1. These appeals arose out of suits brought by the plaintiffs respondents in the Court of the Munsif of Mozafferpur praying that certain deeds of Navistakbhand (or agreements to cultivate certain of their land with indigo), which purported to have been executed by them in favour of the proprietors of the Dhooli Indigo Factory, should be declared by the Court to be fabricated and spurious, that the plaintiffs were not bound by them as they were wholly invalid and null, and that the Court would also cancel and set aside the deeds. The plaintiffs in each case put in their plaints stamped with the ad valorem stamps calculated on the value of the lands, and one of the first objections taken by the defendants in their written statements in each case was that 'the Court fee paid by the plaintiff is insufficient in law, and unless the plaintiff pays sufficient Court fee required by law, the suit cannot be proceeded with.' The Munsiff does not appear to have taken up this objection, until he delivered judgment. He then came to the following finding: 'As regards the Court fee stamp I am of opinion that it is insufficient. I have heard on this point the pleaders of both parties. The plaintiffs should make up the deficit.' He then proceeded to go into the merits of the case, and finding the plaintiffs had failed to make out their cases he dismissed all the suits, but gave no costs to the defendants.
2. On appeal to the Sub-Judge of Muzafferpur, that officer reversed the findings of the Munsiff, both as regards the Court fees and on the merits, and gave the plaintiffs decrees against the defendants with costs.
3. Against these decrees, the defendants have appealed. The learned Counsel has confined his arguments to one point only in this Court, viz., to that stated in the second ground of appeal, which runs as follows: 'For that, inasmuch as the Munsiff decided that the Court fee paid by the plaintiff was insufficient, such decision was final under Section 12 of the Court Fees Act (VII of 1870), and the learned Subordinate Judge had no jurisdiction to interfere with such decision and, therefore, committed an error of law in deciding that point.'
4. The learned Counsel has argued that the decision of the Munsiff was on a question relating to valuation for the purpose of determining the amount of the fee payable on the plaints, and that as Clause I of Section 12 of the Court Fees Act declares that such a decision shall be final as between the parties to the suit, and, as the deficit fee was not paid in any case, therefore the suits could not proceed, and the Subordinate Judge had no power to entertain the appeals, but should have dismissed them on that ground.
5. The Munsiff's finding is stated very badly, and his procedure in hearing the suits on the merits before the fees, which he regarded as insufficient, were paid was not correct. From the judgment of the Subordinate Judge however it would appear that the question raised, which the Munsiff decided adversely to the plaintiffs and the Subordinate Judge decided in their favour, was whether the suits were for declaratory decrees only, in which case a fixed fee of ten rupees on each under Article 17 of Schedule II of the Act would be payable, or for declaratory decrees with consequential relief, in which case an ad valorem stamp was necessary. The Munsiff apparently held that they came under the first class, and the Sub-Judge that they came under the second.
6. In this Court it has been held in the case of In the matter of Omrao Mirza v. Mary Jones (1882) 12 C.L.R. 148 that Section 12 of the Court Fees Act applies merely to the valuation of the property for the purpose of calculating the Court fee, when there is no question as to the Article of the Schedule of the Act with reference to which the valuation is to be made, and does not apply to a case in which it is contended that the property has been wrongly valued, but that the relief has boon improperly estimated by putting it under a wrong Article in the Schedule of the Act. In that case, as in these before us, the question was whether the stamp necessary was an ad valorem stamp or a stamp of ten rupees under Article 17 of Schedule II of the Act,
7. In the case of Chunia and Anr. v. Ramdial and Anr. (1877) I.L.R. 1 All. 860 the High Court of Allahabad took the same view, and laid down that Section 12 of the Court Fees Act does not prevent a Court of Appeal from determining whether or not consequential relief is sought, so that it may determine under what class of cases the suit falls for the purposes of the Court Fees Act.
8. In the case of Annamalai Chetti v. Cloete (1881) I.L.R. 4 Mad. 204 the High Court of Madras held that Section 12 of the Court Fees Act, which makes the decision of a Court in which a plaint or memorandum of appeal is filed final on questions relating to valuation for the purposes of determining the amount of any fee chargeable, does not affect the question as to the class of suits in which a particular suit ranks. and a similar view was taken in the case of Kanaran v. Kamappan (1890) I.L.R. 14 Mad. 169. In the case of Dada Bhau Kittur v. Nagesh Bam Chandra (1898) I.L.R. 23 Bom. 486 it was held that an appeal lies against a decision as to the class to which a suit belongs, although it does not lie against a decision as to the valuation of the suit in that class.
9. As there is a concurrence of authority against the view put forward by the learned Counsel for the appellants his argument must fail. We hold that Section 12, Clause 1, of the Court Fees Act is no bar to an appeal when the question before the lower Court was to decide merely the class of the suit in order to ascertain under what Schedule of the Act it must be taken to fall for the purpose of fixing the Court fee payable on the plaint or memorandum of appeal. At the same time we may say that we think that the decision of the Subordinate Judge on the question of the Court fee leviable appears to have been correct.
10. As no other point is argued in support of these appeals they must fail, and we accordingly dismiss them with costs.