1. This Civil Revision Petition arises out of a suit filed before the Village Panchayat Court of Bezwada to recover Rs. 21 and odd. The suit was based on two documents, Exhibits A and B, dated 2nd February and 13th January, 1923 respectively. The Panchayat Court found that these two documents ought to be stamped with a stamp of three annas each and collected Rs. 5-3-0 for each document, consisting of three annas for stamp and five rupees for penalty, and decreed the claim. There was a revision petition to the District Munsif's Court of Bezwada under Section 73 of the Village Courts Act (I of 1889) . The District Munsif held that the Village Court could not levy penalty in respect of a promissory note. He construed Exhibits A and B to be promissory notes and that the suit failed as it was based on unstamped promissory notes. He also held that the village panchayat exercised jurisdiction not vested by law or otherwise acted illegally, and reversed the decision of the Panchayat Court. The plaintiff files this revision petition.
2. An objection is taken by the respondent that the revision does not lie. Powers of revision against the orders of District Munsifs under Section 73 of the Village Courts Act have been exercised by the High Courts in Giddayya v. Jagannatha Rau I.L.R. (1897) M 363 and Palani Goundan v. Kuppanda Goundan I.L.R. (1900) M 335 : 1900 11 MLJ 189 without any objection. In Paramasivam Pillai v. Penyanayagathammal (1915) 32 IndCas 527 the petitioner before the Court argued that the C. P. C. does not apply to petitions under Section 73 before the District Munsif. As to this, the learned Judge, Kumaraswami Sastri, J. remarked that it is unnecessary to consider. But he observed that it was difficult to see how the argument of the petitioner who filed the petition could be said to be correct. There was a Letters Patent Appeal against this in Paramasivam Pillai v. Periyanayagathammal 32 IndCas 527. The Judges did not express any final view on the matter except that if an order of the District Munsif cannot be revised under Section 115, C. P. C. it can be revised under the Charter Act. I agree with the view. But apart from this, I feel no doubt that the High Court can interfere in revision under Section 115, C. P. C. The District Munsif acts as a Court subordinate to the High Court and the conditions of Section 115 are satisfied. The C. P. C. is a general Act, and it is unnecessary to consider the question how far other sections of the Code apply to village Courts. Assuming they do not, I do not think that that consideration prevents the application of Section 115 to petitions before the District Munsifs under Section 73 of that Act.
3. Coming to the merits of this case Mr. P. Satyanarayana appearing for the petitioner mainly relies on Section 36 of the Stamp Act. It seems to me that Exhibits A and B are promissory notes within the definition of that term in the Stamp Act. That being so, under Section 35 of the Stamp Act, the village Court has no power to levy penalty in respect of a promissory note. At any rate, proviso (a) of that section does not enable a litigant to insist on penalty being taken and to admit the unstamped document in evidence. But all the same in this case the Village Panchayat Court collected stamp duty and the penalty and admitted the documents in evidence. It is not clear what the construction of the documents they adopted was. With the help of the learned vakils for the petitioner and the respondent I examined the matter fully and so far as we can see it looks as if the Village Panchayat Court thought that the documents were promissory notes payable not on demand but on the expiry of a month from the dates of their execution and therefore the proper stamp duty payable was the stamp duty payable on a bill of exchange for the same value, which would be three annas. The amount of three annas collected by them for each document is not explainable on any other footing. This on the construction of Section 35 is undoubtedly erroneous. But Mr. Satyanarayana relies, as I have already said, on Section 36, and on two decisions in Devachand v. Hirachand Kamaraj I.L.R. (1889) IB 449 and Venkatarama Aiyar v. Chella Pillai (1920) 40 MLJ 479. In the first of these cases, the first Court considered certain documents to be bonds and levied stamp duty. The case came up before a Division Bench of the Bombay High Court when Birdwood and Parsons, JJ. differed. The matter came up on Letters Patent Appeal before a Bench of three Judges. All the five Judges were of opinion that the documents in that case were promissory notes and not bonds and that the penalty was wrongly levied under Section 34(3) of the Stamp Act then in