State of Bombay (Maharashtra) Vs.
Shivbalak Gourishanker Dube & Ors  INSC 187 (31 August 1964)
31/08/1964 GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B. (CJ)
GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B. (CJ) SHAH, J.C.
AYYANGAR, N. RAJAGOPALA
CITATION: 1965 AIR 661 1965 SCR (1) 211
Delegation of power-Whether includes
delegation of duties necessary for exercise of the power-Bombay Tenancy and
Agricultural Laws Act, 1948 (Bom. 67 of 1948), ss. 65, 83.
A notice was served by the appellant-State
inviting the attention of the respondents to the fact that the agricultural
lands of which they were the owners had remained fallow, and intimating to them
that the appellant would resume management of the said lands under s. 65 of the
Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Laws Act unless the respondents took steps to
bring them under cultivation in the following agricultural season. It appears
that later, an enquiry was made under the orders of the Deputy Collector as a
result of which he passed an order under s. 65 directing that the lands should be
resumed by the State for cultivation. Having failed in their efforts to get the
order of the Deputy Collector altered, the respondents filed a suit for a
declaration that the order passed by the Deputy Collector was illegal and void
and that it could not dispossess them of the lands which belonged to them. 'Me
suit was dismissed. The respondents appealed to the High Court and it found
that on a fair and reasonable construction of s. 65(l) read with s. 83, the
appellant could delegate its powers prescribed by s. 65(l), but could not
delegate its duty incidental to the exercise of the said power, and as it
reversed the decree passed by the trial Court. On appeal by special leave :
HELD : (i) Section 83 authorises the
delegation not only of the powers mentioned by it, but also the duties or
functions which are incidental to the existence of the powers and are
integrally connected with them [216 A-B] Edward Liso Mungoni V.
Attorney-General of Northern Rhodesia,  2 W.L.R. 389, referred to.
(ii) Section 65(l) does not require that the
Deputy Collector mini himself go to the agricultural fields and enquire on the
spot whether they were lying fallow. He may, if he so desires, record evidence
himself, or the recording of the evidence and the actual inspection on the spot
can be left to some subordinate officer. The report of such local inspection
and the record of the evidence collected in that behalf would be forwarded to
the Deputy Collector, and that would be the material oil which he would hold
the enquiry himself. This procedure does not involve any delegation at all.
[217 H; 218 B; 217 G-H].
Allingham V. Minister of Agriculture and
Fisheries,  1 AB. E.R. 780, distinguished.
Nathubhai Gandabhai Desai V. State of Bombay
& Ors. I.L.R.
 Bom. 407, referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 269 of 1962.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
decree dated October 5, 1959 of the Bombay High Court in First Appeal No. 712
212 S. G. Patwardhan and B.R.G.K. Achar, for
G. S. Pathak and Naunit Lal, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Gajendragadkar C. J. What is the scope and effect of the provisions contained
in section 65 read with S. 83 of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act,
1948 (No. 67 of 1948) (hereinafter called the Act), that is the short question
which arises for our decision in this appeal. The four respondents are the
owner of certain agricultural lands in Deokhope in Taluka Palghar in
Maharashtra. On the 23rd June, 1951, a notice was served by the appellant,
State of Bombay (now Maharashtra), inviting the attention of the respondents to
the fact that the agricultural lands of which they were the owners had remained
fallow since 1948-49, and intimating to them that the appellant State would
resume management of the said lands under s. 65 of the Act unless the
respondents took steps to bring them under cultivation in the following
agricultural season. The respondents were told that in case they wanted to bring
the said lands into cultivation, they should send intimation of their intention
to do so within 15 days from the date of the receipt of the notice. It appears
that later, an enquiry was made under the orders of the Dy. Collector as a
result of which on the 30th December, 1951, he passed an order under s. 65
directing that the lands should be resumed by the Government for cultivation.
Thereafter, representations were made by the respondents to the Dy. Collector
as a result of which about 8 acres and 30 ghunthas of land were released on the
ground that the owners had taken steps to cultivate that portion of the lands
in pursuance of the direction given to them by the earlier notice. The order
passed 'by the Dy. Collector in respect of other lands remained unaffected.
Thereafter, respondent No. 1 approached the
Collector by his application dated 24th March, 1952. This application was,
however, rejected. The respondents then moved the Revenue Department, but that
effort also failed. That is why the present suit was filed by them on the 23rd
December, 1953 for a declaration that the order passed by the Dy.
