Skip to content


A.K.A.Ct. V.C.T. Meenakshisundaram Chettiar Vs. A.K.A.Ct.V.C.T. Venkatachalam Chettiar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1979)1MLJ398
AppellantA.K.A.Ct. V.C.T. Meenakshisundaram Chettiar
RespondentA.K.A.Ct.V.C.T. Venkatachalam Chettiar
Cases Referred and Mohd. Ajmal v. Indian Chemical Co.
Excerpt:
- orderp.r. gokulakrishnan, j.1. the plaintiff is the appellant' the suit was filed for directing the defendant to render a true and correct account o' all the transactions made by the defendant as plaintiff's agent from 22nd january, 1965 and also of all the amounts received by him as agent of the plaintiff including the amount received from alagappa and to pay the plaintiff what may be found due by him and also for directing the defendant to pay the plaintiff the costs of the suit.2. the facts of the case, in a nutshell, are that the plaintiff, on 22nd january, 1965, executed a general power-of-attorney at karaikudi authorising the defendant, who is the respondent in this appeal, to transact all his business, sell his properties, receive the sale price and other moneys etc., that the.....
Judgment:
ORDER

P.R. Gokulakrishnan, J.

1. The plaintiff is the appellant' The suit was filed for directing the defendant to render a true and correct account o' all the transactions made by the defendant as plaintiff's agent from 22nd January, 1965 and also of all the amounts received by him as agent of the plaintiff including the amount received from Alagappa and to pay the plaintiff what may be found due by him and also for directing the defendant to pay the plaintiff the costs of the suit.

2. The facts of the case, in a nutshell, are that the plaintiff, on 22nd January, 1965, executed a general power-of-attorney at Karaikudi authorising the defendant, who is the respondent in this appeal, to transact all his business, sell his properties, receive the sale price and other moneys etc., that the defendant, as plaintiff's agent, received from Alagappa 6,50,000 dollars, equivalent to Rs. 16,12000 being the one-fourth share of the plaintiff in the partnership firm which was taken over by Alagappa and another and that the defendant, from Madras, had sent to the plaintiff at Kottaiyur, Rs. 25,000 on 25th October, 1965, Rs. 1,30,750 on 7th June 1965, Rs. 25,311.65 on 7th February, 1966 and Rs. 4,56,340 on 11th August, 1967. It has been further alleged in the plaint that the defendant has failed to render accounts until the date of the plaint and as such the defendant is liable to render accounts. For the purpose of court-fee the plaintiff has valued the suit at Rs. 12,000 under Section 35(1) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act XIV of 1955, and has paid a court-fee of Rs. 90050 under that provision. He has stated in the plaint that much more amount will be due, and that if, on taking of accounts, more is four d due to the plaintiff, the plaintiff will pay court-fee for the excess so found and ascertained.

3. The defendant inter alia contended that he has appointed one Murugappa Chettiar as the substituted agent of the plaintiff and such appointment was made by the power given by the plaintiff in the power-of-attorney executed on 22nd January, 1965 in favour of the defendant. The defendant has also contended that he is not liable to render accounts and that the plaintiff must look to Murugappa Chettiar for getting the relief which he has prayed for in the plaint. In paragraph 19 of his written statement the defendant has stated that the suit is not properly valued and proper court-fee has not been paid. The defendant has also stated that the suit is barred by limitation.

4. In the reply statement, the plaintiff, who is the appellant, herein, has reiterated that the defendant is liable to account as prayed for by him in the plaint and that the allegation in the written statement to the effect that the plaint valuation is not proper and proper court-fee has not been paid, is wrong and untenable.

5. On the pleadings, the Subordinate Judge of Devakottai framed as many as nine issues. Issue No. 6 was as follows:

Has the suit been properly valued and has proper court-fee been paid?

The aforesaid issue No. 6 came to be tried as a preliminary issue. The learned Subordinate Judge, by his order dated 21st January, 1971, held that the plaint has been properly valued and proper court-fee has been paid. In his order, he observed that it is true that it has been averred in the plaint that the defendant received the value of the plaintiff's share in the assets of the firm as his agent, that the defendant has not informed the plaintiff about the amounts he had received and that one cannot expect the plaintiff to know what amounts the defendant has received On his behalf even though it is admitted by the parties that the share of the plaintiff's assets in the firm was valued at 6,50,000 dollars. The learned Subordinate Judge held that the valuation of the suit for purposes of court-fee at Rs. 12,000 cannot be said to be wrong. He also observed that the plaintiff cannot be expected to know the amounts received by the defendant on his behalf and as such the valuation of the plaint at Rs. 12,000 for purposes of court-fee is proper and proper court-fee has been paid.

6. Subsequently, the Subordinate Judge tried the main suit itself and dismissed the fame holding that Murugappa Chettiar is the substituted agent of the plaintiff, that the suit is barred by limitation and that the plaintiff is not entitled to the relief of accounting as against the delendant.

