Sri Ram Ram Narain Medhi Vs. The State
of Bombay  INSC 116 (18 November 1958)
BHAGWATI, NATWARLAL H.
DAS, SUDHI RANJAN (CJ) SINHA, BHUVNESHWAR P.
CITATION: 1959 AIR 459 1959 SCR Supl. (1) 489
CITATOR INFO :
R 1959 SC 519 (12,13) R 1960 SC 796 (3) F
1960 SC1008 (10) R 1960 SC1080 (16,75) RF 1961 SC 954 (23) R 1961 SC1517 (1) R
1962 SC 137 (8) R 1962 SC 694 (25,27,67) R 1962 SC 723 (42) R 1962 SC 821
(5,10,54) R 1965 SC 632 (11) R 1967 SC1110 (11,12) R 1967 SC1373 (40) RF 1970
SC 126 (5) R 1970 SC 398 (2) R 1970 SC 439 (6) D 1971 SC1992 (9,16) R 1972 SC
425 (30) R 1972 SC2284 (19) RF 1973 SC2734 (32) D 1974 SC 543 (14) RF 1975
SC1193 (17) RF 1979 SC1055 (12) RF 1981 SC1881 (1) R 1982 SC 149 (254) F 1983
SC 643 (6) R 1983 SC 648 (2) RF 1983 SC1213 (10) E&D 1990 SC1771 (13) R
1992 SC 96 (14)
Land Reform-Distribution of ownership and
control of agricultural land--Purchase by tenants--Validity of
enactment--Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Amendment) Act, 1956 (Bom.
XIII of 1956), ss. 32 to 32R-Constitution of India, Arts. 14, 19, 31, 31A,
Entry 18, List II, Seventh Schedule.
The petitions challenged the constitutional
validity of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural lands (Amendment) Act, 1956,
(1)  2 S.C.R. 303. 62 490 (Bom. XIII of 1956) which, in further amending
the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 (Bom. LXVII of 1948),
;Ought to distribute the ownership and control of agricultural lands in implementation
of the Directive principles of State policy laid down by Arts. 38 and 39 of the
Constitution. The impugned Act sought to distribut equitably the lands between
the landholders and the tenants, except where the landholder required the same
for cultivation by himself, by way of compulsory _Purchase of all surplus lands
by tenants in possession thereof with effect from April 1, 1957, called the
'tiller's day'. The basic idea underlying the Act was to prevent concentration
of agricultural lands in the hands of the landholders. The Act thus, being a
legislation in respect of rights in and over land, affected the-relation
between landlord and tenant and provided for the transfer and alienation of
agricultural lands. The petitioners, who were landholders as defined by s. 2(9)
of the Act contended that (1) the impugned legislation was beyond the
competence of the State Legislature, (2) that, not being protected by Art. 31A,
of the Constitution, it infringed Arts. 14, 19 and 31 of the Constitution and
(3) that it was a piece of colourable legislation vitiated in part by excessive
delegation of legislative power to the State. On behalf of the respondent it
was urged that the impugned legislation fell within Entry 18 in List 11 Of the
Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, that 'provided for the extinguishment or
modification of rights to estates and was as such protected by Art. 31A of the
Constitution and that there was no excessive delegation of legislative power.
Held, that it was well settled that the heads
of legislation specified in Entry 18 in List 11 of the Seventh Schedule to the
Constitution should not be construed in a narrow and pedantic sense but should
be given a large and liberal interpretation. There could, therefore, be no
doubt that the impugned Act fell within the purview of Entry 18 in List 11 of
the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution and the plea of legislative
incompetence must fail.
British Coal Corporation v. The King, (1935)
A.C. 500 ; United Provinces v . Atiqa Begum,  F.C.R. 110 and Navinchandra
Mafatlal v. The Commissioner of Income-tax, Bombay City,  1 S.C.R. 829,
There could be no doubt that the Bombay Land
Revenue Code, 1879, was the existing law relating to land tenures in force in
the State of Bombay within the meaning of Art. 31A(2)(a) of the Constitution
and the word 'estate' as defined by S.
