1. This is an appeal from a decree of the City Civil Court dismissing a suit brought by the Madras Corporation under Section 443 of the Madras City Municipal Act, III of 1904, to recover the costs of executing certain works which the defendants had been directed to execute. Section 224 requires the owner or occupier of any building within fourteen days after receiving notice from the President to alter any existing latrine in. accordance with such notice. The notice called on the defendants to alter the existing latrine into a flush but one of a design approved by the President. The plaint claimed to recover Rs. 1,647 paid to the contractor, Rs. 106-10 for connecting drains, Rs. 438-7-4 for supervision and Rs. 91-0-10 the cost of fixing a meter, and it was admitted that the Corporation took four months to-execute the work. It was argued for the defendants that the word latrine' did not include water closet and that the owner or occupier could not be required to convert a latrine into one. A reference to the New Oxford Dictionary shows that the word latrine' is of Italian and French origin and found its way into Scotland in the seventeenth century. Like lavatory, which has now acquired a similar meaning, it is derived from the Latin Lavare, to wash. It appears to be wide enough to include conveniences with water connections, and indeed to have been adopted in Indian Municipal Acts as the most general description of conveniences of the kind, and I am not prepared to hold that it does not include water closet. We are invited to hold that it did net with reference to the alleged history of drainage in this city, but, as pointed out by Lord Halsbury in Vestry of St. John, Harnpstead v. Cotton (1887) 12 App. Cas. 1: 51 J.P. 340, what has to be regarded is not the history of drainage in the locality but the words of the Statute. Similarly I feel unable to hold that the addition of a water connection to an existing latrine might not be such an alteration as is contemplated by the section if these words stood alone.
2. The great difficulty in the way of the Corporation arises, in my opinion, from the provision in the section requiring the contemplated alteration to be made within fourteen days.' This is a provision of an unusual character. In the English public Health Acts works and alterations are required to be made within a time to be specified by the Local Authority, and in the present Act there is a general provision in Section 442(1) that when anyone is required to execute a work, a reasonable time shall be named in the notice within which the work shall be executed. The importance of the time allowed in the notice in a case when the consequences of disobedience are so serious is illustrated by the recent decision of the Court of Appeal that, where the Local Authority is empowered by Statute to reacquire the owner to execute certain works in a specified time, and the time specified in the notice is not reasonably sufficient for the execution of the works, the notice is altogether void and the owner may disregard it with impunity: Bristol Corporation v. Sinnott (1918) 1 Ch. 62, where an action like this brought by the Local Authority to recover the cost of doing the work themselves was dismissed on this ground. Here the notice provided for in Section 224 is a fourteen days' notice, and I think the learned Judge was quite right in holding that this express provision excludes the operation of Section 442(1), which requires a reasonable time to be named in the notice. Whether the retention of the provision as to fourteen days' notice when the section was re-enacted without alteration from the earlier Act of 1884, was the result of accident or design, these, words must, I think, so long as they remain in the section, be taken as an indication that the alterations contemplated by the section must be such as could reasonably be completed within fourteen days, having regard to the nature of the work and all the circumstances. This conclusion is little more than an application to this section of the principles applied by the Court of Appeal in the case just cited. It must be taken that the Legislature cannot have intended to make disobedience to the notice a penal offence and a ground of civil liability unless compliance was reasonably possible. This was so far from being the case in this instance that the Corporation did not issue the fourteen days' notice required by the section, but issued instead thirty days' notice which they had no power to do. The figure sixty was first inserted in the notice but this was struck out and thirty substituted; and, as I have already stated, the Corporation themselves took four months to execute the work. The work not being such as would reasonably be executed in fourteen days, the notice, in my opinion, was bad and the defendants were entitled to disregard it.
3. Reliance was also placed on the provisions of Section 427, which gives a right of appeal from an order under Section 224(1) to the Standing Committee, whose decision is to be final, but this point is who governed by the case already cited which decided, with reference to appeals under Section 268 of the Public Health Act, that the filing of an appeal under that section did not prevent the defendants from defending a suit of this kind if the appeal was never decided, Here no appeal was filed. The result is the appeal fails and must be dismissed with costs. The whole question will, no doubt, receive attention in the new Municipal Bill which is now before the Legislature.
4. I agree.