7. Aggrieved by the judgment and decree, the plaintiff has preferred the above appeal.

8. Mr. Kesava Iyengar, the learned Counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that the decision of the trial Court is hot correct and that the defendant is liable to account as per the prayer in the plaint. It is unnecessary to elaborately deal with the argument advanced by Mr. Kesava Iyengar at this stage, inasmuch as we intend in the first instance to consider the correctness of the valuation of the plaint and the court-fee paid by the plaintiff in the suit and in the appeal.

9. Mr. M.R. Narayanaswami, the learned Counsel appearing for the respondent-defendant brought to our notice the provisions in Section 12(4) of the Tamil Nadu court-fees, and Suits Valuation Act XIV of 1955, and submitted that this Court can consider the correctness of the order passed by the lower Court affecting the fee payable by the plain-till' and can determine the proper fee payable on the plaint and on the memorandum of grounds of appeal.

10. Section 12(4) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act XIV of 1955 reads as follows:

(a) Whenever a case comes up before a Court of Appeal it shall be lawful for the Court, either of its own motion or on the application of any of the parties, to consider the correctness of any order passed by the lower Court affecting the fee payable on the plaint or in any other proceeding in the lower Court and determine the proper fee payable thereon.

Explanation. - A case shall be deemed to come before a Court of Appeal even if the appeal relates only to a part of the subject-matter of the suit.

(b) If the Court of Appeal decides that the fee paid in the lower court is not sufficient, the Court shall require the party liable to pay the deficit fee within such time as may be fixed by it.

(c) If the deficit fee is not paid within the time fixed and the default is in respect of a relief which has been dismissed by the lower Court and which the appellant seeks in appeal the appeal shall be dismissed, but if the default is in respect of a relief which has been decreed by the lower Court, the deficit fee shall be recoverable as if it were an arrear of land revenue.

(d) If the fee paid in the lower Court is in excess the Court shall direct the refund of the excess to the party who is entitled to it.

It is clear from the above section that a Court of Appeal, either on its own motion or on the application of any of the parties, can consider the correctness of any order passed by the lower Court affecting the fee payable of the plaint.

11. As far as the present case is concerned, our attention was drawn to the allegation in the plaint filed by the appellant. In paragraph 6 of the plaint, it is stated:

On 27th March, 1965, the plaintiff and the defendant retired from the said partnership and the other two brothers continued the business under the same name Alagappa taking on the shares of the plaintiff and the defendant and all their assets in the firm for a consideration of his paying 6,50,000, equivalent to Rs. 16,12,000 at the rate of Rs. 248 per 100 Dollars to each of them, so that Alagappa became entitled to 3/4 share and Annamalai to 1/4 share in the continuing firm.

Paragraph 7 of the plaint states:

As the plaintiff's agent an on behalf of the plaintiff, the defendant on or about 13th April, 1965, received from Alagappa 6,50,000 equivalent to Rs. 16,12,000 at the rate of Rs. 248 per 100 Dollars for the 1/4 share of the plaintiff in the said firm taken over by Alagappa.

Paragraph 8 of the plaint states:

The defendant from Madras has sent to the plaintiff at Kottaiyur Rs. 25,000 on 25th October, 1965, Rs. 1,30,750 on 7th February, 1966, Rs. 25,311-65 on 7th February, 1966 (Rs. 25,000 plus Rs. 31165 for interest) and Rs. 4,56,340 on 11th August, 1967, and nothing more.

Paragraph 9 of the plaint states:

The defendant as plaintiff's agent is bound to render true and correct account to the plaintiff of all the amounts received by him in the course of the agency, to wit, from 22nd January, 1965, the amounts received from Alagappa and pay the plaintiff the amounts that are still with him, less the amounts already paid.

Paragraph 12 of the plaint states:

The valuation of the suit for purposes of court-fee and jurisdiction is Rs. 12,000. The plaintiff values the relief for rendering of accounts at the tentative valuation of Rs. 12,000 under Section 35(1) of the Madras Court-fees Act XIV of 1955. Much more will be due. If on taking of accounts more is found due by the defendant the plaintiff will pay the additional court-fees and has paid Rs. 900.50 under Section 35(1) of the Court-fees Act.

12. The trial Court, while deciding as a preliminary issue, i.e., issue No. 6 relating to correctness or otherwise of the valuation of the suit and the court-fee paid in its order dated -1 21st January, 1971 has observed:

it has been further averred in the plaint that defendant has not informed him what amounts he had received and that the defendant managed to retain the letters written by him requesting him to send an account of the amounts received by him. We cannot expect the plaintiff to know that amount the defendant received on his behalf even though if it is admitted by the parties that the shares of the plaintiff's assets in the firm was valued at $6,50,000 and taken over by his elder brother Alagappa Chettiar.

