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M.P.K.B. Karuppan Chettiar Vs. Pl.M.C.T.K. Krishnappa Chettiar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1958)1MLJ235
AppellantM.P.K.B. Karuppan Chettiar
RespondentPl.M.C.T.K. Krishnappa Chettiar
Excerpt:
- - 8. we are clearly of the opinion that the house tax levied on the appellant under regulation iii of 1925 of pudukottai during four half years preceding 1st october, 1937 has the same legal effect as an assessment to property tax under the provisions of the enactments mentioned in proviso (g) to section 3(h) of act iv of 1938. by virtue of section 5, the pudukottai regulation iii of 1925 stood repealed, because there was an enactment corresponding to it specified in the first schedule, namely act xiv of 1920, and act xiv of 1920 stood extended to the merged state under section 3 of the act. taking first the regulation iv of 1909 its preamble states 'to make better provision for the sanitation and conservancy of villages......act, 1924 or any law governing municipal or local bodies in any other state in india or under the madras local boards act, 1920, in a panchayat which was a union before the 26th august, 1950, provided that the aggregate annual rental value of such buildings and lands, whether left out or in the occupation of the owner, is not less than rs. 600 ;3. before dealing with the arguments of the learned counsel for the appellant, it might be convenient to set out the laws on the basis of which the appellant's houses in alagapuri were subject to assessment. the laws governing the local bodies in the pudukottai state recognised three types of such bodies. the first namely the municipalities we are not now concerned with. there was a regulation entitled ' the pudukottai village conservancy.....
Judgment:

Rajagopala Ayyangar, J.

1. The Chief Court of Pudukottai passed a decree against the appellant in O.S. No. 390 of 1944 on its file. This was a compromise decree on a claim under a settlement dated 31st July, 1946. The appellant claiming himself to be an agriculturist entitled to relief under Madras Act IV of 1938 applied to the Subordinate Judge, Pudukottai, which was the successor of 'the Court which passed the decree ' for its scaling down under Section 19 of the Act. This was O.P. No. 4 of 1953, and it is the correctness of the order of the Subordinate Judge dismissing the petition that forms the subject-matter of this appeal.

2. There was no dispute regarding the appellant having a ' saleable interest in agricultural land '. But this claim to the relief was disputed on the ground that he fell within proviso (C) to Section 3(ii) by having been assessed to house tax under municipal enactments the aggregate of which exceeded Rs. 600. It may be stated that the appellant admittedly owned three houses in the Panchayat of Alagapuri in the erstwhile Pudukottai State where he was assessed to property tax under the relevant enactment and that the annual rental value of those houses was Rs. 1025. The question which we have to consider is whether the decision of the Court below, that the ownership of these houses with this annual rental value and their assessment to tax by the local authorities of Alagapuri brought the appellant within the exception enacted by the proviso, is correct.

The provision to be construed runs:

Provided that a person shall not be deemed to be an agriculturist if he

(C) has in all the four half years immediately preceding the 1st October, 1937, been assessed to property or house tax in respect of buildings or lands other than agricultural lands, under the Madras District Municipalities Act, 1920, the Madras City Municipal Act, 1919, the Cantonments Act, 1924 or any law governing Municipal or Local bodies in any other State in India or under the Madras Local Boards Act, 1920, in a Panchayat which was a Union before the 26th August, 1950, provided that the aggregate annual rental value of such buildings and lands, whether left out or in the occupation of the owner, is not less than Rs. 600 ;

3. Before dealing with the arguments of the learned Counsel for the appellant, it might be convenient to set out the laws on the basis of which the appellant's houses in Alagapuri were subject to assessment. The laws governing the local bodies in the Pudukottai State recognised three types of such bodies. The first namely the municipalities we are not now concerned with. There was a regulation entitled ' the Pudukottai Village Conservancy Regulation ' (No. IV of 1909) which created unions or panchayats for villages. Under this enactment unions were constituted which were vested with the power to levy house tax (vide Section 5(1) of the Regulation). The corporations which were established were called unions, the governing bodies of such unions being called panchayats. Alagapuri did not fall within the scope of this Regulation. There was another statute, Regulation III of 1955 entitled ' The Pudukottai Village Panchayat Regulation '. By its Section 2(a) its territorial operation extended

to the whole of the Pudukottai State except the Municiplaity of Pudukottai and the unions to which the Pudukottai Village Conservancy Regulation No. IV of 1909, applies.

