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Present: Mr. Justice Wendt.
In the Matter of ” The Stamp Ordinance, 1890.”
Stomps—Receiptsgranted by the MunicipalCouncil—Liabilityfor
stamp duty—Ordinance No. 3 of 1890, ss. 37 and 38; Part I.of Schedule to Ordinance.
Receipts given by the Municipal Council for sums of moneypaid to them and exceeding Rs. 20 in amount are liable to thestamp duty of five cents imposed by Fart I. of the Schedule tothe Ordinance.
PPEAL from a ruling of the Commissioner of Stamps. Thefacts sufficiently appear in the judgment.
Bawa, for the appellant (Municipal Council).
Walter Pereira, K.C., S.-O., for the respondent (Commissioner ofStamps).
Cut. adv. vult.
November 10, 1908. Wendt J.—
The object of this proceeding is to settle the question whetherreceipts given by the Municipal Council for sums of money paid tothem and exceeding Bs. 20 in amount are liable to stamp duty.The appeal brought under section 88 of “ The Stamp Ordinance,1890, ” against the ruling of the Cmmissioner of Stamps under section37, who held that the documents submitted to him was liable to theduty of five cents imposed by Part I. of the Schedule to the Ordi-nance, under the head ” Receipt or discharge given for or upon thepayment of money amounting to Bs. 20 or upwards.” The docu-ment acknowledges the receipt on account of the Municipal Councilof Colombo of the sum of Bs. 53.46, being the amount due for therate of 13£ per cent, levied upon a certain specified tenement undersection 127 of “ The Municipal Councils’ Ordinance, 1887,” and issigned by the Shroff of the Council, being the officer authorized inthat behalf by. the Chairman, the executive officer of the corporation,under section 290 of that Ordinance. In law, therefore, the docu-ment in question may be regarded as signed and issued by theChairman.
The contention of the appellants is that the document comeswithin the exemption created by the aforesaid schedule in favourof “ Receipts or discharges given by any public officer in theexecution of his office.” Is, then, the Chairman a “ public officer ”?In the earlier Stamp Ordinances of 1871 and 1884 the exemption wasstated thus:—” Receipts or discharges given by or to the Treasurer,any Government Agent, Fiscal, or his Deputy or officer, or otherpublic officer in the execution of his office.” Of the officers here27-
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1908. specified the Treasurer or Government Agents certainly wereNovember 10. appointed by the Crown, and drew their salaries from the PublicWbkdt j. Treasury; while at that time Fiscals, though appointed by the Crown,drew no such salary, “ deputies ” and “ officers ” were appointedby the Fiscals and remunerated out of fees. The only character-istics that might have been described as common to all the officersmentioned was that, to use a colloquial but vague expression, “ theyserved the public.” The exemption now in force, however, specifiesno particular officers, and, therefore, gives no scope for the principleof ejmdem generis. Nor is any assistance in the interpretation of itto be derived from the other classes of exemptions, e.g., in favourof bankers’ receipts, receipts written ,on bills of exchange, releasesor discharges by deed, &c. They appear to proceed on differentgrounds. Those I have just. mentioned I suppose on the groundthat stamp duty has already been paid, or will be paid in respect ofthe same money on another occasion. In the English Stamp Actof 1870 the exemption is in favour of any “ receipt given by an officerof a Public Department of the State for money paid by way ofimprest or advance, or in adjustment of an account, when he derivesno personal benefit therefrom.” I understand that payment herecontemplated to be one made by one Department of. State to anotherin which case the reason for the exemption is obvious. Does thatafford a clue to the meaning of the exemption we are now consider-ing? Such exemption is not limited to payments by one StateDepartment to another, but would embrace payments by privateindividuals as well. Was it then thought that the fact of the receiptbeing given by the officer ” in the execution of his duty ” wouldentitle him to be refunded the cost of the stamp out of public funds,and there would, therefore, be no sense in making him provide astamp? The object of the Stamp Ordinance is to bring revenue intothe Public Treasury, and I think that what I have just indicated isthe true intent and meaning of the exemption. It operates infavour of officers of the State only. The proviso to the exemptionfavours this interpretation, because it contemplates officers receiving -payments from the Treasury on account of salary and travellingallowances.
