Shree Raja Kandregula Srinivasa
Jagannadha Rao Panthu Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh  INSC 275 (9 October
09/10/1969 DUA, I.D.
CITATION: 1971 AIR 71 1970 SCR (2) 714 1969
SCC (3) 711
CITATOR INFO :
R 1971 SC1558 (20)
Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Act
XXX of 1947, ss.
3(2) and 8-Classification of land based on
the settlement register without factual inquiry--Jurisdiction of Civil Courts,
Sub-section (2) of s. 3 of the Madras Estates
Land (Reduction of Rent) Act XXX of 1947 authorises the State Government to fix
the rates of rent payable in respect of each class of ryoti land in each
village in the estate after considering the recommendations of the special officer
and the remarks of the Board of Revenue thereon and by virtue of s. 8(1) no
order under this subsection is liable to be questioned in a court of law. The
appellants filed a suit questioning the legality of the notification reducing
the rates of rent in respect of the delta dry ryoti lands in a village. They
contended that the class of land had been determined to be delta dry land
exclusively on the basis of the settlement register which did not contain any
entry with respect to the village in question, that the settlement register
could not be considered to be conclusive, and that proper factual inquiry was
necessary, because, the determination affected the appellant's proprietary
The trial court decreed the suit. The High
Court held that the civil courts had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Allowing the appeals,
HELD : The Special Officer had an obligation,
under s. 2 of the Reduction of Rent Act, to determine in respect of a village
the average rate of cash rent per acre for each class of ryoti land in
existence at the time of the commencement of the Act, such as, wet, dry and
This. had to be determined on the basis of
relevant material. The Special Officer, however, proceeded to found his
determination only on the report of the Special Assistant which only took into
account the entry in the settlement register with respect to the soil of
another village. This really meant that the determination of the Special
Officer was solely based on the settlement register containing no entry in
regard to the village in question.
This material is irrelevant and cannot
constitute a rational basis for founding thereon the determination of the
Special Officer. His determination must, therefore, be held to be based on no
evidence, with the result that it must be held to be in violation of the
fundamental principles of judicial procedure. A fortiori the order of the
Government made under s. 3(2) exclusively on the basis of the recommendation of
the Special Officer must in consequence be held 10 be not in conformity with
the provisions of the Reduction of Rent Act and. therefore, Outside the purview
of s. 3(2) of that Act. Section 8(1) would accordingly be inapplicable and the
jurisdiction of civil courts cannot be excluded. [724 F-725 C] Secretary of
State v. Mask and Company, (1940) 67 I.A. 222 and O. K. Mitthuswamy Nudaliar
& Ors. v. State of Madras, C.A. Nos. 1011-1017'65, dt. 31-7-68. referred
to.Dhujabhai and Ors. v. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors.  3 S.C.R.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeals
Nos. 1619 and 1620 Appeals from the judgment and order dated April 17, 1964 of
the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Appeal Suits Nos. 21 of 1959 and 362 of 1958
D. Narsaraju, B. Parthasarathy and Subba Rao,
for the appellants (in both the appeals).
A. V. Rangam, for respondents Nos. 1-3, (in
K. R. Chaudhuri and K. Rajendra Chaudruri,
for respondent No. 6 (in both the appeals).
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Dua, J. These two appeals (Civil Appeals Nos. 1619 and 1620 of 1968) on
certificate by the High Court arise out of the same suit and are directed
against a common judgment and decree of the High Court disposing of two
cross-appeals presented in that Court and will, therefore, be disposed of,by
one judgment. The principal question canvassed lies within a narrow compass. It
relates to the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts to entertain and decide the
present suit questioning the legality of the notification Ex. A13 dated
November 2, 1949 reducing the rates of rent in respect of the delta dry ryoti
lands in village Kalipatnam under the, Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent)
Act XXX of 1947, (hereafter called the Reduction of Rent Act). The trial Court
decreed the suit in partbut the High Court to which both parties preferred
appeals held that the Civil Courts had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
It is this short question which requires determination in these appeals.
