1. This is an appeal from the decree of the Subordinate Judge of Vizagapatam in a suit brought by the plaintiff, D.V. Narasinga Rao, a Vakil, to recover remuneration for work done by him for the defendant, the Maharaja of Vizayanagaram, in connection with the suits questioning the defendant's right to the zemindari and also for other miscellaneous work aboutwhich there is no question in this appeal.
2. Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar for the defendant-appellant has questioned the amount awarded by the Subordinate Judge. Two legal objections were raised but not very seriously pressed. It was said that the plaintiff could not claim remuneration at a higher scale than is made payable by a party in respect of his adversary's Advocate, Pleader, Vakil or Attorney under the Legal Practitioners Act. Both on the language of the Act and on the decisions of this Court it seems to me impossible to contend that the Legal Practitioners Act imposes any limitation upon the fees which are recoverable by practitioners from their own clients. It is not alleged that there was any agreement such as is contemplated by Section 28 of the Act between the plaintiff and the defendant: and in the absence of such an agreement the Court has to discharge what is the function of the Taxing Officer in suits in the English Courts snd to decide what is a fair and reasonable remuneration for the workdone.
3. Next, it was suggested that the suit was barred by limitation. The contention was that the case was not governed By Article 84 which relates to suits, 'by an Attorney or Vakil for his costs of a suit or a particular business, there being no express agreement as to the time when such costs are to be paid,' and that the present claim could not be said to be a claim for costs of a suit, because it was said the expression costs of a suit' must be limited to out of pocket expenses incurred by the Practitioner. We do not think that there is any foundation for that contention. It must be taken, therefore, that the suit was not barred by limitation.
4. Now the plaintiff has undoubtedly recovered a very large amount by the decree of the Subordinate Judge; but it must be remembered at the same time that the suit was a very big one, one of the most important suits that have been tried in the Presidency for many year, and the plaintiff's services were spread over a period of about five years. Before going into this question I think that, following the practice of the English Courts as regards decisions of the Taxing Officer, we ought to be slow to interfere with the decision arrived at by the Subordinate Judge with his knowledge of local conditions and after a careful examination of all the circumstances of the casethe plaintiff was Standing vakil to, the estate and would appear to have played a very active, if not a leading, part in the earlier preparation of the cases: most of the work falling upon him being such as would fall upon an Attorney where one was engaged at the time.
5. On the 12th October 1906 the plaintiff presented a bill (Exhibit A) for 650 days' work from the beginning of the suit until the 3rd of October 1906. He had been to Calcutta and various parts of India in connection with the case and he claimed to be paid Rs. 50 a day for work outside the District and Rs. 80 a day for work done in the District and Mr. Elwin, a member of the Civil Service who was then managing the affairs of the Estate under a power-of-attorney from the Rajah, decided that Rs. 40 a day on the average seemed fair (Exhibit Al). Mr. Elwin has been called and has confirmed his opinion in the box. He says: 'I thought that amount was reasonable, considering the amount of work done by plaintiff and the places such as Madras, Benares, Hyderabad and Calcutta at which he had worked... I thought that that was a reasonable sum to be paid to him.... I took into my consideration the fact that the plaintiff had to work at such distant places as Benares, Calcutta, Madras, etc. I would not have allowed such a high rate had ho not worked at such distant places. On receipt of the plaintiff's petition I ordered the Superintendent of the Law Branch to verify the correctness of the figures' as to the number of days. There is also other evidence as to the very varied and responsible character of the work which the plaintiff had to do in the earlier stages of the case and we are not prepared, to differ from the Subordinate Judge in accepting the amount which Mr. Elwin, who was the responsible authority in charge of the Estate, allowed.
6. The plaintiff also claims under Exhibit F for 270 more days' work. It says: 'For 225 days as mentioned in my bill dated 3rd September 1907 Rs. 9,000.' Unfortunately the defendant has not been able to produce the bill which gives the particulars of those days; but the evidence is that the plaintiff worked very hard indeed and we see no reason to differ from the Subordinate Judge, who has accepted this figure. It has also to be obeserved that in the written statement the defendant did not question the number of days in respect of what the plaintiff claimed, except in so far as the claim was for 270 days instead of. 263 days; and the difference of seven days is accounted for by the fact that the bill, Exhibit A, was only made up to the 3rd of October while the bill was signed on the 10th October and Mr. Elwin, therefore, appears to have regarded it curiously as being a bill for services rendered up to the 10th October, whereas it is only a bill for services rendered upto the 3rd October. But there is nothing in the defendant's written statement to suggest that the defendant questioned the fact that he had really piat in 263 days' work after the period covered by Exhibit A. Mr. Srinavasa Aiyangar's argument proceeded on the basis that this part of the claim was only for days during which the hearing was going on; and he showed that he has claimed in this bill for some 68 clays when there was no hearing. He said that there were 68 days hearing prior to Exhibit A, and that only left 169 days of the hearing for Exhibit F; but the fallacy appears to consist in the assumption that the plaintiff was only claiming remuneration for days when the hearing was going on, whereas according to his evidence he was equally busy, perhaps more busy, on days when it was not. So far as the period not covered by the bill which is missing is concerned, he gives the dates in September, November and December 1907 and May 1908 for which he claimed remuneration. On the pleadings and the evidence we are not prepared to differ from the conclusion of the Subordinate Judge that he was entitled to be remunerated for the number of days for which he claims.
