Ali & Anr Vs. S.K. Fazle Hakani  INSC 1471 (20 November 1996)
M. Punohhi, Sujata V. Manohar
respondent filed a petition under Section of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act
for preemption in respect of two sale deeds executed by the vendors on 22nd and
23rd February 1977 transferring 1.70 acres of land in
two plots in favour of the appellant. The appellants resisted the respondent's
claim for preemption on the ground that the respondent need to have been a co-sharer
in the land sold and since he claims to have purchased sometime in the past a
portion of a plot, which was purchased sometime in the past a portion of a
plot, which was described in the revenue records as a `tank', it was not `land'
as defined in the Land Reforms Act and therefore he was not a co-sharer. The
trial court found that the pre-emptor had purchased a portion of a plot which
was a `doba' and since `doba' was a tank, it was outside the definition of land
provided in the Land Reforms Act. The appellate court concurred with that view.
The High Court, however, in second appeal up set it.
adjudge the correctness of the View of the High Court are the present appeals
at the instance of the vendees.
Banerjee, learned counsel appearing for the appellants has placed before us the
English translation of the deed of sale in favour of the respondent together
with the copy of the original deed in Bengali. There the land sold to the
pre-emptor has been described as "Matsyasheho Pushkarini" which in
English means a tank/pond full of fish.
learned Single Judge of the High Court in relying upon an earlier decision of
the that Court in Niranjan Das Versus Lakshmi Mani Dasi, 1986 Calcutta Weekly
Note 318 has taken the view that `doba' does not come within the mischief of
the word `tank' as is apparent from the Wilson's Glossary of words. We have
caused a copy thereof to be placed before us and we find therefrom that the
word `doba' in Bengali means immersed, low and swampy or inundated land. The
depth of such land perhaps comes to cause a distinction between a `doba' and a
`tank'. Apparently the High Court was of the View that if surface waters be
shallow, then the land even though inundated will retain the character of the
land, bearing at the back of its mind that paddy crop can be grown in puddled
lands. correspondingly, if the depth is more which prevents the land being put
to agricultural use then it would be `tank' for the purposes of the West Bengal
Land Refors Act and in particular Section 2(7) thereof, which defines `land' to
be agricultural land, tank being an exception there to. Now here the land has
been described as `Matsyasheo Pushkarini' which apparently would mean a pond
with sufficient water abounding in fish and seemingly it was so described in
the deed of sale in favour of the respondent. Thus the area owned by the
respondent did not come within the ambit of the word `land' for the purposes of
Section 2(7) of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act 1995 and therefore the
respondent was dis-entitled to claim himself as co-sharer in the land in order
to maintain a claim for pre-emption. In our view the High Court was in error in
proceeding on the basis that the land purchased by the respondent was put to
agricultural use in the manner which entitled the respondent to a decree in his
favour. We therefore, upset the judgment and order of the High Court and order
restoration of the judgment and decres of the Courts below but without any
order as to costs.