It is unnecessary to state at length the past
history of the landed estate in question. The necessary relevant facts in brief
may only be mentioned. Shree Raja Kandrrgula Srinivasa Jagannadha Rao Panthulu
Bahadur was the Inamdar of village Kalipatnam in Narsapuram Taluk in the West
Godavari District. On November 2, 1948, the Government issued a notification
(Ex. A-13) under s. 3(2) of the Reduction of Rent Act reducing the rates of
rent payable in respect of delta dry ryoti lands in Kalipatnam village. The
Inam Settlement Officer, Vijayawadha, then took proceedings to determine
whether Kalipatnam was an, inam estate" as defined in s. 2 (7) of the
Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act XXVI of 1948. After
inquiry he made the order dated May 31, 1950 (Ex. A-1) holding that the suit
village was an inam estate. Feeling aggrieved by these two orders the appellant
instituted the suit. out of which the present appeals arise. Me short question
canvassed before us, as observed earlier, is whether the Civil Courts have
jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
SUP. CI/7015 716 It may be stated at the
outset that the appellant counsel.
conceded at the bar that the question as to
the kind of grant can only be decided by the Tribunal appointed under the
Reduction of Rent Act and Civil Courts have no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon
such a controversy. The suit challenging the validity of Ex. A-1 declaring
Kalipatnam village as an inam estate was accordingly conceded to be
incompetent. Challenge to Ex. A-1 was thus not pressed in this Court. It was,
however, submitted that any finding by the, Civil Court on the kind of grant
would have to be completely ignored, by the Tribunal while considering this
question under the Reduction of Rent Act.
The submission seems to us to be justified.
We are thus left only with the relief,sought
in respect of Ex. A1 3. The appellant questioned the validity of this
notification on the ground that it cannot be considered in law to have been
made under s. 3 (2) of the Reduction of Rent Act so as to be immune from
challenge in the Civil Courts. In order to appreciate and determine this
argument it is desirable to the first to the provisions of the Reduction of
Rent Act. This Act was enacted in order to provide for the reduction of rents
payable by ryots 'in estates governed by the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908
approximately to the level of the assessments levied on lands in ryotwari areas
in the neighbourhood and for the collection of such rents exclusively by the
State Government. The purpose of collection of rent exclusively by the State
'Government was added in 1951 with retrospective effect. The heading of the
Act, as originally enacted, was changed, on the creation of Andhra Pradesh, to,
A.P. (Andhra Area) Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Act XXX of 1947. Suitable
adaptations necessitated by the creation of the separate Andhra Pradesh were
also duly made. Section 2 of this Act which empowers the State Government to
appoint a _Special Officer for any estate. or estates for the purpose of
recommending fair and equitable rates of rent for the ryoti land provides as
under "Appointment of Special Officer to recommend rates of rent in
2 (a)(1) The State Government may a point a
Special Officer for any estate or estates for the purpose of recommending fair
and equitable rates of rent for the ryoti land in such estate or estates..
(b) The Special Officer so appointed shall
recommend fair and equitable "rates of rent for all lands in such estate
or estates which became' ryoti lands after the commencement the Act.
717 (2) The Special Officer shall first
determine in respect of each village (hereinafter in this section referred to
as "Principal village") in an estate :(a) the average rate of cash
rent per acre prevailing at the commencement of this Act for each class of
ryoti land which was in existence in the principal village at such
commencement, such as wet, dry and garden;
Provided that where no cash rents are
prevalent in the principal village in respect of any class of land the Special
Officer shalt determine the average rate of cash rent per acre prevailing at
such commencement for such class of land in the nearest village in the estate
in which cash rents are prevalent for such class of land and in which
conditions are generally similar to those obtaining in the principal village,
or where there is no such village in the estate, in the nearest village in the
nearest estate in respect of which village both the requirements specified
above are satisfied;
(b) the average rate of assessment per acre
prevailing at such commencement in respect of each of the s classes of land in
the nearest ryotwari area in which conditions are generally similar to those
obtaining in the principal village.