7. There only remains the question whether the remuneration has been fixed on too high a scale; and as I have said, I think we ought to be slow to interfere in a matter of this kind with the conclusion which has been arrived at by the lower Court on a careful examination of all the facts of the case. We have an order, Exhibit D, passed by Mr. Elwin in May 1907 when the trial had been interrupted by the vacation, saying that the plaintiff was to be in charge of the suit work at Waltair and supervise the work of the Vakils. This shows the important part that he was considered to play in the case from the point of view of the client. From the point of view of the Counsel we have the evidence of Mr. (now Sir William) Garth, one of the leaders of the Calcutta Bar, who speaks to the important services rendered be the plaintiff in connection with the case. It was the plaintiff who first went to Calcutta to instruct Mr. Garth in the case and during the time when Mr. Garth was at Waltair when he was examining and cross-examining the witnesses, the plaintiff, he says, was constantly attending and instructing him. No doubt there were other Practitioners from Madras, both senior and junior, who played a more important part; but still I think upon the evidence there can be no doubt that the plaintiff did take a very active part. That is even admitted by some of the witnesses for the defence. One of them says that he worked so hard night and day that ho ultimately knocked himself up and for two months was unable to attend to a case. Mr. Garth observes that the amount claimed in the bill would certainly not be said to be excessive in Bengal and that in a case like this an exceptionally high fee might naturally be looked for. In these circumstances I am not prepared to differ from the conclusion at which the lower Court has arrived; and I would dismiss the appeal with costs.
8. Tyabji, J.--I agree and have very little to add. The first point taken by Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar is that Section 27 of the Legal Practitioners Act ought to be a guide in fixing the remuneration of the plaintiff in the suit. But that section refers to the fee which is to be paid to the adversary's Pleader, and that has no real bearing on the question we have to decide.
9. The next argument was that the suit is barred under the Limitation Act. The Subordinate Judge has held against this contention on the ground that Article 84 applies. As against this it is argued that the 'costs of any particular business' to which the Article refers cannot include such costs as the plaintiff claims. This argument is quite untenable.
10. In assessing the costs the learned Judge has allowed a certain sum for each day on which the plaintiff worked. It was not suggested that this method is necessarily erroneous or was not open to the Judge; nor was any alteration (such as payment for each item of work done) suggested as possible in the circumstances of the present case.
11. The arguments of Mr. Srinivasa Aiyangar were confined to the contentions that the lower Court allowed remuneration for too many days and at too high a rate for each day.
12. The learned Judge, it was argued, was wrong in proceeding on the basis that the Pleader had worked for 650 plus 270 days, and that he had worked really only for 650 plus 169 days. As to this the only objection taken in the defendant's written statement was that the plaintiff worked for seven days less than he claimed; and the argument of Mr, Srinivasa Aiyangar, tending to show that the plaintiff worked for 101 days less than he claimed cannot be permitted at this stage. But in addition to that fact, the facts referred to by the learned Chief Justice are sufficient to show that the plaintiff did work for the total number of days alleged, in the plaint.
13. Then as regards remuneration for each day's work that, of course, is in the discretion of the officer who has to decide upon the fees which Legal Practitioners are entitled to claim. The discretion has in the present case been exercised after a very careful consideration of all the evidence of the nature of the work done and of the qualifications of the plaintiff. The plaintiff did a great deal of work in preparing the suits in question for the hearing, and his remuneration ought to be fixed with reference to the magnitude of the subject-matter of the suits and the difficulties involved in the work that he did. The fees paid to the Counsel and other Pleaders engaged may well be taken into consideration. Bearing all this in mind it seems to me that for the reasons which have just been given and which I need not repeat, we may well accept the scale of Rs. 40 a day fixed by the Subordinate Judge.
14. I, therefore, agree that the appeal should be dismissed with costs.