2(5) Of the Code clearly applied not only to
lands held by the various tenure-holders of alienated lands but also to
land-holders and occupants of unalienated lands. There was no ambiguity in that
definition and, therefore, no justification for putting a narrower construction
on that word so as to mean the land-holders of the former category alone and
not of the latter; even if there was any, the wider meaning of the word was the
one to be adopted in the context of the objective of the Act.
491 Case law discussed.
The word 'landholder' as defined in s. 2(9)
of the Act also made no distinction between alienated and unalienated lands and
showed that the interest of such a landholder fell within the definition of
'estate' contained in s. 2(5) of the Code.
There was no warrant for the proposition that
extinguishment or modification of any rights in estates as contemplated by Art.
31A(1)(a) of the Constitution must mean only what happened in the process of
acquisition of any estate or of any rights therein by the State. The language
of the Article was clear and unambiguous and showed that it treated the two
concepts as distinct and different from each other.
Sections 32 to 32R of the impugned Act
clearly contemplated the vesting of the title in the tenure on the titter's
day, defeasible only on certain specified contingencies.
They were designed to bring about an
extinguishment or in any event a modification of the landlord's rights in the
estate within the meaning of Art. 31A(1)(a) of the Constitution. The impugned
Act, therefore, was not vulnerable as being violative of Arts.14, 19 and 31 of
the Constitution. It would not be correct to contend that the sections merely
contemplated a suspension of the landholders' right and not their
Thakur Raghubir Singh v. Court of Wards,
Ajmer,  S.C.R. 1049, held inapplicable.
Where the Legislature settled the policy and
broad principles of the legislation, there could be no bar against leaving
matters of detail to be fixed by the executive and such delegation of power
could not vitiate the enactment.
In the instant case, since the Legislature
had laid down the policy of the Act in the preamble, enunciated the broad
principles in ss. 5 and 6 and fixed the four criteria in s.
7 itself, the last of which had necessarily
to be read ejusdem generis with the others, it was not correct to say that the
impugned Act by s. 7 had conferred uncontrolled power on the State Government
to vary the ceiling area or the economic holding or that s. 7 was vitiated by
an excessive delegation of legislative power to the State.
Parshram Damodhar v. State of Bombay, A.I.R.
1957 Bom. 257, disapproved.
Dr. N. B. Khare v. The State of Delhi, 
The State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Saykar,
 S.C.R. 284 and Pannalal Binjraj v. Union of India,  S.C.R.
233, referred to.
ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Petitions Nos. 13
& 38. 41 of 57 and 55 of 1958.
Petitions under Article 32 of the
Constitution of India for the enforcement of Fundamental rights.
V. M. Limaye and S. S. Shukla, for the
petitioners (In Petitions Nos. 13, 38-411/57).
492 Purshottam Tricumdas and J. B.
Dadachanji, for the petitioner (In Petition No. 55/58).
H. N. Sanyal, Additional Solicitor-General of
India, H. J. Umrigar, K. L. Hathi and R. H. Dhebar, for the respondent.
1958. November 18. The Judgment of the Court
was delivered by BHAGWATI, J.-These six petitions under Art. 32 of the
Constitution challenge the vires of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands
(Amendment) Act, 1956 (Bom. XIII of 1956) (hereinafter referred to as the
" impugned Act "). It was an Act further to amend the Bombay Tenancy
and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 (Bom. LXVII of 1948) (hereinafter called the
1948 Act ").
The petitioners are citizens of India and
landholders within the meaning of the 1948 Act holding several acres of land
within the State of Bombay out of which a few acres are under their own
cultivation, the bulk of the lands being under the cultivation of tenantsexcept
in the case of -the petitioners in Petition No. 58 of 1958 where the whole of
the lands are under the cultivation of tenants.