(3) The Special Officer shall then compare
the average rates of cash rent as determined under clause (a) of sub-section
(2) with the average rates of assessment as determined under clause (b) of that
sub-section, and after making due allowance for any difference in the
conditions prevailing in the two cases.
and also in cases falling under the proviso
to clause (a) of sub-section (2), for any difference in the conditions
prevailing in the village referred to in that proviso and in the principal
village, determine (i) the extent, if any, to which the rates of rent payable
for each class of ryoti land in the principal village should, in his opinion,
be reduced and (ii) the rates of rent payable for each such class of lands
after such reduction.
Explanation 1. The Special Officer shall have
power only to determine that the rents payable for any class of ryoti land in
the principal village shall be reduced; and he shall have no power to determine
that such rents shall be enhanced.
718 Explanation 2. The) extent of reduction,
if any, determined by the Special Officer under this sub--section shall also
apply where rent in the principal village is paid in kind or on the estimated
value of a portion of the crop or at rates varying with the crop, whether in
cash or in kind, or partly in one of these ways and partly in another, or
partly in one or more of these ways and partly in cash. In every such case the
Special Officer shall also determine the rent payable, whether in kind or in
cash or partly in kind and partly in cash, as the case may be.
(3-A) In the case of lands in an estate which
became ryoti lands after the commencement of this Act, the Special Officer
shall determine for each class of such lands in the principal village the rates
of rent per acre payable therefore under this Act. The rates of rent so
determined shall be the same as those fixed under sub-section (2) of section 3
for similar ryoti lands in the same, village;
Provided that where the rates of rent payable
in respect of ryoti lands in the principal village have not been fixed under
sub-section (2) of section 3, or where there are no similar ryoti lands in the
principal village, the rates of rent so determined shall be the same as those
fixed under sub-section (2) of section 3 for similar ryoti lands in the nearest
village in the estate, or, if there is no such village, in the nearest village
in the nearest estate in which conditions are generally similar to those
obtaining in the principal village.
(4) Where the conditions in a group of two or
more village,, in an estate are generally similar the Special Officer may
perform the functions under subsections 2, 3 and 3-A in respect of such group
of villages as a whole, instead of separately in respect of each village in the
group." Section 3 so far as relevant for our purpose may now be
"Power of State Government to reduce rates
of rent after considering Special Officer's recommendations.
3(1) "After completing his work in any
estate, the Special Officer shall submit his recommendations to the State
Government through the Board of Revenue specifying in case of ryoti lands which
were in existence at the commencement of this Act, (i) the 719 extent, if any,
to which the rents for each class of such lands in each village or group of
villages in the estate, should in his opinion, be reduced and (ii) the rate of
rent payable for each such class after such reduction, and in the case of lands
in each village or group of villages in the estate which became ryoti land
after the commencement of this Act, the rate of rent determined by him in
accordance with the provisions of sub-section (3-A) of section 2.
(2) After considering the recommendations of
the Special Officer and the remarks of the Board of Revenue thereon, the State
Government shall, by order published in the Fort. St.
George Gazette, fix the rates of rent payable
in respect of each class of ryoti land in each village in the estate."
"Provided that where the rate of rent so fixed in respect of any class of
ryoti lands which were in existence at the commencement of this Act, or in
respect of any class of lands which became ryoti lands in any fasli year after
such commencement exceeds the rate of rent payable in respect thereof at such
commencement or in that fasli year, as the case may be, only the latter rate of
rent shall be payable in respect of such land.
