Krishnaswami Nayudu, J.
1. This reference raises a question of the construction of Section 87(2) of the Madras Court Fees Act XIV of 1955.
2. The matter directly arose out of a copy application filed for obtaining a copy of judgment and decree in Civil Revision Petition No. 910 of 1954 where a two annas court-fee stamp was affixed on the application, which was the fee payable under the Court Fees Act of 1870, the present court-fee being four annas for the same application under Article 11(a) and (b) of Schedule II to the Act. The contention of the learned Advocate is that the application for a copy is in respect of a proceeding arising from a suit or proceeding before the commencement of the Act, and as such under Section 87(2), such an application would be governed by the previous Court Fees Act VII of 1870.
3. Section 87 of Act XIV of 1955 is in the following terms:
(1) The Court Fees Act, 1870 (Central Act VII of 1870) in its application to the State of Madras and in relation to the fees and stamps other than fees and stamps relating to documents presented or to be presented before an Officer serving under the Central Government and the Suits Valuation Act, 1887 (Central Act VII of 1887), in its application to the State of Madras are hereby repealed.
(2) All suits and proceedings instituted before the commencement of this Act and all proceedings by way of appeal, revision or otherwise arising therefrom whether instituted before or after such commencement shall, notwithstanding the repeal of the Court Fees Act, 1870 (Central Act VII of 1870) and the Suits Valuation Act, 1887 (Central Act VII of 1887), be governed by the provisions of the said Acts and the Rules made thereunder.
4. The contention of the Assistant Government Pleader is that a copy application for judgment and decree, even though it relates to a suit or proceeding instituted before the commencement of the Act or in respect of a revision petition instituted before its commencement, will be governed only by the provisions of the new Act, as a copy application could not come within the meaning of a
proceeding by way of appeal, revision or otherwise arising therefrom and instituted after such commencement.
The learned Assistant Government Pleader argued at length on the meaning to be given to the word 'proceeding' by reference to the decisions where the meaning of that word has been considered, and contended that an application for a copy could not be a 'proceeding' and that therefore Section 87(2) would have no application. The provisions of the earlier Act would apply only to suits and proceedings instituted before the commencement of the Act and all proceedings by way of appeal, revision or otherwise arising therefrom whether instituted before or after such commencement. The copy application is in respect of a Civil Revision Petition instituted before the commencement; but it is urged that the question that has to be considered would be as to whether a copy application is a proceeding arising from a suit or proceeding instituted before the commencement of the Act and for that purpose the meaning of the word 'proceeding' requires to be looked into. It is argued that the 'proceeding' must be in the nature of a suit in the sense that anything which initiates and not a step in the proceeding and that unless a copy application could be said to initiate an action, it cannot come within the term 'proceeding arising out of a suit or a proceeding instituted before the commencement of the Act.' Different meanings are given to the word 'proceeding' occurring in different enactments.
5. The meaning of the words 'proceedings instituted' in Section 2 of the Married Women's Property Act, 1893, was considered by the House of Lords in Hood Barrs v. Hariot L.R.(1897) A.C. 177. The question there was whether an appeal by a woman from a judgment in an action in which she is defendant is not a 'proceeding instituted' within the meaning of the Married Women's Property Act and an order cannot be made under that section for the payment of the costs of the opposite party out of her separate property which is subject to a restraint upon anticipation. It was held that the section applies only to an action or other litigation initiated by a woman, that any proceeding taken by a married woman in the course of an action against her would not be a proceeding within the meaning of the section and that unless the proceeding is one which initiates litigation, it is not a proceeding within the true intent and meaning of the clause upon which reliance is placed.
6. In Ramanathan Chettiar, In re : AIR1942Mad390 , the proper stamp duty leviable on a memorandum of Civil Revision Petition presented to the High Court against the order directing a decree-holder to refund a sum of Rs. 987-3-11 received by him in rateable distribution was held to be Rs. 10 and not Rs. 5 where the value of the suit or the main proceeding wherein the order was made was above the value of Rs. 1000. In considering the meaning of the words 'suit or proceeding,' Venkataramana Rao, J., observed at page 112:
The words 'suit or proceedings' have been interpreted in various senses in different statutes according to the intent and scope of the statute, sometimes in a narrow sense and sometimes in a wide sense The word 'suit' in a narrow sense is confined to a litigation initiated in a trial Court and ending with a decree or a final order passed by it. In this sense it would not include execution proceedings or proceedings in appeal. But in a wide sense it has been interpreted as comprehending the entire litigation commencing from the initiation of the litigation in the trial Court up to the state when the ultimate decision is reached in the final Court of appeal or revision. In this view it would include execution proceedings and proceedings in appeal as continuation of the suit. The word 'proceedings' has been similarly interpreted. In its narrow sense, it is a step in any action or in an independent proceeding analogous to an action by which a litigation is initiated. In a wide sense it has been interpreted, if used in juxtaposition with a suit to include any proceeding in the nature of a suit. Even in this view having regard to the context it is sometimes limited only to the stage of litigation commenced by filing a petition or application in the trial Court and ending with an order or decree passed by that Court. In another view it is meant to indicate all the applications in execution of a decree or order passed in the main proceeding and also all proceedings in appeal as continuation of the proceeding. The word 'proceeding' used alone has been interpreted to mean all judicial proceedings and when applied to suits to mean the suit as a whole. Therefore the meaning to be attributed to the word 'suit' or 'proceeding' must depend upon the scope of the enactment wherein the said expressions are used and with reference to the particular context wherein they occur.
