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Venkatachellam Pillai Vs. P.V. Srinivasa Aiyar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Decided On
Reported in75Ind.Cas.115
AppellantVenkatachellam Pillai
RespondentP.V. Srinivasa Aiyar
Cases ReferredRachappa Subrao v. Shidappa Venkatiao
court-fees act (vii of 1870), section 7, v(c), schedule ii, article 17(4) - madras civil courts act (iii of 1873), section 12--suit to set aside award--value for purposes of court-fees and jurisdiction. - .....was no adoption or, in the alternative, if the adoption was made it was invalid, the value of the suit for purposes of jurisdiction was the value of the estate in question; or, in the words of the learned judges, 'the value of the interest that would be lost to the alleged adopted minor if the adoption be declared invalid.' this case was dissented from in sheo deni ram v. tulshi ram 15 a. 378 : a.w.n. (1893) 137 : 7 ind. dec. 960 and the bombay high court in bai rewa v. keshavram (1895) p.j. 228 followed the allahabad case last cited and in bai machhbai v. bai hirbai 10 ind. cas. 816 : 35 b. 264 : 13 bom. l.r. 251 followed again its earlier decision. in prolhad chandra das v. dwarka nath ghosh 6 ind. cas. 636 : 37 c. 860 : 14 c.w.n. 29 the learned judges observed that in a suit to set.....

Venkatasubba Rao, J.

1. The question to be determined in this civil revision petition is whether the District Munsif's Court had jurisdiction to decide the suit. The first defendant pleaded that the Court had no jurisdiction. The District Munsif overruled the plea.

2. The suit was instituted for the setting aside of an award passed by defendants Nos. 2 to 6 to whom the plaintiff and the first defendant referred certain matters in dispute between them. By the award, the plaintiff was directed to pay to the first defendant the sum of Rs. 11,070 with interest thereupon. The contention of the first defendant is that the value of the subject-matter of the suit is the amount mentioned in the award and that the District Munsif had consequently no jurisdiction to try the suit.

3. For the purpose of the Court-fee payable, it is conceded by the plaintiff that the suit is governed by the Court-Fees Act, Schedule II, Article 17, Clause (4). Under that provision a fixed fee of Rs. 15 is payable on a plaint in a suit to set aside an award. As was pointed out in Phul Kumari v. Ghanshayam Misra 35 C. 202 : 7 Cri.L.J. 36 : 12 C.W.N. 169 : 10 Bom. L.R. 1 : 5 A.L.J. 10 : 17 M.L.J. 618 : 2 M.L.T. 506 : 14 Bur. L.R. 41 : 35 I.A. 22 the award to be set aside may be of value of Rs. 10 or of value or Rs. 1,00,000; and yet no distinction is made. In short, the Statute, for good reasons or bad, has dealt with certain actions irrespective of value.' But it is equally clear that it is only for the purposes of Court-fees, there is to be no reference to value. It is to an altogether different enactment that we must turn to find out if the suit falls within the jurisdiction of the District Munsif's Court. Section 12 of the Madras Civil Courts Act, III of 1873, provides that the jurisdiction of a District Munsif extends to all original suits and proceedings of a civil nature of which the amount or value of the subject-matter does not exceed Rs. 2,500. The short question to be decided is, does the subject matter of the suit exceed in value Rs. 2,500? In my opinion, the question does not admit of any doubt, and the answer is clearly that the value of the subject-matter is the amount awarded by the arbitrators to the first defendant. The plaintiff seeks to set aside an award which directs payment by him of a sum over Rs. 11,000. He is affected by the award to that extent, and, similarly, if the award subsists, the first defendant will be entitled to that sum. If the award is set aside that sum represents the measure of the first defendant's interest affected. The expression 'the amount or the value of the subject-matter' in Section 12 must receive its ordinary significance and I fail to see how in a suit to set aside an award the value of the subject-matter can be fixed with reference to any other consideration.

4. The learned Vakil for the plaintiff has not argued that the suit falls within Section 7, Clause (4)(c) of the Court-Fees Act which relates to suits to obtain declaratory decrees where consequential relief is asked for. No doubt, if the suit, for the purpose of Court-fees, is governed by that section, the plaintiff may value the relief at his pleasure and the Court-fee payable is ad valorem computed with reference to that valuation. Section 8 of the Suits Valuation Act will, in that case, apply, and the value as determinable for the computation of Court-fees and the value for the purposes of jurisdiction will, in that event, be the same. As already observed, Schedule II, Article 17, Clause (4) being in terms applicable to the suit in question, there is no necessity to resort to Section 7, Clause 4(c). This being the case, there is no occasion to impute to the relief claimed an imaginary or a notional value, as distinct from the real value. The plaintiff valued the relief at Rs. 2,500 to enable the suit to be filed in the District Munsif's Court. It is not disputed that this sum has no relation to the amount actually involved in the suit. The argument on behalf of the plaintiff, therefore, amounts to this, that in a suit to set aside an award, the plaintiff may place arbitrarily his own valuation on the relief and that it must be accepted as conclusive for purposes of jurisdiction. I do not think there is any warrant for this position in any of the three Acts mentioned above--the Court-Fees Act, the Suits Valuation Act and the Madras Civil Courts Act.