It is not necessary to reproduce the rest of
the sections. Section 7 empowers the State Government to make rules to carry
out the purpose of the Act and s. 8 ousts the jurisdiction of the Courts of Law
to question the validity of certain orders and proceedings. Section 8 reads as
"Validity of certain orders and
proceedings not to be questioned.
8. The validity of the following orders and
proceedings shall not be liable to be questioned in any Court of Law.
(i) any order made under section 3 subsection
(ii) any recovery of rent effected by the
Provincial Government under section 3 subsection (4) or any payment made by
them to the landholder under the same subsection:
(ii-a) any order made under sections 3a and
720 (iii) any determination of the net income
or average net income, or average net income made under section 5, sub-section
(2)." The precise question requiring decision by us is whether the present
questioning the validity of the fixation of rent in Ex-A-13 is excluded from
the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts by virtue of s. 8 (1). There is no dispute
that clause (i) is the only relevant clause to be considered in this
connection. The appellant's learned counsel submitted that the exclusion of
jurisdiction of the Civil Courts cannot be extended to orders which were not
made in, strict compliance with the provisions of s. 3 (2) because unless so
made they cannot be considered to be hit by s. 8 (1).
According to the respondent's learned
counsel, on the other hand, Ex. A-13 was made, pursuant to the power conferred
by s. 3(2) and 'is therefore covered by s. 8(1). He further submitted that
there being a complete machinery provided 'by the statute itself for
challenging the orders made in proceedings taken there under, the Civil Courts
are precluded from considering the correctness of those orders. According to
him ss. 3A and 3B provide for rectification of errors committed by the Special
Officer and that looking at the statutory scheme it must be held that an order
purporting to be made under s. 3 (2) of the Reduction of Rent Act is immune
from challenge in the Civil Courts.
The general principle on which the
jurisdiction of Civil Courts can successfully be excluded in respect of
decisions by special Tribunals is well settled. The difficulty usually arises
in its application to, given cases. As observed by the Privy Council in
Secretary of State v. Mask and Company(1) the exclusion of the jurisdiction of
the Civil Courts must either be explicitly expressed or clearly implied.
Further even if the jurisdiction, is so excluded the Civil Courts have
jurisdiction to examine into the cases where the provisions of the Act have not
been complied with or the statutory Tribunal has not acted in conformity with
the fundamental principles of judicial procedure. It is unnecessary to refer to
other cases dealing with this question. We need only refer to the recent
decision of this Court in Dhulabhai and others v. The State of Madhya Pradesh
and another(2) in which after an exhaustive discussion of the case law the
legal position was summarised by the Court speaking through Hidayatullah, C.J.
as follows :
(1) Where the statute gives a finality to the
orders of the special tribunal the Civil Courts' jurisdiction must be held to
be excluded if there is adequate remedy to do what the Civil Courts would (1)
 67 I.A. 222.
(2)  3 S.C.R. 662.
721 normally do in a suit. Such provision,
however, does not exclude those cases where the provisions of the particular
Act have not been complied with or the statutory tribunal has not acted in
conformity with the fundamental principles of judicial procedure.
(2) Where there is an express bar of the
jurisdiction of the court, an examination of the scheme of the particular Act
to find the adequacy or the sufficiency of the remedies provided may be
relevant but is not decisive to sustain the jurisdiction of the civil court.
Where there is no express exclusion the examination
of the remedies and the scheme of the particular Act to find out the intendment
becomes necessary and the result of the inquiry may be decisive. In the latter
case it is necessary to see if the statute creates a special right or a
liability and provides for the determination of the right or liability and
further lays down that all questions about the said right and liability shall
be determined by the tribunals so constituted, and whether remedies normally
associated with actions in Civil Courts are prescribed by the said statute or
(3) Challenge to the provisions of the
particular Act-as ultra vires cannot be brought before Tribunals constituted
under that Act. Even the High Court cannot go into that question on a revision
or reference from the decision of the Tribunals.
