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A. N. Parasuram by His Duly Constituted Agent A. P. Narayanan Vs. C. S. Rajavelan and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMunicipal Tax;Tenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1974)2MLJ388
AppellantA. N. Parasuram by His Duly Constituted Agent A. P. Narayanan
RespondentC. S. Rajavelan and ors.
Excerpt:
- - 1. the appellant is the unsuccessful plaintiff. for one thing, a statutory authority like the corporation could not be easily inferred to have colluded with the owners of a premises. there cannot be any dispute, and it is well-settled, that in order to give effect to a legislative intendment and if the language warrants such an interpretation, it would be permissible for the court to interpret and understand the word 'or' as meaning 'and'.the only question, therefore, is whether the scheme of the act or the relevant assessment proceeding anyway warrants such an interpretation. but the owner may fail to do so, though the transferee had occupied the premises. this clearly implies that section 6 could not contemplate any notice to the tenant before revising the annual value......at which the property-tax is leviable, the commissioner shall intimate by a special notice to the owner or occupier of such property that a petition for revising the assessment will be considered if it reaches the municipal office within thirty days from the date of service of such notice in the case of government, a railway administration or a company and within fifteen days from the said date in other cases.the argument of the learned counsel for the appellant is that the rule requires the issue of a special notice to the owner or occupier and that in the context of the rule and the relevant provisions of the act, the word 'or' would have to be understood as 'and' so as to make a special notice necessarily to be issued both to the owner and the occupier. there cannot be any dispute,.....
Judgment:

V. Ramaswami, J.

1. The appellant is the unsuccessful plaintiff. Respondents 1 to 3 are the owners of Premises No. 24, Halls Road, Madras, of which the appellant is the tenant on a monthly rental of Rs. 375.

2. On 1st September, 1960 the fourth respondent, Corporation of Madras, issued a notice to the owners, under Rule 3-A of Part 1-A of Schedule IV of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act, 1919, proposing to amend, in the books of assessment, the annual valuation of the property as Rs. 9,555, and the tax payable thereon as Rs. 1,127-49, and library cess at Rs. 29-81 for the first half-year 1960-61, and calling upon the owners to state their objections thereto, if any, on or before 3 P.M. on 8th September, 1960. By letter, dated 8th September, 1960 respondents 1 to 3 filed their objections to the proposed amendment of the property tax assessment books by revising the annual valuation, contending that the rent for the premises continued to be the same and that they had not caused any improvement or addition to be made to the premises to warrant the increase. The objection was overruled; but all the same, the value was reduced to Rs. 8,190 and the tax payable thereon was fixed at Rs. 966-42 and the library cess at Rs. 25-59. Since the revision of assessment occurred in the middle of two general revisions, the Revenue Officer of the Corporation issued a special notice as required under Rule 3-A of Part I-A of Schedule IV of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act. This notice also informed the owners that they could file a petition for revising the assessment to the Commissioner within fifteen days of the service thereof. This special notice was issued an 12th September, 1960 and served on respondents 1 to 3, the owners. The owners thereupon filed a revision petition to the Commissioner. The Commissioner reduced the assessment by fixing the annual value at Rs. 6,006 and the half-yearly tax payable at Rs. 708-70 and library cess at Rs. 18-75. The owners did not object to this revision, by taking, further proceedings.

3. But the plaintiff filed the suit, out of which this second appeal arises, challenging the assessment on the ground that the revision of assessment was made collusively and without notice to him and that he was not bound by the revised assessment. His contention was that under Section 6 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act he would be liable, as a tenant, to pay any increase in the tax to the landlords and that therefore he is the person vitally interested in the revision of assessment and of tax. He also contended that at the time when the revision was sought to be made, Section 30 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act exempted a non-residential building, the rental value of which, as entered in the property tax assessment books of the Corporation, exceeded Rs. 400 per mensem, and the attempt of the landlords was to revise the assessment by increasing the annual value in order to take the premises out of the purview of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act. He further contended that on a construction of Rule 3-A of Part I-A of Schedule IV of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act itself, a notice is required to be given to the tenant, and that since, admittedly, no notice was issued to the tenant-- occupier, the revision of assessment was not binding on him.

