1. This is an appeal from the judgment of the Additional District Judge of Faridpur confirming the decision of the First Munsif of Madaripur. Both Courts have dismissed the suit, and the plaintiff is the appellant before me. The main question which has been argued in the appeal is whether or not the plaintiff's interest in the disputed property may be said to have passed at a certificate sale held under the Public Demands Recovery Act (Bengal Act 3 of 1913). The sale is impugned chiefly on the ground that the certificate which was the basis of the proceedings culminating in the sale was not in compliance with the requirements of the statute. In particular, it is alleged that the certificate, which purported to be one under Section 4, did not contain a proper certification at all, inasmuch as all the items which the certificate officer is required to certify under his hand were left blank. The form of the certificate is prescribed by rules framed under the Act, and it will be seen that it consists of two portions : first there is a tabular statement with different columns in it for the number of the certificate, for the names and addresses of the certificate-holder and the certificate-debtor, for the amount of the demand for which the certificate is signed and the period for which the sum is due, and for further particulars of the demand. Then follows the certificate proper, containing blank spaces for specification of the sum due, and of the names of the parties to whom and from whom it is due : it is in this form:
I hereby certify that the above mentioned sum of Rs. (blank) is due to the above named (blank) from the abovenamed (blank).
2. It appears that in this case these blanks were not filled up at all, and it is this omission which is said to have rendered the certificate invalid in law. The form provides for a further certificate in terms of Section 5 for use only where the certificate is signed on requisition under that section, which is not the case here. It is too late in the day to urge, in view of the decision of the Judicial Committee in Baijnath Sahai v. Ramgut Singh ('96) 23 Cal 775, that a certificate not made by the Collector strictly in manner prescribed by the Act, specifying the sum due and the person to whom it is due, can be the foundation for a valid sale thereunder. It is true that in that case there was no document corresponding to a certificate signed by the Collector, and all that was produced was a notice to the Collector answering to a requisition under present Section 5. All the same, their Lordships made it clear, having regard to the stringent provisions of the Act, that the forms required by it, which are matters of substance, should be strictly complied with, if the certificate is to have the 'extraordinary' effect which the Act seeks to ascribe to it. The remarks of their Lordships, in my opinion, apply equally to a certificate under Section 4 for a public demand payable to the Collector, and to a certificate under Section 5 on requisition for a demand payable to a person other than the Collector. In either case, the Act contemplates that before he signs the certificate, the certificate officer has to be 'satisfied', among other things, that the demand is due. This means that he is not to affix his signature as a matter of course to any statement which is put up before him, without} applying his mind to it.
3. The signing of a certificate is indeed to be the result of a conscious exercise of discretion by the certificate-officer as to the matters he is called upon to certify, and that appears to be the reason why blank spaces are left in the prescribed form for filling in the amount of the demand and the names of the parties. The very fact that these particulars, though they are to be found in the tabular statement, are required to be stated over again in the body of the certificate shows, to my mind, that it is not an idle formality but a necessary safeguard inserted in the form itself to ensure, so far as it is possible to ensure through the form, the carrying out of the intention of the Act. It follows therefore that the certificate officer cannot be too particular as to the manner in which he fills up the form of the certificate : on the face of it, it must show, in the way the form is intended to show, that there was an exercise by him of his statutory duty in the making of the document, Where accordingly a certificate is signed without filling in the blanks as required, there is no legal certificate at all, and no valid sale can follow on the basis of it.
4. The facts of the present case furnish an apt illustration of the necessity and importance of insisting on strict compliance with the forms of procedure prescribed. The certificate here as originally filed was against two certificate-debtors, one of whom was a Hindu widow Prasannamoyee Debi, and admittedly held a Hindu widow's interest in the tenure in respect of which the demand was made. It was afterwards reported that this lady had in fact died before the certificate was filed, and it is stated that on this fact being brought to the notice of the certificate-officer, an amended certificate in respect of the same demand was ordered to be served on one Bhabesh Chandra Das Gupta, who was the next reversionary heir of the last male-holder. The notice under Section 7 which was served on Bhabesh is on the record, but the amended certificate which is supposed to have accompanied the notice is not forthcoming. The office copy of the certificate which is on the case-file bears the original names, and does not contain any amendment showing the addition or substitution of the name of Bhabesh. Assuming, however, as the learned Judge has done, that the certificate which was served on Bhabesh did bear his name, it is not suggested that his name was inserted not only in the tabular column, but also in the body of the certificate proper in the blank space provided therefor, and there is, therefore, nothing to show that at the time the amended certificate was filed, the certificate officer had at all considered whether or how far Bhabesh could be made liable for the demand originally made against Prasannamoyee Debi. And yet it is apparent that this was a question which did call for consideration. The demand was on account of cesses which had acorued due during Prasannamoyee's lifetime, and it was, therefore, a personal debt of hers which could be recovered on her death from her own heir, and not from the reversioner who took after her in the right of the last male-holder. All the same, the amended certificate purported to go against the reversioner, and one is entitled to say that this could happen, because in making this certificate, the certificate officer had not chosen to follow the statutory directions.
5. In these circumstances, I think it must be held that there was no legal certificate against Bhabesh, and his interest could not, therefore, have been affected by the sale. As the present plaintiff derives title from Bhabesh, he is equally 'not bound by the sale. The result is that this appeal must be allowed, and the judgment and decree of Court below set aside. As, however, there were other defences to the suit which were not considered by the lower Appellate Court, the case must be remanded to that Court for these other points to be dealt with. The appellant will be entitled to the costs of this appeal and of the hearing before the lower Appellate Court. The costs of the trial Court and of the further re-hearing will abide the result.