R.J. Kochar, J.
1. A cryptic order passed by the Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ulhasnagar is the subject matter of the present Civil Revision Application. It is expected of the Judicial Officers to give reasonably detailed orders to enable the Appellate Court to appreciate the legality and validity of their orders and to examine how they have applied their mind to the facts and law before them.
2. The petitioner, the Ulhasnagar Municipal Council (hereinafter referred to as the Municipal Council) has challenged the aforesaid order dated 31-1-1996 passed by the learned Civil Judge, Junior Division, Ulhasnagar on an application filed by the Municipal Council before the learned Judge requesting him to decide as preliminary issues which were framed at Serial Numbers 5 and 6 i.e. Issue No. 5 whether the suit is barred by jurisdiction? and Issue No. 6 whether the suit is maintainable or not in the light of sections 169, 170(b) and 172 of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965? It is curious to note that the learned Judge did contemplate to pass & final order on the aforesaid two preliminary issues though however while giving reasons he says that it was his prima facie view and concluded finally that the issues were exclusively triable in the Civil Court only. It is further curious to note that the learned trial Judge has totally ignored a well reasoned Judgment given by the then Additional District Judge, Thane in Miscellaneous Civil Appeal No. 79 of 1987 between the same parties and for the same cause of action and the issues arisen therein. The learned District Judge had given his judgment minutely considering all the provisions of the Act and had held that the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit. In the aforesaid Appeal the challenge given by the Municipal Council was to an order of temporary injunction granted by the Civil Judge, restraining the Municipal Council from collecting the taxes during the pendency of the suit before him. The Appellate Court had set aside the said order and had allowed the appeal with costs by his judgment and order dated 23-3-1988. The present impugned order has arisen after the matter was set for final hearing.
3. The petitioner has set out in detail the history of the facts how the respondent had come into possession of the land as a displaced person from the West Pakistan who had settled in Ulhasnagar Township somewhere in the year 1949. It is enough for the present purpose to mention that the respondent is in possession of the plot admeasuring the area of 12 Acres and 16 Gunthas of agricultural land for which the Municipal Council had imposed taxes at different prevalent rates upto 1981. For the year 1981 -82 the Municipal Council had increased the Consolidated Property Tax to the extent of Rs. 8,147.00 and Rs. 3,910.00 instead of Rs. 12.00 per hut. (The respondent has averred that there were two huts set up by him on the aforesaid agricultural land). The Municipal Council has sent notices to the respondent for levying revised taxes on 1-12-1981. The respondent filed his objections by his letters dated 18-12-1981 and 19-12-1981, contending that the lands were used for the agricultural purpose and that they were not being used for any commercial purpose. The Municipal Council had also given the respondent personal hearing in the matter. The Chief Officer of the Municipal Council did not agree with the respondent's contentions and therefore, the respondent was issued demand notices calling upon him to pay the arrears of the taxes at the revised rate upto the year 1986-87. Since the taxes were not paid by the respondent the Municipal Council again issued a notice on 20-1-1987 for recovery. The respondent did not respond to the said notice nor did he pay as per the notices. Instead he filed a Regular Civil Suit in the Court of Civil Judge, at Ulhasnagar for declaration and for perpetual injunction against the Municipal Council from claiming any taxes. He had also filed an application for temporary injunction against the Municipal Council under Order 39, Rule 1 and 2 read with section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code. The learned Judge was pleased fo grant the prayers of the respondent and restrained the Municipal Council from collecting the taxes until further orders pertaining to the Municipal Council's Bill No. 35804. As stated herein above the Municipal Council had filed an Appeal before the District Judge, against the said order and the said order and the learned District Judge was pleased to set aside the injunction order of the Civil Judge. The Municipal Council had contested the matter by filing its Written Statement mainly on the following grounds i.e.
