1. These two appeals raise the same question. The appellant in both is the Municipal Corporation of Madras. The respondent in Appeal No. 8 of 1925 is the Madras Electric Tramways, Ltd and (the respondent) in Appeal No. 9 of 1925 is the Madras Electric Supply Corporation, Ltd. Each of these bodies holds a license from the Government, empowering it to perform certain functions in the area of the City of Madras. The contention of the appellant is that further licenses have to be obtained by them from the Commissioner under Sections 287 and 288 of the Madras City Municipal Act. In Appeal No. 9, the respondent has erected a steam-boiler. Section 288 of the City Municipal Act, lays down that a steam-boiler must not be erected without the permission of the Commissioner, who has discretion under the conditions prescribed by Sub-section (2) to refuse it. In Appeal No. 8, the complaint of the appellant is that the respondent, is using certain premises for casting and beating metals, and breaking and hammering iron. Under Section 287 of the Act, it is contended, the Electric Supply Corporation is bound annually to apply to the. Commissioner for a license which he is empowered either to grant or to refuse. In each case, the Act, gives an appeal to the Standing Committee of the Madras Corporation against the Commissioner's refusal to grant permission or to issue a license and the decision of the Committee is final.
2. The license granted to the Electric Supply Corporation by the Government of Madras under the Electricity Act, empowers 'it within the area of supply, i.e., the area (subject to certain reservations) controlled by the Corporation of Madras, to lay down and place electric supply lines and other works and to do all other acts necessary for the due supply of energy. Section 12(1), (c) & (e). Section 2, Sub-section (n) of the Act, defines 'works' as including machinery or apparatus required to supply energy. The license issued to the Tramways Company empowers them to construct and maintain and to work and use in the City of Madras--inter alia workshops.
3. The appellant's case put shortly is this that there is nothing in the Madras City Municipal Act, which exempts either respondent from the operation of that Act. Section 278 exempts the Governor-General and the Governor-in-Council from taking out licenses, but there is no other exemption. Nor is there any provision in either the Electricity Act, or the Tramways Orders as there is in Section 7 of the Railways Act--that either is to operate 'notwithstanding anything in any other enactment for the time being in force.
4. Respondents reply that the City Municipal Act is inconsistent with the Special Acts under which they have been granted licenses by the Government and that consequently the special Acts must prevail. A number of decisions has been cited before me. The general principle they lay down is this--that where there is an inconsistency between a General Act and a Special Act, the provisions of the latter must override the former. The only question, then,in these appeals is whether there is anything in the City Municipal Act, which is inconsistent with the powers granted by Government under the Special Acts to the respondents.
5. The answer to that question must, I think, be in the affirmative. The General Act gives the Commissioner power to refuse to allow the respondents to do what they have been licensed to do by Government under the Special Acts. If he exercises that power, the licenses granted to them become-ineffective and nugatory and that cannot have been in the contemplation of the legislature. The position is put clearly by Lord Lindley in City and South London Ry. Co. v. London County Council (1891) 2 QBD 513.
Now it appears to me that if we adopt the construction which I have put on Section 4 and which I think is the right one and yet were to accede to the contention of the appellants, we should be saying this, that, although you, the Railway Company, are erecting within the limits authorised by the Act of Parliament a building necessary for the purposes for which you are authorised to take land yet it lies in the power of the County Council to dictate to you exactly the position in which you shall put your various offices....
6. That seems to me to apply very closely to the position here. The Tramways Co., and the Electric Supply Corporation are doing exactly what they have been licensed to do under 'the Special Acts applicable to them. And yet the Municipal Corporation contends that they may not do these acts without further permission from the Commissioner, which he is entitled under certain circumstances to refuse. The only other case I will refer to is Municipal Commissioner of Bombay v. The G.I.P. Ry. Co. ILR (1909) Bom. 252. No doubt, the reservation in Section 7 of the Railways Act, was relied on, but, as Mr. Grant points out that reservation does no more than embody the principle laid down in the case-law on the subject. If the General and the Special Acts can be harmonised, the reservation is superfluous. If they cannot, you must follow the Special Act, 'Notwithstanding anything in' the general Act. In that particular case the Judges found, as it has been found here, that the two Acts, were inconsistent with each other, for the only authority over, the Railway Administration exercising its power under Section 7(1) of the Railways Act, is the Governor-General-in-Council and not the Municipal Commissioner.
7. In the result, I think that the Court below came to the right conclusion and dismiss the appeals with costs.