MUNICIPAL COUNCIL MASULIPATAM Vs. G KRISHNA RAO
HIGH COURT OF ANDHRA PRADESH
MUNICIPAL COUNCIL, MASULIPATAM REPRESENTED BY EXECUTIVE
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Jaganmohan Reddy, J. -
(1.) This second appeal involves the question of interpretation of Section 350 of the District Municipalities Act and having regard to the provisions of the said Act also the question whether the suit is barred by limitation. The appellant is the Municipal Council, Masulipatam, represented by its Executive authority. The respondent (Plaintiff) is-the Secretary of the Coffee Meals and Hotel Association and the Proprietor of Amba Bhavan Meals and Coffee Club. It is the case of the plaintiff that from the year 1952 there were some disputes-between the Municipality on the one hand and the Association and himself on the other regarding collection of certain taxes, that with regard to the levy of license fee and taxes the appellant cut off the water supply on 26-12-1952 on the ground that there was leakage in the water connection to the meter and that in spite of notices he did not pay the amount and consequently it was cut off. In respect of this alleged unauthorised disconnection the respondent filed O. S. 68/53 on 9-2-1953 claiming damages till the date of the suit and for a mandatory injunction directing the appellant to restore the water supply. However during the pendency of that suit the water supply was restored on 31-10-1953. The suit was ultimately decreed on 17-7-1954 and damages of Rs. 60.00 were awarded in favour of the respondent against the appellant. Thereafter on 10-1-1956 the appellant served a notice on the respondent for paying certain arrears of water charges. The respondent by his reply dated 14th Feb. 1956 disputed the claim and took up the position that there were no arrears due from him and that he is entitled to damages for maliciously cutting off the water connection and not restoring the same from the date of the filing of O. S. 68/53 viz. 9-2-1953 to 31-10-1953 when the water supply was restored. On receipt of that notice the appellant served a notice on the respondent saying that the water connection was cut off because of non-payment of arrears of water charges. This was followed by the cutting off the water supply on the same date. The respondent therefore filed a suit on 2-4-1956 in the Munsif Magistrates Court, Masulipatam being O.S. 109 of 1956 claiming damages incurred by him for the period 9-2-1953 to 31-10-1953 and from 15-2-1956 to 26-3-1956. In this suit it was inter alia contended by the Municipality that inasmuch as the provisions of Section 350 apply, the suit which has to be filed within 6 months from the date of the cause of action is barred by limitation so far as the first part of the claim is concerned and in so far as the second part of the claim is concerned the notice given by the respondent did not satisfy the requirements of that Section and as such is bad for want of notice. The respondent contended that Section 134 does not empower the Municipality to cut off the water supply for non-payment of charges and consequently no notice is necessary as specified in that Section, nor is the suit to be filed within six months from the date of the cause of action and as such the provisions of that section i.e., Section 350 do not apply. If they do cot apply, the period prescribed under the law of limitation would be applicable to the facts of this case and the respondent could file a suit within 3 years.
(2.) The District Munsif held that the cutting off of water supply was unauthorised and decreed the suit for Rs. 290/.- as damages. On appeal the District Judge awarded Rs. 40.00 as damages for the period 15-2-1956 to 26-3-1956 and in respect of the period 9-2-1953 to 31-10-1953 he awarded Rs. 250.00. On both the occasions it was held by both the Courts that the cutting off of water supply was unauthorised. On the question of limitation, it was held that Section 350 of the District Municipalities Act does not apply, that the suit for damages for the period 9-2-1953 to 31-10-1953 is not barred by limitation. Admittedly the period 15-2-1956 to 26-3-1956 is within time as the suit was filed immediately thereafter.
(3.) The first question that falls for consideration is whether Section. 350 of the District Municipalities Act, which deals with the institution of suits against municipal authorities, is applicable to the facts and circumstances of this case. But in considering that section, it will also be appropriate to consider Section 134 of the same Act which empowers the municipal authorities to cut off water supply. These two sections may now be read together. 134 (i). The executive authority may cut off the supply of municipal water from any premises: (a) if the premises are unoccupied; (b) if any water tax or any sum due for water for the cost of making a connexion or for the cost or hire of a meter or for the cost of carrying out any work or test connected with the water supply which is chargeable to any person by or under this Act, is not paid within fifteen days after a bill for such tax or sum has been presented; (c) to (h) x x x x (2) The expenses of cutting off the supply shall be paid by the owner or occupier of the premises. (3) In cases under clause (b) as soon as any money for non-payment of which water has been cut off together with the expense of cutting off the supply, has been paid by the owner or occupier, the (executive authority) shall cause water to be supplied as before on payment of the cost (if any) of reconnecting the premises with the municipal water works. (4) No action taken under this section shall relieve any person from any penalties or liabilities which he may otherwise have incurred. 350(1): No suit for damages or compensation shall be instituted against the municipal council, any municipal authority, officer or servant, or any person acting under the direction of the same, in respect of any act done in pursuance of execution or intended execution of this Act or any rule, bye-law, regulation or order made under it or in respect of any alleged neglect or default in the execution of this Act, or any rule, bye-law, regulation, or order made under it until the expiration of one month after a notice has been delivered or left at the municipal office or at the place of abode of such officer, servant or person, stating the cause of action the relief sought, and the name and the place of abode of the intending plaintiff; and the plaint shall contain a statement that such notice has been so delivered or left. (2) Every such suit shall be commenced within six months after the date on which the cause of action arose or in case of continuing injury or damage during such continuance or within six months after the ceasing thereof. (3) x x x x (4) x x xx;
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