MADURA MUNICIPALITY Vs. P M S MUTHUSAMI CHETTIAR
HIGH COURT OF MADRAS
MADURA MUNICIPALITY REPRESENTED BY THE MUNICIPAL
P.M.S. MUTHUSAMI CHETTIAR
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GOVINDA MENON J. -
(1.) I need not recapitulate the facts which have been detailed in extenso in the judgment of my learned brother. But I wish to add only a few words on the question of law that has been elaborately argued at the Bar.
(2.) The learned Judge's finding that the introduction of the labour scheme is within the purview of the powers of the municipality and is therefore not 'ultra vires' has not been questioned before us nor is the opinion that the formalities as provided under the Madras Town Planning Act, 1920, have been complied with, controverted. Thus the only question which arises for determination is whether the levy of the betterment tax is unreasonable and excessive and whether the fixation of the betterment tax was done in an arbitrary manner. In considering this question the basic question of the jurisdiction of the Court to enquire into the right of levy of betterment tax will have to be decided in the first instance. On behalf of the appellant, reliance is placed upon Sections 24, 26 and 27 of the Madras Town Planning Act, 1920, as well as Rule 58-A and Rule 65 framed under Section 44 of the Act. Section 23 empowers the municipal council to levy betterment contribution where by the making of any town planning scheme the value of the property has increased or is likely to increase, and such a claim has to be made within the time limited by the scheme not being less than three months after the date of publication of a notification of the Government sanctioning the scheme under Section 14; and the betterment contribution shall be recovered from the owner of the property annually for such term of years and at such uniform percentage of the increase in value not exceeding ten per cent, as may be fixed In the scheme. There is a proviso that the aggregate amount of the contribution so recovered shall not exceed one half of the maximum increase in valuer during the term of years as ascertained under the latter provision of the statute. In the present case, as has been considered by ray learned brother, betterment contributions were for the years 1945-46 and 1946-47. The Municipality's argument that the Civil Courts are deprived of the power to question the legality of the levy is founded upon a joint reading of Sections 24 and 26 and Rule 65. The calculation of the betterment levy is laid down in Section 24 (b) and when betterment contribution is calculated under that section, it is open to the owner of the property under Section 26, if in any particular year he objects to the amount of such contribution on the ground that the market value estimated under Clause (b) of Section 24 is excessive, to state the market value which he contends is correct and then within thirty days of the date on which the determination of his objection or appeal becomes final by written notice, he can require the municipal council to acquire the property together with any buildings or other works that may exist thereon. Clause (2) of Section 26 makes it obligatory upon the municipal council either to acquire the property or to accept the market value as stated by the owner and revise its assessment of the betterment contribution in accordance therewith. If under Clause (3) of Section 26 the municipal council elects to acquire the property the compensation payable shall be determined according to the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which may in suitable cases be modified by the provisions of Sections 34 and 35 of the Madras Town Planning Act. We are now asked to hold that the only remedy which the owner of the" property has is to apply to the Municipality under Section 26 either to acquire the property according to the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act or to accept the valuation given by the owner and revise the assessment accordingly. Rule 65 reads as follows:
"The assessment or demand of any betterment contribution when no appeal is made as hereinbefore provided, and when such an appeal is made, the adjudication of the council thereon shall be final." What is the nature of the finality attached to the assessment contemplated under Rule 65 is the question for consideration. The appellant's counsel also invoked Section 354 of the Madras District Municipalities Act, Clause (2). but that section can only apply where the assessment or the demand made was under the authority of the District Municipalities Act. It does not state that any sum of money collected by the Municipality under the powers conferred by statutes other than the District Municipalities Act cannot be questioned in accordance with that section. There is specific reference that the collection or demand should be under the authority of the District Municipalities Act. Therefore Section 354 of the District Municipalities Act cannot in our opinion be applied to justify the appellant's claim.
(3.) A line of cases which lay down the principle that where a statute confers certain rights and prescribes a particular mode of remedying the encroachments upon such rights, the ordinary civil Courts have no jurisdiction to entertain the disputes, has been put forward as the basis of the contention in favour of the appellant.;
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