The 1948 Act had been passed by the State
Legislature as a measure of agrarian reform on December 28, 1948, with a view
to amend the law relating to tenancies of agricultural lands and to make
certain other provisions in regard to those lands and the objectives sought to
be achieved were thus set out in the second paragraph of the preamble:"
AND WHEREAS on account of the neglect of a landholder or disputes between a
landholder and his tenants, the cultivation of his estate has seriously
suffered, or for the purpose of improving the economic and social conditions of
peasants or ensuring the full and efficient use of land for agricultural
purposes, it is expedient to assume management of estates held by landholders
and to regulate and impose restrictions on the transfer of agricultural lands,
dwelling houses, sites and lands appurtenant thereto belonging to or occupied
by agriculturists, agricultural labourers and (1) 493 artisans in the Province
of Bombay and to make provisions for certain other purposes hereinafter
Section 2(8) of the said Act defined "
Land " to mean:
"(a) land which is used for agricultural
purposes, and includes(a) the sites of farm buildings appurtenant to such land;
and used for agricultural purposes, and
(i) the sites of dwelling houses occupied by
agriculturists, agricultural labourers or artisans and land appurtenant to such
"Landholder " was defined in s. 2(9) of the said Act to mean:"a
zamindar, jagirdar, saranjandar, inamdar, talukdar, malik or a khot or any
person not hereinbefore specified who is a holder of land or who is interested
in land, and whom the State Government has declared on account of the extent
and the value of the land or his interests therein to be a landbolder for the
purposes of this Act." Under s. 2(21) of the said Act the words and
expressions used in the Act but not defined were to have the meaning assigned
to them in the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879, and the Transfer of Property
Act, 1882, as the case may be.
With a view to achieve the objective of
establishing a socialistic pattern of society in the State within the meaning
of Articles 38 and 39 of the Constitution, a further measure of agrarian reform
was enacted by the State Legislature, being the impugned Act, hereinbefore
referred to, which was designed to bring about such distribution of the
ownership and control of agricultural lands as best to subserve the common good
thus eliminating concentration of wealth and means of production to the common
detriment. The said Act received the assent of the President on March 16, 1956,
was published in the Bombay Government 494 Gazette on March 29, 1956, and came
into force throughout the State on August 1, 1956.
In about November, 1956, certain landholders
from Kolhapur and Sholapur districts in the State of Bombay filed petitions in
the Bombay High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution challenging the
constitutionality of the impugned Act on various grounds.' A Division Bench of
the Bombay High Court pronounced its judgment on February 21, 1957, dismissing
those petitions with costs except in regard to a declaration as regards the invalidity
of section 88D of the Act. The petitioners herein thereupon filed these
petitions under Art. 32 of the Constitution challenging the vires of the
impugned Act and praying for a writ of mandamus against the State of Bombay
ordering them to forbear from enforcing or taking any steps in enforcement of
the act, costs and further reliefs.
Petition No. 13 of 1957 appears to have been
filed on December 3, 1956, but effective steps therein were taken only when an
application for, stay with a prayer for an exparte order being C.M.P. No. 359
of 1957 was filed herein on March 21, 1957. Petitions Nos. 38 to 41 of 1957
were filed on March 21, 1957, and Petition No. 55 of 1958 was filed on March
All these petitions followed a common pattern
and the main grounds of attack were: that the State Legislature was not
competent to pass the said Act, the topic of legislation not being covered by
any 'entry in the State List; that the said Act was beyond the am bit of Art.
31-A of the Constitution and was therefore vulnerable as infringing the
fundamental rights enshrined in Arts. 14, 19 and 31 thereof; that the
provisions of the said Act in fact infringed the fundamental rights of the
petitioners conferred upon them by Arts. 14.
119 and 31 of the Constitution; that the said
Act was a piece of colourable legislation and in any event a part of the
provisions thereof -suffered from the vice of excessive delegation of
legislative power. The answer of the State was that the impugned Act was
covered by Entry No. 18 in List 11 of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution,
that it was a piece of legislation for the extinguishment or modification of
495 rights in relation to estates within the definition thereof in Art. 31-A of
the Constitution and that therefore it was not open to challenge under Arts.
14, 19 and 31 thereof and that it was neither a piece of colourable legislation
nor did any part thereof come within the mischief of excessive delegation.
As to the legislative competence of the State
Legislature to pass the impugned Act the question lies within a very narrow
compass. As already stated, the impugned Act was a further measure of agrarian
reform enacted with a view to further amend the 1948 Act and the object of the
enactment was to bring about such distribution of the ownership and, control of
agricultural lands as best to subserve the common good.
