1. These are three appeals filed against the decrees of the Additional City Civil Judge in O.S. Nos. 1103, 1653 and 1662 of 1938. A common judgment was delivered by the trial Court and the decision in all the three cases depends upon the question whether the building in each suit is a choultry and therefore exempted under Section 101 (b) of the City Municipal Act. The exemption was claimed on the wording of the Amending Act X of 1936. The provision exempts the following buildings from the property tax : (1) choultries for the occupation of which no rent is charged and (2) choultries the rent charges for occupation of which is used exclusively for charitable purposes. The respondent municipality levied taxes on the three buildings in question rejecting the claim of the appellant that they are exempted under Section 101 (b) of the Amended Act. The tax not having been paid, the three suits out of which these appeals arise were filed by the respondent Corporation for recovery of the tax.
2. The three buildings are contiguous to each other. One has a frontage in Mint Street and bears No. 2/355 Mint Street. The other two houses have a frontage in Nattupilliar Koil Street which is parallel to the Mint Street and bear Nos. 26 and 27 in that street. The lower Court held that the buildings are not choultries and therefore not exempted from liability to pay the tax and decreed the suits. In these appeals, the appellant challenges the finding that the houses are not choultries. The parties to the three appeals are the same; the appellant in each case is the Pandarasannadhi of the Tiruvannamalai Adhinam and the respondent, the Corporation of Madras.
3. As pointed out by the lower Court it is common ground that 2/355 Mint Street has been in the occupation of a number of tenants and that it was never used as a lodging for pilgrims or travellers. It was also common ground that the first compartment of Nos. 26 and 27, Nattupilliar Koil Street is generally used by the public for celebrating marriages and is also occasionally used as a place of shelter for pilgrims or travellers. Both the parties agreed before the trial Court that the first compartment of Nos. 26 and 27 is not let out for rent. The parties differed as to the way in which the back compartment of Nos. 26 and 27 was used. The case of the appellant was that even the second compartment was not let out to tenants and that it was being used for the same purposes for which the first compartment was used, namely, for celebration of marriages and as a place of shelter for travellers. His next contention was that the three buildings constituted choultries for the reason that the rent realised from the tenants is being utilised exclusively for the purpose of maintaining all the three buildings and therefore for charitable purposes.
4. In order to claim exemption under Section 101 (b) as amended, the first condition to be satisfied is that the buildings must be choultries. If they are not choultries, then they are not entitled to exemption. A choultry is a well known expression involving the idea that the building called a choultry affords a resting place for travellers. Unless, therefore, the building affords accommodation for travellers, it is not a choultry and unless it is a choultry Section 101 (b) has no application even though the rent derived from the building is used exclusively for charitable purposes. A choultry is no doubt a charitable trust. If for the purpose of running that choultry, there are other buildings which are not used as rest houses but which are used exclusively, say, for running a business, the building in which the business is being run is not a choultry even though the rent derived from it is used for the maintenance of the choultry. The choultry may be run in one building and in another locality there may be other buildings which are not at all used as rest houses for pilgrims and which are let out to tenants for occupation or to shop keepers for use as shops and the rents derived from them may be used exclusively for running the choultry. In such a case the building which is used as a rest house for travellers will alone be exempted and not the other buildings the rent of which is being used for the running of the choultry. If the buildings themselves are not used as rest houses, which is the central idea underlying the expression 'choultry', they are not exempt from payment of tax.
5. In Kothandarama Pillai v. The Municipal Council, Trichinopoly : AIR1933Mad782 Krishnan Pandalai, J., pointed out that a building cannot be a choultry if it is not used as a resting place for travellers. In that case there was a provision for supplying food and drink to paradesis, that is, to religious mendicants. But there was no provision for allowing travellers or pilgrims to stay in the building or to take shelter there. The learned Judge held that the essential requisite of a choultry is that the building should be used as a resting place for travellers. I respectfully agree.
6. The question therefore is whether any of these buildings answers the requirements of a choultry or in other words whether it is used as a rest house for travellers. Taking No. 2/355, Mint Street, first, it is admitted that no part of it is allowed to be used by travellers. The whole building is let out to tenants and the only ground for exemption is that the rents derived from that building are used for charitable purposes which as stated before me is the maintenance of all the three buildings. This building does not therefore answer the description of the term 'choultry'.
7. Then coming to Nos. 26 and 27 Nattupilliar Koil Street, the front portion is no doubt being used by the public for celebrating marriages and is also occasionally used as a place of shelter by pilgrims and travellers. As regards the second compartment, the lower Court relies on the evidence of certain witnesses that they are being let out to tenants and that the case of the appellant in this respect is not true. P. Ws. 1 and 2 are the assessors of the Corporation, and they state that they visited the building and found tenants in the second compartment of the two houses. Two of the tenants were also examined as P. Ws. 3 and 4. The lower Court has accepted the evidence of these witnesses and I see no reason to differ from the finding of the lower Court. The appellant is admittedly maintaining a printed receipt book as shown by Ex. IV. That receipt book was not produced. Therefore it is clear that the second compartments of Nos. 26 and 27 are being let out to tenants and rents realised. Ex. B is a copy of a rental agreement executed by the present lessee of all the three buildings, one Sambanda Naicker, in favour of the appellant. By this agreement the lessee is bound to pay a rent of Rs. 30 a month to the Pandarasannadhi, the appellant and to bear the public charges, taxes, expenses of repairs up to Rs. 10 or 15. It also states that while the front compartments of Nos. 26 and 27 should be used for marriage purposes and for travellers, the lessee was to be at liberty to lease out the second compartment and to collect rent from the tenants. The lessee Sambanda Naicker is not likely to allow the second compartment to remain without letting them to tenants because this document expressly authorises him to let out the second compartment. There is no evidence that the sum of Rs. 30 which was being paid to the Pandarasannadhi was utilised for the maintenance of the building as the appellant's advocate argues. Then it was said that that sum of Rs. 30 was being used for charitable purposes. Because the Pandarasannadhi was the head of a mutt, I am asked to say that the Pandarasannadhi must have used it for the purposes of the mutt and therefore for charitable purposes. This is really asking me to presume too much. There is no evidence as to the user to which this sum of Rs. 30 was being put by the Pandarasannadhi and it lies upon the person claiming the exemption to prove all the requirements. The Pandarasannadhi might use it for his own purposes or for any other purpose which is not a charitable purpose. As regards Nos. 26 and 27 a portion of them is being let put to tenants and it is not proved that the rents derived from those buildings are used for charitable purposes.
8. As regards the front compartment, Ex. B says that the lessee should allow it to be used by the public for performing marriages. Assuming that a building is set apart for performance of marriages by the public, it cannot, I think, be said that the building is a choultry. Choultry involves as I said a resting place for travellers. If therefore a building is allowed to be used only for performance of marriages, it would not be a choultry. Then as regards user of the front compartment by travellers, the translation of Ex. B as contained in the printed record is not correct. The original document which I have seen provides that the front compartment was to be given to travellers and for purposes of marriage and not to travellers for purposes of marriage as translated. But this does not affect the question which falls for decision.
9. Only that portion which is set apart for travellers would be a choultry; further it is not stated that the Corporation has assessed the front portion of the building. I hold that Nos. 26 and 27 Nattupilliar Koil Street cannot be said to be choultries. If only a small portion of it is being occasionally allowed to be used by travellers and if the rest of it is being let out to tenants and the rent derived therefrom is not shown to be used for charitable purposes, it cannot, I think, be said that the building as such is a choultry. I agree with the conclusions of the lower Court and dismiss the three appeals with costs.