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Chairman, Chingleput Municipality Vs. M. Murugesa Mudaliar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1933Mad59; 140Ind.Cas.326
AppellantChairman, Chingleput Municipality
RespondentM. Murugesa Mudaliar and ors.
Cases ReferredTairi Charan v. Kedar Nath
Excerpt:
- - the municipal authorities charged with the carrying out of the provisions of this act are stated to be a council and its chairman (section 6, clause 1). 3. the functions of the chairman are specified in section 13. as regards the filing of suits, the whole scheme of the act clearly indicates that generally the council as a corporate body has to sue and to be sued......by res judicata by reason of the decision in a batch of former suits filed by them against the municipal council, chingleput, represented by its chairman, for a declaration that in respect of all these rice mills no annual license was necessary under section 249 of the act and for a permanent injunction restraining the municipal council from compelling the plaintiffs to take out licenses either by threat of prosecution or otherwise. ex.1 is a certified copy of the judgment in the former suits. it is clear that the declaration and injunction asked for in those suits have been granted against the municipal council, chingleput. the identical question raised in the present suits was decided in the former suits, and both the courts below have held that according to the rule and principle.....
Judgment:

Sundaram Chetty, J.

1. These five appeals have been preferred by the Chairman of the Chingleput Municipality and arise out of five suits filed by him for a declaration that the defendants are liable to take annual licences in respect of their rice mills and for payment of licence fees under Section 249, Madras District Municipalities Act of 1920. The main plea of the defendants is that the suits are barred by res judicata by reason of the decision in a batch of former suits filed by them against the Municipal Council, Chingleput, represented by its Chairman, for a declaration that in respect of all these rice mills no annual license was necessary under Section 249 of the Act and for a permanent injunction restraining the Municipal Council from compelling the plaintiffs to take out licenses either by threat of prosecution or otherwise. Ex.1 is a certified copy of the judgment in the former suits. It is clear that the declaration and injunction asked for in those suits have been granted against the Municipal Council, Chingleput. The identical question raised in the present suits was decided in the former suits, and both the Courts below have held that according to the rule and principle of res judicata the relief asked for by the Municipal Chairman in the present suits cannot be granted. The correctness of that view is challenged in these second appeals.

2. The question for consideration is whether a decision of a civil Court which has become final as against the Municipal Council of Chingleput in respect of the subject-matter of the present suits will operate as res judicata in these suits and the main contention urged by the learned advocate for the appellant, is that the former suits having been laid against the Municipal Council and not against the Municipal Chairman, the decision in those suits would not operate as res judicata in the present suits. The point for consideration is whether there is legal identity of parties in the two suits having due regard to the whole scheme of the District Municipalities Act and the relevant provisions thereof. The exact relationship between the Municipal Council and its Chairman is not defined in the Act, but it must be a matter of inference. According to Section 4 of the Act, the Local Government has the power to constitute any town, village, or other station as a Municipality. The Municipal Council should be a body corporate and be vested with the capacity of suing or being sued in its corporate name, according to Sub-section 2, Section 6 of the Act. Section 19 says that the Municipal administration shall vest in the Council and according to Section 22 the Chairman shall be bound to give effect to every resolution of the Council, unless such resolution is modified, suspended or cancelled by a controlling authority. There seems to be no doubt that the chairman who is necessarily a member of the Council is its executive head. Certain special functions are assigned to the chairman under the Act, just as some other functions are assigned to the Municipal Council. The Municipal authorities charged with the carrying out of the provisions of this Act are stated to be a Council and its Chairman (Section 6, Clause 1).