This object was sought to be achieved by
fixing ceiling areas of lands which could be held by a per son and by
prescribing what was an economic holding. It sought to equitably distribute the
lands between the landholders and the tenants and except in those cases where
the landholder wanted the land for cultivating the same personally for which
due provision was made in the Act, transferred by way of compulsory purchase
all the other lands to tenants in possession of the same with effect from April
1, 1957, which was called the " tillers day ". Provision 'Was also
made for disposal of balance of lands after purchase by tenants and the basic
idea underlying the provisions of the impugned Act was to prevent the
concentration of agricultural lands in the hands of landholders to the common
detriment. The tiller or the cultivator was brought into direct contact with
the State eliminating thereby the landholders who were in the position of
intermediaries. The enactment thus affected the relation between landlord and
tenant, provided for the transfer and-alienation of agricultural lands, aimed
at land improvement and was broadly stated a legislation in regard to the
rights in or over land:-categories specifically referred to in Entry 18 in List
11 of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, which specifies the head of
legislation as " land, that is to say, rights in or over land, land
tenures including the relation of landlord and tenant, and the collection of
496 rents; transfer and alienation of agricultural land; land improvement and
agricultural loans; colonization ".
It is well settled that these heads of
legislation should not be construed in a narrow and pedantic sense but should
be given a large and liberal interpretation. As was observed by the Judicial
Committee of the Privy Council in British Coal Corporation v. The King (1):"Indeed,
in interpreting a constituent or organic statute such as the Act, that
construction most beneficial to the widest possible amplitude of its powers
must be adopted." The Federal Court also in the United Provinces V. Atiqa
Begum (2) pointed out that none of the items in the Lists is to be read in a
narrow or restricted sense and that each general word should be held to extend
to all ancillary or subsidiary matters which can fairly and reasonably be said
to be comprehended in it. This Court in Navinchandra Mafatlal v. The
Commissioner of Income-tax, Bombay City (3) also expressed the same opinion and
stated:"The cardinal rule of interpretation, however, is that words should
be read in their ordinary, natural and grammatical meaning subject to this
rider, that in construing words in a constitutional enactment conferring
legislative power the most liberal construction should be put upon words so
that the same may have effect in their widest amplitude." (See also Thakur
Amar Singhji v. State of Rajasthan(4)).
Having regard to the principle of
construction enunciated above, it is clear that the impugned Act is covered by
Entry 18 in List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution and is a
legislation with reference to "land " and this plea of legislative
incompetence of the State Legislature to enact the impugned Act therefore fails.
If, then, the State Legislature was competent
to enact the impugned Act, is the Act ultra vires the Constitution as
infringing any of the fundamental (1)  A.C. 500,518.
(3)  1 S.C.R. 829, 836, 837.
(2)  F.C.R. 110, 134.
(4) 2S.C.R 303,329.
497 rights conferred upon the petitioners ?
In the course Of the arguments before us learned counsel for the petitioners
confined their attack only to the constitutionality of ss.
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 17A, 31A to 31D and 3 to 32R
of the impugned Act as violative of the fundamental right guaranteed under Art.
19(1)(g) of the Constitution. The first question to consider in this context
however is whether the impugned Act is protected by Art. 31-A of the
Constitution because if it in so protected, no challenge on the score of the
provisions thereof violating Arts. 14,19 and 31 of the Constitution would be
available to the petitioners.
The relevant portions of Art. 31-A which fall
to be considered here read as follows:"(1) Notwithstanding anything contained
in Art. 13, no law providing for:(a) the acquisition by the State of any estate
or of any rights therein or the extinguishment or modification of any such
rights.................. shall be deemed to be void on the ground that it is
inconsistent with, or takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by
article 14, article 19 or article 31.
Provided that where such law is a law made by
the Legislature of a State, the provisions of this article shall not apply
thereto unless such law, having been reserved for the consideration of the
President, has received his assent...............
(2) In this article,(a)the expression "
estate " shall, in relation to any local area, have the same meaning as
that expression or its local equivalent has in the existing law relating to
land tenures in force in that area, and shall also include any jagir, inam, or
muafi or other similar grant and in the States of Madras and Travancore Cochin
any janmam rights.
