1. This appeal is directed against the judgment, of Padmanabhan J. in W. P. 325 of 1978, allowing the writ petition filed by the Assistant Commissioner of Urban Land Tax, Madras the respondent herein, for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the. order dated 20- 11 -1975 on the file of the Urban Land Tax Tribunal, Madras.
2. The appellant is the owner of the urban land in R. S. Nos. 1575/ 1 and 1575/ 13, measuring about 50 grounds, situate in Kasthuri Iyengar Road, Mylapore. The. assessment was made under the Urban Land Tax Act, 1963, which came into tore on 1-7-1963. The same was challenged before this Court as having violated Arts. 14 and 19 of the Constitution and a Full Bench of this Court struck down S. 6 of that Act, as a result of which no assessment could be validly made under the provisions of the said Act. On appeal, however, the Supreme Court in : 75ITR603(SC) . Asst. Commr. of Urban Land Tax, Madras v. Buckingham and Carnatic Co. Ltd , has set aside the decision of the High Court and upheld the validity of the Act.
Thereafter, the Act was amended and under the said amended Act, assesment has been made on the appellant in respect of the said urban land. At the stage of the assessment the appellant took the objection that no assessment could be made under the provisions of the Act for the period prior to the date of the amendment of the Act and that in view, of the writ of prohibition issued by, this Court in the writ petition filed by the appellant questioning the validity of the provisions of S. 6 of the Act, which has notbeen challenged by filing an appeal before that Supreme Court, no assessment could be made for the period prior to the date of supreme Court judgment The said objection was overruled; but the same was upheld in the appeal filed by the assessed before the Urban Land Tax Tribunal.
The Tribunal took the view that in view of the existence of a writ of prohibition issued by. a Full bench of this Court prohibiting the authorities from enforcing the provisions of the Act as against the appellant, merely because later, a similar writ. of prohibition was set aside by the Supreme Court at the instance of the Revenue will not automatically modify or cancel the writ of prohibition issued in favour of the, appellant, as against the authorities constitued under the Act, and, therefore, no assessment could be made under the provisions of the Act, even after the decision of the Supreme Court for the faslis 1373 to 1379.
The respondent herein filed W.P. 325 of 1978 questioning the said order of the Urban Land Tax Tribunal Setting aside the assessment made for the years 1963 to 1969, on the ground that once the act has been held to be valid by the Supreme Court, the Act should be enforced against all irrespective of the fact whether the writ of prohibition issued by the Full Bench of this court is set aside in appeal or not.Padmanabhan,j. has held that once the Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Act, the must be held to be valid from its very inception and that the writ of prohibition issued by this Court in favour of the appellant should be taken to become ineffective. The learned judge also took the view that the introduction of S.7-A in the Act is sufficient to make the appellant liable under the Urban land Tax Act, even from its inception, notwithstanding the writ of prohibition issued by this court.
3. This view taken by the learned Judge has been challenged in this writ appeal. According to the learned counsel for the appellant, though the judgment of the Supreme Court in Buckingham Mills case : 75ITR603(SC) , has set aside the judgment of this Court and upheld the validity of the Act, the writ of prohibition issued in favour of the petitioner by this Court, not having been appealed against to the Supreme Court, the judgment of the Supreme Court cannot be taken to automatically cancel the writ of prohibition issued in favour of the petitioner.
Though this Court dealt with a batch of more than 300 writ petitions, only four of them have been taken to the Supreme Court and, therefore, the appellant has acquired a legal right flowing from the issue of writ not to be assessed from falsies 1373 to 1379. the date of the judgment of the Supreme Court being 10-04-1969. The learned counsel also points out that as a matter of fact, the respondent filed review petition before this Court for reviewing the judgment of this Court in the batch of writ petitions in the light of the judgment of the Supreme Court; but the said review petitions were dismissed by this Court in December 1971, resulting in the writ of prohibition issued in favour of the appellant becoming final. The question is how far the appellant's said contention could be accepted as tenable.
4. There is no dispute as to facts. The Tamil Nadu Urban Land Tax Act I Act XXII of 1996 was challenged before a Full Bench of this Court in as many as.309 writ petitions. 'The entire batch was heard together and a Judgment was delivered by this Court allowing the same. The respondent herein. however ,look only the orders passed in four writ petitions alone in appeal to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court allowed the said ;Appeals and set aside the judgment of this Court and upheld the attempt of the Act. In respect of the orders passd in other writ petitions, no appeal has been filed before the Supreme Court and when an attempt was made by, the respondent before this Court to have those orders reviewed in the light of later judgment of the Supreme Court. this Court dismissed those review petitions. The question is what is the effect of the Supreme Court judgment on the orders passed by this Court allowing the appellant's writ petition which has not been specifically questioned before the Supreme Court and which has become final and binding as between the parties. The further question that will arise is as to whether the introduction of S. 7-A in the Act .,will make the writ of prohibition issued by this Court ineffective.