Collector on the 30th December, 1951 was
illegal and void, and that it could not dispossess them of the lands which
belonged to them. As a consequence of the declaration thus claimed by them, the
respondents, asked for a decree for possession and mesne profits against the
The appellant disputed the respondents'
claim. It urged that the suit as framed was barred under S. 63 (I ) and s.
85 of 213 the Act. On the merits, the
appellant challenged the correctness of the allegations made by the
respondents. It was averred by the appellant that the requisite enquiry had
been duly and properly made and the impunged order was passed in accordance
with the relevant provisions of the Act. According to the appellant, civil
court has no jurisdiction to consider the propriety or reasonableness of the
conclusion reached by the Dy. Collector before he passed the impunged order.
The learned trial Judge who framed
appropriate issues on these pleadings, in the main upheld the contentions
raised by the appellant. In his opinion, the present suit was barred by
sections 65 (1) and 85 of the Act. He also held that the declaration made by
the Dy. Collector was not null and void. The plea raised by the respondents
against the validity of the statutory provisions contained in sections 65 &
66 of the Act was rejected by him, because he thought that the said sections
did not contravene the provisions of Articles 19 and 31 of the Constitution.
The learned Judge also found that the grievance made by the respondents against
the propriety or reasonableness of the enquiry made prior to the passing of the
impunged order was not justified. In the result, the respondent's suit was dismissed.
The respondents then carried the matter
before the High Court by an appeal, and on their behalf three contentions were
raised before the High Court. It was first argued that the lands in respect of
which the impunged declaration was made were not lands as defined by the Act,
and so, the relevant provisions of the Act were inapplicable. It was then urged
that before the Government could exercise its powers under s. 65 of the Act, a
duty was cast on it to be satisfied that the lands had remained uncultivated
for a period of two years before their management was assumed; and this
condition had not been satisfied, because delegation by the State Government to
subordinate officers of its duty to satisfy itself, or its power to make the
declaration, was not justified in law. It was also contended that since the
satisfaction had to be by the authority who was competent to make the
declaration, he could not delegate any part of his function and duty in that
behalf and the said authority had to hold the enquiry himself.
The High Court has upheld the second of these
contentions. It has found that on a fair and reasonable construction of s.
65(1) read with s. 83, the appellant could delegate its powers prescribed by s.
65(1), but could not delegate its duty incidental to the exercise of the said
power. That is why the decree passed 214 by the trial Court has been reversed
on this ground and the respondents' suit 'has been decreed. Consistently with
this decision, an appropriate order has been passed in regard to the delivery
of possession and the payment of mesne profits as claimed by the respondents.
It is against this decree that the appellant has come to this Court by special
and the only point which is raised on its
behalf by Mr. Patwardhan is that the view taken by the High Court in regard to
the scope and effect of the provisions contained in S. 65(1) read with S. 83 is
Section 65(l) reads thus "If it appears
to the State Government that for any two consecutive years, any land has
remained uncultivated or the full and efficient use of the land has not been
made for the purpose of agriculture, through the default of the holder or any
other cause whatsoever not beyond his control the State Government may, after
making such enquiry as it thinks fit, declare that the management of such land
shall be assumed. The declaration so made shall be conclusive." Along with
this section, it is necessary to refer to s. 83 which reads thus:- "The
State subject to such restrictions and conditions as it may impose, by
notification in the Official Gazette, delegate to any of its officers not below
the rank of an Assistant or Deputy Collector, all or any of the powers
conferred on it by this Act." The High Court appears to have taken the
view that though it was competent to the State Government to delegate its
powers under s. 65(l), it could not delegate its duty or obligation to make an
enquiry as a result of which the declaration in question can be made. The State
Government, says the High Court, can exercise its authority to make a
declaration and this authority or power can be delegated under 9. 83; but
before such authority or power can be exercised, there is an obligation imposed
on the State Government to make an enquiry as to whether the agricultural land
in question has remained uncultivated or fallow for the period prescribed by
the statute, and the obligation or duty to hold such an enquiry which is
distinct and separate from the power or authority to make a declaration
consequent upon the enquiry, cannot be 215 delegated under s. 83. It is common
ground that the enquiry was not made by the State Government and if the view
taken by the High Court is right that the obligation or duty to hold the
enquiry cannot be delegated, then the impugned declaration would be open to
attack because it had not been preceded by a proper enquiry. Mr. Patwardhan
contends that the view taken by the High Court is plainly erroneous and we are
satisfied that this contention is well-founded.