A stamp duty on receipt was first imposed by Begulation No. 2of 1817, which contained a proviso exempting from all duty contractsentered into with His Majesty’s Government, and “ receiptsor acquittances made or given to or by the said Governmentor any of the public officers thereof.” Begulation No. 7 of 1823(section 22) added to this the words “ acting in its behalf.” Thissection 22 was in the same terms re-enacted by Begulation No. 4of 1827, section 21, which in turn was re-enacted in the same wayby Ordinance No. 6 of 1836, section 3. The next Stamp Ordinance,No. 2 of 1848, put the exemption into its schedule in these words:’* Receipts or discharges given by or to any Government Agent,
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Fiscal, or his Deputy or officer, or other public officer in the execution 1908.of his office,” and the same form was adopted in Ordinance No. 19 November 10.of 1852, which was replaced by the Ordinance No. 11 of 1861. WEjrDTOrdinance No. 23 of 1871 inserted the words “ the Treasurer ” asalready quoted.
I have carefully considered the question whether these changesin the phraseology of the enactments were designedly made in orderto evince the intention of extending the scope of the exemptionso as to include officers of local bodies exercising administrativefunctions, and I have arrived at the conclusion that they werenot. The expression “ Government officer ” in the execution of hisoffice was first introduced by the Ordinance of 1848, when it occurredin the exemption under ” agreement.” Under bill of exchange theexemption was in favour of “ the Treasurer of this Island or any otherGovernment officer fn the execution of his office.” “ Governmentofficer in the execution of his office ” appears to have been used asthe equivalent of “ public officer in the execution of his office,” andI think this may equally be said of the Ordinance we are nowconstruing. I do not think any assistance is to be derived froin thedefinition of the terms ‘‘ public servant ” aud “ public officer ” forthe especial purposes of other enactments, such as the Penal Code(section 19), “The Public Servants’ (Liabilities) Ordinance, 1899,”and “ the Public Officers’ Security Ordinance, 1890,” to which 1was referred.
Municipal Councils were established in 1865 and Local Boardsin 1876, and although the whole body of Stamp Law has been atleast twice repealed and re-enacted since then, no unequivocalexemption in their favour under this head has been declared.
This is the more significant when it is observed that the StampOrdinance of 1884, in defining the duties payable in Police Courtproceedings, expressly exempted cases in which ” .the complaintor charge ■ was made by an officer of Government or by a Policeor Municipal officer in the execution of his duty.” This provisionis re-enacted in the Stamp Ordinance now under consideration. Itshows that in the contemplation of the Legislature a “ Municipalofficer” was different from “an officer of Government.” It also showsthat the question of freeing Municipal Councils from the burdenof the stamp duties had engaged the attention of the Legislature,and that the outcome was the limited exemption to which I havereferred. Mr. Bawa argued that the Chairman of the Council was a“ public servant,” because he is appointed by the Governor, • and, inthe case of the Municipal Council of Colombo, must be an officer ofthe Civil Service of the Ceylon Government, and-be paid out of theColonial Treasury (sections 47 and 48 of Ordinance No. 7 of 1887).
Inasmuch as the Chairman of the Municipal Councils of Kandy andGalle need not be members of the Civil Service, .the success of Mr.
Bawa’s argument would involve the curious result that these latter
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1908. Councils would be entitled or not entitled to the benefits of theNovember 10. exemption according as their Chairman happened to be membersw— j of the Civil Service or other “ proper persons.” I cannot thinkthat this result was intended. Besides, the present Chairman of theColombo Council, although appointed by the Governor, has (notbeing Government Agent of the Western Province) .to “ devote thewhole of his time and attention to the duties of his office ” of Chair-man. He is seconded from the Civil Service, and has pro. temporeceased to be a member of it. His salary, .though paid him out ofthe Treasury, is paid into the Treasury by the Municipal Council.I think that the liability or immunity of the Municipal Council as acorporation must be determined irrespective of whether its Chairmanis or is not the holder of any other appointment. The MunicipalCouncil is not a Department of the State.
For these reasons I think .that the ruling of the Commissioner ofStamps is right, and I therefore dismiss the appeal.