Budhan Singh & ANR Vs. Nabi Bux
& ANR  INSC 193 (20 August 1969)
20/08/1969 HEGDE, K.S.
CITATION: 1970 AIR 1880 1970 SCR (2) 10 1969
SCC (2) 481
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1973 SC 893 (10) RF 1973 SC1461 (328) R
1977 SC2196 (10)
U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms
Act, 1950 (Act 1 1951), s. 9-'Held', meaning of-Whether means 'lawfully
held'-Construction of statutes-General legislative intent is to advance justice
and reason-Interpretation which will have harsh or ridiculous effect must be
avoided-Ryot leaving residential building during communal riots-In his absence
landlord entering on land and constructing new building in place of tenants'
building-Tenant returning-Tenant whether entitled to new building under s. 9.
The respondents being Ryots of the appellants
were granted over sixty years ago a village site by the ancestors of the
appellants on which they built their residential houses.
During the 1947 riots the respondents in
order to seek safety fled from the village temporarily and came back in 1949.
They found that their residential buildings on the aforesaid site had been
demolished and that in their place the appellants had raised a cow-shed. The
appellants refused to give back possession of the site and building to the
respondents whereupon on January 9, 1951 the respondents filed a suit for
possession. The appellants based their defence on the provisions of the U.P.
Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950 (Act 1 of 1951) which came into
force on January 26, 1951. According to s. 4 of the Act, with effect from the
notified date i.e. July 1, 1952, all Estates became vested in the State of
Uttar Pradesh. The lands and buildings enumerated' in ss. 6 and 9 were however
settled on the persons who 'held' them. The contention of the appellants was
that they 'held' the buildings on the relevant date and therefore the buildings
were deemed to be settled on them by the State Government. In the Allahabad
High Court there was conflict of opinion as to the meaning of the word 'held'
in s. 9. In Pheku Chamar's case a Division Bench of the Court held that the
word 'held' in s.
9 connotes the existence of a right or title
in the holder.
However in Bharat's case another Division
Bench of the Court declined to follow Phekhu Chamar's case and came to the
conclusion that the legislature used wide language in s. 9 and it covers the
case of buildings belonging to persons who constructed them whether lawfully or
unlawfully. When the present case came up in second appeal before the High
Court it was referred to a Full Bench. The majority of judges adopted the view
taken in Phekhu Chamar's case and decided against the appellants; the
dissenting judge took the view that since the buildings constructed by the
respondents did not exist on the date of vesting they were not entitled to the
benefit of s. 9. In appeal to this Court by certificate,
HELD: (1) Though in fact the vesting of the
Estate and the deemed settlement of some rights in respect of certain classes
of lands or buildings included in the Estate took place simultaneously, in law
the two must be treated as different transactions; first there was a vesting of
the Estates in the State absolutely and free of all encumbrances. Then followed
the deemed settlement by the State of some rights with the persons mentioned in
ss. 6 and
9. Therefore in law it would not be correct
to say that what vested in the State are only those interests not coming within
ss. 6 or 9. [13 B---C] Rana Sheo Ambar Singh v. Allahabad Bank Ltd. Allahabad,
 2 S.C.R. 441 and Shivashankar Prasad Shah & Ors. v.
Vaikunth Nath Singh & Ors., C.A. No.
368/66 decided on 3-7- 1969, referred to.
(ii) It was unfortunate that the Division
Bench in Bharat's case should have thought it proper to sit in judgment over
the correctness of a decision rendered by a Bench of co-ordinate jurisdiction.
Judicial propriety requires that if a bench of a High Court is unable to agree
with the decision already rendered by another co-ordinate bench of the same
High Court the question should be referred to a larger bench. Otherwise the
decisions of High Courts will not only lose respect in the eyes of the public,
it will also make the task of the subordinate courts difficult.
[15 E] (iii) Justice and reason constitute the
great general legislative intent in every piece of legislation.