7. The meaning that is given to the word 'proceeding' occurring in other enactments cannot be taken as a safe guide in its application to the meaning to be given in a particular enactment like the present one. As observed by Venkataramana Rao, J., in the case quoted above, the meaning to be attributed to the word 'suit' or 'proceeding' must depend upon the scope of the enactment and the words must be understood with reference to the particular context in which they occur. A 'proceeding' may in some enactment mean an action or that which initiates an action and in other enactments it may also mean a step in an action. In Pryor v. City Offices Company (1883) L.R. 10 Q.B.D. 504, the word 'any proceeding' in Section 89 of the Judicature Act, 1873, was understood to be equivalent to 'any action' and not any step in an action. But in the rules of the Supreme Court, Order 64, Rule 13, ''proceeding' is used as meaning a step in an action (vide Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, 3rd edition, 3rd Volume, page 2309). The taxation of costs is a 'proceeding' within the phrase, 'no actions, suits, executions, attachments or other proceedings,' shall be continued or commenced without leave, (R. v. London, Chatham & Dover Railway Co.) (1868) L.R. 3 Q.B. 170 (vide page 2311 in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary). 'Any other proceeding in the action' in the rules of the Supreme Court, Order 26, Rule 1 mean any proceeding with a view to continuing the action, i.e., a step forward, not one backward (vide Spincer v. Watts (1889) L.R. 23 Q.B.D. 350.) So the word 'proceeding' can be given a narrow or a wide import depending upon the nature and scope of an enactment in which it is used and in the particular context of the language of the enactment in which it appears.
8. Ordinarily, an application for a copy cannot be considered to be even a step in an action directly in the sense of its being necessary for the conclusion or the determination of the action; but still whether in the context in which it has appeared in Section 87(2), a copy application could be considered to be totally excluded from the scope of the word 'proceeding' is a matter which requires to be examined only with reference to the language of the provision. A copy application is not a proceeding by way of appeal or revision. But there can be no difficulty in holding a copy application arises from a suit or proceeding in the sense of its coming out from a suit being in relation to the suit, and therefore it can come within the meaning of the word 'proceeding.' The meaning of the word 'otherwise' is contended to be restricted to a proceeding, although it may arise by way of appeal or revision, that is even if the principle of ejusdem generis does not apply. Whatever arises otherwise must be a proceeding and the use of the word ''otherwise' will not direct the meaning to be given to the word ''proceeding' and that is controlled by the word ''proceeding' in the sense that anything which otherwise arises from a suit or proceeding must be in the nature of a proceeding, though it need not be confined to matters which are in the nature of an appeal or revision.
9. In Craies on Statute Law (5th edition) as regards the application of the ejusdem generis rule, the following passage appears at page 170:
There must be a category. The ejusdem generis rule is one to be applied with caution and not pushed too far as in the case of many decisions which treat it as automatically applicable and not, as being what it is a mere presumption in the absence of other indications of the intention of Legislature. The modern tendency of the law it was said is to attenuate the application of the rule of ejusdem generis.
The proceeding that may otherwise arise from a suit and proceeding need not therefore be in the nature of an appeal or revision, as there are several other matters which arise out of a suit and proceeding or appeal or revision instituted before the commencement of the Act. Therefore the question that still remains to be considered is whether a copy application could be excluded from the meaning of the word 'proceeding,' once it is seen that it has relation to and must be held to arise from a suit, since a copy application is of a judgment and decree in a suit. I am of opinion that proceedings arising from a suit would not exclude a copy application for a judgment or decree passed in a suit.
