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Report No. 56

7. Case-Law on section 273, Cantonments Act.-

Case-Law on section 273 of the Cantonments Act1 may now be referred to, in brief. The facts of an Allahabad case2 were as follows:

The plaintiff was a shopkeeper, who alleged that he had supplied certain materials to the Cantonment Board, but had not been paid the full amount of the price. He claimed nearly Rs. 300 as the amount of the balance with interest. His case was that after having supplied the goods, he waited for some time, but the Board did not make -any further payment. In consequence of this, he was obliged to sue the Board, after serving notice upon it as required by law.

The Board denied the receipt of all the materials alleged to have been supplied by the plaintiff, and also pleaded that the claim was barred by the six months' rule of limitation, enacted in section 273(3) Cantonments Act. The lower court decreed the suit, and the Cantonment Board filed a revision application before the Allahabad High Court.

The High Court held-"the plaintiff is not suing the Board for any act done by the Board in pursuance of the Cantonment Act; nor is he suing the Board for any act done by the Board or purporting to have been done by the Board under any rule or bye-law made under the Cantonment Act. The suit is for the recovery of the price of the goods supplied by the plaintiff to the defendant, which is still unpaid."

"No doubt, under section 12, Cantonments Act, a Cantonment Board is empowered to acquire and hold property both movable and immovable and to contract. It is also clear that the purchase made by the Board was by virtue of the power vested in it under the Cantonments Act. But I am unable to regard the suit of the plaintiff against the Board as a suit in respect of an act done by the Board in pursuance of the Act itself as distinct from the act done in the exercise of the powers granted to the Board under the Act. In my opinion, section 273, sub-section (1), does not contemplate the class of suits of private contractor for which specific rules of limitation are prescribed in the Limitation Act. They contemplate actions brought against the Board in respect of acts done in pursuance of any rule or bye┬Člaw that has the force of law."

Therefore, the case was held not to be governed by section 273 at all.

1. Para. 6, supra.

2. Cantonment Board, Allahabad v. Hazarilal, AIR 1934 All 436.

8. In another Allahabad case,1 the plaintiff worked in the Cantonment Board, Meerut, as a Tax Superintendent. After some time, he was appointed as Office Superintendent on a salary of Rs. 225. The salary prescribed for his post was Rs. 300 p.m. and his predecessor was also receiving the salary of Rs. 300 p.m. The appointment of the plaintiff was made by the Board under the powers given to the Board by the Cantonments Act. But the Act contained no statutory obligation or cast a duty on the Board to make the appointment. On retirement the plaintiff filed a suit, after giving a proper notice as required by law, against the Board, claiming the arrears of salary.

The plea taken by the Board was that the suit was barred by limitation under section 273(3), as the notice was given on 22-12-1938 and the suit was filed on 19-9-1939, after a lapse of more than 8 months. The trial court decreed the suit, but the District Judge on appeal, reversed the decision of the trial court. Hence, an appeal was filed before the Allahabad High Court.

The only question for consideration before the High Court was the question of limitation. Following its earlier decision,2 the court drew a distinction between acts done in pursuance of the Act itself and those done in pursuance of the power given by the Act. The Court held that the case "did not come within the scope of section 273(1) because there was no statutory obligation on or duty of the Board to make the appointment at all."

In this case, the Court relied on the interpretation placed in England on section 1 of the Public Authorities Protection Act,3 which resembled section 273 of the Cantonments Act, 1924. Section 1 of that Act provided as follows4:-

"Where, after the commencement of this Act, any action, prosecution or other proceeding is commenced in the United Kingdom against any person for any act done in pursuance or execution or intended execution of any Act of Parliament, or of any public duty or authority or in respect of any alleged neglect or default in the execution of any such act, duty or authority, the following provisions shall have effect:

(a) The action, prosecution, or proceeding shall not lie or be instituted unless it is commenced within six months next after the act, neglect, or default complained of, or in a case of continuance of injury or damage, within six months next after the ceasing thereof."

1. Ramchander Sahai v. Cantonment Board, Meerut, AIR 1947.

2. Cantonment Board, Allahabad v. Hazarilal, AIR 1934 All 436.

3. Section 1, Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893 (Eng).

4. The English Act was repealed in 1954.

9. The question of interpretation of the provisions of section 273 of the Cantonments Act, 1924, arose before the High Court of Punjab also.1

The facts of the case were as follows:

Bajrang Singh, plaintiff, was employed by the Cantonment Board, Ferozepur, as a Pump driver. After some time, he was charge-sheeted for some misconduct, and was dismissed from service. After exhausting the departmental remedies, he filed a suit for a declaration that the order of his dismissal was inoperative and illegal, and that he continued to be in the service. The suit was contested by the Board on the grounds, inter alia, that the suit was not maintainable and that it was barred by time. The trial court granted the required declaration to the plaintiff, and this was, on appeal, confirmed by the Additional District Judge, Ferozepur. In the second appeal before the High Court by the Cantonment Board, Ferozepur, one of the questions for consideration was whether the suit was barred by time.

The Punjab High Court distinguished the present case from the Allahabad Judgment2. The Court held that section 1 of the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1893 (referred to in the Allahabad judgment) had no bearing at all on the interpretation of section 273 of the Cantonment Act, 1924. The Court further held, "All that sub-section (1) of section 273 contemplates is that the act must have been done in pursuance of the Act or of any rule or bye-law made thereunder, and this section cannot be interpreted to mean that the acts done by the Board in exercise of its powers under the Act will stand on different footings than those done in discharge of the duties imposed on the Board by the Act."

Therefore, the suit was held to be governed by the provisions of section 273(3) of the Cantonments Act, 1924, and, as such, was barred by limitation.

1. Cantonment Board, Ferozepur v. Bajrang Singh, AIR 1961 Punj 461.

2. Ram Chander Sahai v. Cantonment Board, Meerut, AIR 1947 All 42.

10. A Madhya Pradesh case1 may now be referred to. The firm Chhajrumal & Sons entered into a contract with the Cantonment Board, Mhow for repairing a road. When the Cantonment Board refused to make the payment to the firm for the repair work done by the firm, the firm filed a suit to recover the amount, after giving the notice required by law. One of the questions for consideration before the High Court was whether the suit was within limitation, according to the provisions of section 273(3) of the Cantonments Act, 1924.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court, following the decision of the Allahabad High Court,2 drew a distinction between acts done in pursuance of the Act itself or in pursuance of any rule or bye-law thereunder, and acts done in pursuance of some power granted to the Board under the Act. The Court held, that section 273(1) "does not contemplate suits on private contracts for which specific rules of limitation are prescribed under the Limitation Act. The Cantonment Act does provide for a duty to be performed, in so far as its funds permit, to get a street repaired, but it does not insist that it ought to be done through a contractor." For these reasons, section 273 of the Cantonments Act had no application, and the suit was not barred by Limitation, even though it had been filed after six months from the date when the cause of action arose.

1. Cantonment Board, Mhow v. Chhajrumal & Sons, 1968 MPLJ 425: 1969 Jab LJ 304, cited in the Yearly Digest.

2. Cantonment Board, Allahabad v. Hazari Lai, AIR 1937 All 436.



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