(i) The Civil Judge, Junior Division had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit;
(ii) The only remedy for the respondent if he was aggrieved by the levy of the taxes, was to file an appeal under section 169 of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act;
(iii) He was given full opportunity against the levy of the taxes;
(iv) The land in question was not an agricultural land but was used for Industrial purposes;
(v) The suit was not properly valued and therefore, the Court had no pecuniary jurisdiction to entertain the suit;
(vi) The respondent had not come with clean hands and had suppressed the material facts from the Court that when warrant of recovery was issued the respondent had deposited two cheques for Rs. 10,000.00 but the same were dishonoured by the Bank and thus he had played fraud not only on the Municipal Council but also on the Court;
(vii) The respondent was liable to pay the total amount of Rs. 1,02,513.00 taxes from 1981 to 1986.
4. When the matter was set for final hearing the Municipal Council requested the learned Judge to decide the issue Nos. 5 and 6 as preliminary issues as they go to the very root of the matter as the Civil Courts Jurisdiction was totally barred under section 169 read with sections 170(b) and 172 of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act. The learned Judge has answered both the issues against the Municipal Council by the impugned order, Shri S.M. Paranjape, the learned Counsel for the Municipal Council first submitted that the land in question is not an agricultural land at all and that it is used for the industrial purposes and therefore, it is not exempted from any Municipal Taxes. He has placed before this Court the Conveyance Deed dated 16-12-1986 between the Government of India and the respondent to show that the said land was used for industrial purposes and was not for agricultural use at all. He has further pointed out Rules 9 and 10(f) framed under the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965 to show that from 1976 even agricultural land was subjected to tax and was not exempted from the Municipal Tax and therefore, the respondent was liable to pay the Municipal Taxes and therefore the demand notices issued by the Municipal Council were legal, valid and proper. It is clear from the rules that from 1976 pursuant to the amendments in the rules the exemption from taxes on the agricultural land was taken away and therefore even assuming that it is an agricultural land, the respondent is liable to pay taxes from 1976 onwards. According to me the land in question is not at all an agricultural land in the locality of the Ulhasnagar Town and from the Conveyance Deed it is further clear that the said land is being used for the industrial purposes and therefore, there is no question of any exemption for industrial land from the municipal taxes. I have no doubt in my mind that the respondent is liable to pay the Municipal Taxes as demanded by the Municipal Council. I may mention here that even the learned District Judge had found it as a matter of fact that land in question was not an agricultural land but was an industrial plot and therefore the District Judge had rightly rejected the contention of the respondent and had held that the respondent was liable for assessment of Consolidated Property Taxes. It is also clear from the findings of the learned District Judge and also from the record that the grievance of the respondent was for revision or enhancement of the Consolidated Properly Taxes as he was already paying the said taxes prior to 1981-82. His grievance was against the enhancement and not against the competence of the Municipal Council to levy consolidated property tax or to revise the same. He has only challenged the legality of the demand notice on the basis of his grievance against the revision or enhancement of the taxes. I, therefore, agree with the Counsel for the Municipal Council that the respondent's land was used for industrial purposes and that he was liable to pay the Consolidated Property Taxes in accordance with the demand notices sent by the Municipal Council calling upon the respondents to pay the taxes and all the arrears upto 1986.