Under this enactment panchayats were constituted for carrying on the affairs of the village in areas to which Regulation III of 1925 extended. Section 25 of this enactment enabled the panchayats to levy an yearly tax on the capital value of buildings. By notification dated 16th June, 1927, the village of Alagapuri was brought within the operation of Regulation III of 1925, and the property tax which we referred to earlier was levied under this Regulation.

4. The argument of learned Counsel for the appellant was briefly this. There was a decree against the appellant which was sought to be executed against him. If the appellant were an agriculturist within Act IV of 1938, he was entitled to have it scaled down under Section 19 of the Act. That he possessed agricultural lands in the State is not in dispute. He was therefore an agriculturist and he would be entitled to the benefits of the scaling down provision, unless the decree-holder were able to establish that the appellant was statutorily to be ' deemed not to be an agriculturist ' as falling within the several provisos to Section 3. The provision that was invoked against him was Proviso (C). The appellant did own houses in Alagapuri in the erstwhile Pudukottai State whose assessable value exceeded Rs. 600 but this did not bring him within the disqualification because the property or house tax was not assessed or levied under the enactments specified in the section. By reason of the merger Pudukottah became part and parcel of the Madras State and hence the portion of the proviso which referred to assessment under ' any law governing municipal or local bodies in any other State in India ' became inapplicable to Pudukottah territory. The assessment had therefore to be under one or other of the following enactments to effect the disqualification, the District Municipalities Act, 1920, the City Municipal Act, 1919 or the Cantonments Act, 1924 or under the Local Boards Act, 1920 in a panchayat which was a union before 26th August, 1930. The assessment was not under these or even any parallel provisions and hence the appellant was not within the proviso or the disqualification thereby created.

5. Before proceeding to discuss the point in the light of the several enactments which effected the integration of the Pudukottai State with the State of Madras and the provisions contained in them relevant to the present subject-matter, it may be mentioned that if the question had arisen before the integration, it could have been capable of only one answer, i.e., against the appellant. Before that date the relevant words in the Proviso (C) ran:

or any law governing municipal or local bodies in any other province in British India or in any Indian State.

Pudukottai Regulation III of 1925 would have been such a law and if a judgment-debtor under any decree passed in this State possessed properties in Alagapuri, the annual rental value of which exceeded Rs. 600 he would not be deemed to be an agriculturist within Act IV of 1938. The question for our consideration is whether the integration of Pudukottah with this State has made any difference to this result.

6. The Ruler of Pudukottai State acceded to the Indian Union in March, 1948. This brought Pudukottai within the ambit of the Extra Provincial Jurisdiction Act, 1947 (Central Act XLVII of 1947). The preamble to this Act enacted:

Whereas by treaty, agreement, grant, usage, sufferance and other lawful means, the Central Government has, and may hereafter acquire jurisdiction in and in relation to areas outside [India].

By the operative provisions of this enactment (Sections 3 and 4) the Central Government was enabled to exercise extra provincial jurisdiction in such manner as it thought fit and to determine the law and the procedure to be observed in such areas. In exercise of the powers conferred by this enactment, the Central Government passed the Pudukottai and Banganapalli (Application of Laws) Order, 1949, on 9th April, 1949. As the only .enactments extended to the area by this order were certain Central Acts which are not relevant to the present context, we are omitting further reference to this. This was followed up by the State Merger (Governor's Province) Order, 1949, dated 27th July, 1949. By inclusion in Schedule I to the order the States of Pudukottai, Banganapalli and Sandur were merged in the Province of Madras ; and under its Section 3 as from the appointed day ' (1st June, 1949) Pudukottai was to be administered in all respects as if it formed part of the province of Madras'. This Order contained other consequential provisions which are not material for the present purpose. But what is to the point is that this order operated to effect the integration of Pudukottai with the State of Madras.

7. The Madras Legislature thereafter enacted Act XXXV of 1949-The Merged States (Laws) Act-to extend certain laws to the State of Pudukottai etc., which are administered as parts of the province of Madras. Section 3 of the Act extended the laws set out in the First Schedule to the Act to ' the merged states ' including Pudukottai. Among the enactments so extended were the Madras District Municipalities Act (V of 1920) the Local Boards Act (XIV of 1920), the Agriculturists Relief Act (IV of 1938) to mention only those which are relevant for our present purpose. Sections 4 to 7 of this enactment contained provisions which have a material bearing on the point to be decided in this appeal and it is really their interpretation that the appeal involved. Section 4 enacted:

4. In any enactment specified in the First Schedule...(which as stated before included Madras Act V of 1920, XIV of 1920 and IV of 1938).