This observation of the trial Court, in our view, is not correct in view of the clear and unambiguous allegations made by the plaintiff in his plaint which we have already extracted in the paragraph supra. There is no ambiguity in the allegations made in the plaint as regards tire defendant receiving from Alagappa $6,50,000 on or about 13th April, 1965. The said amount in dollars is equivalent to Rs. 16,12,000. There is equally no ambiguity in the plaint allegation as regards the defendant sending from Madras various amounts, in all amounting to Rs. 6,37,401-65, to the plaintiff at Kottaiyur. The plaintiff has also made a prayer in the plaint that the defendant be directed to render a true and correct account to the plaintiff of all the amounts received by him in the course of his agency from 22nd January, 1965 and pay the plaintiff the amount that will be still with him less the amounts already paid. Thus it is clear from the allegations made in the plaint itself that the defendant has to pay to the plaintiff the sum of Rs. 16,12,000 minus Rs. 6,37,401-65, which comes to Rs. 9,74,598. 35 and apart from this amount the defendant must also render a true and correct account to the plaintiff of all the amounts received by him in the course of his agency as and from 22nd January, 1965, which is the date on which the plaintiff executed a general-power of attorney at Karaikudi authorising the defendant to transact all his business, sell his properties, receive the sale price and other moneys etc. After making such averments in the plaint, the plaintiff has valued the suit for purposes of court-fee and jurisdiction only at Rs. 12,000 under Section 35(1) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act XIV of 1955, stating that much more will be due from the defendant. No doubt, the plaintiff has stated that if on taking of accounts, more is found due by the defendant the plaintiff will pay court-fee for the excess so found and ascertained. After so stating the plaintiff has paid a court-fee only Rs. 900 50 under Section 35(1) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, XIV of 1955.

13. Section 35(1) state3 as follows:

In a suit for accounts, fee shall be computed on the amount sued for as estimated in the plaint.

Mr. Kesava Iyengar, the learned Counsel appearing for the appellant, contended that the estimate made by the plaintiff is final and cannot be questioned by this Court nor by the defendant. The learned Counsel also contended that there having been a decision by the trial Court as regards the correctness of the court-fee paid on the plaint, and no appeal or revision having been filed by the respondent against that decision, this Court, at this stage, cannot go into the correctness of the court-fee paid on the plaint or in the appeal. The learned Counsel further contended that there would be no loss to the Government even if the amount due to the plaintiff on taking of accounts is found to be much more than the value he has mentioned in the plaint, by virtue of the provisions contained in Section 35 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act XIV of 1955. Section 35(2) states:

Where the amount payable to the plaintiff as ascertained in the suit is in excess of the amount as estimated in the plaint, no decree directing payment of the amount as so ascertained shall %e passed until the difference between the fee actually paid and the fee that would have been payable had the suit comprised the whole of the amount so ascertained, is paid. If the additional fee is not paid within such time as the Court may fix, the decree shall be limited to the amount to which the fee paid extends.

Stressing on the above provision in Section 35 Mr. Kesava Iyengar strenuously contended that valuation of the suit at a lesser amount will not in any way be detrimental to the Government. He cited certain decisions which deal with the revisional powers of the High Court on the question of payment of court-fees. We shall presently discuss the provisions of the Court-fees Act on this aspect and also consider the relevant decisions which were brought to the notice of this Court.

14. There is absolutely no difficulty in coming to the conclusion, en a reading of Section 12(4)(a) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act XIV of 1955, that this Court can either on its own motion or on the application of any of the parties consider the correctness of any order passed by the lower Court affecting the fee payable on the plaint or in any other proceedings in the lower Court and determine the proper fee payable thereon. From the allegations in the plaint, which we have extracted already, it is clear that the plaintiff is definite in his claim for Rs. 9,74,598.35, apart from the other amounts payable by the defendant on taking of accounts. Having regard to the definite amount which the plaintiff has stated that he has to get from the defendant, the valuation of the suit for purposes of court-fee and jurisdiction at Rs. 12,000 is palpably low and it shocks the conscience of the Court. No doubt, Section 35 states that court-fee shall be computed on the amount sued for as estimated in the plaints The 'estimate' that has to be made by the plaintiff as contemplated in the provisions of Section 35, must be an honest estimate which must approximately come very near the amount the plaintiff expects to get and need not be precise. 'Estimate' according to Shorter Oxford Dictionary, means 'approximate calculation based on probabilities'. The plaintiff, in his plaint, has averred that the defendant has received a sum of Rs. 16,12,000 as his agent and towards that, the defendant has paid on various dates, a sum totalling to Rs. 6,37,401.65. Thus it is clear that the plaintiff expects, ore, the probabilities of the present case, at least a minimum amount of Rs. 9,74,598.35. Hence the valuation made at Rs. 12,000 in the plaint cannot be considered as 'estimate' at all as-provided under Section 35 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955. In. our view, the valuation made in the plaint is not an honest estimate.

