1. The plaintiff Corporation claims Rs. 2092-14-3 on account of consolidated rates due in respect of premises No. 24, Chowringhee Road, Calcutta, and a declaration of first charge on the premises and a decree according to form No. 5-A of Appex. D to Schedule 1, Civil P.C. The premises consist of a two-storeyed house and a number of outhouses. The house was at one time let out on lease, with its outhouses at Rs. 500 a month, but the tenant left the premises so far back as the year 1928, after giving notice to the Corporation, and since then no part of the house has been occupied; but it appears that from time to time two of the outhouses used as garages have been occupied. This tenant, after waiting for over a year in the hope of getting a sub-tenant for the main building, gave up his tenancy in March 1929 and obtained a considerable remission of rent from the defendant. In spite of this state of affairs, demands for the full owner's and occupier's rates were made by She Corporation upon the defendant, who is the owner of the premises.
2. Correspondence passed between the parties from April to December 1929, but the defendant was unable to obtain any remission of the rates, and on 13th December 1929 he applied to the Corporation to have the outhouses assessed separately from the main building. The only answer given, and repeated from time to time by the Corporation, was that as it was not a case of sale or partition, and as there was no cause for re-valuation, the separation asked for could not be allowed. This answer was given on 13th June 1930, and again on 23rd June 1931. On 13th May 1932 the defendant wrote to the members of the Estates & General Purposes Committee of the Corporation again setting out the whole of the facts, stating that the premises, except for the two outhouses, had been unproductive since April 1929, that the outhouses produced only Rs. 65 a month, and that it was unjust of the Corporation to refuse to assess the outhouses separately. On 20th June 1932 the defendant wrote to the assessor to the Corporation asking for the property to be separately numbered and assessed as follows : (1) the upper flat, (2) the lower flat and (3) that each of the garages should be given a separate number. In this way he suggested that the separate portions would be let more easily and that would be beneficial to the Corporation. The Corporation on 28th July 1932 repeated their former letters, saying that as it was not a case of sale or partition and there was no cause for re-valuation, separate numbers could not be allowed. This was repeated again on 11th January 1933. On 24th January 1933 the defendant's solicitor wrote saying, inter alia, that with regard to the Corporation's refusal to accede to his client's request for separate assessments, the assessor had ignored the provisions of Section 135 of the Act and had based his refusal on other sections. Further, that it was clear from the assessor's letter that he had never considered the question of the separation of the outhouses from the main building under Section 135, although it was a portion of the outhouses which was occupied, whereas the main building and the rest of the outhouses had been lying vacant for several years.
3. In fact, throughout the whole of the correspondence in this case, which continued up till 1937 when the suit was filed, the Corporation and its officers repeatedly refused to assess the outhouses separately, upon the pretence that they had no power under the Act, in the circumstances of such a case, to do so. Of course, I must presume that the Corporation and its officers knew the provisions of their own Act and therefore, all this time, were fully aware that they had full power to deal with this matter in a fair and reasonable manner under S.135 of the Act. That section contains a specific provision for dealing with just such a case as this, namely, it enables the executive officer in his discretion to assess any outhouse pertaining to a building, or any portion of a building, separately from such building or the other portions of such building, and, when so separately assessed, such outhouse or portion of the building is deemed to be a separate building. The Legislature in its wisdom has provided the Corporation with the means to deal reasonably and fairly with such a case as this. Not only has the Corporation refused to act under that section, but it has deliberately omitted to mention the section throughout the whole of the correspondence to which I have referred, or to inform the defendant that it had such powers under that section. It is true that it is the ratepayers' duty to know the Calcutta Municipal Act as well as the Corporation and its officers. But every sensible person knows that the ordinary citizen does not know the provisions of this Act, or of any other Act, whereas it is reasonable to hope and to suppose that the Corporation and its officers are well aware of every line of the Act under the provisions of which they do their work.
4. The reasons given for this somewhat strange, and, in my opinion, unreasonable attitude on the part of the Corporation and its officers has been given to me in the frankest possible manner by their learned Counsel. As I understand the argument, it is that if justice were done in a case such as this, the result would be that the Corporation might have to do justice in at least 100 other cases, with the result that sufficient funds would not be obtained, thus unjustly, for the purpose of carrying on the work of the Corporation. It is no part of my office to judge whether that is the right attitude for a public Corporation to take, as described to me by its learned Counsel, but I cannot say that I approve of it or think that the ratepayers of Calcutta would desire that their representatives should adopt such an attitude. However, the result is that, strictly, under the provisions of the law, the Corporation is entitled to a decree for the amount claimed and to a declaration of first charge and a decree in form No. 5-A. But, in the circumstances, there will be no order for costs.