5. The learned counsel for the appellant placed strong reliance on the decision of the Supreme Court in Madan Mohan Pathak v Union of India. : (1978)ILLJ406SC , as clearly supporting his contention that so long as the writ issued by this Court has not been challenged in appeal, that writ will continue to have its force till the date of the judgment of the Supreme Court. In that case. at the instance of certain employees of the Life Insurance Corporation. The Calcutta High Court issued a writ of Mandamus directing the Life Insurance Corporation to pay cash bonus for the year 1975-76 to the employees in Class III and Class IV in terms of a Settlement dated 24-1-74, between the Life Insurance Corporation and its employees The judgment of the Calcutta High Court was allowed to become final. Immediately after the said decision of the Calcutta High Court. the Parliament enacted the Life Insurance Corporation (Modification of Settlement) Act. The appeal filed against the judgment of the Calcutta High Court was not pressed by the Life Insurance Corporation) and the judgment was allowed to become final and binding as between the parties. Subsequently, on the basis of the said enactment, the bonus was not paid as directed by the Writ of Mandamus. The question then arose as to whether the subsequent enactment referred to above, will nullify the writ of Mandamus earlier issued by the High Court. The Supreme Court held that the writ of Mandamus issued by the Calcutta High Court directing the Life Insurance Corporation to pay the amount of bonus for the year 1975-76 remained untouched and was not taken away by the Life Insurance Corporation (Modification of Settlement) Act. that so far as the right of Class III and Class IV employees to annual cash bonus for the year 1st April. 1975 to 31st Mar., 1976 was concerned, it became crystallised by the judgment and thereafter. they became entitled to enforce the writ of Mandamus granted by the judgment notwithstanding, the enactment. that as the ' judgment was allowed to become final and the appeal against it was not pressed. the judgment could not be disregarded or ignored. and that the Life Insurance Corporation was bound to obey the writ of Mandamus issued by the Calcutta High Court and to pay annual cash bonus for the years 1st April. 1975- to 31st Mar.. 1976.
6. The learned counsel also relies on the decision of Calcutta High Court in Jivajee Rao Cotton Mills Ltd. v. Income-tax Officer : 130ITR710(Cal) with reference to his submission that the decision of the Supreme Court declaring the law or interpreting a provision in a statute cannot be held to have retrospective effect in the sense that although a debate or doubt or a conflict of judicial opinion is resolved and settled by the Supreme Court, yet that does not obliterate the existence of such, debate or doubt or conflict that existed prior to the decision. of the Supreme Court setting at rest such debate or doubt or1conflict.
In the said decision it was held that though the Supreme Court had laid down that the principle of retrospective legislation is not applicable to the decision of the Supreme Court, declaring the law or interpreting a provision in a statute, the law is laid down or a provision in a statute is interpreted by the Supreme Court only when there is a debate or doubt on the interpretation of any provision of a statute requiring interpretation by the Supreme Court and that the law laid down by the Supreme Court cannot be said to have obliterated the decision rendered by the Courts prior to its decision.
7. On the facts of this case, the decision of the Supreme Court in : (1978)ILLJ406SC referred to above, squarely applies. As in that case, here also, a writ of prohibition issued by the High Court has been allowed to become final and binding between the parties. Since the decision of the Supreme Court setting aside the judgment of this Court cannot be taken to be retrospective in operation for the period prior to the decision rendered by the Supreme Court, the binding nature of the writ of prohibition issued by this Court has to be taken as still operative.
Section 7-A of the Act, in our opinion does not take away the efficacy of the writ of prohibition issued by this Court. It merely provides for the form of and the necessity to file the return. Section 7-A also has not been made retrospective. Even if it is retrospective, it will not make the writ of prohibition issued by this Court ineffective, unless the provision contains a non obstante clause. Here, admittedly S. 7-A of the Act does not contain a non obstinate clause nullifying the decision of the Court. In my view, the appellant's contention is legally tenable, and therefore, the writ appeal is allowed and the order of the learned single Judge is set aside and that of the Urban Land Tax Tribunal restored. There will be no order as to costs.
8. Appeal allowed.