remanded to the High Court for deciding the appeal on merits = whether the suit seeking a declaration that the demand of House Tax raised under the Act is maintainable, whether such suit is barred and, if so, by virtue of which provision of the Act, whether plaintiff has any alternative statutory remedy available under the Act for adjudication of his grievance and, if so, which is that remedy, and lastly, whether the plaintiff has properly valued the suit and, if so, whether they have paid the proper Court fees on the reliefs claimed in the suit were legal questions arising in the appeal and involved jurisdictional issues requiring adjudication on merits in accordance with law. The High Court unfortunately did not examine any of these issues much less in its proper perspective in the light of relevant provisions of the Act governing the controversy. 15) The High Court thus, in our view, committed jurisdictional error when it dismissed the second appeal in limine. We cannot countenance the approach of the High Court. 16) In view of foregoing discussion, the appeal succeeds and is allowed. The impugned order is set aside. The case is now remanded to the High Court for deciding the appeal on merits in accordance with law.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL No.1182 OF 2007
Faridabad Complex
Administration ….Appellant(s)

VERSUS

M/s Iron Master India (P) Ltd. …Respondent(s)

J U D G M E N T
Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.
1) This appeal is filed by the appellant(defendant) against the
final judgment and order dated 16.02.2004 passed by the High Court of
Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in R.S.A. No. 530 of 2004 by which
the High Court dismissed the regular second appeal filed by the
appellant herein in limine against the judgment and decree dated
22.10.2003 passed by the Additional District Judge, Faridabad in C.A.
No. 166 of 2002 whereby the appeal filed by the respondent(plaintiff)
was allowed, the judgment and decree passed by the Trial Court was set
aside and the suit of the respondent was decreed.
2) We herein set out the facts, in brief, to appreciate the issued
involved in this appeal.
3) The respondent is a Limited Company having their place of
business in Faridabad. The appellant is a Municipal Corporation,
Faridabad as defined under the Haryana Municipal Act, 1973
(hereinafter referred to as “the Act”).
4) The respondent is subjected to payment of various taxes
including House Tax under the Act on the properties owned by them at
Faridabad. The respondent filed a civil suit seeking permanent
injunction against the appellant restraining them from recovering the
House Tax for the years 1991-92, 1992-93 and 1993-94 from the
respondent on their properties. The appellant also sought a
declaration that a demand notice dated 20.11.1993 raised by the
appellant calling upon the respondent to pay Rs.48,599.40 towards the
House Tax on their properties is illegal.
5) The appellant filed written statement and defended the
aforementioned demands on various grounds. The appellant also raised
an objection about the maintainability of the Suit.
6) The Trial Court framed issues. Parties adduced evidence. Vide
judgment and decree dated 20.09.2002 in Case No. 1483 of 1995, the
Trial Court dismissed the Suit. Felt aggrieved, the respondent filed
appeal being Civil Appeal No. 166 of 2002 before the Additional
District Judge, Faridabad. By order dated 22.10.2003, the Additional
District Judge allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment and decree
of the Trial Court and decreed the respondent’s suit against the
appellant.
7) Felt aggrieved, the appellant(defendant) filed second appeal
before the High Court wherein the appellant had proposed several
substantial questions of law arising in the case. The High Court,
however, dismissed the second appeal in limine by impugned
judgment/order holding that the second appeal does not involve any
substantial question of law. It is against this judgment, the
appellant(defendant) has filed this appeal by way of special leave
petition before this Court.
8) It is unfortunate that no one appeared for the appellant to
argue the appeal before this Court when the case was called on for
hearing twice. We, however, refrained ourselves from dismissing the
appeal in default and instead perused the record with the assistance
of Mr. A.K. Singla, learned senior counsel for the respondent with a
view to decide the appeal on merits.
9) Having heard learned senior counsel for the respondent and on
perusal of the record of the case, we are inclined to allow the appeal
and remand the case to the High Court for deciding the second appeal
afresh on merits in accordance with law.
10) The question, which arises for consideration in this appeal, is
whether the High Court was justified in dismissing the second appeal
of the appellant(defendant) in limine holding that it does not involve
any substantial question of law?
11) The learned Single Judge while dismissing the appeal passed the
following order:
