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Government of Bengal Vs. Corporation of Calcutta - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Decided On
Reported inAIR1939Cal706
AppellantGovernment of Bengal
RespondentCorporation of Calcutta
Cases Referred and Secretary of State v. Belchambers
- .....the government objected to the quantum of the valuation and the consolidated rate. the deputy executive officer of the calcutta corporation heard the government's objections and on 21st. may 1938 confirmed the assessment. thereupon, the government preferred an appeal to the court of small causes at sealdah under section 141, calcutta municipal act, and took the same grounds in the appeal that they had urged before the deputy executive officer. the appeal was registered as municipal appeal no. 6 of 1938, and the government paid court-fees, rs. 1230, as on a plaint for the same valuation. on 10th december 1938, the small cause court judge dealt with the matter. he held that he had jurisdiction to deal with the quantum of the assessment but not to deal with the question of liability to.....

Derbyshire, C.J.

1. In these matters, on 6th January 1939, rules were issued at the instance of the Government of Bengal upon the Corporation of Calcutta to show cause why the orders complained of should not be set aside and the objections of the Government of Bengal decided. The matter arose in this way: There are three canals, first the Circular Canal which begins at the Hooghly in the northern part of Calcutta and continues in an easterly and southerly directions through the area in which Calcutta lies until it joins the Beliaghata Canal which continues in an easterly direction towards the salt lakes. From it, near the northern end, branches the new canal. The Circular Canal was formerly the boundary between the old Municipality of Calcutta, and the Municipalities of Cossipur and Maniktola previous to the incorporation of the two last-mentioned Municipalities with-in the Municipality of Calcutta, about 1922. It is stated that this Circular Canal does, not lie within any of the wards of the Municipality of Calcutta as specified in the Calcutta Municipal Act, 1923. The three Canals in question are owned by the Government of Bengal and over them pass boats and barges which are said to pay tolls to the Government. Hitherto, these canals have not been rated by the Municipality and have not paid municipal rates. On or about 16th March 1932, Government received from the Corporation a notice, purporting to be under Section 138, Calcutta Municipal Act, 1923, in which (I refer now to the Circular Canal but the same consideration applies to the other two) for the first time the canal in question was given an annual valuation under Section 131 of the Act. The canal was given an annual valuation of Rs. 1,05,600 and the rate sought to-be charged was Rs. 2 per catta per mensem with effect from the first quarter of the year 1932.33. In all a consolidated rate of Rs. 20,592 per year was sought to be imposed.

2. The Government filed a written notice of objections under Section 139 of the Act objecting that the canal was not assessable at all under the Act on the ground, firstly, that it was Crown property, and secondly, that it did not lie within one of the wards and so could not be assessed under the provisions of Section 131 or any other Section; further, the Government objected to the quantum of the valuation and the consolidated rate. The Deputy Executive Officer of the Calcutta Corporation heard the Government's objections and on 21st. May 1938 confirmed the assessment. Thereupon, the Government preferred an appeal to the Court of Small Causes at Sealdah under Section 141, Calcutta Municipal Act, and took the same grounds in the appeal that they had urged before the Deputy Executive Officer. The appeal was registered as Municipal Appeal No. 6 of 1938, and the Government paid court-fees, Rs. 1230, as on a plaint for the same valuation. On 10th December 1938, the Small Cause Court Judge dealt with the matter. He held that he had jurisdiction to deal with the quantum of the assessment but not to deal with the question of liability to assessment. The Government of Bengal obtained a rule in respect of that decision as set out above, contending that the Small Cause Court Judge had jurisdiction to hear the whole of their objections not merely as to quantum but as to liability. Section 124, Calcutta Municipal Act, provides that

consolidated rates not exceeding 23 per cent, on the annual valuation determined under this Chapter (i.e., Chap. 10 of the Act) may be imposed by the Corporation upon all lands and buildings in Calcutta for the purposes of this Act.