(d) any reference, by whatever form of words, to the State of Madras shall be construed as including a reference to the merged State or States concerned.

5. If, immediately,before the commencement of this Act, there is in force in any merged State, an Act, Ordinance, Regulation or other law corresponding to an enactment specified in the First Schedule...such corresponding law shall, upon the commencement of this Act, stand repealed to the extent to which the law relates to matters with respect to which the State Legislature had power to make laws for the state.

6. (1) The repeal by Section 5 of this Act of any corresponding law in force in any merged State immediately before the commencement of this Act shall not affect.

(a) the previous operation of any such law, or any penalty, forfeiture or punishment incurred in respect of any offence committed against any such law, or

(c) any investigation, legal proceedings or remedy in respect of any such penalty, forfeiture or punishment, and any such investigation, legal proceeding or remedy may be instituted, continued or enforced and any such penalty forefeiture or punishment may be imposed as if this Act had not been passed.

(2) Subject to the provisions of Sub-section (1) anything done or any action taken, including any appointment or delegation made under such corresponding law shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the corresponding provision of the enactment as now extended to, and in force in the merged state and shall continue in force accordingly unless and until superseded by anything done or any action taken under the said enactment.

7. For the purpose of facilitating the application in any merged state of any enactment specified in the First Schedule any Court or other authority may construe such enactment with such alterations not affecting the substance as may be necessary or proper to adapt it to the mater before the Court or other authority.

8. We are clearly of the opinion that the house tax levied on the appellant under Regulation III of 1925 of Pudukottai during four half years preceding 1st October, 1937 has the same legal effect as an assessment to property tax under the provisions of the enactments mentioned in Proviso (G) to Section 3(h) of Act IV of 1938. By virtue of Section 5, the Pudukottai Regulation III of 1925 stood repealed, because there was an enactment corresponding to it specified in the First Schedule, namely Act XIV of 1920, and Act XIV of 1920 stood extended to the merged state under Section 3 of the Act. The rule of interpretation laid down by Section 4(d) as that to be adopted in regard to the construction of the Local Boards Act was that the reference to the territory forming the ' State of Madras ' in Act XIV of 1920 had to be understood as including a reference to the area of Pudukottai. In passing, we might mention that the learned Suboridnate Judge thought that there was some defect in the drafting of Section 4(d) but we are unable to share this opinion.

9. What then was the effect of this repeal 'of the Pudukottai Regulation and the extension of the Loacal Boards Act to that area It is common ground that before the merger of Pudukottah and the repeal of the Pudukottai Regulations, the house tax paid by the appellant to the Panchayat of Alagapuri brought him within Proviso (G) as being a tax levied under ' a law governing local bodies ' in a native State in India. The contention however is that the merger has effected a change in the law. Section 6(2) enacts:

(2) Subject to the provisions of Sub-section (1) anything done or any action taken....under such corresponding law shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the corresponding provision of the enactment as now extended....

In the present context the corresponding provision is Act XIV of 1920. The contention urged by Mr. Bashyam Ayyangar was that ' the corresponding provision of the enactment and now extended ' would in regard to the matter now under debate be the Local Boards Act (XIV of 1920) and 'the corresponding law' ' the action taken ' under which is the subject of the deeming provision would be the Village Conservancy Regulation IV of 1909 and not the Panchayat Regulation III of 1925 by which the local administration of Alagapuri was governed. The basis for this argument is to be found in the terms used in Proviso (G) in relation to the taxes levied under the Local Boards Act 'a Panchayat which was a Union before 26th August, 1930 '. Learned Counsel urged that Panchayats which were Unions before 26th August, 1930, were constituted for areas with a minimum population of 5,000 and that Alagapuri which had a population of about 500 inhabitants could therefore not be deemed to be such a Panchayat.

10. We do not find it possible to accept this argument. The date 26th August, 1930 in the Proviso in Act IV of 1938 is a reference to the date when the Madras Act XI of 1930, which amended the Madras Local Boards Act, 1920, came into force. Under the original enactment of 1920 there were three grades of local bodies the District Boards, Taluk Boards and Unions. Unions were constituted under Section 4(2) of the Act which ran:

With the approval of the Local Government, the District Board may for the purpose of this Act delcare by notification any revenue village or villages or any portion or portions thereof to be a union provided that no area shall be declared to be a union unless it has a population of not less than 5,000.