force. But Birdwood, J., thought that in such a case the judgment ought to be reserved by the Appellate Court, whereas Parsons, J., and the three Judges in appeal were all of the opinion that Section 36 of the Stamp Act cures such an irregularity. Where the trial Judge collected the stamp duty the document becomes a stamped document and the question whether it is duly stamped cannot be considered by the Appellate Court under Section 36. That is the view taken by the Full Bench. This case was followed in Venkatarama Aiyar v. Chella Pillai (1920) 40 MLJ 479. Oldfield, J., pointed out that the language of the Indian Act is somewhat wider than that of the English Act, Order 39, Rule 8 and he also pointed out that the Legislature left the section of the Stamp Act substantially unaltered after the decision of the Bombay High Court. There being no difference in the language between Section 36 of Act II of 1899 and sub-section 3 of Section 34 of Act I of 1879, the consideration mentioned by Oldfield, J., will hold good. That the Legislature has not thought fit to change the language of Section 36 shows that they adopted the view enunciated in Devachand v. Hirachand Kamaraj I.L.R. (1889) B 449. A distinction has been attempted between these two decisions and the present case on the ground that the trial Courts in those two cases construed the documents to be a bond and an agreement and not promissory notes and though Section 36 may cure a wrong construction of that kind, it will not cure a case where a trial Court while construing the document to be a promissory note wrongly levied penalty under Section 35. But I am not able to see very much in this distinction. In either case it is an error of law and it is an error with reference to Stamp Law. In those decisions the error is one of finding out under what definition in the Stamp Act the document fails. In the present case, it is a question of applying the provisions of Section 35. In either case it may be said that the trial Court has acted erroneously. If in the one case Section 36 of the Stamp Act prevents an Appellate Court from interfering I do not see how it can enable the Appellate Court to interfere in the other case. Following these decisions I am of opinion that while the Panchayat Court might have been wrong in applying the provisions of Section 35 after they have done so and collected the stamp duty and the penalty which have been paid to Government and the documents have been admitted in evidence, it is not open to the District Munsif to rake up the question and set aside their judgment. After all, as Parsons, J., has pointed out, the Stamp Act is a fiscal provision; its object is to protect revenue and its object has been satisfied in this case. The Government has got its revenue and there is nothing absurd in ' the plaintiff being given a decree. The District Munsif cannot therefore say that the Panchayat Court exercised jurisdiction not vested by law or otherwise acted illegally. The existence of Section 36 itself shows that a wrong application of Section 3$ should never be considered as an error of jurisdiction or a material irregularity. That is implied by the two decisions already relied on by me. If so, the District Munsif's action in overlooking Section 36 to which no reference is made and interfering with the decision of the Panchayat Court is a case where he confers jurisdiction on himself by an error of law and therefore acted without jurisdiction--see Atchayya v. Sri Seetharamachandra Rao ILR 1912 M 195 : 1912 24 MLJ 112. All that can be said for the District Munsif's order is, it would be a correct order if he was the first Court to try the case. But as it is, it is a wrong order on the merits. Mr. Subramaniam contended that it is unnecessary for me to interfere in the interests of justice. I would have been very glad not to interfere in this case if the interests of justice did not require it, but I am of the opposite opinion. There is no doubt the defendant borrowed money from the plaintiff and whatever irregularity there might be, the Panchayat Court did levy stamp duty. Now that they have levied stamp duty and gave a decree to the plaintiff, it is unnecessary for any appellate Court to set aside that order on purely technical grounds. The omission of the words 'or contrary to law'' in Sub-section (3) of Section 73 by the Amending Act, of 1920 shows that a decree may be just though contrary to law and a decision though contrary to law need not be unjust. Following the spirit of that amendment the decree of the Panchayat Court is just and ought not to have been interfered with. I therefore set aside the order of the District Munsif with costs here and in the Lower Court.