the meaning of the Imperial Act must also be a motor vehicle within the contemplation of the local Act. It would seem that the plaintiff Corporation is impressed with the position that prior to the passing the local Act the Corporation was the authority which imposed a tax upon the motor vehicles and after it came into force it was unable to accept the new position that its own vehicles were liable to taxation.

12. I hold that the plaintiff's steam rollers are motor vehicles within the meaning of Section 2 of the local Act and were liable to the taxation imposed upon them by the local Government.

13. In the light of the conclusion to which I have arrived, it is not necessary to consider at length the arguments which have been addressed to me upon the question of interest upon the amount of the claim. The learned Advocate-General conceded that if the Corporation succeeded in recovering the sum of Rs. 16,170 it would also be entitled to interest upon that amount from 14th August, 1934, the date when the demand was made for repayment. I desire merely to express shortly that in my view the plaintiff is not entitled to interest prior to the above date. The sum claimed is not a debt payable by virtue of any written instrument at a certain time, and interest would therefore commence to accrue from the date when written notice of demand was given as provided by Section 1 of the Interests Act, 1839.

14. There will be a decree therefore in favour of the defendant and for the costs. (Certificate for Counsel.)


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