Independently of this there were village panchayats under Act XIV of 1920 which provided for local government in villages which were not unions under Act XIV of 1920.

11. The Local Boards Act XIV of 1920 was amended by Act XI of 1930 and the change it effected in regard to unions was this. By the new Section 4(5) the Local Government were enabled by notification to declare any part of a revenue taluk to be a village for the purpose of the Act and specify the names of the villages and the local areas which before that date was named 'a union' came to be designated under the amending Act as 'a village.' The governing body of this area which was originally called a 'Union Board' was altered by the amending Act to 'panchayat.' Villages with a population of 5,000 and upwards and contiguous villages whose total population reached that figure were all brought within the scope of ' Unions' governed by the unamended Madras Act XIV of 1920 and they continued to be villages under the amended Act. By virtue of Act XI of 1930 a reorganisation of the areas of the villages took place and there was a splitting up of areas for the constitution of village panchayats. It was in view of these circumstances that reference was made in Act IV of 1938 to 'panchayats' which were unions before 26th August, 1930 to exclude villages which were governed by the Village Panchayat Act XV of 1920. This however does not bear upon the question of the corresponding law of the Pudukottai State. The unions and the panchayats governed by the Regulations of 1909 and 1925 would both fall within the category of union within the Local Boards Act, 1920, without any reference to the point of distinction denoted by the date 26th August, 1930 based on historical, and in the present context, accidental reasons.

12. To start with we have the admitted fact that until accession of Pudukottai and its merger the payment of the tax to the Alagapuri local authority being under a 'law governing municipal local bodies in a Native State ' would have brought the appellant within the scope of the proviso, notwithstanding that Alagapuri was governed by Regulation III of 1925 and not Regulation IV of 1909. The Regulations were repealed by Section 5 of the Merged States (Laws) Act of 1949 with ' the previous operation of the law unaffected.'

13. It is in the context of this situation that the corresponding law of the Pudukottai State has to be ascertained. Let us assume that Regulation III of 1925 were the only law governing local authorities in the Pudukottai State. It would not be possible to argue that the levy of property tax in Alagapuri did not bring the appellant within the proviso merely because Alagapuri had a population less than 5,000. The question that next arises is as to whether the existence of another law governing local bodies and to which Alagapuri was not subject makes any difference to this result. In our judgment this can be answered only in the negative. Supposing that the basis of division between major and minor unions in the Pudukottai State was based not on population but on other factors or if population be the test but instead of 5,000 some other figure were taken as the dividing line, particular local bodies cannot be identified as those corresponding to post and pre 26th August, 1930 unions of the Local Boards Act. The Local Boards Act, 1920 as it existed in 1949 contains no distinction between these two categories, and when the Local Boards Act was made applicable to the Pudukottai area it replaced both the Regulations IV of 1909 and III of 1925, with the result that the levy of tax under either was levy of tax under the Local Boards Act (XIV of 1920). The Agriculturists Relief Act (IV of 1938) was also extended to the State and the reference to the Local Boards Act (XIV of 1920) in the Proviso (G) became a reference to both the Regulations of Pudukottai,

14. There are further reasons why the argument of learned Counsel for the appellant, that the relevant corresponding law of the Pudukottai State is only Regulation IV of 1909 and not Regulation III of 1925, cannot be accepted. In the first place neither Regulation proceeds on the basis that only villages or areas with a particular population fell within its scope. Taking first the Regulation IV of 1909 its preamble states 'to make better provision for the sanitation and conservancy of villages.' It extended to the whole of the Pudukottai State excepting the town of Pudukottai which was apparently governed by a special enactment on the lines of the Madras City Municipal Act. Section 3(x) of the Regulation defines a 'panchayat' as meaning a body of persons constituted for a union ' under that Regulation '. The substantive provision therein was to be found in Section 27 which enacted:

There shall be established for each union a panchayat, having authority over that union, and consisting of not less than five persons, who shall be called members of the panchayat.

The union was defined in Section 3(xvi) as meaning any revenue village or villages or any portion or portions thereof which may be declared to be union in the manner hereinafter provided. The last words were a reference to Section 4 which enacted:

4. (1) The State Council may from time to time, by notification in the State Gazette, declare any village or villages or any portion or portions thereof, to be a union for the purposes of this Regulation.