“This Regular Second Appeal has been filed by the defendant
against the judgment and decree dated 22.10.2003, passed by the
Additional District Judge, whereby the appeal filed by the
plaintiff was accepted, the judgment and decree passed by the
trial Court were set aside and the suit of the plaintiff was
decreed.
While decreeing the suit of the plaintiff, it was found by
the learned Additional District Judge that before fixing the
annual value and imposing the house tax, the defendant had
failed to decide the objections filed by the plaintiff against
the proposed amendment of the assessment list. It was found that
in fact the case of the defendant was that no objections were
filed. However, when a copy of the objections and the notice for
personal hearing were shown to DW1 (produced by the defendant),
he had to admit that those documents were issued by the
defendant. It was found that from those documents, it was clear
that the plaintiff had filed objections against the proposed
amendment of the assessment list and there is nothing on the
record to show that the objections were decided before the
annual value was fixed and the house tax was imposed. This
finding of the learned Additional District Judge, in my opinion,
is a finding of fact based on the evidence led by the parties,
especially when there is nothing on the record to show that
there is any misreading of evidence or that any material
evidence had been ignored by the learned Additional District
Judge while giving this finding. Once it is found that the
defendant had failed to follow the procedure laid down under the
Act while imposing the house tax, in my opinion, the civil Court
certainly had the jurisdiction to entertain the present suit and
the finding of the learned Additional District Judge in this
regard also has to be affirmed.
In this view of the matter, in my opinion, there is no
scope for interference in the present appeal, especially when no
question of law much less substantial question of law arises for
determination in this appeal.
Hence, the present appeal is dismissed.”
12) As observed supra, we do not agree with the reasoning and the
conclusion arrived at by the High Court in the impugned order. In our
considered view, the appeal did involve the substantial question of
law and, therefore, the High Court should have admitted the appeal by
first framing proper substantial questions of law arising in the case,
issued notice to the respondent for its final hearing as provided
under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter
referred to as “the Code”) and disposed it of on merits.
13) As a matter of fact, having regard to the nature of controversy
involved in the suit and the issues arising in the case, the questions
raised in the second appeal did constitute substantial questions of
law within the meaning of Section 100 of the Code.
14) Indeed, in our considered view, the questions, viz., whether the
suit seeking a declaration that the demand of House Tax raised under
the Act is maintainable, whether such suit is barred and, if so, by
virtue of which provision of the Act, whether plaintiff has any
alternative statutory remedy available under the Act for adjudication
of his grievance and, if so, which is that remedy, and lastly, whether
the plaintiff has properly valued the suit and, if so, whether they
have paid the proper Court fees on the reliefs claimed in the suit
were legal questions arising in the appeal and involved
jurisdictional issues requiring adjudication on merits in accordance
with law. The High Court unfortunately did not examine any of these
issues much less in its proper perspective in the light of relevant
provisions of the Act governing the controversy.
15) The High Court thus, in our view, committed jurisdictional error
when it dismissed the second appeal in limine. We cannot countenance
the approach of the High Court.
16) In view of foregoing discussion, the appeal succeeds and is
allowed. The impugned order is set aside. The case is now remanded to
the High Court for deciding the appeal on merits in accordance with
law.
17) We, however, request the High Court to admit the second appeal,
frame appropriate substantial questions of law as required under
Section 100 of the Code keeping in view the pleadings and findings of
the two courts below. Needless to say, the questions to be framed
should be specific.
18) Before parting, we consider it proper to mention here that we
have not expressed any opinion on merits of the controversy and
confined our inquiry only to examine whether the second appeal
involved any substantial question of law within the meaning of Section
100 of the Code?
19) Since none appeared for the appellant(defendant) in this Court,
the High Court would issue notice to the appellant before it is
finally heard. We request the High Court to decide the appeal
expeditiously.
20) Record of the case, if requisitioned, be sent back to the High
Court forthwith by the Registry.

……………………………………..J.
[R.K. AGRAWAL]

……………………………………….J.
[ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]
New Delhi;
March 07, 2017