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Mathura Prosad Rajghoria and ors. Vs. Corporation of Calcutta and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Reported inAIR1945Cal470
AppellantMathura Prosad Rajghoria and ors.
RespondentCorporation of Calcutta and ors.
Cases ReferredIn Nayan Munjuri Dasi v. Chairman
Excerpt:
- .....on the footing that bustees constitute a class by themselves and are not included either in the word 'land' or 'building.' according to him the word 'land' means vacant land, --land unburdened by structures,--and the-word 'building' signifies the structures without the land, but the word 'bustee' signifies both the land and the structures. this argument has to be examined in the light of relevant provisions of the act.7. the definition of building in section 3, sub-section (7) would include a hut, which is defined in section 3 sub-section (36). a bustee is a collection of huts on land which is not less than ten cottas in area. the definition (section 3, sub-section (10)) would also include a piece of vacant land of not less than ten cottas in area which is intended to be built upon.....
Judgment:

1. These three appeals are in three suits instituted by the Corporation of Calcutta for the recovery of consolidated rates, in respect of three premises, No. 104, Narkeldanga Main Road, No. 1, Bahir Surah Road and No. 29, Kankurgachi Road. The defendants in all the three suits are Bhowani prosad Bannerjee, Mathuraprosad Rajghoria and his four sons, Sohanlal, Balkissen, Raj Kumar and Bejoy Kumar. In one suit there are some other defendants--the Sarkars and another, who have no interest now in the property. Mathura Prosad's sons have been joined as defendants apparently because Mathura Prasad is governed by the Mitakshara School of Hindu law. The suits are for recovery of the arrears by enforcement of charges which the Corporation of Calcutta claims to have on the premises under the provisions of Section 205, Calcutta Municipal Act (Bengal Act 3 of 1923, hereafter called the Act). It is the common case of the parties that all three premises are bustees and the huts which have been let out to tenants belong to the occupants. Those tenants have not been impleaded as defendants in the suit. The questions raised in the three appeals are the same.

2. The owner of the aforesaid three premises is Bhowaniprosad Banerjee, a lunatic. With the sanction of the Court his manager, Sankar Lall Chatterjee, granted on 29th September 1927 a lease of the aforesaid three premises to Tansukray Rajghoria, the deceased father of Mathuraprosad Rajghoria, for a term of sixty years. As between the lessor and the lessee, the latter agreed to pay the municipal rates. After getting the lease Tansukray Rajghoria applied to the Corporation of Calcutta for registration of his name as owner of the busters. After Mathuraprosad became the lessee he also applied to the Corporation of Calcutta for registration of his name as owner. While those applications were pending the lessees Tansukray and thereafter Mathuraprosad paid the rates on the tax bills being presented to them up to 1930. Mathuraprosad stopped payment from the first quarter of the year 1931-1932 when the Corporation of Calcutta finally refused to register him as owner of the said premises or to exempt under Section 161 the three premises from the operation of Section 159 of the Act. In the first suit, No. 60 of 1937, the claim is for arrears of consolidated rates from the first quarter of 1931-1982 to the second quarter of 1937-1938 due in respect of premises No. 104 Narkeldanga Main Road. In the second suit, No. 76 of 1937, the claim is for the same period. That suit relates to the consolidated rates due in respect of No. 1, Bahir Surah Road. In the third suit, No. 21 of 1938, the claim is from the first quarter of 1931-1932 to the first quarter of 1937-1938 of consolidated rates due in respect of premises No. 29, Kankurgachi Road. In the plaints of all the three suits the Corporation of Calcutta prayed for decrees for the amounts in arrear, for a declaration of charge on the premises and for a decree for sale of the premises in terms of Order 34, Civil P.C. By an application made on 12th August 1938 the Corporation of Calcutta intimated to the Court that it did not want personal decrees against any one of the defendants. By a further petition filed on the same day it stated that it wanted to enforce the charge only on the lands of the aforesaid premises and did not wish to enforce any charge on the structures. This petition was filed for the purpose of meeting the defence of non-joinder of parties, as the bustee tenants who were the owners of the huts had not been made parties defendants. The learned Subordinate Judge has overruled all the defences and has granted decrees in favour of the Corporation of Calcutta. The lands of the premises have been charged with the payment of decretal amounts, and preliminary decrees for sale of the lands of the said premises have been passed. The Rajghorias only defendants 2 to 6 have preferred the aforesaid appeals. On their behalf three points have been urged before us:

(I) that the suits are premature inasmuch as (a) the tax bills had not been properly presented; (b) no demand notice required by Section 190 of the Act had been served;

(II) that the Corporation of Calcutta has no charge for consolidated rates, where the subject of the assessment is a bustee; and

(III) even if there is such a charge the statutory charge operates on the entire premises,--the land and the huts of a bustee-- and the Corporation cannot split up the statutory charge and elect to proceed against the land only. These points were urged before the learned Subordinate Judge but overruled. We may at once say that his conclusions are right, though we cannot agree with some of the reasons given by him.

