Veeraswami, C. J.
1. The petitions are by the Victoria Public Hall Trust Board, Madras, to have the orders of the Assistant Commissioner of Urban Land Tax made under section 11 (2) and (3) of the Tamil Nadu Urban Land Tax Act, 1966, quashed. The origin of the trust, as stated in the affidavit in support of the petitions, is this. At a meeting convened by the Sheriff of Madras on 17th March, 1882, at Pachaiyappa's Hall, the citizens of Madras decided to have -a town hall in the City of Madras. They -approached the then Commissioner of the Corporation for a site in the Peoples Park for constructing a town hall. By resolutions of the Municipal Commissioner dated 21st February, 1883, 3rd September, 1884 and 24th September, 1885, a site measuring 57 grounds was granted to the Victoria Memorial Trust on a long lease of 99 years on a nominal rent of 8 annas per ground per annum. By a resolution of the inhabitants of Madras at a public meeting on 25th January, 1888, it was unanimously resolved that the town hall should be called and known 'as Victoria Public Hall' in memory of the great Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, celebrated in the year 1887. In this premises the lease deed came to be executed between the Commissioner, Corporation of Madras, and the elite inhabitants of the City of Madras on 18th February, 1888. In that year, the management of the Victoria Public Hall was vested with a Board of Trustees with the object of using the hall for entertainments, exhibitions public or private meetings, music performances, nautches, libraries and for any other purpose conducive to the moral, social and cultural welfare and rational recreation of the citizens of Madras. Some of the important citizens of Madras contributed towards the building fund amounting to Rs. 45,000. Out of this, a sizable sum of Rs. 10,000 came from the then Maharaja of Vizianagaram. As funds were not sufficient and the building had still to be completed, it is said Maharaja gave a further sum of Rs. 1,82,566 to complete the building, and this amount, we understand from the affidavit, was written off during the year 1906 by the Maharaja. The V. P. Hall, management appears to have gone on smoothly from 1888 to 1950. In that year or thereabout, the Corporation of Madras desired to take possession of the V. P. Hall property. This resulted in difference of opinion, between the Trust Board and the Municipal Corporation of Madras. The public Resort Licence, as a result of the difference of opinion, came to be cancelled about the end of 1952, with the result the Hall yielded no income till 1972. In about 1953, this necessitated the Trust being taken over by the Corporation. But in view of the original scheme decree dated 27th September, 1921, in C.S. No. 263 of 1921, the Court's permission for the proposal of handing over of the Trust building to the Corporation had to be sought. An application for the purpose was made, but it was not ordered. So, the difference between the Trust Board and the Corporation continued. In 1956 again the Corporation took over possession of the properties of the V. P. Hall for renovation of the V. P. Hall. They were in its possession till 1957 by which time apparently the renovation work was over. Thereafter, came to be instituted a suit O.S. No. 98 of 1957 against the Trustees of the V. P. Hall, Advocate General of Madras and the Corporation of Madras. In that suit, the Trustees and the Advocate-General remained ex parte and a compromise was arrived at between the plaintiffs and the Corporation of Madras, which was the third defendant. The compromise was dated 15th September, 1961 whereby a new scheme was framed for the Trust Board. The new scheme provided that there should be a Board of. Trustees consisting of the Sheriff of Madras, who shall be the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, the Mayor of Madras, the Southern Indian Chamber of Commerce, the Andhra Chamber of Commerce, the Madras State Sangeet Nataka Sangam, a nominee of the Rajah of Vizianagaram and the President of the Madras Advocates' Association, each of whom shall hold office for a period of three years. One non-official representative to be selected by the High Court, Madras, shall also hold office for a period of three years. The Commissioner, Corporation of Madras, would be the Secretary of the Board of Trustees during his term of office. We need not go into the further history of the V. P. Hall for our present purpose.
