In precedence of the case Bharti Airtel Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh the High Court of Madhya Pradesh declared the demand notices sent to the appellant for the payment of advertisement tax to be valid. This was challenged in the Hon’ble Supreme Court.

The appellant is a dealer of Hyundai passenger cars in Indore. He had a sign board outside the premise of the showroom displaying the business name and address of the place. Respondent number 2 issued a notice demanding Rs. 2,03,850 as advertisement tax under Section 189-A of the Municipal Act, 1965. The appellant contested that a sign board merely displaying the name of the business does not amount to “advertisement”. The objective behind putting up the sign board was only to inform the public about the business and what it deals in. The appellant filed a writ petition under article 226 of the Constitution of India but the High Court referred to the verdict given in the Bharti Airtel case and dismissed the petition. The appellant received notices to pay advertisement tax not only for the shop located within the jurisdiction of the Indore municipal corporation but also for the one located outside its jurisdiction.

The counsel for appellant contends that the facts in the Bharati Airtel case are not analogous to this case. This case deals with the issue whether a third party or a tax agency collect advertisement tax. Whereas in the present case, the issue is whether displaying the name and nature of the business amounts to advertisement. The counsel for appellant further contends that if tax is levied for the same it would be violative of article 19(1)(A) and 19(1)(G) of the Constitution.

The Indore municipal authority under sec 132(6)(1) of the municipal corporation act contends that it has rightfully demanded the advertisement tax from the appellant. The particular section states that the corporation can levy any tax contingent upon any special or general order taken by the state government, namely, ‘a tax on advertisement other than advertisements published in newspapers’ (Sub-clause (l)).

The court referred to the case of ICICI Bank and Another Vs. Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay (2005) 6 SCC 404 which held that ‘advertisement’ must have a commercial aspect to it. It must attract the attention of the people in order to persuade them to engage in the activity of buying. Advertisement aims at providing information and is of a good or service. However, only displaying the name of the company does not amount to advertising unless it is a trade mark or trade name.

The hon’ble supreme court states that the sign board entailed the name of the business which itself is indicative of the kind of product the appellant deals with. Solely displaying the name of the enterprise or the business would not amount to advertising unless the enterprise in question in some way persuades the customer to purchase. Display boards and name boards are essential for the purposes of identification. If they are counted as advertisements, it would be impossible for customers to even identify such businesses. The context and circumstances must be taken into account.

In this case, the legislative provisions do not permit the municipal corporation to levy tax on sign boards. The objective of sign board is just to convey information about the kind of products dealt with by a business enterprise. The name of the business enterprise of the appellant shows what car he deals in and nothing more. It does not cause the public to purchase the products.

The Hon’ble court further stated that both the parties had objections to the demands made and they hastily rushed to the High Court under its extra ordinary jurisdiction. However, the court does not support the dismissal of the petition by the High Court. The outcome of the case remains unchanged and the first respondent was asked to review the objections filed by the appellant within eight weeks. In case, they decide against the appellant they cannot enforce the demands for another eight weeks. The appellants have the liberty to challenge any decision given by the Commissioner.

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Judgement Analysis written by- Rashi Hora.

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In the present case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court deals with the selection of the legal representative of the deceased Mrs. Urmila Devi. In 1982, a sale deed carried out by Shri Mangal Singh was challenged in court by late Urmila Devi praying to declare the same null and void by asserting ownership of the properties; and an order to possess the property in question with costs. The case was still at its primal stage when Mrs. Urmila Devi died. Hence, Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain filed an application to be the legal heir.

Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain presented a duly registered will before the court executed by Mrs. Urmila Devi and witnessed by the current appellant Mr. Yashpal Jain. He prayed before the court to be substituted as the legal representative of Mrs. Urmila Devi. He also claimed to be her legatee according to the will. The defendants by way of presenting a registered adoption deed stated that Mr. Yashpal is adopted. The trial court ruled in favour of Mr. Manoj Jain. The order was challenged by the legal heirs of Mangal Singh by means of a civil revision petition before the district judge. In the course of the revisional proceedings, Mr. Manoj mentioned that he does not wish to proceed with application filed by him to be the legal representative of Mrs. Urmila Devi. On the basis of the proceedings, the judgement given by the trial court was overruled. The district judge directed the trial court to accept the application of condonation of delay and impleadment of a legal representative by Mr. Yashpal. Mr. Yashpal filed an application for the same as well as to dismiss the abatement of suit. The trial court allowed the same and hence ruled in favour of Mr. Yashpal Jain being the legal representative of the plaintiff. 

The legal representatives of the aggrieved party filed a civil revision application before the district judge. The judge upheld the verdict of the trial court and dismissed the petition. The defendants moved to the high court challenging the orders passed by both, the trial court and the revisional court. The high court overruled the impugned orders and rejected the application by the current appellant, relying on the initial order passed by the trial court which substituted Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain as the legal representative on the strength of the registered will and directed the courts to conclude the proceedings within 9 months. The appellants were aggrieved by the orders of the high court filed the present appeal.