5. The view contended for on behalf of the plaintiff leads to the anomaly, namely, that a suit to set aside an award affecting rights to property valued at Rs. 1,00,000 may be filed in a Court of the lowest grade, and, unless there is very strong authority in favour of that proposition, I should not be prepared to accept it. On the contrary, the cases by which I am bound tend strongly to support the view which I am disposed to think is correct. In Keshava Sanabhaga v. Lakshminarayana 6 M. 192 : 7 Ind. Jur. 186 : 2 Ind. Dec. 413 it was held that in a suit by a reversioner for a declaration that in fact there was no adoption or, in the alternative, if the adoption was made it was invalid, the value of the suit for purposes of jurisdiction was the value of the estate in question; or, in the words of the learned Judges, 'the value of the interest that would be lost to the alleged adopted minor if the adoption be declared invalid.' This case was dissented from in Sheo Deni Ram v. Tulshi Ram 15 A. 378 : A.W.N. (1893) 137 : 7 Ind. Dec. 960 and the Bombay High Court in Bai Rewa v. Keshavram (1895) P.J. 228 followed the Allahabad case last cited and in Bai Machhbai v. Bai Hirbai 10 Ind. Cas. 816 : 35 B. 264 : 13 Bom. L.R. 251 followed again its earlier decision. In Prolhad Chandra Das v. Dwarka Nath Ghosh 6 Ind. Cas. 636 : 37 C. 860 : 14 C.W.N. 29 the learned Judges observed that in a suit to set aside an adoption the practice was that the plaintiff could he permitted to value the relief and the valuation given by him was taken to determine the forum. I may observe in passing that the Allahabad, Bombay and Calcutta High Courts have treated the question as one relating to the practice prevalent in those Provinces and that there is no discussion of the principle in any of the cases referred to above. These, then, are the authorities bearing on the valuation for purposes of jurisdiction of a suit to set aside an adoption.

6. Turning to suits for mere declaratory decrees, it has been held in Ganapati v. Chathu 12 M. 223 : 4 Ind. Dec. 505, that the value of a suit of that description must he taken for purposes of jurisdiction to be what it would be, if the suit were one for possession of the property regarding which the plaintiff seeks to have his title declared.' This case was followed and the law was stated in the same terms by the Patna High Court in Mohini Mohan Misser v. Gour Chandra Rai 56 Ind. Cas. 762 : (1921) Pat. 105 : 5 P.L.J. 397 : 1 P.L.T. 390 : 2 U.P.L.R. 123, the ground for the decision being stated thus:

It is difficult to see how the value of the declaration can be other than the value of the property in respect of which the declaration was asked for.

7. I have referred to the authorities dealing with suits to set aside an adoption and suits to obtain mere declaratory decrees because, for purposes of Court-fees, Schedule II, Section 17 of the Court-Fees Act treats them as standing precisely on the same footing as suits to set aside an award. If, in the two classes of suits mentioned first, the actual value of the subject-matter determines the forum, it seems to me indeed difficult to apply a different rule to suits of the third description, namely, suits to set aside an award.

8. Considerable light is thrown on this question by the observations of the Judicial Committee in Rachappa Subrao v. Shidappa Venkatiao 50 Ind. Cas. 280 : 43 B. 507 : 17 A.L.J. 418 : 25 M.L.T. 298 : 36 M.L.J. 437 : 29 Cri.L.J. 452 : 21 Bom. L.R. 489 : 10 L.W. 274 : 24 C.W.N. 33 : 1 U.P.L.R.83 : 46 I.A. 24. The suit was instituted in the Court of the first Class Subordinate Judge to establish the plaintiff's claim to the property of a deceased person on the ground that the plaintiff was his adopted son. The suit could be heard by the Judge in the exercise of his special original jurisdiction it the amount or the value of the subject-matter exceeded Rs. 5,000. As already seen, by Schedule II to the Court-Fees Act, a fixed fee is prescribed for a paint in a suit to obtain a declaratory decree where no consequential relief is asked for. The fixed fee was Rs. 10 and the prayer for declaration was valued in the suit at Rs. 130 in accordance with a practice not uncommon in Bombay of valuing a prayer for a declaratory decree at Rs. 130 as being the amount on which the fee nearest to Rs. 10 would be leviable. The value of the property, however, exceeded Rs. 60,000. Their Lordships say that it is contrary to the Scheme of the Act that there should be any valuation of a prayer for declaration and that when a fixed fee under Schedule II of the Court-Fees Act is payable, regard should be had to the real value of the property for the purposes of jurisdiction. Their Lordships, however, very clearly and emphatically point out that there is no warrant in law in such cases for what is described as notional value of the property. Of course, the case before the Judicial Committee was one falling within Section 17(3), whereas the present case falls within Section 17(4). But, as I stated above, the principle to be applied is identical and the observations quoted from the judgment of the Privy Council have a very direct and material bearing on the question before me.

9. I have no hesitation in holding that the District Munsif is wrong and I reverse his decision and allow the civil revision petition with costs throughout.

10. In the view I have taken, the learned Vakils on both sides agree that the order I am to make is to direct the District Munsif to return the plaint for presentation to the proper Court.

11. I order accordingly.

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