(b) the expression " rights " in
relation to an estate, shall include any rights vesting in a proprietor, sub proprietor,
under-proprietor, tenure-holder, raiyat, 63 inder raiyat or other intermediary
and any rights or Privileges in respect of land revenue." The question
which we have to address ourselves intially is whether the lands held by the
petitioners,who are admittedly landholders within the 8 Act, are of the term
contained in s. 2.(9) of the 194 "estates " within the meaning of
Art. 31 A of the constitution.
Before we launch upon that enquiry it would
perhaps be of help to note how the various land tenures originated.
Baden-Powell in his Land-Systems of British
India (1892 Ed.), Vol. 1, dealing with the general view of land tenures traced
the origin and growth at @p. 97 of different tenures in the manner following at
pp. 97-99 (Chapter IV):" 4. Effects of Land-Revenue Administration and
Revenuefarming. Then again the greater Oriental governments which -preceded
ours, have always, in one -form or another, derived the bulk of their
State-revenues and Royal property from the land. In one system known to us,
"Royal lands " were allotted in the principal villages, and this fact
may have suggested to the Mughals their plan of allotting spcial farms and
villages to furnish the privy Purse, and has had other survivals. But, speaking
generally, the universal plan of taking revenue was by taking a share of the
actual grain heap on the the threshing-floor from each payment levied on each
estate or each field as the case might be............... To collect this revenue,
the ruler appointed or recognized not only a headman and accountant in each
village, but also a hierarchy of graded officials in districts and minor
divisions of territory formed for administrative purposes. These officers were
often remunerated by holdings of land, and a class of land -tenures will be
found in some parts of India owning its origin to these hereditary official
holding s. Not only so, but during the decline which Oriental governments have
usually undergone, the Revenue official have been commonly found to merge in,
or be superseded, by revenue-farmers persons who 499 contracted for a certain
sum of revenue to be paid int, the Treasury from a given area, I as
representing the State dues exigible from the land-holdings within that area.
Such revenue-farmers, or officials, whatever their origin, have always tended
to absorb the interest of the land-holders and to become in time the virtual
landlords over them.
Nor is it only that landlord tenures arise in
this way. No sooner does the superior right take shape than we find many
curious new tenures created by the landlord or arising out of his attempts to
conciliate or provide for certain eminent claims in the grade below him.
S. 5. Effects of Assignment or Remission of
Yet another class of tenures arises in
connection with the State Revenue-administration; and that is when the ruler
either excuses an existing land-holder from paying his revenue, either wholly
or in part; or " alienates " or assigns the revenue of a certain estate
or tract of country in favour of some chief, or other person of importance, or
to provide funds for some special objects, or to serve as a recompense for
services to be rendered.
At first such grants are carefully regulated,
are for life only, and strictly kept to their purpose, and to the amount fixed.
But as matters go on, and the ruler is a bad or unscrupulous one, his treasury
is empty, and he makes such grants to avoid the difficulty of finding a cash
salary. The grants become permanent and hereditary; they are also issued by
officials who have no right to make them; and not only do they then result in
landlord tenures and other curious rights, but are a burden to after times, and
have furnished a most troublesome legacy to our own Government when it found
the revenues eaten up by grantees whose titles were invalid, and whose
pretensions, though grown old in times of disorder, were inadmissible.
Such grants may have begun with no title to
the land but only a right to the revenue, but want of 500 supervision and
control has resulted in the grantee seizing the landed right also.
Here we find the distinction between the
State owned lands which are unalienated where the tenures arise out of the
exigencies of revenue collection and alienated lands the revenue whereof is
remitted either wholly or in part or in other words " alienated " or
assigned to grantees for various purposes.
Various land tenures thus developed and
series of proprietorships came into existence. The main tenures which the
British found when they came into power comprised: (1) the Khas or tenure by
Government; (2)the Raiyatwari tenure;
(3) the Zamindari or landlord tenure and (4)
the Taluqdari or double tenure.
It is interesting to note in this connection
that in the table compiled by Baden-Powell in Vol.III of his Book at p.
