1. This revision petition raises a question under the Court-fees Act. If any question of general principle was involved, I should have preferred to give notice to the Government Pleader and have his assistance But as I feel little doubt in the matter and as the question turns more upon the construction of the plaint in the case than on any point of general principle, I have contented myself with having the assistance of the learned Counsel who have appeared for both the parties before me. The plaint, as first filed, was a claim for money on the footing that the amount was due to the plaintiffs on a settlement of accounts. It however referred to the fact that on 18th August 1931 there was an agreement between the parties according to which the defendants agreed to sell certain lands to the plaintiffs in satisfaction of the claim due on the settlement of accounts. It went on to find fault with the way in which the defendants had fulfilled their obligations under this agreement and stated:
The alleged sale-deed therefore stands cancelled completely. The plaintiffs have never agreed to the sale. The plaintiffs are therefore entitled to recover the amount as per the account filed.
2. On 29th July 1933, issues were framed, amongst which issue 2(b) was to the following effect:
Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to recover the suit amount without seeking to have the sale-deeds dated 24th August 1931 cancelled.
3. I have examined the written statement and I do not find any such point raised there and I do not see how such an objection can really arise in the case. I can only say that this issue rests on a misapprehension of the legal position. Either the defendants have by executing the sale-deed fulfilled their agreement or they have failed to do so. If they have fulfilled their agreement, they are entitled to claim that the debt has been discharged, but if they have not fulfilled the agreement it may be that the plaintiffs could either claim payment of the whole debt or damages for the breach of agreement. The expression 'cancellation of a document' as one of the reliefs claimable in a suit has a well-known meaning, namely, that a person who has executed a document or will otherwise be bound by it seeks to be relieved of it on grounds like misrepresentation, fraud, undue influence and so on. A plea that a document purporting to be executed by another person in favour of the plaintiff does not amount to a due fulfilment of the contract entered into by that other with the plaintiff is certainly not what in law will be spoken of as a prayer for 'cancellation' of that document. Anyhow, the plaintiff was advised to amend his plaint to get over the objection raised by issue 2(b); and he added a curious prayer in the following terms in para. 9:
If necessary after establishing that the sale-deed executed by defendants were cancelled and by reason of it also for a decree against the defendants.
4. I can only express my inability to comprehend the meaning of this prayer. It is only on a par with the contention supposed to be raised by issue 2(b). The learned Subordinate Judge has held that the insertion of this prayer brings the case within Section 17, Court-fees Act, and that in respect of this prayer the plaintiff must pay an additional Court-fee under Section 7, Clause iv(a), Court-fees Act. This clause provides that in a suit for cancellation of a document securing money or other property having such value, the plaint shall be valued according to the value of the subject-matter of the suit. For reasons which I have already stated, I am unable to regard the suit as one for 'cancellation of a document' in the sense in which that expression is known to the law. Beading the plaint as a whole, I can only understand the case to be that the plaintiffs wish to maintain that the document does not amount to a fulfilment of the contract dated 18th August 1931 and has not been accepted by the plaintiffs as such and that the plaintiffs are accordingly entitled to recover the debt on the footing that that agreement has not been carried out. In any view, I am unable to concur in the view that the case is governed by Section 17, Court-fees Act. This difficulty caused by the expression 'distinct subjects' in that section has been pointed out in several cases. I am prepared to assume in accordance with the decision in Neelakandhan v. Anantha Krishna Ayyar (1907) 30 Mad. 61 that the section is not necessarily confined to cases where cumulative reliefs are claimed. Taking it that the section may also apply to cases where alternative claims are made one has still to see whether there are distinct subjects' comprehended in the suit. For instance in Neelakandhan v. Anantha Krishna Ayyar (1907) 30 Mad 61 the first head of claim was substantially independent of the second head. The learned Judges observed:
The claim for redemption is based upon the alleged right of the plaintiff as mortgagor, while the alternative relief is based on a contract for a further mortgage which is distinct from the earlier mortgage right.
5. That is not the position here. As I have explained already, the reference to the sale-deeds in the plaint even after the amendment is only for the purpose of showing that it was not a due fulfilment of the obligations of the defendants under the agreement of 18th August 193l and was not accepted as such and that the plaintiffs are therefore entitled to treat the sale-deeds as non-existent. The order of the Court below is accordingly set aside. As the Court-fee objection in the Court below was raised by the defendants' written statement, I direct that the defendants pay the petitioners their costs of this Civil Revision Petition.