I. Chapter 16 of the Act deals with recovery of consolidated rates and other taxes. The first part, which begins from Section 189 and ends with Section 204, deals with recovery of consolidated rates and Section 205 makes the consolidated rate due in respect of 'land or building' a statutory first charge upon that 'land or building.' The second part, which begins with Section 206 and ends with Section 211, deals with recovery of other taxes--taxes on carriages, taxes on professions, trades and callings etc. The third part consists of two sections 212 and 213, under the heading of 'supplemental provisions.' Generally speaking, two alternative methods depending upon the choice of the Corporation are provided for the recovery of consolidated rates: (1) by distraint, (2) by suit. Sections 191 to 203 define the power of distraint and lay down the procedure. Section 204 deals with suits. Sections 189 and 190 are two introductory sections in this part of chap. 16. Section 189 requires the Corporation to present to the person liable a bill for the amount due on account of consolidated rates. Section 190 provides that if the bill is not paid up within seven days of the presentation the Corporation may serve upon the person liable a notice of demand in the form given in Schedule X of the Act or in a form to the like effect. The form given in schedule X is a preliminary notice for distraint. The effect therefore is this : When the consolidated rate is not paid within seven days of the presentation of the bill the Corporation has the option of proceeding in either of two ways. If it chooses to levy distraint it must give a notice under Section 190. If it does not desire to levy distraint, it need not give that notice. That is the significance of the word 'may' in Section 190. A notice of demand under Section 190 is not accordingly a preliminary requirement for a suit for the recovery of arrears of consolidated rates. The question then is, whether presentation of the bill to the person liable is a condition precedent to the institution of a suit. The object of the presentation of the bill is to apprise the person liable of the fact that he is in arrear and of the amount due from him. Expediency and fairness demand the presentation of the bill, but it does not necessarily follow that a suit for recovery of consolidated rates would not lie, if the bill is not presented in terms of Section 189. To have that result the Legislature must use appropriate language. Section 204, which deals with suits, has not been worded in a form similar to Section 80, Civil P.C. We have, however, to see if by necessary implication presentation of the bill to the person liable is made a condition precedent to the institution of a suit for recovery of consolidated rates.

3. The Act authorises the Corporation of Calcutta to impose consolidated rates upon land and buildings within the limits of Calcutta. Apart from Section 124, it would not have had the right to impose such rates. The right of the . Corporation to get consolidated rates is therefore the creation of the Act. The general principle formulated in the third proposition laid down by Willes J. in Wolverhampton New Water Works Company v. Hawksford (1859) 5 C.B.N.S. 703 must apply. So the Corporation can pursue only such remedies for the recovery of consolidated rates as are provided for in the Act. Those remedies are distraint and a suit under Section 204 of the Act. The learned Subordinate Judge is not right either in holding that the three suits do not come within Section 204 or that apart from Section 204 the Corporation has the right to sue under the general law. If the suits do not fulfil the requirements of Section 204 they must be dismissed as being not maintainable.

4. Section 204 gives the right to the Corporation to sue 'the defaulter' for the sum due, or the balance of any sum due on account of consolidated rates. The question is what meaning should be attributed to the word 'defaulter'. The appellants contend that a person liable to pay the consolidated rate becomes a defaulter only when he does not pay the bill within seven days of its presentation, so if no bill is presented to him under Section 189, he does not become a 'defaulter' with the result that no suit is maintainable against him under Section 204. Through the word 'defaulter' used in Section 204, he wants to introduce Section 189 as a condition precedent to the institution of a suit for recovery of consolidated rates. If that be the effect the special procedure must be followed by the Corporation, for special procedures are saved by Section 4, Civil P.C. If his contention is correct the suits would be bad, on the footing that Bhowani Prasad Banerjee was the person liable to pay the consolidated rates, because rate bills for the consolidated rates in suit had not been presented to him. They had been presented to Mathuraprosad Bajghoria. The learned advocate appearing for the Corporation of Calcutta meets the argument in a two-fold manner. He urges (1) that a defaulter is a person who does not pay up the rates within the time mentioned in Section 149 and (2) that on the facts of this case the Rajghorias must be taken to be the persons liable to pay the consolidated rates. In our judgment his first but not the second contention is sound.

5. The ordinary meaning must be attributed to the word 'defaulter,' unless otherwise indicated in the Act. The word means a person who has failed to pay in time what he is under an obligation to pay. Both the obligation of the person to pay consolidated rates and the time within which that obligation has to be discharged have been defined in Section 149. In the ease of bustees only the first part of that section has been modified by Section 159. The whole of the consolidated rate -- and not half as in other cases -- less one-eighth part thereof has to be paid by the owner. In the case of a bustee, therefore, the owner is under the obligation to pay the whole of the consolidated rates, less one-eighth, within the 15th day of April, July, October and January for the quarters respectively commencing from the first day of each of those months. On the 16th day of each of those months he becomes a defaulter for the quarter commencing from the first day of each of those months. There are no indications in the Act which would lead us to hold that the Legislature used the word 'defaulter' in Section 204 in any other sense. If the Legislature had intended the presentation of a bill as a condition precedent to a suit it would have said so in plain words.

