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Thursday, March 16, 2017

remanded to the High Court for deciding the appeal on merits = whether the suit seeking a declaration that the demand of House Tax raised under the Act is maintainable, whether such suit is barred and, if so, by virtue of which provision of the Act, whether plaintiff has any alternative statutory remedy available under the Act for adjudication of his grievance and, if so, which is that remedy, and lastly, whether the plaintiff has properly valued the suit and, if so, whether they have paid the proper Court fees on the reliefs claimed in the suit were legal questions arising in the appeal and involved jurisdictional issues requiring adjudication on merits in accordance with law. The High Court unfortunately did not examine any of these issues much less in its proper perspective in the light of relevant provisions of the Act governing the controversy. 15) The High Court thus, in our view, committed jurisdictional error when it dismissed the second appeal in limine. We cannot countenance the approach of the High Court. 16) In view of foregoing discussion, the appeal succeeds and is allowed. The impugned order is set aside. The case is now remanded to the High Court for deciding the appeal on merits in accordance with law.

           REPORTABLE
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL No.1182 OF 2007


      Faridabad Complex
      Administration                         ….Appellant(s)

                                   VERSUS

      M/s Iron Master India (P) Ltd.     …Respondent(s)



                               J U D G M E N T
     Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.
      1)    This appeal is filed by  the  appellant(defendant)  against  the
      final judgment and order dated 16.02.2004 passed by the High Court  of
      Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in R.S.A. No. 530 of  2004  by  which
      the High Court dismissed  the  regular  second  appeal  filed  by  the
      appellant herein in limine  against  the  judgment  and  decree  dated
      22.10.2003 passed by the Additional District Judge, Faridabad in  C.A.
      No. 166 of 2002 whereby the appeal filed by the  respondent(plaintiff)
      was allowed, the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court was set
      aside and the suit of the respondent was decreed.
      2)    We herein set out the facts, in brief, to appreciate the  issued
      involved in this appeal.
      3)    The respondent is  a  Limited  Company  having  their  place  of
      business in Faridabad.  The  appellant  is  a  Municipal  Corporation,
      Faridabad  as  defined  under  the   Haryana   Municipal   Act,   1973
      (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”).
      4)     The  respondent  is  subjected  to  payment  of  various  taxes
      including House Tax under the Act on the properties owned by  them  at
      Faridabad.  The  respondent  filed  a  civil  suit  seeking  permanent
      injunction against the appellant restraining them from recovering  the
      House Tax  for  the  years  1991-92,  1992-93  and  1993-94  from  the
      respondent  on  their  properties.  The  appellant   also   sought   a
      declaration that a  demand  notice  dated  20.11.1993  raised  by  the
      appellant calling upon the respondent to pay Rs.48,599.40  towards the
      House Tax on their properties is illegal.
      5)     The  appellant  filed  written  statement  and   defended   the
      aforementioned demands on various grounds. The appellant  also  raised
      an objection about the maintainability of the Suit.
      6)    The Trial Court framed issues. Parties  adduced  evidence.  Vide
      judgment and decree dated 20.09.2002 in Case No.  1483  of  1995,  the
      Trial Court dismissed the Suit. Felt aggrieved, the  respondent  filed
      appeal being Civil Appeal  No.  166  of  2002  before  the  Additional
      District Judge, Faridabad. By order dated 22.10.2003,  the  Additional
      District Judge allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment  and  decree
      of the Trial Court and  decreed  the  respondent's  suit  against  the
      appellant.
      7)    Felt aggrieved, the  appellant(defendant)  filed  second  appeal
      before the High Court  wherein  the  appellant  had  proposed  several
      substantial questions of law arising in the  case.   The  High  Court,
      however,  dismissed  the  second  appeal   in   limine   by   impugned
      judgment/order holding that the second appeal  does  not  involve  any
      substantial question  of  law.   It  is  against  this  judgment,  the
      appellant(defendant) has filed this appeal by  way  of  special  leave
      petition before this Court.
      8)    It is unfortunate that no one  appeared  for  the  appellant  to
      argue the appeal before this Court when the case  was  called  on  for
      hearing twice. We, however, refrained ourselves  from  dismissing  the
      appeal in default and instead perused the record with  the  assistance
      of Mr. A.K. Singla, learned senior counsel for the respondent  with  a
      view to decide the appeal on merits.
      9)    Having heard learned senior counsel for the  respondent  and  on
      perusal of the record of the case, we are inclined to allow the appeal
      and remand the case to the High Court for deciding the  second  appeal
      afresh on merits in accordance with law.
      10)   The question, which arises for consideration in this appeal,  is
      whether the High Court was justified in dismissing the  second  appeal
      of the appellant(defendant) in limine holding that it does not involve
      any substantial question of law?
      11)   The learned Single Judge while dismissing the appeal passed  the
      following order:
                 “This Regular Second Appeal has been filed by the defendant
           against the judgment and decree dated 22.10.2003, passed by  the
           Additional District Judge,  whereby  the  appeal  filed  by  the
           plaintiff was accepted, the judgment and decree  passed  by  the
           trial Court were set aside and the suit  of  the  plaintiff  was
           decreed.