3. Section 126 provides that certain buildings and lands 'shall be exempt from the consolidated rate' and that the Corporation may exempt certain other lands and buildings 'either wholly or partially' from the rates. Section 127 provides for calculating the annual value of lands or buildings for the purposes of this Act. Section 131 provides for the carrying on, until further valuation, of the valuation of any land or building situated in the several wards, and by subsection 2(b) it is provided that

any land or building the valuation of which has been cancelled on the ground of irregularity, or which for any other reason has no annual value assigned to it under this Act, may be valued by the Executive Officer at any time during the currency of the period prescribed in respect of such land or building by Sub-section (1), and such valuation shall remain in force, and the consolidated rate shall be levied according to it, for the unexpired portion of such period.

4. It is under that Section and Sub-section we are told, that the canals in question were valued. Section 139(1) provides:

Any person who is dissatisfied with a valuation made under this Chapter may deliver at the Municipal Office a written notice stating the grounds of his objection to such valuation.

5. Section 140(1) provides:

All such objections shall be entered in a register to be maintained for the purpose; and, on receipt of any objection, notice shall be given to the objector of a time and place at which his objection will be investigated.

(2) At the said time and place the Executive Officer or a Deputy Executive Officer shall hear the objection, in the presence of the objector or his agent if he appears, or may, for reasonable cause, adjourn the investigation.

(3) When the objection has been determined the order passed shall be recorded in the said register, together with the date of such order.

6. Section 141(1) provides:

Any person dissatisfied with the order passed on his objection may appeal to the Court of Small Causes having jurisdiction in the place where the land or building, to the valuation of which the objection was made, is situated.

(2) Such appeal shall be presented to such Court of Small Causes within thirty days from the date of the order passed under Section 110, and shall be accompanied by an extract from the register of objections containing the order objected to.

(3) The provisions of Farts II and III, Limitation Act, relating to the appeals shall apply to every appeal preferred under this Section.

(4) No appeal shall be admitted under this Section unless an objection has first been determined under Section 140.

7. Section 142(1) provides that:

Every valuation made by the Executive Officer under Section 131 shall, subject to the provisions of Sub-sections 139, 140 and 141, be final.

(2) Every order passed by the Executive Officer or Deputy Executive Officer under Section 140 shall, subject to the provisions of Section 141, be final.

(3) An appeal from a decision made by the Court of Small Causes under Section 141 shall lie to the High Court.

8. I may mention in passing that the last provision, that an appeal shall lie to the High Court, is new in the Municipal Acts of Calcutta relating to rating. Section 146(1) provides that in certain events the Executive Officer has power to amend the assessment book:

By inserting any land or building which Is, in his opinion, liable to the consolidated rate, or by inserting a valuation when the land or building liable to be valued has not been valued.

9. Sub-section (2) of the same Section provides that the provisions of Sections 139 to 142 shall, with all necessary modifications, be deemed to apply to an objection which is made against the Executive Officer's order for the amendment of the assessment book under Section 146. The learned Judge of the Small Cause Court has based his decision upon some words which are found in the judgment of Panckridge, J. in Garrison Engineer of Fort William v. Corporation of Calcutta (1937) 42 C.W.N. 789. In that case the military authorities objected if pay rates in respect of the Presidency Military Hospital for the year 1937. The assessment in respect of which the rate was claimed had been made some years previously and rates had been paid down to 23rd July, when the military authorities alleged that they are not liable to be rated at all in respect of the hospital, because it lay within the boundary of the fort and was thereby excluded from the provisions of the Calcutta Municipal Act, 1923. The military authorities proceeded under Section 45, Specific Belief Act, and obtained a rule calling upon the Chief Executive Officer to show cause why the assessment on the hospital should not be cancelled on the grounds set out above. The learned Judge on a consideration of the facts of the case found that the hospital did not lie within the boundaries of Fort William but lay within the Calcutta Municipal boundaries. Prom a consideration of the facts of the case it will appear that it was too late there for the military authorities to object to the valuation under Section 139. The only course open to them appears to have been the one they took. During the course of the argument which the Corporation put forward against the military authorities' contentions it was alleged that the procedure under Section 45, Specific Belief Act, was not open to the military authorities, and in dealing with it the learned Judge, considering Sections 139 to 142, said:

In my opinion these Sections have no application to the circumstances of the present case for they presuppose that the land and buildings which are the subject-matter of the valuation are assessable to the consolidated rate. In other words, they have reference to those cases where the liability to assessment and valuation is admitted, and the objection is to the quantum of the valuation or the method in which it has been carried out.

