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1975 (1) TMI 96

men t of Tamil Nadu under Section 5of the Madras Agricultural Produce Markets Act (XXIII of 1959) who is the defendant in OS. No. 90 of 1968, on the file of the Subordinate Judge of Ramanathapuram at Madurai is the appellant. The Tamil Nadu Act XXIII of 1959 came into force on 22nd October, 1962. But by a notification in the Fort. St. George Gazette on 18th April, 1962 pursuant to the G.O. Ms. No. 1054 (Food and Agriculture) dated 30th March, 1962 the State Government directed the constitution of a market committee at Virudhunagar and markets at Virudhunagar, Rajapalayam and Sattur in Ramanathapuram District. These committees were no doubt regularly constituted and established ur der the provisions of the Madras Commercial Crops Markets Act (XX of 1935). The main intendment of the Act is to provide for the better regulation of buying and selling of commercial produce in the State of Tamil Nadu and in order to achieve that object, a machinery is set up to control the trade in commercial crops and impose restrictions on the carrying of such trade. Cotton is one of the commercial crops, which comes within the purview of Act XX of 1933. Under the provisions of the Act, the State Govern .....

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ted for a period prior to 22nd October, 1962 is not in dispute, as obviously the said collection was made under Act XX of 1933 and even otherwise such collections were validated by the passing of the Madras Commercial Crops Markets (Validation of Cess) Act (VII of 1963.). 2. The bone of contention between the parties, however, is that all such levy and collection of cess by the defendant as a market committee under Act XXIII of 1959 for a period commencing from 22nd October, 1962 till 26th May, 1964 is illegal and that they have paid the cess under a mistake of law or of fact. 3. The plaintiff is a limited concern carrying on business in the purchase and sale of cotton. It has its Head Office at Madurai with branch offices in towns like Virudhunagar, Rajapalayam, and Sattur. The complaint is that the defendant as a market committee, did not have the jurisdiction to levy and collect cess under the Madras Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1959 (XXIII of 1959) prior to the date when it came into force and that, therefore, the collection of the cess made during the period commencing from 22nd October, 1962 to 27th May, 1964 is invalid and that all such amounts which were paid under a m .....

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before us, he found that the suit having been filed on 28th August, 1968 was within time and that the mistake in the matter of the payment of the cess, though voluntary, could have been discovered by the plaintiff only on 20th September, 1965 and that, therefore, the suit was in time. In the result, he decreed the suit as prayed for. It is as against this, the present appeal has been filed. 5. It is unnecessary for us to go into the gamut of the case law regarding the validity of the levy. 6. We are not called upon in this case to consider whether the levy of the cess by the market committee is legal, as the finding of the Court below that it was not so, has not been seriously challenged before us. Even otherwise, in the view that we intend taking on the issue on limitation, it is not necessary even for us to consider the hesitant argument addressed by the learned Counsel for the appellants. 7. The material point, however, is whether the suit claim is barred by limitation. We have already referred to the fact that the plaintiff's case is that it paid the cess for the period commencing from 22nd October, 1962 to 27th May, 1964, under a mistake of law as well as fact. The plaint, .....

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rticular period of time prescribed under the Act, the cause of action rests. The object of the statute of limitation is preventive and not creative. It interposes a statutory bar after a certain period and gives a quietus to suits to enforce an existing right. Such extinguishment of claims by statutory interference resulting in making certain demands state should be construed strictly. No doubt the provisions of the Limitation Act should be interpreted strictly in accordance with the language used, but it is always necessary that a litigant, who relies upon it, should bring his cause within the four corners of the terms of the statute. An attempt to deprive the party entitled to aright arising out of the existing benefit should not lightly be made by Courts. But such, a pleading as to the bar of the cause of action should flow from a permissible construction of the statutory provision. 11. We shall now refer to the pleadings to find as to hew the plaintiff, who has come to Court, could plead that its cause is in time. According to the plaintiff, during the third week of September, 1965 it came to know about the unauthorized and illegal levy and. collection of the cess by way of sal .....

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he Act. The learned Judge brushed aside the argument of the learned Counsel for the plaintiff that Article. 59 could be invoked in the instant case. He also rejected the argument of the counsel for the defendants, who invoked Article 72 of the Act. The learned Judge for himself investigated into the matter and was of the view that Article 24 read with Section 17 of the Limitation Act of 1963 would apply. He concluded by saying that the plaintiff has proved that under a mistake of law, the suit amount was paid and, therefore, the onus of proof is on the defendants to establish that the plaintiff had either discovered or could have discovered with reasonable diligence the mistake at a time beyond the period of limitation. He solely relied upon the pleading in the plaint wherein the plaintiff alleged that it came to know of the mistaken payment and the unauthorised levy only on 20th September, 1965 and reading it in the light of Exhibit A-1 found that there was no other document in the case to indicate that the plaintiff could have discovered the mistake prior to 20th September, 1965. He held, therefore, that the suit was within time. 13. The earlier law on the aspect under considerat .....

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cannot rely upon the proceeding itself as a bar to the adverse party. To do so, would involve the logical fallacy of' petitio principi and would in many cases preclude redress to the aggrieved party. If the plaintiff's allegation as to the date of the knowledge of mistake is adapted and accepted as a matter of course, then he would automatically' be licensed to prejudice his adversary.' A fortiori in a case where the defendant challenges the allegation ,it is for the plaintiff to establish that he could not have discovered the mistake, "with reasonable diligence" on a date earlier than that on which the plaintiff bases his cause of action. As is said, it would be unreasonable to expect an exact definition of the word ''reasonable". Reason varies according to times and circumstances in which the individual thinks. Thus, the word "reasonable " has always been understood in law as prim a facie mean in g, reasonably in regard to those circumstances of which the actor called on to act reasonably, knows or ought to know. It is also a fundamental maxim, of things relating to each other, one being known, the other is also known ". In th .....

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nd it ought to have, therefore,, been diligent in instituting the a ion within three years from the date of the second notification. 17. The decision quoted by Mr. Venugopal in Gunabai v. Matilal, has no application. The learned Judge was dealing with a case under the old Limitation Act where the accent was on know-led go. In that case, the plaintiff specifically alleged that it was only at a certain time, he had knowledge of facts, which would entitle him to have the instrument cancelled or set aside. In those circumstances, the learned Judge' held that it is incumbent on the persori who pleads that the suit is barred by time, to allege and prove a knowledge prior to the period from which time begins to run. On the facts, the learned Judge held that the defendant did not discharge his burden. In our case, the specific allegation of the defendants-appellants is that the plaintiff, by reason of the second notification, should be presumed to have discovered the mistake in the earlier payments on that very date. This contention is not an unreasonable contention, for it is always necessary for Courts to be satisfied with the reasonableness within reach. It cannot be said that the c .....

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