1. The respondent entered into an arrangement with the Municipality of Bezwada for the supply of water to his house. In accordance with the provisions of Section 147 of the old District Municipalities Act (IV of 1884), the meter was supplied by the respondent; and the question that arises in this appeal is whether he is liable to the Municipality for the repairs of the meter. The Courts below held that he was not.
2. Various points were raised on behalf of the Municipality by Mr. Bhimasankaram for the appellant, but I think the only point worth discussion is whether under the terms of Section 147 the respondent is legally liable for repairs carried out by the Municipality. Section 147 (4) says,
The works necessary for such supplies and all future repairs shall, in every case be carried out by the Chairman, or under his orders, and the expense thereof shall be defrayed by such owner or occupier.
So the question is whether a meter is a work necessary for ' such supplies.' The respondent has in his favour the interpretations given by the Government on two occasions in which they held, and rightly so, that a meter was not a work necessary for the supply of water. But Section 147 (4) does not make the owner of the house liable only for the works necessary for the supply of water but for ' such supplies '; and the meaning of ' such supplies ' is to be gathered from a reading of Section 147 (1), by which ' the Chairman may . . . * . arrange for supplying water in such quantities as the Chairman deems reasonable . . . .' So the Chairman has to arrange for the supply of such quantities of water as he deems reasonable and he cannot arrange for the supply of a certain quantity of water unless there is a meter to measure that water. It follows that the meter is a work necessary for such supplies within the meaning of Section 147 (4).
3. The learned advocate for the respondent however here contends that Section 147 (4) does not now apply; because the supply of water to the respondent is now governed by the new Act (Madras Act V of 1920) and the contract under Section 147 of the old Act is no longer in force. If that is so--and I think that the learned advocate for the respondent is right--then we have to see whether under Act V of 1920, and the rules thereunder, any liability can be imposed on the respondent to pay the Municipality for repairs carried out by it. There is no section directly imposing such a liability; but under Section 306 (3) (e and g) the Council is authorised to make by-laws, not inconsistent with the Act or with any other law, (e) for the supply of water for domestic consumption and use and (g) for the measurement of water. Although Sections 129 to 131 of the Act, which deal with the supply of water for domestic use, make no direct reference to repair of meters, Section 131 (1) permits the Municipality to arrange in accordance with the by-laws to supply water for domestic consumption and use. It is not inconsistent with Sections 129 to 131 to pass a by-law that the repairs of a meter should be carried out by the Municipality at the expense of the owner of the house. The by-laws printed as Ex. VI, Clause 4 (f) provide that, ' In cases where the meter is provided by the owner or occupier the cost of repairs whenever found necessary shall be met by him.' The house-owner is therefore responsible to the Municipality for the cost of any repairs carried out by the Municipality to his meter. The learned Subordinate Judge seemed to be of this opinion; but he thought that as the Government had interpreted the older Act otherwise, and as there had been several decisions to the contrary, he should give a finding in accordance with the other legal decisions and the Government's interpretation even though they were not binding on him. A Court is however bound to decide any question raised before it according to what it considers to be the law; and so the Subordinate Judge should have allowed the appeal of the Municipality if he thought that it was entitled in law to claim the cost of repairs from the owner.
4. The appeal is allowed with the costs of the Municipality throughout.
5. The respondent has filed a memorandum of cross-objections with regard to the order as to costs. That is dismissed, but under the circumstances without costs. (Leave to appeal is refused.)