5. Since I have held that the respondent is liable to pay the taxes his grievance against the revision or enhancement of the property taxes remains to be decided. Under the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965 Chapter IX minutely deals with the manner and method of imposition of compulsory and voluntary taxes. Under section 105 the Municipal Council is authorized to levy such taxes which are prescribed thereunder. A minute procedure is also laid down before imposing any of the taxes referred therein. Section 115 provides that when a tax on building or land or both is imposed, the Chief Officer shall cause an assessment list of all such buildings or lands in the Municipal area. Such an assessment list is required to be published in accordance with the procedure provided therein. The Chief Officer is obliged under section 118 of the Act to give public notice of the Assessment List and it also further provides that the concerned owners/occupiers of property included in the list or their agents are at liberty to inspect the list and they were further at liberty to submit their objections under section 119 of the Act. It is thus clear that any one who is aggrieved by the imposition of the taxes had to file his objections and such objections were required to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of section 120 of the Act. After deciding all the objections an authenticated list of assessment is finally prepared. If we peruse the aforesaid and other relevant provisions of the Act we find that they are based on public policy of hearing the grievances or objections from the concerned persons before imposition of the taxes and before finalising the assessment list. It is not the case of the respondent that the Municipal Council had not followed the aforesaid mandatory provisions and procedure prescribed therein. In fact the respondent had also filed his objection and they were considered by the Municipal Authority and thereafter he was assessed for payment of the property taxes and was called upon to pay the same. It is, therefore, futile to contend that no opportunity of hearing was given to the respondent. Even on this point I agree with the findings of the learned District Judge given in his judgment and order dated 23-3-1988. It is next contended by the learned Counsel for the Municipal Council that if at all he had any grievance of any nature against the imposition or enhancement or revision of the Municipal Property Taxes his only remedy could be within the four corners of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965 as prescribed in sections 169 r/w sections 170,171 and 172. The learned Counsel has stressed on the provision of section 172 which specifically bars the jurisdiction of any other authority and provides the manner in which the objection is to be taken to any valuation, assessment or levy or liability to be assessed or taxed. The learned Counsel has further submitted that in view of the aforesaid provisions barring other proceedings the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts is barred and therefore, the respondent could not have challenged the demand notices issued by the Municipal Council claiming property taxes by filing a Civil Suit before the Civil Court. According to the learned Counsel for the petitioner the only remedy which is prescribed in section 169 is to file an appeal, before any Judicial Magistrate or bench of such Magistrates as prescribed therein. Since an expeditious remedy is provided in the Act and the said remedy is a self-contained Code for itself, according to me, no other authority can entertain any grievance or objection against any assessment or any levy of taxes or any liability to pay such taxes. I, therefore, agree with the submissions of the learned Counsel for Municipal Council that the only remedy available and open to the respondent was to file an appeal under section 169 before the Judicial Magistrate and not to file a Civil Suit before the Civil Court. When the law provides for a particular forum and a remedy and the manner in which such forum is to be approached in that case the party is not at liberty to by pass such forum or remedy. It is also significant to note that the appeal provided under section 169 of the act is not any departmental appeal before any authority or officer of the Municipal Council but it is before the Judicial forum created under the statute to render a judicial decision in the matter. It is not an administrative order which will be given by the appeal forum. In my opinion therefore, the respondent has bypassed the mandatory remedy provided under the Act and is not entitled to any relief from the Civil Court by filing a Civil Suit: According to me, therefore, the Civil Courts jurisdiction is barred under section 172 of the Act, and therefore, the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit against the demand notices issued by the Municipal Council for imposition of the property taxes for the period from 1981 to 1986 in accordance with the details given in the demand notice.
6. It is equally important to note that the learned District Judge had also rightly held, that Civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the said suit in paragraph 18 and 19 of the Judgement dated 23-3-1988. In support of his contention that the Civil remedy is barred, the learned Counsel has relied on a Division Bench Judgement of this Court reported at 68 Bombay Law Reporter page 519, Miraj City Municipality v. The Amercian Board of Foreign Mission. The learned Division Bench was considering the similar provisions of the Bombay District Municipal Act, 1901. The Bench has observed:
"Our view that a claim to an exemption from the Consolidated Tax on Buildings and Lands is within the scope of an appeal under section 86 of the Act finds support in another decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Gopal Mills Co. Ltd. v. Broach Bor. Mun. Several appeals were disposed of by the judgment in that case, and what is relevant for our purpose is the decision of the Court in Cross-Appeal No. 136 of 1953. The appeals arose under the Bombay Municipal Boroughs Act, 1925, and in appreciating the decision of the Division Bench a reference must be made to section 111(1) of that Act, which corresponds to section 86-A (1) of the Bombay District Municipal Act, 1901. Section 111(1) of the Bombay Municipal Boroughs Act confers finality on every entry in the assessment list against which no objection is made, the amount of every sum claimed for many person on account of any tax if no appeal therefrom is made, and the decision of the Magistrate or Bench of Magistrates under section 110 ot the Act. These provisions in section 111 were interpreted by the Division Bench to mean that no suit can be filed, in a Civil Court to agitate the questions to which finality is given by these provisions. Now, the question which arose in Cross-Appeal No. 136 of 1953 was whether the Civil Court had jurisdiction to decide the claim made by an assessee for exemption of a certain land from the rate on lands or buildings on the ground that the land was used for agricultural purposes. The Division Bench held that the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to decide this question, because it was a question on which an appeal could have been entertained by the Magistrate under section 110 of the Bombay Municipal Boroughs Act. Chagla, C.J., delivering the judgment of the Division Bench, observed (P. 315) :
".....The learned Judge has held that three acres and 18 gunthas of the land belonging to the assessee was used for agricultural purposes and therefore was not liable to tax.....we must hold that the learned Judge had no jurisdiction to go into and decide the question of three acres and 18 gunthas. Whether this land should be assessed on the basis of agricultural land used for agricultural purposes or on a different basis was a question of valuation with regard to which the assessee could have objected to the standing committee, ultimately could have appealed to the Magistrate, and finally gone in revision to the Appellate Court, and it is not a matter which was competent to a Civil Court to decide."