15. This Court had occasion to deal with Section 12 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and. Suits Valuation Act, 1955, in Parameswaran v. Sarveswarsn : AIR1960Mad260 . That ease came up before this-Court by way of revision. The trial Court directed the plaintiff, who was the petitioner before the High Court, to pay the court-fee on Rs. 32,000 less the court-fee already paid on the plaint. In that case, the plaintiff filed the suit for accounts of a dissolved partnership from 1948 upto the date of the suit and to have the assets realised including therein the-goodwill, plant and machinery, which according to him, were wrongfully taken over by the defendants. In paragraph 22 of the plaint, it was stated that the plaintiff estimated his share of the assets payable to him in the sum of Rs. 8,000. A court-fee of Rs. 600 was paid under Section 36(1) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955. There was also an undertaking to pay an additional court-fee after the ascertainment ofT the amount due to him. The first defendant in that case questioned the correctness of the valuation of the plaint, and issue No. 15 was raised as to the proper court-fee payable on the plaint. The Assistant City Civil Judge before whom the suit was pending, held that the proper value on the basis of the plaint would be a sum of Rs. 32,000, and he required the plaintiff to pay the additional court-fee thereon. Aggrieved by the order of the trial Court on issue No. 15, the plaintiff filed the civil revision petition before the High Court challenging the correctness of the order requiring additional court-fee. In that case, the finding of the trial Judge was that the plaintiff's share in the partnership business would come to Rs. 32,000, based on the allegations contained in paragraph 14 of the plaint. The High Court, after referring to the relevant paragraphs in the plaint in that suit, no doubt came to the conclusion that the valuation given by the plaintiff and the court-fee paid thereon were correct and ultimately allowed the revision. While doing so, the High Court has laid down-

When therefore the plaintiff purports to make an estimate in regard to what he would get on the taking of the accounts there would necessarily be an element of some guess or speculation. There is bound to be some kind of inaccuracy if one were to consider it in relation to the actual amount that would ultimately be found due. But if the estimate is on the face of it a sham one or so obviously wrong or if the other portions of the plaint make it clear that that is not the real estimate which the plaintiff himself had in mind it would be open to the Court to look at the plaint and ascertain what the real estimate is. But so long as there is no other averment in the plaint which renders the plaintiff's estimate a sham one or which shows that the estimate was some other amount the Court would be bound to accept the estimate as given by the plaintiff. Reality and not the accuracy is the test for ascertaining a proper valuation under Section 36(1).

16. Applying the above principle laid down in Parameswaran v Sarveswaran : (1960)1MLJ468 . We find from the averments made in the plaint in the present case that the estimate made by the plaintiff, on the face of it, is a sham one and is obviously wrong. The averments in the plaint make it clear that the valuation given is not the real estimate which the plaintiff himself had in mind. No doubt, the suit in the above decision was for dissolution of partnership, wherein the court-fee was computed as per Section 36 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955. The present suit is one for accounts and the court-fee has to be paid as per Section 35 of the Act. But in both these sections, it is stated that the fee shall be computed on the amount as per the estimate made in the plaint. Hence, in all fours, the principle in the above decision will apply to the present cage.

17. In State v. L. Tota Ram, a Bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court dealt with, Section 7(iv)(f) of the Indian Court-fees Act VII of 1870, which states-

7. The amount of fee payable under this-Act in the suits next hereinafter mentioned shall be computed as follows:

(IV) In suits-

(f) for accounts-

according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal. In all such suits the plaintiff shall state the amount at which he values the relief sought.

The Bench of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court dealing with the appeal filed against the preliminary decree passed in the suit for accounts, took up for consideration the question as to whether the valuation fixed for the purpose of court-fee and jurisdiction by the plaintiff was wrong. The very same question had been discussed by the District Judge, and the District Judge held that the valuation given by the plaintiff was correct. The High Court, after observing:

In this case the plaintiff on his owa showing in the plaint had claimed Rs. 15,000 in paragraph 7, as charges for extra labour. In paragraph 9 of the plaint, Rs. 700 for felling of trees were claimed by the plaintiff and according to the trial Court he was entitled to the refund of Rs. 18,572-20. In addition, according to the plaintiff he had other claims against the department. If only the above-mentioned specified amounts or any two of them are added the valuation of the suit would exceed Rs. 20,000 or the minimum-valuation that the plaintiff could place on the suit on the averments in the plaint must be above Rs. 15,700. Thus putting a fanciful valuation of Rs. 5,100 is not bona fide but' sham, fanciful, arbitrary and unreasonable. Therefore, the finding on this issue returned by the learned District Judge is not correct, held that-

Although a plaintiff has got power to fix his valuation in a suit for accounts, he cannot do so by mentioning a fanciful amount, nor can he put a fictitious valuation. The Court has power to interfere in the valuation put by the plaintiff if the valuation made by him is arbitrary or unreasonable. Where it is evident that the plaintiff made no endeavour to estimate the relief sought and the value given has no proportion to the relief sought and is on the face of it sham, fanciful, arbitrary and unreasonable, the Court can ask the plaintiff to correct the valuation.

