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T.S. Sitarama Ayyar Vs. G. Ramanuja Mudaliar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1933Mad203
AppellantT.S. Sitarama Ayyar
RespondentG. Ramanuja Mudaliar
Cases ReferredChhakkan Lal v. Kanhaiya Lal
Excerpt:
- - prima facie the expression 'set-off' used in this article may well nigh include an equitable set-off also......court-fees act, on the amount of rs. 2,000, which he has claimed as against the plaintiff in his written statement by way of damages in a suit brought by the plaintiff' on a promissory note. the learned district munsif has disposed of this question, which is not after all free from difficulty, in a single sentence, namely:i think the defendant must pay the court-fee due on the set off claimed by him as damages against the plaintiff.2. it is amazing that he has not chosen to give his reasons for the conclusion arrived at by him. it is therefore difficult to know what reasons were operating on the mind of the learned district munsif when he passed this order that the court-fee must be paid. this sort of deciding a contested petition should, to say the least, be deprecated. however i had.....
Judgment:

Sundaram Chetty, J.

1. The question involved in this petition is whether the defendant-petitioner has to pay the court-fee under Article 1, Sch. 1, Court-fees Act, on the amount of Rs. 2,000, which he has claimed as against the plaintiff in his written statement by way of damages in a suit brought by the plaintiff' on a promissory note. The learned District Munsif has disposed of this question, which is not after all free from difficulty, in a single sentence, namely:

I think the defendant must pay the court-fee due on the set off claimed by him as damages against the plaintiff.

2. It is amazing that he has not chosen to give his reasons for the conclusion arrived at by him. It is therefore difficult to know what reasons were operating on the mind of the learned District Munsif when he passed this order that the court-fee must be paid. This sort of deciding a contested petition should, to say the least, be deprecated. However I had the advantage of the arguments of the learned Counsel on both sides on this question. Order 8, Rule 6, Civil P.C., deals with set-off claimed by a defendant in his written statement. The amount so claimed should be an ascertained sum of money legally recoverable by him from the plaintiff. The question now is whether the claim of the present defendant made in his written statement is for any ascertained sum of money legally recoverable by him from the plaintiff within the meaning of Rule 6, Order 8. No doubt, judicial decisions have recognized subtle distinctions between what is called a legal set-off and an equitable set-off. It is argued on behalf of the petitioner, that what is contemplated by Rule 6, Order 8, Civil P.C., is only a legal set-off. Claims by way of equitable set-off are said to be outside the scope of this rule. One test applied for distinguishing she two sorts of set-off is whether the claim is for an ascertained sum of money or only for unliquidated damages. It will be going too far to contend that the moment the claim for a certain amount is stated to be by way of damages, it must be treated as a claim for an unliquidated sum and therefore it comes under equitable set-off only. The observations in the decision in Narasimha Rao v. Zamindar of Tiruvarur AIR 1920 Mad 819 go to show that the claim of the present defendant in his written statement would not strictly come under equitable set-off. In that case, the defendant asked for ascertainment of the amount due to him from the plaintiff on account of dealings between them and for the passing of a decree in his favour for any sum found to be due to him on such ascertainment, in excess of what is found due to the plaintiff.

3. In that case the defendant did not even fix a certain amount as due to him from the plaintiff. Strictly speaking, such a case would be one of equitable set-off. In the present case, the defendant sets out the particulars of the claim made by him as one arising from the transaction of sale which led to the execution of the promissory note in favour of the plaintiff. By reason of the breach of the covenants alleged to have been committed by the plaintiff, it is stated that the defendant sustained damages to the extent of Rs. 2,000, which he claimed to set off against the amount claimed by the plaintiff. In the first place the defendant himself claimed a specific amount alleged to be due to him on account of damages and as such it cannot be said that his claim is only for unliquidated damages. Even stretching the point in favour of the defendant and holding that his claim in the present case is not one strictly within the purview of Order 8, Rule 6, Civil P.C., I am doubtful whether he can escape the liability of paying the court-fee on the sum of Rs. 2,000, fixed in his written statement as due from the plaintiff. In Article 1, Sch. 1, Court-fees Act, it is stated that a written statement pleading a set-off or a counter-claim is liable to stamp duty as in the case of a plaint.

4. There is nothing to show that the set-off mentioned in this article is confined only to legal set-off coming under Order 8, Rule 6, Civil P.C. Prima facie the expression 'set-off' used in this article may well nigh include an equitable set-off also. As observed in the decision of the Allahabad High Court in Chhakkan Lal v. Kanhaiya Lal AIR 1923 All 118, at p. 220 (of 45 All.) the rulings of the High Courts before the date of the amendment of Article 1, Sch. 1, Court-fees Act, may no longer be applicable in the matter of determining whether a written statement pleading a set-off is liable to stamp duty or not. It is only when the aforesaid article of the Court-fees Act was amended at the time of the enactment of the present Civil Procedure Code that a written statement pleading a set-off or a counter-claim was placed on a par with the plaint in the matter of payment of court-fee. I am therefore of opinion, taking into consideration the nature of the claim by way of set-off made in the written statement in the present case, that it certainly comes under Article 1, Sch. 1, Court-fees Act, and the order of the District Munsif directing the payment of the necessary court-fee has to be upheld. This revision petition is therefore dismissed, but in the circumstances without costs. One month's time is allowed from this date to the defendant for the payment of the court-fee in the lower Court.


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