Decided on January 30,1953

A. Koyan And Anr. Appellant
Rajammal And Anr. Respondents


Raghava Rao, J. - (1.) AFTER the lengthy arguments I have heard in this case the principles that to my mind appear to emerge for consideration and application in this case are these. (1) A written statement pleading a set -off, whether legal or equitable, must bear court -fee whether the setoff is tantamount to an extinguishment of the plaint claim or to a partial reduction of the plaint claim; (2) where the written statement on its allegations refers to the payments which will have the effect of either extinguishing or reducing the suit claim as payments which in law must be held to be in the nature of "payments to the plaintiff himself," the defendant is not under an obligation to pay any court fee on that amount although when he fails to prove the legal effect of the payments in question to be that of payments to the plaintiff himself, the plea of the credit claimed by the defendant on the foot of payments may have to fail. This latter principle is really a corollary to the larger principle applicable to plaints that the payment of court -fee on the plaint must be judged with reference to the allegations in the plaint.
(2.) I have carefully examined the present written statement with the aid of counsel and I have come to the distinct conclusion that there is nothing which involves the defendant on the allegations therein in the position that he is pleading a set -off legal or equitable. He is pleading two items of credit with reference to what would be in the nature of an advance payment of rent or payments under the Madras Tenants and Ryots Protection Act (Madras Act 17 of 1946). The defendants here are only resisting the plaintiffs' claim on a very legitimate ground with reference to which on first principles it will be rather difficult to say that the defendants have to pay any amount or court -fee at all. But there is a provision in the Court -fees Act, Schedule I, Article 1, which says that a written statement pleading a set -off must be stamped in the same manner in which a plaint might have to be stamped ad valorem. Notwithstanding this, I do not see any reason on principle, why if the written statement does not claim any particular amounts either in reduction or in extinction of the suit claim on the basis of what he describes a set -off, the defendant should be called upon to pay any court fee merely because in the ultimate result after the item have been examined it turns out that what is asked for by the defendant is a set off. For the reasons given above, I am of opinion that the written statement in this case is not hit at by the provisions of Schedule I, Rule 1 of the Court -fees Act. I reverse the decision of the court below and direct it to accept the written statement as properly stamped and proceed with the trial of the suit hereafter. The petitioners will have costs from the respondents in this Court.;

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