(4) When a provision is already declared
unconstitutional or the unconstitutionality of any provision is to be
challenged, a suit is open. A writ of certiorari may include a direction for
refund if the claim is clearly within the time prescribed by the Limitation Act
but it is not a compulsory remedy to replace a suit.
(5) Where the particular Act contains no
machinery for refund of tax collected in excess of constitutional limits or
illegally collected a suit lies.
(6) Questions of the correctness of the
assessment apart from its constitutionality are for the decision of the
authorities and a civil suit does not lie if the orders of the authorities are
declared to be final or there is an express prohibition in the 722 particular
Act. In either case the scheme of the particular Act must be examined because
it is relevant enquiry.
(7) An exclusion of the Jurisdiction of the
Civil Court is not readily to be inferred unless the conditions above set down
apply." According to the appellant's counsel the first proposition covers
the present case. He submitted that there is no statutory definition to which
one can turn for the purpose of determining wet, dry and garden lands as
contemplated by the Reduction of Rent Act. The matter has therefore necessarily
to be decided by holding an inquiry into the factual position. This, the counsel
argued, was not done.
We were taken through the relevant portions
of Ex. B-24 which is a report from the Special Assistant to the Special Officer
for rent reduction. It is observed therein that there are no wet or garden
lands in village Kalipatnam and that the entire land is delta dry in which wet
paddy is raised under Kalipatnam project channel. The ryots pay to the
Government Rs. 51per acre by way of water rate. It was emphasised by the
appellant's learned counsel that the fact that wet paddy is raised in this
land, which is described as delta dry and that water rate is paid to the
Government, must conclusively show that the land is not delta dry but wet. It
is the factual position and not bare entry in the settlement register which
should be the guiding factor. Support for this submission was also sought from
the recent unreported decision of this Court in O. K. Muthuswamy Mudaliar &
Ors. v. State of Madras(1) in which the following observations occur :
"The mere fact that the lands are
registered dry does not affect their value. The lands are fertile and are
cultivated with wet crop.
They are irritable with the waters of the
river Bhavani. There is abundant supply of water throughout the year. The
landowners had the right to take water for the irrigation of 400 acres."
In this connection the appellant's learned counsel also criticised the
following observation in the judgment of the High Court "In the Statements
Ex. B-5 and Ex. B-6.
furnished by the plaintiff himself, the
classification of the land is shown as dry though it is also mentioned that the
lands were cultivated with double crop of paddy. If a proprietor owns a certain
land but does not own the water source from which water is beingtaken for
irrigating that land, he will not be in a position to classify it as wet land
for the benefit of claiming rent for himself in the same way as he would be if
he owned a water source and supplied water therefrom as a guaranteed supply to
723 lands registered under that source as ayacut.
In the present case, water, was Government
water which was brought from Government project." On behalf of the
appellant it was submitted that this observation is unsound and is not
supportable 'by any provision of law. The respondent's counsel was unable to
support this observation of the High Court.
Reverting to Ex. B-24 Kalipatnam village was
compared with Losaragutlapadu, an adjacent village. In regard to that village
also it is mentioned that there is an extensive wet cultivation in delta dry
land under project channels as in Kalipatnam. Shri J.
Sambamurthy, to whose inspection note dated
July 1, 1948 reference is made in Ex. B-24 appeared as D.W. 5 and the council
took us through his statement. In cross-examination he deposed as follows :
"I cannot say whether there are 4,000
acres of land which are double crop land. There are some lands in which double
crops are grown. I cannot say their extent. There are small extents of garden
lands. There are single crop lands under extension channel. AR these lands are
treated as dry lands rents reduced.
The Kalipatnam is at the tail end of the
delta. The Losaragutlapadu is in Bhimavaram taluk. Yanamadula Drain intervenes
Kalipatnam and Losaragutlapadu. Gollavanithippa lands have come under
cultivation previously. It is part of Losaragutlapadu. I cannot say whether
there are 11,000 acres of land uncultivated in Losaragutlapadu. Probably it is
There were small extents of land in
Muthyalapalli and Vempa under the Project Channel. Ex. B-4 shows that there are
lands of double crop. Under the Act the plaintiff has to furnish a statement of
lands etc. The plaintiff's agent furnished Exhibit B-6.