The counsel for the petitioner contended that the high court has made a mistake by overruling the orders of the trial court and revisional court taken after careful consideration. The lower courts have also taken diligence of the fact that Mr. Yashpal Jain is the sole living representative of Mrs. Urmila Jain and the stressed on the aforementioned fact that the defendants had pleaded to substitute the appellant in the suit pertaining to the sale deed of property by Mangal Singh. In the instance case the defendants can be seen contradicting their own stance.

The defendants contend that the appellants had not filed a counter-affidavit. On the basis of the doctrine of non-traversal this would amount to admission. The defendants mention two instances wherein the current appellant had supported Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain and his will. The appellant cannot plead ignorance for the delay.

In response to issue one the court has contended that the application filed by the defendants in regard to the writ proceedings is the very reason that the trial court and revisional court substituted Mr. Yashpal as the legal representative. The defendants cannot contend that the appellant had filed two affidavits admitting and confirming Mr. Manoj Kumar Jain as the legal representative. The affidavits were mere proof of the appellant being a signatory to the will. It did not intend to substantiate or prove any other fact to any effect.

On non-traversal of writ petition claims, the records state that Mr. Manoj himself filed an application along with an affidavit expressing his disinterest in continuing the application of being the legal representative. If the orders of the high court to not implead Yashpal Jain as the legal representative were to be sustained then the then this implies that the estate of the deceased would not be represented and the case would eventually be closed. Hence, the Hon’ble Supreme Court quashed the order of the high court and upheld the verdict given by the trial court and revisional court.

The hon’ble supreme court took cognizance of the fact that the case is ancient and long standing. In addition to the property suit, the death of Mrs Urmila devi brought in a plethora of suits to determine her legal representative. The current stage of the property suit is unknown but it is said to have been moving at a “snail’s pace” since her death. There are numerous causes for the delay. The hon’ble court mentioned that it is due this very reason that the general public becomes cynical of the justice delivery system. The court delves deeper into the numerous reasons for delay in delivering justice. Inconsistencies in the law, hefty paperwork, leniency in granting adjournments for no justifiable reason, misuse of the provisions of the CPC and CrPC are some of the reasons. The government has taken steps, formulated policies and amended laws to clear the backlog but it has only resulted in poor results. The amendments of the statutory laws have been unsatisfactory.  The court stresses on the fact that it is the responsibility of all the stakeholders to restrict the practices that delays the justice delivery process. The courts must introspect and come up with solutions to serve the public with an effective justice delivery system. The growth of a nation, in all aspects, depends on the strength of the judicial system. The Hon’ble court revisited the findings of various law commissions instituted over the years to find out the cause and remedies to the perpetual problem of huge pendency of cases and inefficient judicial administration. The various reports by law commissions talk about setting a time limit for both civil and criminal cases to be strictly followed by each of the courts and a plea to increase the manpower and immediate replacement in when there’s vacancy. In furtherance to the 77th report by the law commission, the 79th report provides an all- comprehensive guide for managerial judging, time bound trial procedures by trial courts, high courts and other appellate courts.

The court also mentions delays arising due to non-adherence of procedural laws majorly in civil trials. The courts have been frivolous with the grants of adjournment without ay justifiable reason. This is the primary contributory issue that leads to delays and ultimately losing confidence of the public in the justice delivery system. The court relied upon the case of T. Arivandandam vs. T.V. Satyapal & Another AIR (1977) 4 SCC 467 which held that the answer to an irresponsible suit or litigation would be a vigilant judge. The court acknowledges the importance of maintaining cordial relationship with judges and gives a stark remark to the lawyers to refrain from frequent adjournment requests especially while dealing with cases that have been pending since decades. Under order viii rule 1(a) of CPC a defendant must submit and present the written statement within 30 or 90 days and if he fails to do so without any genuine reason then costs must be awarded to the opposite party payable by the defendant. This rule is seldom followed.

Adjournments should be given only when the request is honest and with a bonafide intention expressed by way of affidavit. Frequent grants of adjournments defeat the purpose of the legislation. It is pertinent for all the presiding officers to strictly adhere to the time schedule provided under sub-rule 1 of rule 1 of order viii. It is the responsibility of the stakeholders to ensure the same. In the case of M. Mahalingam vs. Shashikala the intention behind the legislation was duly stated. The legislation has curbed the power of the courts to grant frequent adjournments because when a case has begun the evidence must be recorded on a daily basis and only, if necessary, adjournments should be given to the following day. This ensures that only bonfide reasons should be entertained by the court and it should be strict in it dispense of adjournments.

Innumerable legislations can be enacted to ensure speedy disposal of cases but it would be of no use until it is strictly implemented by the courts and constantly monitored by committees established for the very reason. The fundamental duties mentioned in article 51 A of the constitution must be given utmost importance in light of any problems faced by the stakeholders. The citizens must always strive towards excellency for the growth of the nation. It is important for the judiciary to regain the confidence of the public in litigation a be a ‘beacon of hope”. The Hon’ble supreme court thus directs all the lower courts to strictly adhere to the rules laid down in the procedural laws ensuring the proceedings take place as scheduled. Some courts shall be controlled by Principal District Judges who, after compiling all the statistics, shall present it before the constituted committee of the high court.

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Judgement Analysis written by- Rashi Hora.

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