Consequently where the suggested construction
operates harshly, ridiculously or in any other manner contrary to prevailing
conception of justice and reason in most instances it would seem that the
apparent or suggested meaning of the statute, was not the one intended by the
law- makers. [16 B] In the present case it was hard to believe that the
legislature in enacting s. 9 intended to ignore the rights of persons having
legal title to possession and wanted to make a Rift of any building to a
trespasser howsoever recent the trespass might have been if only he happened to
be in physical possession of the buildings on the date of vesting.
It is difficult to discern any legislative
policy in support of that construction. [16 D] According to Webster's New
Twentieth Century Dictionary the word 'held' is technically understood to mean
to possess by legal title. Therefore by interpreting the word 'held' as
'lawfully held' there was no addition of any word to the section. According to
the words of s. 9 and in the context of the scheme of the Act it is proper to
construe the word 'held' in the section as 'lawfully held'. The appellants
contention in this regard must be rejected. [17 B--D] Pheku Chamar & Ors.
v. Harish Chandra &, Ors. A.I.R.
1953 All. 406, approved.
Bharat and Anr. v. Ch. Khazan Singh &
Anr. A.I.R. 1958 All. 332, disapproved.
K.K. Handique v. The Member, Board of
Agricultural Income-tax Assam, A.I.R. 1966 S.C. 1191 and Eramma v. V, Verrupanna
& Ors.  2 S.C.R. 626, applied.
(iv) When the respondents left the village
owing to communal disturbances they could not be said to have abandoned their
residential buildings. The appellants unlawfully demolished them and entered
the land as trespassers. The cow-shed they erected on the land was not greater
in value than the respondents residential buildings.
On equitable considerations it must be held
that when the respondents came back to their village in 1949, they were
entitled to recover not only the site but also the building constructed on it
by the appellants. Hence it should be held that on the date of vesting, the
respondents were the owners of the building in question for in law they were
holding the same. [14 A--E] [Question whether if a stranger constructs a
building on the land of another, the true owner of the land is entitled to
recover the land with the building on it, left open.] [14 D] 12
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1789 of 1966.
Appeal from the judgment and decree dated May
24, 1961 of the Allahabad High Court in Second Appeal No.. 1302 of 1952.
B.C. Misra, G.S. Chatterjee and M.M.
Kshatriya, for the appellants.
J.P. Goyal and G.N. Wantoo, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Hegde, J. The scope of s. 9 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and and Reforms.
Act, 1950 (U.P. Act 1 of 1951) (to be hereinafter referred to as the Act) comes
up for decision in this appeal by certificate.
The facts relevant for deciding this appeal
are no more in dispute. The respondents were Ryots under the appellants in
village Nagli Abdulla, a hemlet of village Machhra. The site of the building in
dispute in this appeal had been taken by the father of the respondents from the
appellant's ancestors over 60 years ago and thereafter the respondents put up
some buildings on that site for their residential purposes. During the communal
disturbances in 1947 they left the village temporarily as a measure of safety
and took shelter with some of their relations in some other village at a
distant place. They came back to their village in the year 1949 when the
conditions improved. At that time they found the appellants occupying that site
after putting up a cow-shed on the site in which their residential buildings stood.
Those residential buildings had been demolished and the site in question
included as a part of the house of the appellants. As the appellants refused to
deliver possession of the suit property, the respondents instituted a suit for
possession of the same on January 9, 1951.
On January 26, 1951, the Act came into force.
Section 4 of the Act provided for the vesting of the Estates in the State. It
prescribes that as soon as may be after the commencement of the Act, the State
Government may, by notification, declare that as from a date to be specified,
all Estates situate in Uttar Pradesh shall vest in the State and as from the
beginning of the date so specified, all such Estates shall stand transferred to
and vest, except as otherwise provided in the Act, in the State free from all
encumbrances. Section 6 of the Act enumerates the consequences of the vesting
of an Estate in the State.
Section 9 deals with the buildings in the
abadi. Reading ss. 4, 6 and 9 together, it follows that all Estates notified
under s.4 vest in the State free from all encumbrances. The quondam proprietors
or tenure-holders of those Estates lose all interests in those Estates. As
proprietors' 13 or tenure holders they retain no interest in respect of them
whatsoever. But 'in respect of the land or buildings enumerated in s. 6 and s.