After so finding, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir both on the question of court-fee and also on the question of maintainability, allowed the appeal directing the plaintiff to properly amend the suit if he so chose.

18. In Kapurchand v. State Government of Madhya Pradesh A.I.R. 1954 Nag. 13. Sinha, C.J. had occasion to deal with Section 7(iv)(f) of the Indian Court-fees Act (1870) and it was held:

Under Section 7(iv)(f) in a suit for accounts, the plaintiff has to state the amount at which he values the reliefs sought and court-fee has to be paid on that amount. But that does not mean that it is open to a plaintiff to deliberately so underestimate his claim as to deprive the defendant of his valuable right of appeal to the High Court. In that sense it is not only a matter of court-fees but it becomes a question of jurisdiction also. Where the plaintiffs really intended to obtain a decree for Rs. 11,675, they should value their claim approximating to that sum. But the plaintiffs cannot say that the approximate amount of their claim is Rs. 100 and value their plaint accordingly and pay court-fee thereon. This amounts to the abuse of the process of the Court.

After so finding, Sinha, C.J. stated-

If the plaintiffs insist on their claim of Rs. 11,000 and odd, they must amend their plaint accordingly and then the case will have to be tried by a Court of competent jurisdiction. The plaint will have to be returned for presentation to the proper Court.

19. In Kashinath v. Tukaram A.I.R. 1956 Nag. 195, a Division Bench of the Nagpur High Court dealing with Section 7(iv)(f) of the Indian Court-fees Act (1870) has stated-

In a suit for accounts under Section 7(iv)(f), Court-fees Act, the Court can go behind the tentative valuation put by the plaintiff on the ground that such valuation is grossly unfair and arbitrary and on correct valuation return the plaint for presentation to the proper Court. The plaintiff in a suit for accounts cannot put any valuation of his choice on his claim without any check from the Court. Having regard to the provisions in the Code of Civil Procedure, no such untrammelled right can be said to exist with the plaintiff and the Court cannot lose sight of two considerations, jurisdiction and the right of appeal which turn on the valuation of the claim. In a case falling under Section 7(iv)(f) Court-fees Act it is usually difficult for the plaintiff to state precisely the amount which he is likely to obtain after accounts are taken, and it is not easy for the Court to say that the plaintiff had undervalued the relief sought.

But when it is evident that the plaintiff made no endeavour to estimate the relief sought and the value given bears no proportion to the relief sought and is arbitrary, the Court can under Order 7, Rules 10 and 11, Civil Procedure Code ask plaintiff to correct the valuation and make good the deficiency court-fees, and on his failure to do so reject the plaint if on a proper valuation the suit is still within the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Court or if it exceeds the pecuniary jurisdiction of the Court to return the plaint for presentation to the proper Court. But the power must be exercised with proper appreciation of the plaintiff's difficulty and with due regard to the right given to him by the legislature to value the claim for the purpose of Court-fees

The Division Bench further stated-

In considering the question of correct valuation the Court is not confined to what appears in the plaint but it is open to it to rely upon admissions by the plaintiff even in interlocutory matters in the suit.

2o. Lal Bijai Saran v. Chandra Bahadur : AIR1957All754 arose out of a suit for dissolution of partnership and for accounts. Under Section 7(iv)(b) of the Uttar Pradesh Act, the plaintiff is required to state the approximate amount due to him. The Allahabad High Court has held that it will not do for the plaintiff to merely value his suit for purpose of payment of court-fee at a certain figure. The High Court observed that it is not necessary for the Munsif to enter into detailed investigation at this stage and that the allegations in the plaint alone should be taken into consideration for fixing the approximate value of the suit.

21. In Om Prakash v. Maya Ram : AIR1964All430 , a Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court had occasion to deal with Section 7(iv)(b) of the Uttar Pradesh Court-fees Act, which is the provision for computation of court-fee payable in a suit for accounts. The second proviso to Section (iv)(b) as amended by Uttar Pradesh Court-fees (Amendment) Act, 1938, mentions that valuation shall be the approximate sum due to the plaintiff according to the allegations in the plaint. In that decision it is stated that-

The word 'approximate' occurring in the proviso to the said section means very near, closely resembling or fairly correct. Therefore, when the plaintiff is required to put down an approximate valuation of the suit it means that the valuation is as nearly as may be, the sum in respect of which he seeks relief in the suit. If it is possible to ascertain the approximate valuation, on the basis of the allegations made in the plaint, then the plaintiff cannot be allowed to put down a fictitious value for the purpose of jurisdiction.