The soil of Losaragutlapadu was examined.
This is contained in Exhibit B-24. The
Settlement Officer classified the soils under contained Diglot Registers. An
extract of it is contained in Exhibit B.24. I cannot say readily now without
reference to Settlement Manual what the figures given in the Diglot Register
are relating to the soils. That statement contained in the file relates to the
Losaragutlapadu. A similar statement for Kalipatnam was not taken. There is no
such statement for that village. I did not write to the Settlement Department
to prepare such a statement for suit village. I do not know whether the
Government 724 analise the soil through Agricultural Department before the
project was started.......... I examined the soils at one or two, places and I
consulted the Settlement Register at that time. I cannot say whether those one
or two places were under extension project. I remember I have taken description
of the soil from the Settlement Register and Manual...... I do not know about
the construction of the project." Shri J. Satyanarayana, Tahsildar, who
appeared as D.W. 7 stated in his cross-examination that the lands in Kalipatnam
were sanctioned with two crops, though he could not say whether they were under
cultivation since 1948. He was also unable to say whether the settlement
register from Kalipatnam was available in Taluk Office. According to him water
rate in the year 1958 was increased 50 % for all lands including Kalipatnam.
The cess was also increased proportionately. He was unable to explain the
figures, given under the description of the soil in Ex. B-24 and indeed he
expressed his ignorance about the existence of any register for Kalipatnam on
The appellant's argument strongly pressed
before us was that the class of land had been determined to be delta dry land
exclusively on the basis of the settlement register which did not contain any
entry with respect to Kalipatnam. The entry in the settlement register with
respect to the soil of Losaragutlapadu could not be taken to cover the soil in
Kalipatnam in the absence of evidence that the soil in these two villages was
similar in this respect.Stress was also led on the submission that description
in the settlement register could not be considered to be conclusive and that
proper factual inquiry was necessary because the termination affects the
appellant's proprietary rights.The submission appears to us to possess merit. The
Special Officer had an obligation under s.2 of the Reduction of Rent Act to
determine in respect of Kalipatnam village the average rate of cash rent per
acre for each class of ryoti land in existence at the time of the commencement
of the Act, such as, wet, dry and garden. This had to be determined on the
basis of relevant material. The Special Officer, however, proceeded to found
his determination only on the report of the Special Assistant (Ex. B-24) which,
as discussed above, only took into account the entry in the settlement register
with respect to the soil of Losaragutlapadu. This really means that the
determination of the Special Officer is solely based on the settlement register
containing no entry in regard to Kalipatnam. This material is irrelevant and
cannot constitute a rational basis for founding thereon the determination of
the Special Officer. His determination must, therefore, be held 725 to be based
on no evidence, with the result that it must be held to be in violation of the
fundamental principles of judicial procedure. A fortiori the order of the
Government made under s. 3 (2) exclusively on the basis of the recommendation
of the Special Officer must in consequence be held to be not in conformity with
the provisions of the Reduction of Rent Act and, therefore, outside the purview
of s. 3 (2) of that Act. Section 8 (1) would accordingly be inapplicable and
the jurisdiction of Civil Courts cannot be excluded. The notification Ex. A-13
must, therefore, be struck down as contrary to law and ultra vires the
Reduction of Rent Act.
We accordingly allow the appeals with costs
and strike down the report of the Special Officer as also the notification Ex.
A-13. As observed earlier challenge to Exhibit A-1 was not pressed at the
hearing by the appellant. It would be open to the authorities concerned to
proceed to reduce the rent in accordance with law. One set of costs.
Y.P. Appeals allowed.