Kunhi Raman, J.
1. The defendant Board is the petitioner. The suit was for recovering two-thirds of the licence fee paid by the plaintiff-company in respect of a motor bus that was plying within the limits of the petitioner-District Board. The trial Court has decreed the suit and from that decision this civil revision petition is filed.
2. To appreciate the arguments advanced on behalf of the petitioner, it is necessary to set forth briefly the facts of the case. The plaintiff-company owning a number of motor buses plying in the Coimbatore District and also in the neighbouring District of Malabar used a motor bus on the roads of the, Malabar District in the 1st quarter of 1937 without obtaining a licence for such use from the District Board of Malabar. This was detected and the plaintiff was prosecuted under the Local Boards Act of 1930, then in force. When notice of the prosecution was served on the plaintiff-company, they started negotiations with the object of compounding the prosecution. In the course of the correspondence that passed between the parties, the District Board of Malabar informed the plaintiff-company that the prosecution would be withdrawn in case the full licence fee for the first quarter of 1937 together with Rs. 7-8-0 prescribed as the compounding-fee was paid by the plaintiff-company. The plaintiff-company then pointed out to the Malabar District Board that under the provisions of Section 166 (4) of the Local Boards Act, since the full licence fee was paid for the vehicle in question to the District Board of Coimbatore, it would be enough if one-third the licence fee was paid to the District Board of Malabar. The section provides for only this amount being levied when a licence to ply such a vehicle is granted in an adjacent District. To that letter there was no response from the District Board of Malabar. Thereupon, the plaintiff-company paid up the full licence fee of Rs. 195 together with Rs. 7-8-0 being the compounding-fee and applied to the District Board for refund of two-thirds of Rs. 195. The prosecution was compounded by the District Board, but the District Board refused to refund two-thirds of the licence fee. Thereafter the suit referred to above was filed for recovering that amount and it has been decreed as already stated.
3. The learned Counsel for the petitioner argues that the plaintiff-company was estopped from claiming refund of two-thirds the amount of the tax and that in any event, the payment haying been made voluntarily, Rule 7 of the rules framed under the Local Boards Act of 1920 would apply according to which an application for refund was not maintainable in the circumstances.
4. I am not satisfied that any question of estoppel arises. There is a definite fee prescribed for compounding a criminal prosecution and that is Rs. 7-8-0. This amount was paid by the plaintiff-company. There is no provision of law under which the District Board can recover anything more than one-third the prescribed licence fee in respect of the motor vehicle in the present case. The circumstances in which the payment was made show clearly that it was not a voluntary payment. Both before and after the payment, the plaintiff-company had put forward its contention that it was liable to pay only one-third the licence fee and not the full licence fee which was claimed by the District Board. It may be open to the District Board to refuse a licence. It may also be open to the District Board to refuse to compound a criminal prosecution. But it is certainly not open to the District Board to levy a larger sum than that which is permissible under the Local Boards Act for granting a licence. In the present case that was what actually happened. If a larger amount than what can be legally levied under the Act is recovered, it is open to the party who has made such a payment to come to a Court of law and ask for redress.
5. The conduct of the plaintiff-company in plying a bus clandestinely without obtaining a licence and without paying the licence fee can certainly not be regarded as correct or honourable, but these considerations cannot justify collection of a larger amount as licence fee than what is permitted by the statute relating to the subject.
6. The provisions of Rule 7, relied on by the learned Counsel for the petitioner cannot also be of any use to the petitioner. The opening words of Rule 7 are: 'The fee paid for the grant or renewal of a licence shall not be refunded...' Reference is certainly made in this clause to the fee legitimately collected and not to any fee that was not legally payable but which was collected. It is not stated that in the present case any licence was issued. As a matter of fact the payment was made for the first quarter of 1937, after the expiry of that quarter. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the decision of the lower Court in respect of two-thirds the licence fee is correct and there is no ground for interference. But. this is certainly not a case in which the respondent-company should be allowed any costs either here or in the Court below in view of their conduct. Therefore, the order of the lower Court awarding costs to the respondent shall be. set aside. This is also not a case in which the plaintiff should be allowed any interest on the amount of the excess payment. The decree shall, therefore, be only for Rs. 130 without any order for costs either here or in the Court below. The decree of the lower Court shall be amended accordingly.