10. The proceedings that are to arise from a suit or a proceeding are to be other than by way of appeal or revision and if there is any proceeding which could arise from a suit and a proceeding instituted before the commencement of the Act, it will be subject to the fee payable under the earlier Act. If ''proceeding' is to be given a narrow interpretation as meaning only anything which commences or initiates an action, in so far as the suit is concerned, there cannot be any proceeding which could be said to initiate or commence the action excepting the plaint and in the case of a plaint filed before the commencement of the Act, the Court-fee would have already been paid on the basis of the old Act, and there is no need to make provision for such a suit, the same having been exempted by the present Act. This only illustrates that a narrow interpretation on the words 'proceedings' was not intended. 'Proceedings' must therefore be given a wider meaning as anything which has relation to or comes out of or is connected with a suit or a proceeding. The saving of a suit and proceeding instituted before the commencement of the Act from the operation of the new Act is not merely to exempt suits or O.Ps. or other proceedings from the Court-fee payable under the new Act, but to retain such suits and proceedings within the scope of the Act, 1870; and any document, which is chargeable with Court-fee and connected with the suit or a proceeding in the sense of having directly to do with the suit and proceeding, is sought to be excluded from the operation of the new Act. The fact that all suits and proceedings instituted before the commencement of the Act shall be governed by the other Acts and the rules made thereunder indicates that these suits and proceedings should be regulated by the provisions of the Act of 1870 and the rules made thereunder. Every document connected with such a suit has therefore to be regulated in the matter of Court-fees by the earlier Acts and the rules.
11. In the present case, the copy application for a judgment and decree in C.R.P. No. 910 of 1954 is an application which arises from a revision petition instituted before the Act and therefore has to be governed by the earlier Act. Being a taxing Statute ordinarily it will have no retrospective effect; but since the earlier Act is repealed, the necessity for making a provision that it shall not have retrospective operation was felt and Clause (2) of Section 87 was enacted. A statute which imposes a tax has to be construed strictly and in case of reasonable doubt, the construction that is beneficial to the subject has always to be adopted and a party who has instituted a suit under the Court-fees Act would naturally have presumed that all the proceedings in the suit or any document that may be obtained and which arises in the suit would be governed by the provisions of the Court-fees Act at the time when the suit was instituted. The litigant must have been under the impression that so far as a suit or proceeding which he has commenced is concerned, he will be liable to pay only the Court-fee that is prescribed, of which he might have had a reasonable estimate, and any legislation, which would impose an additional burden in respect of a suit which is already instituted, should make it clear that such additional burden would be imposed. In the absence of any specific words restricting the exemption from the present Act to particular proceedings in a suit, whatever is related to the suit must be deemed to have been exempted. If the intention of the Legislature were that only such proceedings as would initiate or commence any action should be exempted, there is nothing preventing Section 87(2) prescribing that the plaints and memorandum of appeals or O.Ps. will be liable to the Court-fee payable under the old Act and all other proceedings though in any manner connected with any suit or appeal would be governed by the new Act. Section 87(2) does not refer to the fees payable on particular proceedings but refers to the application of the Act of 1870 as a whole by the use of the word governed.' That means that everything connected with all suits and proceedings instituted prior to the Act and all proceedings by way of appeal or revision and all proceedings in any manner arising from a suit or proceeding so instituted, shall be governed or regulated only by the provisions of the earlier Act. As pointed out in Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 10th edition at page 221:
In general, when the law is altered during the pendency of an action the rights of the parties are decided according to the law as it existed when the action was begun unless the new statute shows a clear intention to vary such rights.
This principle should be applicable to all laws including the law as to Court-fees and unless there is any clear intention-such intention being expressed in unambiguous language-to vary such application, it cannot be assumed that during the pendency of an action, the new law would be applicable. In my view, not only is it clear that every proceeding or document connected with a suit or proceeding instituted before the commencement of the Act is exempted by the use of the language 'otherwise arising therefrom' and the word 'governed' but there is nothing also in the language to show any intention to the contrary.
12. Though this reference arises out of a doubt raised as to what is the Court-fee payable on the application for copy of a judgment and decree in a Civil Revision Petition the conclusion which I have come to, viz., that the Court-fee payable under the earlier Act that is, two annas only need be payable, is applicable not only to a copy application for a judgment and decree in a suit or proceeding instituted before the Act, but also in respect of a copy of a judgment and decree in an appeal, revision or any other proceeding instituted before or after such commencement, provided it relates to the suits and proceedings instituted before the commencement of the Act.
13. Doubts have also been expressed as to what would be the proper Court-fee payable in respect of (a) vakalats filed in Courts in respect of suits instituted before the commencement of the Act, (b) certified copies of documents such as decrees, judgments, etc., filed as enclosures to appeals and (c) applications for copies of documents filed in suits or proceedings instituted before the commencement of the Act. In the view I have taken as to the construction of Section 87(2) of the Act in all these matters as well, the Act of 1870 and the rules made thereunder would only be applicable and the Court-fee payable therein alone could be charged and not the new scale of Court-fee under the present Act.