Proceeding further, the Allahabad High Court has observed:

The averments made by the plaintiff in his plaint clearly go to show that he was claiming a sum of Rs. 17,000 and odd by way of his contribution towards the capital of the firm, besides profits which according to him had been earned by the partnership during its continuance. In the present case, therefore, there was no difficulty in ascertaining the approximate valuation of the suit having regard to the relief claimed in the suit....

The Allahabad High Court, in the above said decision, has further observed:

In a case where the plaintiff has clearly stated that a particular sum is due to him from the partnership firm and it is alleged that the said partnership had earned profits in the course of its business, the plaintiff cannot be allowed to put an arbitrary or fictitious valuation on the suit for the purpose of jurisdiction...If prima facie the allegations in the plaint disclose that the Court has no jurisdiction to grant the relief claimed in the suit and the plaintiff has deliberately under-valued the suit, the Court would have no option but to return the plaint for presentation to the proper Court.

On the facts of that case, the Division Bench came to the conclusion that they were satisfied that in that case the plaintiff had deliberately under-valued his claim in order to give jurisdiction to the Munsif to entertain the suit and that the plaintiff could not be allowed to do that merely to escape the payment of court-fee.

22. The decision reported in Mohd. Ajmal v. Indian Chemical Co. : AIR1978All21 , states....

Though in a suit for accounts the plaint tiff has to a certain extent been given the liberty of paying court-fee on the amount, at which he valued the relief in the plaint-this discretion is not absolute. He is required to value the suit according to the approximate sum due to him. It is not open to a plaintiff to arbitrarily value the relief claimed by him and to pay Court-fee. If the Court can discover from the plaint or material furnished by the plaintiff himself that the valuation given by the plaintiff is unacceptable being inaccurate and arbitrary, it-has the power to direct the plaintiff to amend his plaint or take the risk of its being rejected in the event of non-compliance. The principle is that ordinarily the valuation given by the plaintiff has to be accepted and it is not open to the Court to enter into a detailed enquiry at the initial stage on the basis of the pleas put forward by the defendant. It is the function of the Court to apply its mind as to whether the valuation in the suit is correct or incorrect not only on the basis of allegations contained in the plaint but also taking into account other materials furnished by the plaintiff himself at the stage when the preliminary question comes up for consideration as to whether, the suit is under-valued or not and whether the court-fees paid is sufficient or insufficient. If the plaintiff himself provides the Court material on the basis of which the Court without any detailed enquiry could arrive at the conclusion that the valuation disclosed by the plaintiff in the plaint is incorrect and arbitrary, it is not only open to the Court but it is its duty to hold so and to direct the plaintiff to amend the plaint accordingly. If for instance during examination of the plaintiff under Order 10, Rule 2, Civil Procedure Code material comes on record showing that the valuation disclosed by the plaintiff in the plaint is incorrect, the Court would not only be justified but would be bound to direct the plaintiff to amend his plaint disclosing the correct valuation.

23. Considering the decisions referred to above, we are of the view that the words 'as estimated in the plaint' occurring in the Madras Court fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955 are analogous to the words 'approximate value' in the Uttar Pradesh Court-fees Act. This view is fortified by the meaning given in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary for the word 'estimate as : 'Estimate - approximate calculation made on the probabilities'. We have already observed that the language employed in Section 35 and Section 36 of the Tamil Nadu Court fees Act is more or less the same.

24. Mr. Kesava Iyengar, the learned Counsel for the appellant, was not able to counter the principles laid down in the decisions referred to above. He simply stated that the power given under Section 35 for the plaintiff to estimate the value is absolute and the valuation given by the plaintiff cannot be questioned either at that stage or at the appellate stage. The learned Counsel further submitted that there is no question of jurisdiction as such involved in this case and the mere fact that the suit has been undervalued cannot give this Court power to direct the plaintiff to pay the proper court-fee after estimating the amount sued for. Mr. Kesava Iyengar further stated that in any case the plaintiff will be directed to pay the court-fees, if ultimately the Court finds that the amount payable to the plaintiff on taking of accounts is much more than the amount at which it was estimated.

25. We are not able to appreciate the arguments of Mr. Kesava Iyengar. In the first place, if this Court comes to the conclusion that the estimate made by the plaintiff in the plaint Is not honest and does not give the approximate amount he claims on taking of accounts, there is no gainsaying that court-fee will be paid ultimately if the decree is given for a larger amount. The payment of court-fee after honestly estimating the value of the suit is a must, and the party should not be allowed to estimate the value of the suit in a sham, nominal, arbitrary and dishonest manner.