This, therefore,, is a direct authority in support of our view that in the cases before us the Judicial Magistrate had jurisdiction to decide the claim of the Miraj Medical Centre to exemption from the Consolidated Tax on Buildings and Lands."
The learned Counsel has also relied on another decision of a learned Single Judge of our High Court reported in 1982 Mh.L.J. 866, Dagadabai Manakchand & anr. v. Municipal Council, Aurangabad. The learned Judge has considered the section 169 and 172 of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act, 1965 and has further considered earlier judgments of our High Court on the same issue. The learned Judge in para 7 of his judgment has observed :
"7. It cannot be disputed that earlier it was the consistent view of this Court for a long time that in Municipal Appeals the only question that could be considered was the quantum of taxation and nothing more. Mr. Sancheti has placed reliance upon the decisions. First of all he placed reliance upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Bata Shoe Co. Ltd. v. Jabalpur Corporation. I have already pointed out that the learned Additional Sessions Judge has observed in respect of this ruling that it was ruling under the C.R and Berar Municipalities Act, and, therefore, according to him this ruling was not applicable to the facts of the instant case. Mr. Sancheti urged that the learned Additional Sessions Judge was wrong in this respect. It is true that that was a decision under the C.P. and Berar Municipalities Act, but the provisions in section 84(3) of the C.R and Berar Municipalities Act which arose in the Supreme Court case are in part materia with the provisions of section 172 of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act. For the purpose of facilitating the comparison I will reproduce section 84(3) of the C.P. and Berar Municipalities Act. It runs as follows:
"84(3) No objection shall be taken to any valuation, assessment or levy nor shall the liability of any person to be assessed or taxed be questioned, in any other manner or by any other authority than is provided in this Act."
Then I shall reproduce section 172 of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act;
"172. No objection shall be taken to any valuation, assessment of levy nor shall the liability of any person to be assessed or taxed be questioned, in any other manner or by any other authority than is provided in this Act."