Section 5 enabled taxes on houses situated within the Union to be levied by the Panchayats. The other relevant provisions of the regulation were Sections 46, 48 and 49 which ran:

47. To enable the panchayat to carry out the purposes of this Regulation, all public roads drains, tanks, wells and other public places . in the Union, unless specially excepted by the State Council, shall be under the control and direction of the panchayat .

48. (1) The proceeds of the house-tax in any union and of any fees levied by the chairman in such union under section five clauses shall, subject to the control of the State Council, be at the disposal of the panchayat of such union.

Section 49, provided for the duties and responsibilities of the panchayat which were these:

49. The Panchayat shall, in the union under its authority...and so far as the funds at its disposal permit, have the control and administration of, and provide for the following matters--

(a) the lighting of the public roads,

(b) cleansing the public roads, drains, tanks, wells and other public places in the union,

(c) with the sanction of the State Council, the establishment and maintenance of hospitals dispensaries and schools. .

(d) making and repairing the public roads and drains in the union.

(e) constructing and repairing such tanks, wells and other works as will supply the inhabitants of the union with a sufficient supply of water for domestic use, and

(f) generally doing such things as may be necessary for the preservation of public health.

Regulation IV of 1909 was called the Village Conservancy Regulation a name whose appositeness is shown by the accent on the preservation of public health as its main function in Section 49(f).

15. We shall now refer to the relevant provisions of Regulation III of 1925, by which the local administration of Alagapuri was governed. Its preamble recited that it was to make proper provision for the administration of village affairs by the villagers themselves and thereby develop the system of self-government in the rural areas of the state. Its extent of operation was Section 2(a)--

the whole of the Pudukottai State except the Municipality of Pudukottai and the unions to which the Pudukottai Village Conservancy Regulation, No. IV of 1909, applies.

Section 3(7) defined a village as meaning

any area declared by Government to be a village for the purposes of this Regulation.

Section 4 enabled the Government by notification in the prescribed manner directing the constitution for any village of a panchayat or panchayats for carrying out all or any of the purposes of this Regulation, The panchayat was defined under Section 3(3) to mean

the body of persons constituted under this Regulation for carrying out all or. any of the purposes of this Regulation.

The functions of the panchayat under the Regulation III of 1925 might now be com pared with the terms of Section 49 of the Regulation IV of 1909 which we have extracted earlier. Section 15 of the Regulation III of 1925 specified the following as powers and duties of these Panchayats:

(i) construction and maintenance of village roads, culverts, bridges and buildings ;

(ii) lighting of streets and public places;

(iii) construction of drains and disposal of drainage water and sullage ;

(iv) cleaning of streets, removal of rubbish heaps and other improvements of the sanitary condition of the village. .

(v) provision of public latrines.

(vi) opening and maintenance of burning ghats and burial grounds,

(vii) sinking and repairing of wells, excavation, repair and maintenance of pools or tanks for supply of water, for drinking, washing and bathing purposes, and construction of bathing ghats;

(viii) control of cattle sheds, thrashing floors, topes and other communal porombokes.

(ix) control of chavadies, chattrams, rest houses.

(x) extension of village sites ;

(xi) enforcement of vaccination ;

(xii) registration of births and deaths;

(xiii) opening and maintenance of village libraries ;

(xiv) control of pounds ;

(xv) village protection ;

(xvi) other measures of public utility calculated to promote the safety, health, comfort or convenience of the villagers.

Sections 16 to 19 of this Regulation enabled further powers to be vested in these bodies by the State Government. Section 25 vested the body with power to levy the tax on buildings situated in the village. This analysis makes it clear that no distinction could be drawn between the bodies created by the two enactments for the purpose of showing that the body created under one corresponded to the pre 26th August, 1930 unions in the Madras State while the other fell outside that category It is for this reason that we hold that the property or house tax levied under both these Regulations (Regulation IV of 1909 and III of 1925) is comprehended within Proviso (C) to Section 3 of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act.

16. Even if there were any difficulties in this interpretation of the corresponding law this in our opinion is resolved by applying the rule of construction set out in Section 7 of the Merged States (Laws) Act. Mr. Bashyam Ayyangar advanced an argument that Section 7 helped him but we are unable to accept this construction; The adaptation which is to be made should not be contrary to the manner in which the State law operated before the merger and as there is no reason why the law should be different now, in the event of any ambiguity, it has to be resolved against the appellant.

17. The appellant, in our opinion, fell within the scope of Proviso (C) to Section 3(ii) of Act IV of 1938 and the decision of the Subordinate Judge denying him relief under Section 19 of Act IV of 1938 was correct.

18. The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.


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