4. The plea of collusion was found against by both the Courts below; and I am not impressed with the argument of the learned Counsel, for the appellant that the revision of assessment was brought about collusively by the Corporation and the owners. For one thing, a statutory authority like the Corporation could not be easily inferred to have colluded with the owners of a premises. For another thing, the owners would normally be expected not to ask for an increase in the assessment, because that would be a permanent valuation which they could not, at any stage, get reduced even after evicting the tenant. In any case, as the finding on the question of collusion is one of fact, I am unable to interfere with the concurrent finding of the Courts below.

5. The next question, therefore, that arises for consideration in this second appeal is as to whether, on a proper interpretation of Rule 3-A aforesaid, the plaintiff would be entitled to a special notice before the revising of the assessment and whether the revision of assessment made without such a notice to him was invalid.

6. Rule 3-A of Part I-A of Schedule IV of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act reads as follows:

In every case in which between one general revision and another the Commissioner assesses any property for the first time or increases the assessment on any property otherwise than in consequence of a general enhancement of the rate at which the property-tax is leviable, the Commissioner shall intimate by a special notice to the owner or occupier of such property that a petition for revising the assessment will be considered if it reaches the municipal office within thirty days from the date of service of such notice in the case of Government, a railway administration or a company and within fifteen days from the said date in other cases.

The argument of the learned Counsel for the appellant is that the rule requires the issue of a special notice to the owner or occupier and that in the context of the rule and the relevant provisions of the Act, the word 'or' would have to be understood as 'and' so as to make a special notice necessarily to be issued both to the owner and the occupier. There cannot be any dispute, and it is well-settled, that in order to give effect to a legislative intendment and if the language warrants such an interpretation, it would be permissible for the Court to interpret and understand the word 'or' as meaning 'and'. The only question, therefore, is whether the scheme of the Act or the relevant assessment proceeding anyway warrants such an interpretation.

7. Section 99 of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act authorises the Council to levy property tax on all buildings and lands within the City, save those exempted under the Act, by a resolution. Section 100 deals with the method of assessment and provides that every building shall be assessed together with its site and other adjacent premises occupied as appurtenances thereto unless the owner of the building is a different person from the owner of such site or premises. The next relevant sections to be noticed are Sections 103 and 104. Section 103 makes the property tax a first charge upon the building or the lands and upon the movable property found therein and belonging to the person liable to such tax. Section 104 deals with the person liable to pay the tax and when the tax is payable. It states

The property tax shall be levied every half-year, and shall, save as otherwise expressly provided in Schedule IV, be paid by the owner of the assessed premises within fifteen days after commencement of the half-year.

8. The learned Counsel for the fourth respondent, Corporation, contends that the primary liability to pay the tax is that of the owners, though the Commissioner is authorised under Rule 29 of Part I-A of Schedule IV of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act, in certain circumstances, to collect the tax from the occupier. Having regard to the scheme of the Act, the learned Counsel contends that the word 'or' occurring in Rule 3-A in between 'owner' and 'occupier' has to be understood distributively and that the Corporation was not bound to issue a notice both to the owner and the occupier. In this connection, he also referred me to the definitions of 'occupier' and 'owner' in the Act and pointed out that the definition of the word 'occupier' does not make the plaintiff-appellant liable to pay the taxes, nor does the definition of 'owner' relieve respondents 1 to 3 of the obligation to pay the taxes under any circumstances. According to him, even the collection of tax under Rule 29 of Part 1-A of Schedule IV of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act from the occupier is only on the account of the owner, but it is a tax to be paid by the owner, and not a tax to be paid by the occupier.

