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Madras High Court
The Secretary Of State For India In … vs P.A. Madurai Chetty And Anr. on 5 January, 1927
Equivalent citations: 103 Ind Cas 347, (1927) 53 MLJ 148
Author: Waller


Waller, J.

1. The appellant in this case is the Secretary of State for India. The respondent was the transferee of 800 maunds of salt belonging to a licensee named Chengalraya Chetty. On 27th February, 1923, he applied for permission to remove the salt, paid the duty of Rs. 1,000 at the rate then current of Rs. 1-4-0 per maund and got orders for delivery. The salt was, however, not removed till 1st March, by which time the duty had been doubled. By a rule framed under Section 85 of the Salt Act, the duty payable is that in force on the date of removal. The respondent was called upon to pay the deficient duty of Rs. 1,000 but refused to do so. Coercive steps were taken against him under Section 84 of the Act, whereupon he paid. He then sued to recover the sum of Rs. 1,000 plus interest and obtained a decree from the City Civil Court.

2. As I understand the Lower Court’s reasoning, it proceeded on some ground of supposed hardship of which the respondent had been the innocent victim. For reasons which do not appear and as to which it is idle to speculate, the Commissioner issued instructions on 23rd February that the hours of removal should be restricted to four a day. The Lower Court thought that but for the restriction, the respondent could have removed his salt on 27th or 28th February, and that he should not be penalised for a delay for which he was not responsible. That seems to me to be entirely beside the point. A perfectly valid rule had been framed under Section 85 of the Act, laying down that the duty payable is that in force at the time of removal. The respondent cannot escape from the operation of that rule by alleging that, but for certain restrictions, he might have removed the salt earlier. The restrictions were not designed to prejudice him in particular. They were imposed, presumably, for general administrative purposes by an authority competent to impose them. They may have caused a delay for which the respondent has to suffer, but the rule is there and he cannot avoid its effect. The Lower Court relied on the ruling reported in Brito v. The Secretary of State for India in Council (1881) ILR 6 B 251. It does not appear from the facts of that case whether there was a rule in force in Bombay similar to the one with which we are now dealing. I agree that the respondent, when he paid the old rate of duty, acquired a right to remove the salt, but if the rate was enhanced before removal, the rule is clear that he had to pay at the enhanced rate. I find on the first issue that the respondent was bound to pay duty at the enhanced rate.

3. The Lower Court was further of opinion that the authorities were not entitled to resort to coercive processes against the respondent under Section 84 of the Act. It relied on an unreported decision of a Bench of this Court in C.C. C. A. No. 14 of 1918, which held that the charges referred to in Section 43 of the Act carried no personal liability and could not be recovered under 84. With great respect 1 am unable to follow that decision. Section 43 is statedly subject to rules framed under Section 85. Rule 81 imposes on the licensee (and consequently on his transferee) the liability to pay the duty in order to get an order for delivery. If the duty is not paid, it is due from him and recoverable, in the first instance, from any money owing to him by the Commissioner or from any salt belonging to him that may not have been removed. Failing recovery in either of those ways, it is recoverable as an arrear of land revenue. 1 find that the deficient duty was recoverable from the respondent under Section 84 of the Act.

4. The appeal is allowed, and the suit is dismissed with costs throughout.

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