                 While decreeing the suit of the plaintiff, it was found by
           the learned Additional District Judge  that  before  fixing  the
           annual value and imposing  the  house  tax,  the  defendant  had
           failed to decide the objections filed by the  plaintiff  against
           the proposed amendment of the assessment list. It was found that
           in fact the case of the defendant was that  no  objections  were
           filed. However, when a copy of the objections and the notice for
           personal hearing were shown to DW1 (produced by the  defendant),
           he had  to  admit  that  those  documents  were  issued  by  the
           defendant. It was found that from those documents, it was  clear
           that the plaintiff had filed  objections  against  the  proposed
           amendment of the assessment list and there  is  nothing  on  the
           record to show that  the  objections  were  decided  before  the
           annual value was fixed and  the  house  tax  was  imposed.  This
           finding of the learned Additional District Judge, in my opinion,
           is a finding of fact based on the evidence led by  the  parties,
           especially when there is nothing on  the  record  to  show  that
           there is  any  misreading  of  evidence  or  that  any  material
           evidence had been ignored by  the  learned  Additional  District
           Judge while giving this finding.  Once  it  is  found  that  the
           defendant had failed to follow the procedure laid down under the
           Act while imposing the house tax, in my opinion, the civil Court
           certainly had the jurisdiction to entertain the present suit and
           the finding of the learned Additional  District  Judge  in  this
           regard also has to be affirmed.


                 In this view of the matter, in my  opinion,  there  is  no
           scope for interference in the present appeal, especially when no
           question of law much less substantial question of law arises for
           determination in this appeal.


                 Hence, the present appeal is dismissed.”


      12)   As observed supra, we do not agree with the  reasoning  and  the
      conclusion arrived at by the High Court in the impugned order.  In our
      considered view, the appeal did involve the  substantial  question  of
      law and, therefore, the High Court should have admitted the appeal  by
      first framing proper substantial questions of law arising in the case,
      issued notice to the respondent for  its  final  hearing  as  provided
      under Section 100 of the Code of Civil  Procedure,  1908  (hereinafter
      referred to as “the Code”) and disposed it of on merits.
      13)   As a matter of fact, having regard to the nature of  controversy
      involved in the suit and the issues arising in the case, the questions
      raised in the second appeal did constitute  substantial  questions  of
      law within the meaning of Section 100 of the Code.
      14)   Indeed, in our considered view, the questions, viz., whether the
      suit seeking a declaration that the demand of House Tax  raised  under
      the Act is maintainable, whether such suit is barred and,  if  so,  by
      virtue of which provision  of  the  Act,  whether  plaintiff  has  any
      alternative statutory remedy available under the Act for  adjudication
      of his grievance and, if so, which is that remedy, and lastly, whether
      the plaintiff has properly valued the suit and, if  so,  whether  they
      have paid the proper Court fees on the reliefs  claimed  in  the  suit
      were  legal  questions   arising   in   the   appeal   and    involved
      jurisdictional issues requiring adjudication on merits  in  accordance
      with law. The High Court unfortunately did not examine  any  of  these
      issues much less in its proper perspective in the  light  of  relevant
      provisions of the Act governing the controversy.
      15)   The High Court thus, in our view, committed jurisdictional error
      when it dismissed the second appeal in limine. We  cannot  countenance
      the approach of the High Court.
      16)   In view of foregoing discussion,  the  appeal  succeeds  and  is
      allowed. The impugned order is set aside. The case is now remanded  to
      the High Court for deciding the appeal on merits  in  accordance  with
      law.
      17)   We, however, request the High Court to admit the second  appeal,
      frame appropriate substantial  questions  of  law  as  required  under
      Section 100 of the Code keeping in view the pleadings and  findings of
      the two courts below. Needless to say,  the  questions  to  be  framed
      should be specific.
      18)   Before parting, we consider it proper to mention  here  that  we
      have not expressed any  opinion  on  merits  of  the  controversy  and
      confined our  inquiry  only  to  examine  whether  the  second  appeal
      involved any substantial question of law within the meaning of Section
      100 of the Code?
      19)   Since none appeared for the appellant(defendant) in this  Court,
      the High Court would issue  notice  to  the  appellant  before  it  is
      finally heard.  We  request  the  High  Court  to  decide  the  appeal
      expeditiously.
      20)   Record of the case, if requisitioned, be sent back to  the  High
      Court forthwith by the Registry.

                           ………...................................J.
                                  [R.K. AGRAWAL]



                           …...……..................................J.
                                [ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]
      New Delhi;
      March 07, 2017

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