9. There is great force in this argument of the learned Counsel for the Corporation. As already seen, though tax is levied on the building or lands, under Section 99, the liability to pay the tax is fixed under Section 104 on the owner of the assessed premises. It is true that Rule 3-A, on a prima facie reading, even authorises the Commissioner to issue notice to the 'occupier' alone to revise the assessment. But having regard to the provisions of the Act and to the definition, it would have to be understood as authorising the Commissioner to issue special notice to the occupier without a notice to the owner only under special circumstances. In this connection it may be noted that the definition of 'occupier' is an inclusive definition, and not exhaustive. Cases may arise where there has been a transfer of the legal title by a registered document, by the owner in favour of another. In such a case it is obligatory on the owner to intimate about the transfer to the corporation so that the property tax register could be amended by showing the transferee as the owner of the property. But the owner may fail to do so, though the transferee had occupied the premises. In such cases, Section 106-A provides that both the transferee and the transferor would be liable to pay the tax. What would be the position of the transferor so far as the corporation is concerned The transferor continues to be the owner though the legal title had passed to the transferee. The transferee having got the legal title, and as a physical occupier of the property, would also be liable to pay the tax. One of those cases where the Commissioner could issue a special notice to the occupier would be, in my opinion, one where the transferee is in occupation. Since the definition of occupier' is an inclusive definition, any person who is in physical occupation of the property, though not a tenant would also be an occupier. In fact, the latter portion of the definition seems to suggest that even a trespasser who would' be liable to pay damages to the owner, is an occupier within the meaning of the definition. Much more so, the transferee would be an 'occupier' within the meaning of Rule 3-A.

10. There is also the further difficulty. There is no obligation on the owner to intimate to the Corporation about any change in the tenancy. The obligation is only to intimate if there is any change in the rent payable in respect of the premises, for, that alone will have a bearing on the assessment of the property. The Corporation, therefore, has no means of knowing who the tenant is to whom the notice will have to be issued.

11. There may be cases where the owner himself may not be available and as the assessment itself will have to be made during the half-year in respect of which the assessment relates, and since it may not be possible for the Corporation to issue notice to the owner who may be in a different place, the Corporation is authorised to issue notice to the occupier under Rule 3-A and make the assessment. In all such cases where the assessment has been made after the issue of notice to the occupier, the owner is not without any remedy, because, he can also file an application for revising the assessment on the ground that the occupier to whom the notice had been given had not placed all the materials before the Corporation for coming to the proper conclusion.

12. As rightly pointed out by the learned Counsel for the Corporation, under what circumstances the Coporation would be justified in issuing a notice to the occupier alone without notice to the owner, would depend upon the circumstances of each case and would have to be decided with reference to the facts and circumstances of that particular case. Having regard to the scheme of the Act, Rule 3-A could not be understood as making it obligatory on the Corporation to issue a notice to the occupier also in addition to the notice to the owner and the word 'or' occurring in that section could not be understood as meaning 'and'.

13. The next argument of the learned Counsel for the appellant is that under Section 6 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, the difference between the original tax and the increased tax is to be paid by the tenant and since the liability to pay the increased tax ultimately falls on the tenant, the principles of natural justice require that he should have been heard before any such increase is made. He also can tended that Section 6 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act and Rule 3-A of Part I-A of Schedule IV of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act will have to be read together and considered, construed and interpreted harmoniously so as to make both these provisions workable, and, if so construed, it makes it obligatory on the Corporation to issue a notice to the occupier before revising the assessment I am unable to accept this contention of the learned Counsel. The Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, and in particular Section 6, deals with the relationship of the landlord and the tenant and the fair rent payable by the tenant to the landlord. It has nothing to do with the tax to be levied on the property as such. Section 6 has to be read along with Section 5 which deals with fixation of fair rent. The object of Section 6 is to make the rent payable have a bearing on the tax paid in respect of the property. The tenant is made liable to pay the difference in the tax only in cases where the annual value is revised and not in cases where the rate of tax itself is revised by the Corporation. This clearly implies that Section 6 could not contemplate any notice to the tenant before revising the annual value. Further, if the argument is to be accepted, even where a tenant is liable to pay the tax under a contract the Corporation will have to issue notice to the tenant though no statutory provision as in Section 6 is on the statute book. The provisions of Section 6 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act could not in any way control the provisions of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act in respect of assessment and levy of taxes. It may also be pointed out that Section 6 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act is not made to have any overriding effect over the provisions of the Madras City Municipal Corporation Act.

14. For the foregoing reasons, I am unable to agree with the learned Counsel for the appellant that he would be entitled to a notice by virtue of the provisions of Section 6 of the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act.

15. The second appeal accordingly fails and it is dismissed. There will be no. order as to costs. No leave.


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