1. The petitioner as the managing trustee of the Iluppakudi devasthanam was convicted under Rule 30(2) read with Rule 36 of Chapter IV to the District Municipalities Act for wilful omission to pay the property tax due to the Karaikudi Municipality for the first half year 1944-45, amounting to Rs. 795-6-3, and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 10 or two days' simple imprisonment in default. He was also directed to pay the property tax of Rs. 696-15-0. On appeal to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Devakottai, the conviction and sentence were confirmed.
2. The learned advocate for the petitioner raised several interesting points of law; but, I do not propose to express my opinion on any of those points, excepting one, namely, the point of limitation. This is because, admittedly, these points were .not raised in the lower Courts and I consider that the points cannot be satisfactorily disposed of without further facts. It is common ground that there is another prosecution pending in respect of property tax due to the municipality for a subsequent period ; and, in fact there is now before me an application, C.M.P. No. 1925 of 1946, to quash proceedings in S.T.C. No. 524 of 1946. It would be proper and advisable that the points now sought to be raised in revision should be raised before the lower Court in that case, that is, S.T.C. No. 524 of 1946, and the decision of the Court below obtained after a full investigation into the facts necessary for their proper disposal.
3. The paint of limitation, however, can be disposed of on facts now appearing on the record, of which there can be no dispute, and the only question to be decided is a pure question of law. The date of the complaint in this case was 16th March, 1945, and according to the complaint, the date of the commission of the offence was 1st October, 1944. The date, namely, 1st October, 1944, is arrived at by application of the provisions of Rule 30 of Schedule IV of the District Municipalities Act, which gives a period of 15 days from the service of notice of the demand for the payment of the amount due. It is only thereafter that under Sub-rule (2) of Rule 30, if for any reason the distraint, or a sufficient distraint, of the defaulter's property is impracticable, the executive authority may prosecute the defaulter before a Magistrate. The learned advocate for the petitioner contends that the prosecution is barred, because the complaint was made more than three months after the date of the commission of the offence. He relies on Section 347 of the Act, the material part of which is as follows:
No person shall be tried for any offence against the provisions of this Act or of any rule, or by-law made under it unless complaint is made by the police, or the executive authority or by a person expressly authorised in this behalf by the council or the executive authority within three months of the commission of the offence.
The learned Government Pleader, appearing for the Karaikudi Municipality, on the other hand, contends that the proper section applicable to the case is not Section 347, but Section 345, which is as follows:
No distraint shall be made, no suit shall be instituted and no prosecution shall be commenced in respect of any sum due to the municipal council under this Act after the expiration of a period of three years from the date on which the distraint might first have been made, a suit might have been instituted, or prosecution might have been commenced, as the case may be, in respect of such sum.
I agree with the learned Government Pleader.
4. Prima facie, Section 345 of the Act would apply to this case, because the prosecution is in respect of a sum due to the municipal council under the Act, that is, the property tax. There are various provisions of the Act, under which sums become payable and due to the municipal council either by way of tax or compensation and several methods of recovery are also indicated in the Act and in the schedule. A prosecution is one such method of recovery. Section 345 therefore would apply just as it would apply to a suit for the recovery of the sum and also to a distraint in respect of the sum. The rules of Schedule IV which are the rules applicable to the recovery of the property tax make it clear that if the amount due for the property tax is not paid, the executive authority may proceed to recover it in one of three ways: (1) by distraint, (2) by a prosecution, and (3) by a suit in a Civil Court [vide Rule 30(1), (2) and (3)]. Rule 36(2) specifically provides:
Whenever any person is convicted of an offence under Sub-rule (1), the Magistrate shall, in addition to any fine which may be imposed, recover summarily and pay over to the municipal council the amounts, if any, due under the heads specified in Clauses (a) and (4) of Sub-rule (1).
5. Section 347, on the other hand, would apply to all cases where an offence is committed against the provisions of the Act or any rule or by-law made under it, except where the prosecution is not in respect of any sum due to the municipal council. There are several sections in the Act and several rules in the schedules, a contravention of one or other of which is made an offence. Section 347 would apply to all such offences. One point of difference between the cases to which Section 345 would apply and the cases to which Section 347 would apply is that in cases falling under Section 345 a specific sum of money would be due to the municipal council under the provisions of the Act even before the date of the prosecution; whereas, under Section 347 there is no condition that there should be an amount due to the municipality before the date of the prosecution. The learned advocate for the petitioner has contended that Section 345 has some application to the fines that may be imposed in accordance with the provisions of Section 313. I am really surprised at the contention. Under Section 313 any person who is convicted of an offence is, on conviction, to be punished with a fine. Even if the fine is treated as an amount due to the municipality, which conception itself I do not agree with, it cannot be said that the prosecution is for the amount of fine, which has to be imposed after a conviction as a result of the prosecution. Section 345 obviously relates to proceedings either by way of distraint or by way of suit or by way of prosecution in respect of sums already due to the municipal council under one or the other of the provisions of the Act.
6. I find that this is the view taken of these two sections by Lakshmana Rao, J., in Criminal Revision Case No. 565 of 1937 and I respectfully agree with the decision in that case. The same reasoning, more or less, is also to be found in the judgment of Horwill, J., in Panchqyat Board, Sivaganga v. Pillathian Servai (1937) 1 M.L.J. 191 which, however, dealt with the corresponding provisions of the Madras Local Boards Act.
7. I have therefore no hesitation in holding that the section applicable is Section 345 of the Act and obviously the prosecution was launched well within the time allowed by that section.
8. The criminal revision case and the application (C.M.P. No. 1925 of 1946) to quash proceedings in S.T.C. No. 524 of 1946 are dismissed.