1. The principal question referred to us for decision is whether the instrument presented to the Collector comprises or relates to several distinct matters so as to be chargeable accordingly under Section 5 of the Indian Stamp Act, The instrument is not complete, inasmuch as only one land-holder is named, whereas the case shows, and it is admitted by counsel on behalf of Messrs, Best & Co., that the intention is to have it executed by several land-holders, each generally interested in the piece of land mentioned against his name in the schedule.
2. This mere statement of the facts is almost sufficient to show that the instrument is chargeable with the aggregate amount of the duties with which separate instruments, relating to the same matters would be chargeable, for it is plain that agreements with two or more ryots not jointly interested in the same land for the purchase or lease of their lands, are distinct agreements which may give rise to different rights of action by or against the several ryots. It was argued, however, on the strength of some English cases, that there is a community of interest between the several landholders of a village who, as it is proposed, are to be made parties and that therefore only one stamp is required. The Strongest case cited was Doe d Croft v. Tibdury (1854) 14 C.B. 320 where it was held that a deed executed by several encroachers in respect of their several encroachments did not need to be impressed with several stamps. In effect it was considered that therefore the parties conveying joined in conveying all the encroachments a community of interests was established between them as to the same subject-matter. In Wills v. Bridge L.R. 6 Exch. 106 there was a deed of transfer executed by 3 persons jointly in respect of 60 shares in a Company, of which 30 shares belonged to 1 person, 20 to another, and 10 to the 3rd.
3. It was held that although the deed conveyed the separate interests of three persons, three stamps were not required. Wills v. Bridge (1854) 14 C.B. 320 is cited by Kelly, C.B., with apparent approval in Freeman v. Commissioners of Inland Revenue L.R. 6 Exch. 106.
4. The latter case has no direct bearing on the question now before us. It is probably the last reported case under the stamp law as it stood before the consolidated Act, 33 and 34 Vic. C. 97 was passed. In considering ouch cases it has to be borne in mind that the law was then expressed with much less distinctness than it has been since 1870. In the Statute pi Anne the provision on which the case above cited turns was as follows:?' Where more than one of the matters or things i.e. indentures, leases, bonds. or deeds) thereby charged with any stamp duty should be engrossed on one piece of vellum, the duties should be charged on every one of such matters.' This provision, as was observed by Coltman, J. (Rushbrooke v. Hood 17 L.J.C.P. 60 referred to different deeds having different objects inserted in the same parchment. A provision of that sort is obviously very different from the provision which was first introduced in the Statute 33 and 34 Vic. There Section 7, Sub-section 2, provides as follows:
If more than one instrument be written upon the same piece of material, every one of such instruments is to be separately and distinctly stamped with the duty with which it is chargeable'; that is practicaliy a reproduction of Section 24 of the Statute of Anne (12 Anne, 2, St. Ch.9). Then comes the section which is in effect identical with Section 5 of the Act now in force in India. This section introduces an entirely new provision and, therefore, renders the cases on the Statute of Anne of comparatively small importance. The fact that in 1854 the Court held that a conveyance, such as had been executed by the incroachers, spoken of in Doe d Croft v. Tidbury 4 required only one stamp affords really no ground for arguing that the same conclusion would be arrived at on a similar instrument at the present day.
5. The learned counsel for Messrs. Best & Co. did not cite any case decided with reference to the modern Stamp Acts which he could claim as having any direct bearing on the question now before us. In both the recent cases cited by him as giving some indirect support to hip argument,) John Foster v. Commissioners of Inland Revnue (1854) 14 C.B. 320. Chesterfield Brewery Company v. Commissioners of Inland Revenue L.R. 6 Exch. 106 the instrument under consideration was a transfer and not a contract such as we have before us and the transferors as partners or members of a company were persons jointly interested in the property with which they were dealing. It could not possibly have been said in either case that the deed related to several distinct matters.
6. In order to decide what stamp should be impressed on a document, we have to see what, upon the face of it, it is according to its time and proper effect (Martin, Baron, 3). Looking at the instrument before us in this way, we have no hesitation in saying that it deals with several distinct matters, that is to say with agreements with several persons with regard to their separate property, and that to that extent the opinionexpressed by the Board of Revenue is right.
7. In our judgment the proper stamp to be affixed is an eightanna stamp or as many such stamps as there are separate ryots who are made parties to the agreement. We do not consider that the instrument contains distinct agreements 'with any one ryot.