2. The Assistant Commissioner of Urban Land Tax brought the extent in two parts, one covering 49 grounds and 861 sq. ft. and the other 2 grounds 2246 sq. ft., to tax under the Urban Land Tax Act, the proceedings having been initiated and completed under section 11 (2) and (3) read with Rule 3 (5). He determined the market value of the land at Rs. 40,000 per ground as on 1st July, 1963 and assessed the tax; on both the extents of land on that basis, n one case Rs. 7,897-40 and in the other Rs. 496-70 P. It is these orders which are sought to be quashed, the Trust being, the petitioner.
3. On behalf of the petitioner reliance is placed on section 29 (b) of the Act. That section occurs in Chapter VII, which relates to exemptions, and it says that nothing in the Act shall apply to the lands of vairous description. Section 29 [b) (i) relates to any urban land owned by the Corporation, of Madras. It is clear, therefore, that if the land now in question is owned by the Corporation of Madras, none of the provisions of the Act would apply, and that means no urban land tax can. be levied on the land, as it is not liable therefor due to the exemption. 'Owner' is defined by section 2 (10) of the Act which includes a person in possession as a mortgagee. The expression 'owner' does not cover a lessee in possession. This definition of 'owner' does not, therefore, assist the Revenue.
4. In the counter-affidavit, which is rather short and cryptic, the point as to exemption, has not been squarely dealt with and met at all. The entire substance of the affidavit is to be found in paragraph 4, which is as follows:
4. The various averments in paragraph 8 of the affidavit are categorically denied as baseless and incorrect. It is seen from the Permanent Land. Register of lands--vested in or belonging to the Corporation of Madras maintained in Taluk Office, that the urban land in R. S. No. 1269/4 and 1269/44 of Vepery village are noted as 'Corporation Public'. With reference to the notice in Form 4 issued to the Manager (Lessee) V. P. Hall in connection with assessment of the lands referred to in the Writ Petition, in question to urban land tax, the V. P. Hall Trust has stated that the Trustee entered into lease agreement with Corporation for a period of 99 years from 1888, that it is only a tenant (being the lessee) of the lands under reference and that the Trust is paying a land rent to the Corporation of Madras who is the owner of the land. The Manager of the V. P. Hall Trust who appeared for enquiry in connection with assessment of the land to urban land tax has also stated that the Trust has sub-let a portion of the land to Hotel Picnic on long lease, at a rent of Rs. 1,500 per month. All these go to show that there is in existance V. P. Hall Trust as distinct from Corporation of Madras.
The admission in the excerpt from the counter-affidavit that the Corporation is the owner of the land in question is noteworthy. The urban land is comprised in R.S. No. 1269/4 and 1269/44, Vepery village, and it is noted in the revenue records as 'Corporation Public'. It is categorically also admitted that the V. P. Hall Trust Board is a lessee for a period of 99 years from 1888 and it is but a tenant of the land on payment of a nominal land rent to the Corporation in consideration of the lease, as the Corporation is the owner. We do not understand how, on these facts and circumstances, the counter-affidavit can conclude as in the last sentence in the excerpt above. Far from these facts supporting the Revenue, they go against, because they bring the land in question squarely within the ambit of the exemption under section 29 of the Act.
5. In paragraph 5 of the counter affidavit, it is said that 'owner' includes lessee for the purpose of urban land tax, and in that view, the trust in question is liable to urban land tax. As far as we are able to read the definition of 'owner', there is nothing to bring within its ambit a tenant or a lessee. Charging of a land to urban land tax is one thing, and recovery of it through the tenant is another. Section 5 is the charging section. It is subject to the other provisions in the Act. The charging is expressed as 'that there shall be levied and collected for every fasli year commencing from the date of the commencement of the Act, a tax on each urban land from the owner of such urban land at the specified rate on the market value of such land. If the provisions of the Act are not applicable to land owned by the Corporation, as in this case, clearly, the charging section 5 will be inapplicable and the land is exempt from urban land tax, since, as we have already stated, the definition of 'owner' does not help the Revenue, as the land of the Corporation in the possession of the Trust Board as a lessee, is not within the scope of 'owner' as defined in section 2 (10).
6. We accordingly quash the two assessments and allow the petitions with costs--one set. Counsel's fee Rs. 100.