3. The functions of the chairman are specified in Section 13. As regards the filing of suits, the whole scheme of the Act clearly indicates that generally the Council as a corporate body has to sue and to be sued. But the chairman may institute and also prosecute any suit, only with the approval of the Council (vide Section 351, Clause (g). In spite of the fact that the chairman is invested with certain specific powers under the Act, there is nothing to show that he is an altogether independent functionary, and any powers which for the sake of convenience are vested in him have to be exercised on behalf of the Municipal Council which is a body corporate. The chairman as such can have no independent existence apart from the Council. That is clear from the provisions of Section 41 of the Act. If the Local Government should choose to dissolve or supersede a Council, the chairman who is a member of the Council could not have any independent locus standi as chairman. It is true that in the matter of demanding annual licenses to be taken in respect of the rice mills in question, the chairman has got the power under Section 249 of the Act to grant or refuse to grant such licences; but the foundation for the exercise of that power by the chairman is the resolution of the Council for the publication of a notification in the District Gazette and by beat of drum, that certain localities should not be used for any of the purposes specified in Sch. 5 without the chairman's licence. If a particular rice mill does not come within the place specified in the notification issued by the Council, the chairman has no power to grant or refuse to grant such licences in respect of it. Looking at the question in issue in the light of the aforesaid sections, it seems to me that if by a decision of the civil Court the Municipal Council is precluded from declaring that the rice mills of the present defendants are liable for the payment of the annual licence fees, the chairman as the executive head of the Council cannot demand the taking of a license in respect of such a mill and levy the annual licence fee. If the distinction in the functions assigned to the Council and its chairman should be an indication for the absence of legal identity between the two for the purposes of the rule of res judicata, I am constrained to observe that the result would be startling and anomalous.

4. Any decision obtained in a suit to which the Municipal Council is a party, which affects the rights of strangers may be ignored by the chairman or any other officer of the municipality, for the simple reason that the Council and not that particular officer was a party to that suit. It would never be the intention of the legislature, if regard be had to the whole scheme of the District Municipalities Act, to constitute the chairman, as an independent entity who would not be bound by any decision affecting the Municipal Council itself. There is a further circumstance adverted to by the learned District Judge which may also throw some light on this question. Any order of the chairman granting of refusing a licence under Section 249 is subject to appeal to the Municipal Council. It is the order of the Municipal Council passed in appeal that must be deemed to have been substituted for the order of the chairman. Having this in view, if the contention of Mr. Ramaswamy Ayyar is to be upheld, the result will be that the Municipal Council of Chingleput is precluded from ordering that these defendants should obtain annual licence in respect of the rice mills, but the chairman of this Council is free to enforce the taking of such licences. If the chairman passes such an order the aggrieved party has to appeal to this very Municipal Council and urge the decision in the former suits as a ground for setting aside the order of the chairman. This anomalous situation will arise by holding that the previous decision passed against the Municipal Council does not operate as res judicata. It cannot be said that for any act done by the chairman in pursuance of a' power vested in him under the Act, a suit could not lie against the Municipal Council. The chairman carries out the provisions of the Act as a representative of the Municipal Council.

5. That being so, it does not stand to reason that if there is a binding decision as against the Municipal Council in respect of a matter affecting the rights of third parties, the chairman can do anything in order to abrogate the benefit which was obtained under such a decision. I have no hesitation in agreeing with the finding of both the Courts below, that the decision in the former suits obtained against the Municipal Council is binding on its chairman who is the chief functionary of the Council. For the purpose of applying the principle of res judicata, I do not think that the Municipal Council and its chairman can be viewed as two independent entities. I hold that there is the legal identity of parties and therefore the bar of res judicata exists. Mr. Ramaswamy Ayyar, the learned advocate for the appellant, contends that the decision in the former suits was based upon an erroneous view of law and therefore such a decision cannot operate as res judicata in the present suits. A number of authorities have been cited, but it is enough to refer to the decision in Mangalathammal v. Narayanaswami Ayyar (1907) 30 Mad 461 where the important qualification with which the proposition contended for by the appellant should be adopted has been laid down. An erroneous decision on a question of law in a previous suit would not be a bar in a subsequent suit between the same parties, and a different decision may be given on that question, but the decision so given should not in any way affect the operation of the former decree or take away any rights acquired by the parties thereunder.

6. The same view has been upheld in a decision relied upon by Mr. Muthukrishna Ayyar for the respondents, viz., Tairi Charan v. Kedar Nath : AIR1928Cal777 . The effect of these pronouncements is that though the former decision may be deemed to have been based on a wrong view of law, the decision arrived at, i.e., the decree given, can in no way be affected by giving a different finding in a subsequent suit on the same question. That being so, the circumstance that the previous decision was based on an erroneous view of the law does not help the plaintiff in these suits. By reason of the declaration and perpetual injunction given in the former suits, it cannot be said that the relief asked for in the present suits is something not covered by the former decision. If the present suits should be decreed, the result would be the abrogation of the former decision which has been allowed to become final. The decision of the Courts below is correct and these second appeals are dismissed with costs.


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