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Jessore District Board Vs. Surendra Nath Haldar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Decided On
Reported inAIR1937Cal127
AppellantJessore District Board
RespondentSurendra Nath Haldar and ors.
Cases Referred and Wimbledon & Putney Commons Conservators v. Tuely
- .....that money could not be spent for any purpose other than those specified in section 53, local self government act. he argues that a corporate body has not only the powers which are expressly conferred upon it by statute but can also exercise the powers which are regarded as incidental to or consequential upon those things which the legislature has authorized. expenditure of money for a propaganda work to maintain the existence of the union boards is, according to mr. gupta, a justifiable expenditure though it is not specifically mentioned in section 53, local self-government act, which should not be taken as exhaustive. mr. gupta would read section 53 as. not laying down the purposes for which alone the district board can spend the district fund. it simply enumerates the compulsory.....

Mukherjea, J.

1. This is an appeal on behalf of the Jessore District Board which figured as defendant 1 in a suit commenced by the plaintiff for a declaration that a certain resolution of the Finance Committee and adopted by the District Board was illegal and ultra vires of the latter. The resolution was passed on 18th January 1930 and sanctioned a sum of Rs. 3,000 for purposes of a propaganda work to be carried on for the welfare of Union Committees, wherever necessary, the Chairman being authorized to spend the money by appointing workers or in such other way as he deemed proper. The propaganda was necessary in the opinion of the District Board in view of an anti-Union propaganda started at Bandabila and other places, and the plaintiff's case was that the District Board had absolutely no authority to spend any money for this purpose. He prayed for a perpetual injunction restraining defendant 1 from spending any money in pursuance of the said resolution, and there was a prayer also for refund to the district fund of any amount that might have been already spent. The defence inter alia was that the District Board was perfectly entitled under the law to sanction the amount for the purpose alleged, and out of the amount voted only Rs. 400 was actually spent at the date when a temporary injunction was issued. The other questions raised are not material to the present appeal. The plaintiff's suit was decreed in substance by both the Courts below. The resolution, was held to be ultra vires and the injunction prayed for was granted. The prayer for refund of the money already spent was however negatived.

2. It is against this decision of the District Judge, Jessore, confirming the decision of the Subordinate Judge, that the present appeal has been preferred, and Mr. Gupta who has appeared for the appellant District Board has raised a two-fold contention. His first contention is that the lower Courts were wrong in the view that they had taken viz., that money could not be spent for any purpose other than those specified in Section 53, Local Self Government Act. He argues that a corporate body has not only the powers which are expressly conferred upon it by statute but can also exercise the powers which are regarded as incidental to or consequential upon those things which the Legislature has authorized. Expenditure of money for a propaganda work to maintain the existence of the Union Boards is, according to Mr. Gupta, a justifiable expenditure though it is not specifically mentioned in Section 53, Local Self-Government Act, which should not be taken as exhaustive. Mr. Gupta would read Section 53 as. not laying down the purposes for which alone the District Board can spend the District Fund. It simply enumerates the compulsory expenses, and does not limit or restrict the powers of the District Board to spend money, for purposes coming expressly or impliedly within the scope of its duties. The second contention of Mr. Gupta is that even if there is any deviation from the Act, it is cured by the provision of Section 53-A, Local Self-Government Act. Now on the first point we agree with Mr. Gupta that the powers of a body corporate are not confined to what is expressly stated in the Act, but extend to what is necessary and properly required for carrying into effect the undertakings and works which the Act has expressly sanctioned. As Brice puts it:

A corporation has all the capacities for engaging in transactions which are impliedly given to it by reasonable implication from the language of the constating instruments. (Brice, Edn. 2, Oh. 5, p. 66).

3. The proposition is well settled by a series of decisions of the English Courts, the leading case being Attorney-General v. Great Eastern Railway Co. (1880) 5 A C 473 where Lord Selborne, L.C. observed as follows:

I agree with L.J. James, that the doctrine ought to be reasonably and not unreasonably understood and applied and that whatever may fairly be regarded as incidental to or consequent upon those things which the legislature has authorized, ought not (unless expressly prohibited) to be held by judicial construction to be ultra vires.