26. The decision cited by Mr. Kesava Iyengar reported in Rathnavarmaraj v. Smt. Vimala : [1961]3SCR1015 deals with the right of the defendant to question by way of revision to the High Court under Section 115, Civil Procedure Code, the decision on court-fee given by the trial Court. On the court fee issue it ultimately held that the revision filed by a defendant against the order of the trial Court regarding the decision rendered by it on the question of court-fee payable by the plaintiff is not maintainable. The Supreme Court in that case had occasion only to deal with Section 12(2) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act and there is absolutely no reference to Sub-section (4) of Section 12. We do not think this decision in any way helps the appellant.

27. The next case cited by Mr. Kesava Iyengar is the one reported in Rachappasubrao v. Shidappa Venkatrao I.L.R.(1919) 43 Bom. 507 wherein the Privy Council had occasion to deal with Section 12 of the Madras Court-fees Act. In that case, the Privy Council no doubt approved the decision of the High Court which rejected the plea of the defendant at the appellate stage regarding sufficiency of the court-fee paid on the plaint. In that decision, the Privy Council has observed:

The Court-fees Act was passed not to arm a litigant with a weapon of technicality against his opponent, but to secure revenue for the benefit of the State. This is evident from the character of the Act, and is brought out by - 12, which makes the decision of the First Court as to value final as between the parties, and enables a Court of appeal to correct any error as to this, only where the First Court decided to the detriment of the revenue. The defendant in this suit seeks to ulilise the provisions of the Act, not to safeguard the interests of the State, but to obstruct the plaintiff; he does not contend that the Court wrongly decided to 'the detriment of the revenue, but that it death with the case without jurisdiction.

It is clear from the above said observation made by the Privy Council that the Court has power under Section 12 to look into the valuation to see whether it is detrimental to the revenue of the State. In the present case, there was no appeal or revision against the finding of the trial Court on the issue relating to court-fee. It is only brought to our notice by the learned Counsel for the defendant that the estimate made by the plaintiff-appellant for the purpose of paying the court-fee is sham, nominal, arbitrary and dishonest even on the very allegations made in the plaint.

28. Nobody can be allowed to litigate without paying the proper court-fee, except in the case where the plaintiff sues as a pauper. If the estimate made by the plaintiff, is sham, nominal and dishonest, the Court has power to direct the plaintiff to pay the proper court-fee after valuing his claim properly. Such valuation of the plaintiff s claim must no doubt be based on the plaint allegations and also on the averments made by him in interlocutory applications made on the strength of the plaint. The litigant cannot be allowed to say that he will be paying additional court-fee or deficit court-fee once the decision is rendered by the Court regarding the actual amount he will be getting on taking of accounts. In such cases if the plaintiff fails in the suit, or in the appeal, he will go scotfree without paying the deficit court-fee, even though he is legally liable to pay such court-fee at the time of filing the suit or the appeal. It will be detrimental to the revenue of the State. As such we are not in a position to appreciate the argument of Mr. Kesava Iyengar to the effect that ultimately the plaintiff has to pay the court-fee on the amount decreed if it is larger than the amount estimated in the plaint.

29. Mr. Kesava Iyengar cited the decision reported in Sathappa Chettiar v. Ramanathan Chettiar : [1958]1SCR1021 in support of his argument. That decision deals with Section 7(iv)(a) to (f) of the Court-fees Act, 1870, and also Section 12(2) of the same Act. After observing that there is no finality reached as regards the court-fee payable by virtue of Section 5 of the Indian Court-fees Act, the Supreme Court held that it was open to the Division Bench to consider the correctness of the view taken by the learned Chamber Judge and that as they were satisfied that the plaint did not fall under Article 17B of Schedule II, they were entitled to pass appropriate orders under Section 12(1) and 12(2) of the Act. The Supreme Court further held that under Section 7(iv)(b) the amount of fee payable in a suit for accounts is according to the amount at which the relief sought is valued in the plaint or memorandum of appeal and in all such suits the plaintiff shall state the amount at which he values the relief sought. On this basis, the Supreme Court further held that the plaintiff has the right to state his value in the plaint and this will govern the jurisdiction and as such the amendment sought for, viz., the amount specified for jurisdiction as Rs. 15 lakhs be amended as Rs. 50,000 has to be allowed. In that case, the plaintiff valued the suit for purposes of Court-fee at Rs. 50,000. Section 7(iv)(f) of the Indian Court-fees Act, 1870 deals with Court-fee payable in suits for accounts and as to how such suits should be valued. Its corresponding provision is Section 35 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955, which deals with Court-fee payable on suits for accounts, and it is stated therein that in a suit for accounts, fee should be computed on the amount sued for as estimated in the plaint. Therefore, the above decision of the Supreme Court will not be helpful in deciding the point at issue in the present case which has to be decided in conformity with the provisions of Section 35 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955.

