TOLLYGUNJ CLUB LTD Vs. CORPORATION OF CALCUTTA
HIGH COURT OF CALCUTTA
Tollygunj Club Ltd
CORPORATION OF CALCUTTA
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(1.) The Plaintiff, Tollygunge Club Ltd., holds 250 Bighas 12 Cottas of land with a few buildings and sheds thereon comprised in one holding and bearing the Municipal No. 44, Russa Road. Originally the holding was within the Tollygunge Municipality. By a notification of the Government of West Bengal the area where this holding is situated came within the Calcutta Corporation with effect from March 1, 1953. There was a quinquennial valuation by the Tollygunge Municipality with effect from the 1st quarter of 1952-53, that is to say, from April 1, 1952. In connection with this, revaluation the Assessor of the Tollygunge Municipality made a valuation of the holding. He assessed the annual value of the holding to be Rs. 90,000. Objection was preferred by the Plaintiff against the valuation. The objection was heard and disposed of by the Administrator of the Corporation of Calcutta who reduced the valuation to Rs. 77,500. The Plaintiff complains that the entire assessment proceedings including the valuation made by Assessor as also the order of the Administrator are illegal and ultra vires and asks for the necessary declaration and consequential injunction. The learned Trial Judge dismissed the suit.
(2.) I have come to the conclusion that the assessment of the Plaintiff's holding is illegal for two reasons and should be declared to be invalid. Section 149 of the Bengal Municipal Act as also Rule 13 of the rules framed under the Act requires that the committee hearing the objection shall pass necessary orders "after "taking such evidence and making such inquiry as it may deem "necessary, in the presence of the objector or his agent if he "appears". The functions of the committee were at the relevant time discharged by the Administrator of the Corporation of Calcutta. I think that the Administrator contravened the previsions of Section 149 and of the Rule 13. On the materials before us, I am satisfied that the Administrator had before him at the time of the hearing of the objection that report on the assessment put up by the Assessor before the Commissioners of the Tollygunge Municipality under Rule 10 of the rules framed under the Bengal Municipal Act. The report was relevant and material evidence in the matter. The Plaintiff Assessee was represented by its agent at the hearing of the objection. In spite of request made by the agent at the time of the hearing the Administrator did not allow the agent to look at and scrutinise the report of the Assessor. It was the duty of the Administrator to allow the Plaintiff's agent to see whatever materials were on the record which might be used against the Assessee and to call such evidence as the Assessee thought fit to rebut those materials. The requirement of Section 149 and Rule 13 that the committee Shall take evidence and make inquiry in the presence of the objector or his agent is not an empty formality. It is one of the fundamental safeguards inposed by the Act and the rules upon the conduct of the inquiry by the Committee. The Committee, as also the Administrator discharging its function, is a quasi-judicial body. Even apart from Section 149 arid Rule 13 it was the duty of the Administrator acting quasi-judicially to conform to the fundamental principles which are required to be observed in administration of justice, in whatever form such justice is administered. One of such fundamental obligations of a quasi-judicial body is to allow the party affected to look at and scrutinise the evidence before it so that the party affected may make his representations on the matter and if necessary to call rebutting evidence.
(3.) The evidence in this case is somewhat meagre. The plaint is very prolix and obscure. The arguments advanced in this case at all its stages also did not help very much in bringing out the real points in issue between the parties. But I think that the charge that the Plaintiff's agent was not allowed to look and scrutinise the assessment of the Assessor's report at the time of hearing of the objection has been made out. In para. 9 of the plaint it was averred that the Administrator did not let the Plaintiff know in the course of the hearing of the objection on what material evidence he had decided to reduce the quantum of the annual value and that he did not let the Plaintiff have any opportunity to test the Assessor's opinion, reasons or conclusion departmentally communicated by the Assessor behind the Plaintiff's back. In dealing with this charge the Defendant avers inter alia that the Administrator was not at all influenced by the report of the Assessor as alleged. The plaint read with the written statement seems to suggest that the report of the Assessors was before the Administrator and that the Administrator was considering the report behind the back of the Plaintiff. The plea taken by the Defendant in rebuttal is that all these did not matter because the Administrator was not at all influenced by the report of the Assessor. The particular report which the parties had in mind is referred to in item No. 2 of the list of documents mentioned in the Plaintiff's application filed in the trial court on December 7, 1953. Item No. 2 refers to the report of the assessment put up by the Assessor before the Commissioners of the defunct Tollygunge Municipality for the revaluation period. Interrogatories were delivered by the Plaintiff to the Defendant under an order of the trial court. Item No. 14 of the intergatory called upon the Defendant to admit that at the time of hearing of the objection the agent of the Plaintiff was not allowed to scrutinise the report of the Assessor. The answer to the interrogatory was that the Plaintiff's agent was not entitled in law to the scrutiny of the report. It was said that the matter depended purely on the Administrator's discretion The interrogatory read with the answer clearly suggests that in spite of requests made by the Plaintiff's agent at the hearing of the objection the Plaintiff's agent was not allowed to scrutinise the report. The point is made clearer by the petition of objection filed on behalf of the Defendant. In para. 5 of this petition of objection which was filed on December 14, 1963, the Defendant avers that the agent of the Plaintiff was not justified in calling for the report of the Assessor for scrutiny. The facts are admitted. The justification is unsound in law. It is said that there is ho procedure in the Act which would entitle the Plaintiff's agent to scrutinise the report. The right of the Plaintiff's agent to scrutinize the report is implicit in Section 149 arid Rule 13. The right is also implicit in the fact that the Administrator as a quasi-judicial body must conform to the fundamental principles of judicial procedure.;
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