4. This principle was followed in Deuchar v. Gas Light and Coke Co. (1925) AC 691 where the defendant company, who were authorized to convert and deal with residuals arising from gas working, were held entitled to provide the proper reagent viz., caustic soda for the purpose of converting naptheline into betanapthol, although caustic soda was not a residual, and was not specifically mentioned. The identical principle was applied in A.G. v. Leeds Corporation (1929) 2 Ch 291 and Wimbledon & Putney Commons Conservators v. Tuely (1931) 1 Ch 190. In the last named case, a corporation constituted by Act of Parliament which had power to levy rates and employ labour, was held authorized to make regulations enabling it to provide pensions, annuities, etc. for employees, notwithstanding that it had no such express powers given to it. We are unable however to agree with Mr. Gupta as regards the construction he wants to put upon Section 53, Local Self-Government Act. In our opinion Section 53 of the Act was enacted with a two-fold purpose. In the first place it enumerates exhaustively the objects and purposes for which the District Fund can be spent by the District Board authorities. In the second place it indicates the order of priority of these payments.

5. The section does not militate in any way against the implied powers of a corporation which, as we have held already, must be deemed to exist. Section 53, Clause (5), Sub-section (a)(iii), expressly lays down that the District Fund shall be applicable to the performance of duties imposed and the exercise of powers conferred by the Act' and Sub-section (d) of the same clause authorizes payments of any sum to a Local Board or to a Union Board constituted under the Bengal Village Self-Government Act, 1919. Admittedly the payment is not suggested to be one under Sub-section (d) and the whole controversy therefore centres round the point as to whether it comes under Sub-section (a)(iii), Clause 5, interpreting the words as including not only the express powers and duties, but what are implied or follow by necessary implication from the express provisions.

6. This leads us to consider the main question in the appeal as to whether the spending of money for starting a propaganda in favour of Union Boards for the purpose of educating public opinion is one of the purposes which expressly or impliedly comes within the scope of the powers and duties of the District Board. The Local Self-Government Act in its Preamble states the object of the Act to extend the system of Self-Government in the province of Bengal. The general powers and duties are specified in Sections 59 to 100, and embrace a variety of matters including education, sanitation, public works, vaccination, famine relief and others. There is a residuary provision in Section 100(4) which provides that the District Board may undertake to carry out any other local works likely to promote the health, comfort or convenience of the public and not otherwise prescribed by this Act. It is admitted that the propaganda work in favour of the Union Board does not come specifically within these provisions. It may be stated that after the resolution was passed by the District Board it was sent to the Divisional Commissioner for approval. The Commissioner entertained a doubt as to the legality of this resolution and forwarded the matter to the Local Government. The Local Government seemed to entertain the opinion that the case would come under Section 100(4),Local Self-Government Act, mentioned above, but it suggested that the amount should not exceed Rs. 1,000. We have no hesitation in holding that Section 100 (4) does not contemplate the present case. In no sense can this expenditure be said to be necessary to promote the health, comfort or convenience of the public, and according to the well-established canons of construction, the words must be construed ejusdem generis to mean and include those things which are of the same nature as those specifically provided for in the Act. Mr. Gupta has not pressed this line of argument before us. His contention is that when the Local Government thinks fit to introduce the Village Self-Government Act in any District or part of a District the Union Boards become so as to say the ultimate constituents of the District Board. They become organically connected with the District Board and through them the latter exercises a good deal of its functions. Conceding all these, the contention amounts to this: that the Union Boards are really parts of the District Board, but even then is the District Board entitled to spend money for propaganda work, to repel attacks made against it or its constituent parts? In our opinion the answer must dearly be in the negative.

7. Under Section 5, Local Self-Government Act, it is for the Local Government to decide whether the provisions of that Act should be introduced in any particular District or part of a District. The District Board and the Local Board may be consulted by the Local Government in this matter. When the Village Self-Government Act is extended and Union Boards formed, the District Board, under Section 45, Village Self-Government Act, may make to the Union Boards such grants in aid from the District Fund as it considers proper and may in its discretion attach any condition to such grant. If certain people start a propaganda for proving the uselessness of Union Boards, it is no part of the duty of the District Board to spend money out of the District Fund for the purpose of starting a counter-propaganda. If the agitation of the anti-Union Board party is unlawful, there is the Government to take adequate measures against the same, and in fact this was done at Bandabila, where this movement originated. Then again if there is any necessity of educating public opinion on the. point, it is not the duty of the District Board to do so. We are therefore clearly of opinion, that the contention of Mr. Gupta must be overruled and the decision of the Courts below affirmed on the point. The second contention of Mr. Gupta based upon Section 53-A, Local Self-Government Act, is obviously without any substance. There is no declaration by the Local Government, nor is the deviation one of accidental or temporary character. The sanction might cure the defect regarding the money already spent, but cannot be invoked to legalise the resolution of 18th January 1930. The result, therefore, is that the appeal fails, and is dismissed with costs.

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