30. The above said decision of the Supreme Court and the decisions in In re Venkatanandam : AIR1933Mad330 and Sathappa Chettiar v. Ramanathan Chettiar : AIR1955Mad682 , wherein reference is made to Ramayya v. Ramaswami : (1913)24MLJ233 and Narayana v. Periappan : AIR1938Mad887 , are cases falling under Section 7(iv) of the Indian Court-fees Act, 1870. Apart from the fact that the decisions and discussions made therein do not apply to the facts of the present case and the issue directly involved in this case, those cases were in relation to the interpretation of Section 7(iv) of the Indian Court-fees Act as it then stood. Further these decisions referred to above never considered cases wherein the value stated by the plaintiff on the face of it was sham, nominal, arbitrary and dishonest. Section 7(iv) of the 1870 Act clearly gives the right to a plaintiff to value the relief in his plaint and gives a complete discretion to the plaintiff in the suits enumerated under Section 7(iv)(a) to (f) of that Act in the matter of valuing the relief. But such discretion given to the plaintiff, in our view, should be used without detriment to the revenue of the State. The discretion exercised must be honest and not sham, nominal, arbitrary or dishonest. The provision that governs suits for accounts in the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955, is Section 35, and that, for suits for dissolution of partnership is Section 36. In both these sections, we find the expression that the fee shall be computed on the amount sued for as estimated in the plaint. The word, 'estimated' occurring in these sections does not find place in Section 7(iv) of the old Court-fees Act of 1870. We have in the beginning of this judgment discussed about the word 'estimate' and the decisions rendered in the light of Sections 35 and 36 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955. According to the present section, the plaintiff should estimate his claim approximately. Such estimate should not be sham, nominal, arbitrary and dishonest No doubt the Court's power is limited only to ascertain the plaintiff's estimate of the amount due to him from the allegations in the plaint, and it cannot substitute its own estimate. If the estimate given by the plaintiff is on the face of it sham or obviously wrong, the Court can ask the plaintiff to make a proper estimate of his claim. In the light of the wordings in Sections 35 and 36 of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955, and the discussion made in paragraphs supra, we do not think the abovesaid decisions relied upon Mr. Kesava Iyengar will have any application to the facts of the present case.

31. The decisions cited by Mr. Kesava Iyengar, in our opinion have not touched the provisions contained in Section 12(4) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, 1955, and have not stated anything against the principles laid down in Parmeswaran v. Sarveswaran : (1960)1MLJ468 , State v. L. Tota Ram A.I.R. 1971 J. & K. 7, Kapurchand v. State Government of Madhya Pradesh A.I.R. 1954 Nag. 48, Kashinat : AIR1957All754 v. Takaram A.I.R. 1956 Nag. 195, Lal Bijai Suran v. Chandra Bahadurh Om Prakash v. Maya Ram : AIR1964All430 , and Mohd. Ajmal v. Indian Chemical Co. : AIR1978All21 .

32. From the above discussion it follows that Section 13(4) of the Tamil Nadu Court-fees and Suits Valuation Act, extracted already in the foregoing paragraphs, will squarely apply to the facts of the present case. The Court has power under the said section to consider the correctness of any order passed by the trial Court affecting the fee payable on the plaint, either suo motu or on the application of any of the parties. We have perused the order of the trial Court on the court-fee issue. The plaint, as discussed supra, makes it clear that apart from the money which the defendant is liable to pay the plaintiff as agent of the plaintiff, the plaintiff has quantified the amount at Rs. 9,74,598-35 as payable by the defendant to him. This is made clear by the allegations in paragraphs 6, 7, 8, and 9 of the plaint. The plaintiff ought to have valued the suit at about Rs. 9,74,59835 which he has to get apart from the amounts received by the defendant on his behalf in the course of his agency as and from 22nd January, 1965.

33. The appellant, after the arguments on this aspect of the case was over filed C.M.P. No. 11929 of 1978 under Order 6, Rule 17 read with Section 151, Civil Procedure Code for amendment of the plaint by omitting the words-

(1) 'and nothing more', occurring in para. 8;

(2) and pay the plaintiff the amounts that are still 'with him less the amounts already paid' occurring in para 9;and

(3) 'much more will be due' occurring in para 12. Even if those amendments are allowed, the plaint will still be for the recovery of Rs. 9,74,598-35 apart from the amounts received by the defendant on his behalf in the course of his agency as and from 22nd January, 1965. But, after considering the merits of the amendment petition, we have dismissed the same.

34. The appellant, who was the plaintiff before the Court below, has to value the suit for the purpose of court-fee and jurisdiction at Rs. 9,74,598.35 and pay the deficit court-fee both on the plaint and on the memorandum of appeal on the basis of such valuation within six weeks from this date.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //