1. The petitioner in Criminal Revision Case No. 129 of 1936 was prosecuted under Schedule IV, Rule 33 of the Madras Local Boards Act for non-payment of taxes. The Sivaganga Bench Court found that he was liable to pay such assessment as had been demanded of him before the Panchayat Board had increased it, and ordered him to pay at that rate for three years and to pay a fine of five rupees. One amount claimed by the Panchayat Board was disallowed on the ground that it was barred by limitation and another on the ground that as no proper notice had gone to the petitioner, the rent could not be enhanced. In appeal, the order of the Bench Court was confirmed. Two revision petitions have been filed, one by the Sivaganga Panchayat Board regarding the amount disallowed and the other by the accused, in which fee raises a number of technical pleas.
2. The pleas raised in Criminal Revision Case No. 129 of 1936 seem to be the same as those raised in the memo, of appeal by the accused, and the Joint Magistrate seems to have satisfactorily answered them. A principal ground of objection to the findings of the Courts below will also fail because of my findings in Criminal Revision Case No. 869 of 1935, filed by the Board. Criminal Revision Case No. 129 of 1936 is therefore dismissed.
3. One of the points raised on behalf of the Sivaganga Panchayat Board is that the order of the Panchayat Court in holding that proper notice had not gone to the accused is wrong. Schedule IV, Rule 25 seems to contemplate the preparation of a list every half-year, showing the persons who have to pay taxes and the amount due by each of them. It is not however necessary for the President to prepare an entirely fresh list every half-year. He can adopt the old one with such amendments as may be necessary, subject only to the condition that he must prepare a completely fresh list once in every five years. It appears that the list complained of was prepared in the ordinary course of business by the Board at the end of a half-year for the purpose of levying taxes during the coming half-year. Rule*25 would therefore apply, and that rule requires that only public notice of the amendments made in the list is necessary. Such public notices are given, as laid down in Rule 23, by beat of drum in the village. Presumably, this was done in the ordinary course of business and no allegation has been made by the accused that this rule was not complied with. The complaint of the accused, which has been upheld by the two Courts below, is that the accused was not given an individual notice. I agree with the earned Counsel for the petitioning Board that such individual notice is necessary only when the President of the Panchayat Board makes an alteration in the assessment at some time other than the occasion on which he prepares the half-yearly list. The Panchayat Court has erred -on this point. Allowing the higher assessment, the Panchayat Board will be entitled to a further sum of Rs. 40-10-0.
4. It is also argued that even in respect of the rent for the year 1930-31 the claim is not barred. As I understand Section 222 of the Local Boards Act, the prosecution must be launched within three years from the date on which the prosecution might first have been commenced. Turning to Rule 32(2) we-find that a notice of demand is to be sent to the assessee. If he does not pay within 15 days, his property can be distrained; and if the distraint of the defaulter's property is impracticable,, the President may prosecute him before a Magistrate-See Rule 33(2). The prosecution must therefore be launched within three years of the date on which distraint becomes impracticable. In the present case, the impracticability of distraint arose because the accused removed his movables from his house; and it is from the date of his doing so, that the distraint became impracticable. The Board could not take action within 15 days of the sending of the notice and it is probable that the accused removed his property upon receiving notice. If, in fact, the accused removed it at some later date than the first day upon which the distraint was permissible under Rule 33, it was the duty of the Panchayat Board, especially in a criminal prosecution, to prove exactly at what later date the property was removed. They not having done that, we must presume that distraint became impracticable on the very day on which the Board is authorised by Rule 33 to distrain property, that is, 15 days after the serving of the notice. Admittedly, the prosecution was not within three years of that date, as far as 1930-31 is concerned. I therefore find that the Bench Court was right in this respect.
5. In the result, the petition is allowed with respect to the enhanced rent Rs. 40-10-0 and the order of the Bench Court amended accordingly.