Section 83 in terms authorises delegation by
the State Government to any of its officers of the specified status and the
delegation can be in respect of all or any of the powers conferred on the State
Government by the provisions of the Act. Now, it seems to us that the authority
to delegate all or any of the powers which is expressly conferred on the State
Government by s. 83 would be rendered almost meaningless if the duty to hold an
enquiry as a condition precedent for the exercise of the said authority cannot
be delegated. In the context, the power which can be delegated is inseparable
from the enquiry which must precede the exercise of the power, and so, in order
to make s. 83 effective it is necessary to hold that the delegation of the
power authorised by the said section must necessarily involve the delegation of
the discharge of obligations or functions which are necessary for the exercise
of the said power.
If the view taken by the High Court is right
it would mean that whereas the State Government can authorise any of the officers
belonging to the specified class to exercise its powers under s. 65(l), it must
hold the preliminary enquiry itself without delegating the authority to' hold
such an enquiry to any officer. It is hardly necessary to emphasise that this
position is so plainly illogical that it would be unreasonable to recognise the
validity of the authority to confer powers while insisting that the conditions
precedent for the exercise of the powers are of such a separate and distinct
character that in order to satisfy the said conditions, the required enquiry
must be held not by any delegate of the State Government but by the State
Government itself. In coming to the conclusion that the duty, as distinct from
the power, cannot be delegated, the High Court was apparently influenced by the
fact that there would be no appeal against the enquiry and the conclusion
reached at such an enquiry. We do not propose to express any opinion on this
part of the reasoning adopted by the High Court;
that will depend upon the construction of s.
86 of the Act.
But whatever may be the position in respect
of the competence -of an appeal, we are satisfied that on 216 a fair and
reasonable construction of s. 83 it must be held to authorise the delegation
not only of the powers mentioned by it, but also of duties or functions which
are incidental to the ,exercise of the powers and are integrally connected with
In this connection, we may usefully refer to
the decision of the Privy Council in Edward Liso Mungoni v. Attorney-General of
Northern Rhodesia(1). In that case, in dealing with a similar question under
regulation 16(1) of the Emergency Powers Regulations, 1956 of Northern
Rhodesia, made by the Acting Governor of Northern Rhodesia under his statutory
powers, the Privy Council has held that the power and the duty under reg. 16(1)
were so interwoven that it was not possible to split the one from the other so
as to put the duty on one person and the power in another; the regulation
contained not so much a duty, but rather a power coupled with a duty, and he
who exercised the power bad to carry out the duty. In the result, the Privy
Council took the view that in delegating his functions under reg. 16(41) the
Governor could delegate both the power and duty together to ,one and the same person-he
could not delegate the power to another and keep the duty to himself. It is not
difficult to realise what anomalous consequences would follow if it is held
that the power can be delegated, but not the duty to hold the incidental
enquiry which alone can lead to the exercise of the power. In substance, the
view taken by the High Court would make the authority to delegate the power
wholly meaningless. In fairness, we ought to add that Mr. Pathak who appeared
for the respondents did not seek to support this part of the High Court's
It appears that a result of the decision of
the High Court in the present case, the Maharashtra Legislature thought it
prudent to make the necessary amendment in s. 83 of the Act. Section 29(a) of
the Amending Act provides that for the words "powers conferred the words
"Powers conferred or duties impose&' shall be and shall be deemed to
have been substituted ,on the 31st day of October, 1949; and accordingly, the
delegation or the purported delegation by the State Government under s. 83 of
any duty imposed shall (notwithstanding the judgment, decree or order of any
Court) be deemed always to have been valid, and the discharge of any such duty
by any officer shall for all purposes be valid and effective and shall not be
called in question in any Court on the ground only that the State Government
had no power to delegate the duty; and clause (b) provide that (1)  2
217 to the marginal note the words "and
duties" shall be added.
It is not surprising that in view of the
serious consequences which would have inevitably followed if the judgment under
appeal had remained unchanged, the legislature thought it necessary to make a
suitable amendment in order to avoid any interruption in the peaceful and smooth
working of the,, relevant provisions of the Act.
Realising the infirmity in the view taken by
the High Court, Mr. Pathak attempted to support the decision of the High Court
on another ground. He argued that since the enquiry was made by the Talathi and
the Mamlatdar under s.
65 and not by the Dy. Collector, the
declaration made by the Dy. Collector was invalid. In other words, the argument
is that the State Government may have validly delegated its powers under s.