9, the State settled on the person who held them certain rights. Though in fact
the vesting of the Estates and the deemed settlement of some rights in respect
of certain classes of land or buildings included in the Estate took place
simultaneously, in law the two must be treated as different transactions; first
there was a vesting of the Estates in the State absolutely and free of all
encumbrances. Then followed the deemed settlement by the State of some rights
with the persons mentioned in ss. 6 and
9. Therefore in law it would not be correct
to say that what vested in the State are only those interests not coming within
ss. 6 or 9; see--Rana Sheo Ambar Singh v. Allahabad Bank Ltd., Allahabad(1). In
this connection reference may also usefully be made to the decision of this
Court in Shivashankar Prasad Shah and Ors. v. Vaikunth Nath Singh and Ors.(2),
a decision rendered under the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950, the relevant
provisions of which are similar to the provisions of the Act. In this case
notification under s.4 of the Act was issued on July 1, 1952. Hence the vesting
contemplated under s. 4 took place on that date.
Section 9 of the Act, the section with which
we are concerned in this case, reads thus:
"All wells, trees in abadi, and all
buildings situated within the limits of an estate, belonging to or held by an
intermediary or tenant or other persons, whether residing in the village or
not, shall continue to belong to or be held by such intermediary or tenant or
person as the case may be, and the site of the wells or the buildings within
the area appurtenant thereto shall be deemed to be settled with him by the
State Government on such terms and conditions as may be prescribed." In
view of that provision all buildings situate within the limits of an Estate
held by an intermediary or tenant or other person, whether residing in the
village or not continues to be held by him and the site: of the buildings
within the area appurtenant thereto should be deemed to have been settled with
him by the State Government on such terms and conditions as may be prescribed.
As seen earlier till about 1947, the
respondents were lawfully holding the buildings and the site with which we are
concerned in this case as Ryots. They never gave up their possession of (1)
 2, S.C.R. 441.
(2) Civil Appeal No. 368/66 decided on
14 the buildings voluntarily. The fact that
they vacated those buildings and took shelter with their relations during the
time of the communal disturbances cannot be considered as abandonment of the
buildings. In law they continued to be in possession of the buildings. Hence
the appellant's entry into the suit site was an unlawful act. In the eye of law
they were trespassers. In demolishing the buildings put up by the respondents,
they, committed the offence of mischief. The fact they had put up new
structures cannot under the Transfer of Property Act, enhance their rights to
the property. We have no material before us from which we can find out the
value of the buildings. demolished by them and the value of the buildings put
up by them unlawfully. From the description of the buildings given in evidence,
it appears that the newly put up building is only cattle-shed. We are not
satisfied that the newly put up building is worth more than the buildings that
had been demolished by the appellants. In the circumstances of the case all
that can be said is that the old buildings have been substituted by the new
building. Therefore the owners of the old buildings continue to be the owners
of the new building. In that view of the matter it is not necessary to consider
whether if a stranger builds a building on the land of another, the true owner
of the land is entitled to recover the land with the building on it. Equitable
considerations persuade us to hold that when the respondents came back to their
village in 1949, they were entitled to recover not only the site but also the
building constructed on it by the appellants. Hence it should be held that on
the date of vesting, the respondents were the owners the building in question.
In law they were holding the same.
The controversy between the parties in this
appeal is as to the meaning to be attached to the word "held" in s.9
of the Act. Is the holding contemplated therein 'lawful holding" or a mere
holding lawful or otherwise. It is contended on behalf of the appellants that
the dictionary meaning of the word "held" merely means 'to have a
possession of s 9 merely contemplates Physical possession and nothing more;
on the date of the vesting they were in
physical possession of the site as well as the building; therefore the building
must be deemed to have been settled with them. On the other hand it is
contended on behalf of the respondent that the word "held" in s. 9 of
the Act means "lawfully held" and that section does not confer any
benefit on a trespasser.
The meaning of the word "held" in
s.9 came up for consideration before a Division Bench of the Allahabad High
Court consisting of Agarwala and Chaturvedi, JJ. in Pheku Chamar and Ors. v.
Harish Chandra and Ors.(1). In that case the learned 1) A.I.R. 1953 All.. 406.