6. The learned advocate for the respondent further contended that even if presentation of a rate bill is a condition precedent to the institution of a suit for recovery of consolidated rates, the bills had in fact been properly presented, for according to him the Rajghorias were the persons liable to pay those rates. For supporting his contention that the Rajghorias were the persons liable to pay the rates he relies upon the covenant in the lease by which the lessees agreed to pay the consolidated rates. As between them and the lessor, Bhowaniprosad Bannerjee, they were no doubt bound to bear the burden of the rates, but that is a different matter. In our judgment 'the person liable to pay' within the meaning of Section 189 is the person who is made liable to pay under the Act. That person in this case was Bhowaniprosad, the registered owner of the bustees in question. Where there is a gradation of rent receivers each one of them would satisfy the definition of an owner as given in Section 3, Sub-section (50) of the Act, but in such a case the Executive Officer has to determine who among them is to be entered as owner in the assessment book (Section 144 (2)). Both Tansukray Rajghoria and Mathuraprosad Rajghoria applied for registration, as owners in the place of Bhowaniprosad. They were rent receivers as much as Bhowaniprosad was They came within the definition of owner but instead of following the procedure laid down in Section 144, Sub-section (2) their applications for registration as owners were summarily rejected. In these circumstances the Corporation of Calcutta cannot turn round and treat the Rajghorias as owners for the purpose of fastening on them liability for the rates under the provisions of Section 159. We do not accordingly see our way to accept the second contention of the advocate appearing for the respondent. Accepting his first contention we overrule the first point urged by the appellant.

II. The second point urged depends upon the construction of Section 205 of the Act. That section gives the Corporation of Calcutta a first charge (subject to prior payment of land revenue) on 'land or building' for consolidated rates due in respect of 'such land or building.' The argument of the appellants' advocate is that as bustees are not mentioned in the section no charge has been created by the Statute on busters. This argument proceeds on the footing that bustees constitute a class by themselves and are not included either in the word 'land' or 'building.' According to him the word 'land' means vacant land, --land unburdened by structures,--and the-word 'building' signifies the structures without the land, but the word 'bustee' signifies both the land and the structures. This argument has to be examined in the light of relevant provisions of the Act.

7. The definition of building in Section 3, Sub-section (7) would include a hut, which is defined in Section 3 Sub-section (36). A bustee is a collection of huts on land which is not less than ten cottas in area. The definition (Section 3, Sub-section (10)) would also include a piece of vacant land of not less than ten cottas in area which is intended to be built upon with huts. There are thus two connotations in the word 'bustee': (1) The land must have on it buildings of a certain type or must be intended for buildings of a certain type and (2) the area of the land must not be less than ten cottas.

8. Section 124 is the charging section. It authorises the imposition of consolidated rates on 'all lands and buildings' in Calcutta. The word 'and' must in our judgment be read in a disjunctive way. Consolidated rates can be imposed on 'land.' That is one class. It can also be imposed on 'buildings.' That is another class. The Legislature has expressed its intention to the effect that consolidated rates can be imposed on busters. That intention is indicated by proviso (i) to Section 127, Section 159 and Section 161 of the Act. A bustee must therefore come either within the class 'land' or the class 'building,' for if it did not, it could not be assessed to consolidated rates at all. That is also indicated by Section 127, for proviso (i), which deals with bustees is a proviso to Section 127, clauses (a) and (b), which lay down the methods of assessment of lands and buildings. A first charge which has been created by Section 205 on land or building would therefore operate on bustees also. In Nayan Munjuri Dasi v. Chairman, Howrah Municipality : AIR1925Cal1067 , Section 205 of the Act was construed. This Court held that the charge created by Section 205 operates both on the land and structures standing thereupon, the word 'or' in that section having the force of the word 'and.' This disposes of the argument of the learned advocate for the appellant, but we may further point out that a bustee would come within the description 'building' used in Sections. 124, 127 and 205. That word must be taken in its natural sense. It means an edifice, a house. It does not connote the structure without the site. It is the pucca structure plus the site and something more. It would include so much of the adjoining land as is necessary or is actually used for the convenience of the enjoyment of the edifice. The provisions of the Act do not curtail the natural meaning of the word 'building' but on the other hand enlarge its meaning by bringing within that term something which would not otherwise have been regarded as building, for instance, mud structures (Section 3, clause (7)).

III. The third point can be disposed of shortly. Section 205 of the Act creates a charge on the land and the structures. There is nothing which can prevent the Corporation of Calcutta from giving up the security. A person can always waive a benefit intended for him. It can therefore at its option, take a personal decree against the person liable to pay the consolidated rates. If it could abandon the whole security it would necessarily follow that it can abandon a part thereof. We accordingly overrule all the points urged by the appellants' advocate and dismiss these appeals with costs to the respondent, the Corporation of Calcutta. As the value of the First Appeal No. 57 of 1940 is below Rs. 5000 we assess the hearing fee in that appeal at 2 gold mohurs. The hearing fee in the other two appeals would be according to the scale mentioned in the rules of the Appellate Side.


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