10. It is on those words that the learned Judge of the Small Cause Court has based his decision. In my opinion, those words were not necessary to the decision Mr. Justice Panckridge gave. He decided the matter on the facts and it was clear that the military authorities were too late to take advantage of Sections 139 to 142. I must regard those words, though they are entitled to great respect, as being obiter. To decide whether the learned Judge of the Small Cause Court was right I must look at the provisions of the relevant Sections themselves. It is clear that a person dissatisfied with the valuation may object to it under Section 139 that the Executive Officer or his Deputy must hear the objection, determine the matter and pass an order upon it under Section 140. Then under Section 141, if the objector is dissatisfied he may appeal to the Small Cause Court. Now I see nothing in those sub-sections limiting the grounds of objection to the valuation. When the objections have been determined against the objectors under Section 140, I see nothing limiting the rate-payers' right to have the full order, made by the Executive Officer or his Deputy, considered with all the grounds of objection on appeal to the Small Cause Court. There is an appeal from the Small Cause Court to the High Court. It has been held in Corporation of Calcutta v. Manik Lal De : AIR1930Cal306 that in an appeal under Section 141, the Small Cause Court Judge must record evidence in such a way that the High Court may, on appeal, come to its own conclusion as to whether the decision of the Judge was right or wrong on the evidence. Thus a scheme is set out in the Act whereby any person, who is dissatisfied with the valuation, which is the indispensable preliminary to his being rated, shall urge his objection first to those who make the valuation, then to a local tribunal whose duty it is to take evidence and hear and determine the matter according to law with an appeal to this Court. There is full provision made for safeguarding the rights of the owner or occupier of land or buildings in Calcutta. The procedure is, it seems to me, analogous to that which obtains in rating appeals in England where there is an appeal against an item of the valuation list to the Assessment Committee, from the Assessment Committee to the Quarter Sessions who may deal with questions of fact and law then and to the High Court, which may determine the matter finally according to law. I can see no reason for holding that the learned Judge of the Small Cause Court is confined to the question of quantum of valuation only. If that were so, questions of liability would fall to be determined in another Court which would mean multiplicity of legal proceedings, vexatious and costly to the rate-payer and a hindrance to the Corporation in its collection of rates. It seems to me that the Act was designed to provide a chain of tribunals, the Executive Officer or his Deputy, the Small Cause Court and the High Court, to determine the rights and the liabilities both of the Corporation and of those whom it is sought to levy rates upon. In these circumstances it seems to me that the learned Judge was wrong in the decision that he gave, and the rules issued in this matter should be made absolute. The result is that the rules are made absolute and the cases sent back to the Court of Small Causes to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the law in the light of the observations made above. The petitioner is entitled to costs - a consolidated hearing fee being assessed at fifteen gold mohurs.

Nasim Ali, J.

11. I agree with my lord the Chief Justice that these rules should be made absolute. The word 'valuation' in Section 139, Calcutta Municipal Act, may mean: (1) the estimated value, (2) the act or process of valuing. (Oxford Dictionary). I see nothing in this Section to limit the meaning of the word 'valuation' to the quantum of valuation only. It includes the whole process of valuing as well: Corporation of Calcutta v. Bhupati Roy Choudhury (1899) 26 Cal. 74 and Secretary of State v. Belchambers (1906) 33 Cal. 396. The grounds of objection to the valuation before the Small Cause Court Judge under Section 139 therefore would be to the process of valuing as well. If the process is bad, the amount of valuation in its entirety or in part will be bad. The case of the petitioner is that the entire process of valuing is bad inasmuch as it contravened the provisions of Chap. 10, Calcutta Municipal Act, relating to the valuation of land or buildings. It appears from the grounds of objection filed by the petitioner before the Small Cause Court Judge that his case is that the valuation in its entirety is bad, and the property valued is not 'land' within the meaning of Section 127 or land within a ward of the Calcutta Municipality, as contemplated by Section 131 of the Act. If a rate-payer is entitled to object to the overvaluation I see no reason why he cannot object to the valuation in its entirety. The grounds of objection as contemplated by Section 139 therefore may relate not only to a part of the estimated value but to the whole of it.

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