15 judges held that the legislature has
deliberately used the word "held" and that word connotes the
existence of a right or title in the holder. They further opined that s. 9 does
not confer a right on the persons having no title to the land. The settlement
contemplated by the section is confined in its application to the case where
the building is lawfully held by the person in possession. The learned judges
also observed that in enacting s.9, the legislature never meant to deprive the
citizens of their lawful rights over the lands merely because a trespasser has
succeeded in making some construction on it. Section 9 does not mean that if a
person has made some construction whatsoever over any land lying within the
limits of an estate, however wrongful or recent the possession might be, that
construction must be deemed to have been settled with him by the State
Government. The meaning of the word "held" in s.9 again came up
before another Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court consisting of Desai
and Takru, JJ.
in Bharat and anr. v. Ch. Khazan Singh &
ant.(1) The learned judges declined to follow the decision in Pheku Chamar's
case(2). They came to the conclusion that the legislature used a wide language
in s.9 and it covers the case of buildings belonging to persons who constructed
them lawfully or unlawfully. It is unfortunate that the latter.
Division Bench should have thought it proper
to sit in judgment over the correctness of a decision rendered by a Bench of
co-ordinate jurisdiction. Judicial propriety requires that if a bench of High
Court is unable to agree with the decision already rendered by another
coordinate bench of the same High Court, the question should be referred to a
larger bench. Otherwise the decisions of High Courts will not only lose respect
in the eyes of the public, it will also make the task of the sub-ordinate
The question of law referred to hereinbefore
again arose for decision in this case. When this case came up in the second
appeal before Sahai, J. he referred it to a Full Bench in view of the conflict
of opinion noticed earlier.
The Full Bench was presided over by Dasai, C.J.
who was a party to the decision in Bharat's case(1). The other members of the
bench were Mukerji and Dwivedi, JJ.
Mukerji and Dwivedi, JJ. agreed with the view
taken in Pheku Chamar's case(2). Desai, C.J. in his dissenting judgment did not
deal with the meaning of the word "held" in s. 9 but on the other
hand opined that the suit should have been dismissed because of the fact that
the buildings put up by the respondents were not there on the date of vesting
and hence the respondents were not entitled to the benefit of s.9.
Before considering the meaning of the word
"held" in s. 9, it is necessary to mention that it is proper to
assume that the lawmakers who are the representatives of the people enact laws
(1) A.I.R. 1958 All. 332. (2) A.I.R.1953 All.
406 which the society considers as honest,
fair and equitable.
The object of every legislation is to advance
public welfare. In other words as observed by Crawford in his book on Statutory
Constructions the entire legislative process is influenced by considerations of
justice and reason.
Justice and reason constitute the great
general legislative intent in every piece of legislation. Consequently where
the suggested construction operates harshly,. ridiculously or in any other
manner contrary to prevailing conceptions of justice and reason, in most
instances, it would seem that the apparent or suggested meaning of the statute,
was not the one intended by the law-makers. In the absence of some other
indication that the harsh or ridiculous effect was actually intended by the
legislature,, there is little reason to believe that it represents the
We are unable to persuade ourselves to
believe that the legislature intended to ignore the rights of persons having
legal title to possession and wanted to make a gift of any building to a
trespasser howsoever recent the trespass might have been if only he happened to
be in physical possession of the building on the date of vesting. We are also
unable to discern any legislative policy in support of that construction. It
was urged before us by the learned Counsel for the appellants that the
legislature with a view to put a stop, to any controversy as to any rights in
or over any building directed that whoever was in physical possession of a
building on the date of vesting shall be deemed to be the settle of that
building. He further urged that it would have been a hard and laborious. task
for the State to investigate into disputed questions relating to title or
possession before making the settlement contemplated by s. 9 and therefore the
legislature cut the Gordian Knot by conferring title on the person who was in
possession of the building. We see no merit in this argument. The settlement
contemplated by s. 9 is a deemed settlement. That settlement took place
immediately the vesting took place No inquiry was contemplated before that
settlement. If there is any dispute as to who is the settle, the same has to be
decided by the civil courts.
The State is not concerned with the same.
