1. This appeal raises a question upon the construction of Section 186 of the Madras City Municipal Act.
2. The appellant is the trustee of the Apparswami temple and in that capacity is the owner of a number of houses in the Mylapore division of the Municipality. In December, 1933, he was served with a notice (Ex. A) from the Corporation of Madras calling upon him to ' convert' an existing latrine in a. building belonging to him into a flush-out latrine. The notice purported to be issued under Section 186 of the Act, though for some unknown reason the notice used the word 'convert' instead of 'alter' which is the word used in the section. It would have been better if the notice had followed the language of the section. But nothing turns on this in the present case. The appellant protested at being required to make the alteration and a correspondence followed between him and the Corporation, from which it appears that the Corporation required the alteration to be made because the flush-out latrine scheme in that particular division was compulsory.
3. A two-fold argument has been presented to us. First, it has been contended that the appellant has been called upon to do something more than is signified by the word 'alter' as used in Section 186. The material part of the section says:
The Commissioner may by notice require the owner or occupier of any building within the time specified in such notice to provide a latrine or alter or remove from an unsuitable to a more suitable place any existing latrine in accordance with the directions contained in such notice.
4. The meaning given in the New Oxford Dictionary to the word 'alter' is 'to make (a thing) otherwise or different in some respect; to make some change in character, shape, conditions, etc., without changing the thing itself'. The meaning would include the making of a structural alteration in a thing so as to change its character. This is what the Corporation's notice has called upon the appellant to do in respect of his latrine. The existing latrine is to be altered into a flush-out latrine. But it has been urged that the word 'alter' in the section must not be taken to intend a structural alteration, and Vestry of Fulham v. Solomon (1896) 1 Q.B. 198 has been cited where Mr. Justice Kennedy referring to a provision of the Public Health (London) Act, 1891 stated the opinion that the word 'alteration or amendment' in that provision did not intend a physical alteration. To take a word bearing a peculiar meaning in a particular Act and to clothe that word with the same meaning when found in a different context in a different Act is a fallacious process of interpretation. The context of Section 186 of the Madras Act far from indicating that the word 'alter' must bear the limited meaning contended for by the appellant, points to the opposite conclusion. The provision of a latrine, or the removal of an existent latrine to a more suitable place, which the owner of a building can be compelled to carry out under the section, are certainly undertakings which imply the doing of some structural work. There is, therefore, no reason why an alteration to an existing latrine which the owner can be required to make should not bear the same implication.
5. The second part of the argument is founded upon the objection that the Corporation cannot use Section 186 to enforce upon owners of buildings a general drainage scheme. Reference has been made to Wood v. Widnes Corporation and other English cases relating to Section 36 of the Public Health Act. But we think that cases upon the English Act cannot be taken as a guide to the construction of the very different scope and language of Section 186 of the Madras Act. The power given to the Corporation by Section 186 is quite general and unqualified. It can be exercised in respect of the single owner of a number of buildings as well as in respect of a number of individual owners of single buildings. And it appears to us that even if the purpose of serving notices under the section is to enforce a general scheme of drainage in the district, this will not make the action of the Corporation ultra vires. The section empowers it to do what it has done. We think that the notices served on the appellant were valid and that this appeal must be dismissed with costs.