It would, therefore, be seen that the provisions are in pan materia with each other. Section 83(1) of the C.P and Berar Municipalities Act provided for appeal against assessment of taxes to the Deputy Commissioner or to such other officer as may be empowered by the Provincial Government in that behalf. Now there is similar provisions in section 169 of the Maharashtra Municipalities Act. This section provides for appeal against any claim for taxes or other dues included in a bill presented to any persons under section 150 or any other provisions of the Act to the Judicial Magistrate or Bench of such Magistrates by whom under the directions of the Sessions Judge such class of cases shall be decided. It would, therefore, be seen that before the Supreme Court was a provision which was in pari materia with the provision in the Maharashtra Municipalities Act and the Supreme Court has given a clear decision that any dispute regarding legality and validity of the taxation must be decided by the authority provided under the Municipalities Act. In para 8 the Supreme Court observed as follows :
84(3) No objection shall be taken to any violation, assessment or levy nor shall the liability of any person to be assessed or taxed be questioned, in any other manner or by any other authority than is provided in this Act. It is plain from this sub-section that any valuation, assessment or levy and the liability of any person to be assessed or taxed can be questioned only in the manner prescribed by the Act and by the authority mentioned the Act and in no other manner or by any other authority. Since the subsection expressly prohibits a challenge to a valuation, assessment or levy "in any other manner..... than is provided in this Act" and since the Act has devised its own special machinery for inquiring into and adjudicating upon such challenges, the common remedy of a suit stands necessarily excluded and cannot be availed of by a person aggrieved by an order of assessment to octroi duty. Similarly, the sub-section excludes expressly the power of any "any other authority than is provided in this Act' to entertain an objection to any valuation, assessment or levy or octroi. This part of the provision is in the nature of ouster of the jurisdiction of Civil Courts, at least by necessary implication, to entertain an objection to any valuation, assessment or levy. This is the evident intendment, meaning and implication of the provision.
Again in para 10 the Supreme Court observed as follows:
"If a provision merely giving finality to an order could be construed as ousting the Civil Court's jurisdiction, section 84(3) of the Act, which is far more expressive, can legitimately be construed to have the same effect. It excludes in terms a challenge to the various things therein mentioned, in any other manner or by any other authority than is provided in the Act"
It will, therefore, be seen that there is a clear cut finding of the Supreme Court that the question of legality and validity of the taxes has got to be challenged only in accordance with the provisions mentioned in the Municipalities Act. The Supreme Court further considered the cases which were cited before it and the Supreme Court observed that so far the question of constitutionality of the taxation is concerned then alone a civil suit would lie. This is apparent from para 20 of the said ruling."
7. It is curious to note that the learned Civil Judge, Junior Division in his impugned order dated 31-1-1996 has totally ignored the judgement of the learned District Judge and has lightly dealt with the important issue of jurisdiction of the Civil Court. He has further convinced himself with the point that the contention of the respondent was that his land being agricultural land he was not liable to pay taxes and therefore, he held that the civil jurisdiction is not barred. Apart from the fact that the learned District Judge has also dealt with the aforesaid point and has held that it was not an agricultural land which was ex-facie clear from the Conveyance Deed. According to me even this question is to be agitated before the appellate forum as provided under section 169 of the Act. If it was the grievance of the respondent that his land was an agricultural land and that he was not liable to pay any taxes, he had to question the said act of the Municipal Council only in the manner prescribed under sections 169, 170, 171 and 172. If, in fact and in law he was not liable to pay any taxes he would have succeeded in his appeal on that very point. Since the impugned order of the learned Judge is extremely cryptic, I failed to understand how he had concluded in one sentence that the dispute was "exclusively triable in the Civil Court" and that is the only sentence considering the case of the petitioner. Further the learned Judge has observed "for that purpose it is presumed that said person is liable to pay taxes as the property whereas in our case very dispute is whether the plaintiff is liable to pay taxes to defendant on agricultural land or not." If the learned Judge was to simply read the four sections carefully he would not have passed the impugned order. The learned Judge has failed to appreciate that section 169 specifically mentions that appeals against any claim for taxes or other dues included in a Bill, only appeal before a Judicial Magistrate could be entertained. It means that even the contention that agricultural land is not liable for any taxes is also to be contended in accordance with the said provisions. The learned Judge has committed a grave error of law and facts by presuming that the land in question was an agricultural land that the present dispute could be exclusively tried in Civil-Court only.
8. From the aforesaid discussion I conclude that the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit filed by the respondent' and therefore, the suit is liable to be dismissed and the same is dismissed with costs. It is needless to point out that the respondent is liable to pay all the arrears of the property taxes from the year 1981 to 1986 in accordance with the demand notice with interest at 18% p.a. The respondent shall pay to the petitioner Municipal Council a cost of Rs. 5,000.00. Rule is made absolute in terms of prayer clause (a).
9. Revision allowed.