65(l) to the Dy. Collector, but the Dy. Collector who is a delegate of the
State Government cannot, in turn, delegate a part of his power or authority to
a subordinate of his own, and that is what he has done in the present case.
This argument proceeds on the basis that in exercising his powers under s. 65 (
1 ), the Dy. Collector must himself hold the enquiry and cannot delegate the
function of holding such an enquiry to any other subordinate revenue officer.
There is no doubt that a delegate who has received the authority from the
principal cannot, in turn, delegate his own authority to a delegate of his own,
but there is hardly any question of delegation by a delegate in the present
case. All that s. 65(l) requires is that the State Government and therefore its
delegate may after making such enquiry as it think,; fit, declare that the
management of the land shall be resumed. In other words, in what form the
enquiry should be held is a matter left entirely in the discretion of the State
Government or its delegate. All that the Dy. Collector has done in the present
case is to direct his subordinate officers to collect material relevant to the
purpose of the enquiry.
The Talathi went on the spot and ascertained
as to whether the respondents' lands were lying fallow for the requisite
period. He submitted his report to the Mamlatdar. The Mamlatdar in turn made
his report to the Dy. Collector. In other words, all that the Dy. Collector has
done is to collect the relevant material, so that he can enquire into the
question as to whether the lands are lying fallow or not. This procedure does
not, in our opinion, involve the question of any delegation at all. The form of
the enquiry and its mode are entirely in the discretion of the Dy.
Collector. Section 65(l) does not require
that the Dy.
Collector must himself go to the agricultural
fields and enquire on the spot whether they are lying fallow. He may, if 218 he
so desires, record evidence himself, or the recording of the evidence and the
actual inspection on the spot can be left to some subordinate officer. The
report of such local inspection and the record of the evidence collected in
that behalf would be forwarded to the Dy. Collector, and that would be the
material on which he would hold the enquiry himself. The enquiry is thus hold
by the Dy. Collector, though the mechanical work of collecting material has
been entrusted to a subordinate revenue officer. In such a case, we do not see
how the principle that a delegate cannot delegate comes into operation.
In support of his argument, Mr. Pathak has relied
on a decision of the Kings Bench Division in Allingham and anr.
v. Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries(1).
In that case, the Court held that on the principle of delegatus non potest
delegare, the Committee exercising its powers under reg.
62(1) could not delegate its powers to
determine the land to be cultivated to its officers and, therefore, the notice
issued in that behalf was ineffective and noncompliance with it was not an
offence. It, however, appears that the War Agricultural Committee for the
County did appoint the Biggleswade district Committee as a sub-committee to Act
under the instructions of the executive committee and to make recommendations
to the executive committee.
Apparently, they made some recommendations to
the executive officer and the executive officer accordingly made the order. On
these facts, Lord Goddard, C.J., observed that he could find nothing in the
regulations or the statute which enabled the executive officer to make the
order. The appellants had contended before the Court that they were entitled to
have the decision of the executive committee and no one else on the matter, and
this contention was upheld on the facts of that case. We do not see how this
case can assist Mr. Pathak's argument in the appeal before us, because there
has been no delegation to hold an enquiry as such. What the Dy. Collector has
done in the present proceedings is not to delegate his authority to hold an
enquiry, but to get the material necessary for the enquiry collected by his
subordinate officers. After the material was thus collected, he examined the
material himself, held the enquiry and came to conclusion that the lands had
remained fallow and uncultivated for the requisite period.
We are, therefore, satisfied that the English
decision on which Mr. Pathak relies does not assist him in the present case.
This contention appears to have been raised
before the High (1)  1 All E.R. 780.
219 Court and has been rejected by it and, we
In fact, in Nathubhai Gandabhai Desai v. The
State of Bombay and Ors.(1), a similar contention was raised before the High
Court and had been rejected by it. In that case, the High Court has field that
inasmuch as the Legislature has left it entirely to the discretion of the State
Government or the delegated authority to hold such enquiry as it thinks proper,
if an enquiry Is held the Court cannot consider as to whether the enquiry was a
proper one or whether a better enquiry would not have yielded better results.
This view has been consistently followed in the Bombay High Court and we see no
reason to doubt its correctness.
In the result, the appeal succeeds, the
decree passed by the High Court is set aside and that of the trial Court
restored. There would be no order as to costs throughout.
(1) I.L.R.  Bom. 407.