Section 9 merely settles the building on the person who was holding it on the
date of vesting.
It is true that according to the dictionary
meaning the word "held" can mean either a lawful holding or even a
holding without any semblance of a right such as holding by a trespasser. But
the real question is as to what is the legislative intent? Did the legislature
intend to settle the concerned building with a person who was lawfully holding
or with any person holding lawfully or otherwise? Mr. Misra contended that
there is no justification for us to read into the section the word
"lawfully" before the word "held". According to him, if the
legislature intended 17 that the holding should be a lawful one, it would have
said"lawfully held". He wanted us to interpret the section as it stands.
It is true that the legislature could have
used the word "lawfully held" in place of the word "held"
in s. 9 but as mentioned earlier one of the dictionary meanings given to the
word "held" is, "lawfully held". In Webster's New Twentieth
Century Dictionary (Second Edition), it is stated that in legal parlance the
word "held" means to possess by "legal title". In other
words the word "held" is technically understood to mean to possess by
Therefore by interpreting the word
"held" as "lawfully held", we are not adding any word to
the section. We are merely spelling out the meaning of that word. It may
further be seen that the section speaks of all buildings .... within the limits
of an Estate, belonging to or held by an intermediary or tenant or other
person" .... The word "belonging" undoubtedly refers to legal
title. The words "held by an intermediary" also refer to a possession
by legal title. The words "held by tenant" also refer to holding by
legal title. In the sequence mentioned above it is proper to construe the word
"held" in s. 9 when used in relation to the words "other
person" as meaning "lawfully held" by that person. That
interpretation flows from the context in which the word "held" has
been used. We have earlier mentioned that the said interpretation accords with
The expression "held" has been used
in the Act in various other sections--see ss. 2(1)(c), 13, 17, 18, 21, 144,
204, 240A, 298, 304, and 314 to connote possession by legal title. Mr. Misra,
learned Counsel for the appellants does not deny that the expression
"held" in those sections means held lawfully. But according to him
that is because of the context in which the word is used. Mr. Misra is right in
saying so but he overlooks the context in which that expression is used in s.
9. We have already made reference to that context. He failed to point out to us
any section in the Act, leaving aside s. 9 for the time being where the word
"held" has been used as meaning mere holding, lawful or otherwise. In
K.K. Handique v. The Member, Board of Agricultural Income Tax, Assam(1) this
Court was called upon to consider the meaning of the word "holds" in
ss. 12 and 13 of' the Assam Agricultural Income Tax Act. Subba Rao, J.
(as he then was ) speaking for the Court observed
that the expression "holds" includes a two-fold idea of the actual
possession of a thing and also of being invested with a legal title though sometimes
it is used only to mean actual possession. After reading ss. 12 and 13 together
he observed that the word "holds" in those sections means holding by
legal title. In Eramma v. Verrupanna & Ors.(2), this Court considered the
meaning of the word (1) A.I.R. 1966 S.C. 1191. (2)  2, S.C.R.
"possessed" in s. 14 (1 ) of the
Hindu Succession Act which laid down that "any property possessed by a
female Hindu whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act
shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner". It
held that the property possessed by a female widow, as contemplated in the
section, is clearly a property to which she has acquired some kind of title
whether before or after the commencement of the Act. It is true that in
arriving at that conclusion the Court took into consideration the language of
the provision as a whole and also the explanation to the section. The scheme of
the Act is to abolish all Estates and vest the concerned property in the State
but at the same time certain rights were conferred on persons in possession of
lands or buildings. It is reasonable to think that the persons who were within
the contemplation of the Act are those who were in possession of lands or
buildings on the basis of some legal title.
Bearing in mind the purpose with which the
legislation was enacted, the scheme of the Act and the language used in s. 9,
we are of opinion that the word "held" in s. 9 means "lawfully
held". In other words we accept the correctness of the view taken by
Mukerji and Dwivedi, JJ. For the reasons already mentioned we are unable to
agree with Desai, C.J. that the fact that the appellants had demolished the
buildings put up by the respondents and put up some other building in their
place had conferred any rights on them under s. 9.
In the result the appeal is dismissed with
G.C. Appeal dismissed.