142 giving some idea of the distribution of
the different classes of landed estates in Madras the different classes of
landed estates described therein included not only Zamindaris but also "
estates " hold by Raiyats paying diverse sums as and by way of land
So far as the area within the State of Bombay
was concerned the position is thus summed up in Dandekar's Law of Land Tenures,
Vol. 1 at p. 12:Section III. Classification of land according to the interest
of the holder:
"Land is either Government land or not
Government land; that is, it is either unalienated or alienated. The expression
for unalienated land is khalsa or ryatawari in some parts as opposed to dumala
or inam lands, that is, alienated lands In Gujrat Government lands are called
" sarkari " as opposed to "baharkhali"lands meaning
alienated lands-lands the produce.of which had not to be brought to the common
threshing ground. In some parts of Gujrat there are," talpad "
(Government) lands as opposed to " Wanta " lands.
In old Regulations two kinds of land have
been referred to, namely, malguzarry land and lakhiraj land. The former meant
land paying 501 assessment to Government, whereas the latter meant land free
from payment of assessment. Khalsa land in the permanent occupation of holders
was denominated, before the surveysettlements, in the different parts of 'the
Presidency by the expressions mirasi, dhara, suti and muli. I Government arable
land not in the permanent occupation of an occupant was and is described by the
name sheri. In alienated villages, lands corresponding to Government
"sheri " lands are denominated by the expressions, "sheri "
".Khas Kamath " and " Ghar Khedu ". Lands in leasehold or
farmed villages are called khoti lands. Lands which are given under leases and
the assessment of which is regulated by the terms thereof are called kauli
lands." It will be observed that Mirasi, Dhara, Suti and Muli were all
tenures in regard to unalienated lands, the tenureholders being permanent
holders of land having hereditary interests in their holdings. , The Khoti
tenures in the Konkan and the Bhagdari and Narvadari tenures in some parts of
Gujrat were also tenures in regard to unalienated lands, there venue being
assessed on those lands on entire villages and not on specific pieces of land
either in lump or on the basis of a fixed Bighoti assessment on each field and
the tenure-holders being responsible for the payment of the, sum in certain
specified modes. The general prevailing tenure, however, was the Raiyatwari
tenure where the Raiyat or the tenant had the right of an occupant in his
holding. The right of an occupant was a heritable right and on the death of a
registered occupant the name of his heir was entered in his place. All these
were land tenures in respect of unalienated lands and the Bombay Survey and
Settlement Act (Bom. 1 of 1865) passed in 1865. applied, generally to the same.
There were of course certain Acts which dealt with specific tenures mentioned
above, e.g., Bhagdari and Narvadari Tenures Act (Bom. V of 1862), and Khoti
Settlement Act (Bom. 1 of 1880); but by and large they were tenures in regard
to unalienated lands and were governed by the Bombay Survey and Settlement Act,
1865. In 1879 the State Legislature 502 enacted, the Bombay Land Revenue Code
(Bom. V of 1879) with a view to consolidate and amend the law relating to
Revenue Officers, to the assessment and recovery of land revenue and to other
matters connected with land revenue administration.
This Act extended to the whole of the State
of Bombay excluding the City of Bombay and certain other areas therein
mentioned. We shall have occasion to refer to certain provisions of this Act
Turning now to alienated lands in which
category were comprised lands not belonging to government and lands not paying
revenue to government which were exceptions to the principles of State
proprietorship and of liability of landholders to pay land revenue to
government we find that the alienations were classified as: (1) political
tenures such as Jagirs and Saranjams; (2) Service Inams ; (3) Personal Inams
and (4) Religious endowments. The principal alienations were Inams, Jagirs or
Saranjams and Watans.
Each of them was considered as a tenure, had
got its own history, its own features and peculiarities. Summary settlements
were effected by the government with these tenure-holders and their rights as
such recognized. There were Taluqdari tenures or estates in Gujrat which also
came under this category and it may be noted that several pieces of legislation
were passed by the State Legislature in regard to those several tenures of
alienated lands, e. g., Titles to Rent-Free Estates Act (Bom. XI of 1852);
Ahmedabad Taluqdar's Act (Bom. VI of 1862);
Bombay Hereditary Offices Act (Bom. III of 1874); Broach and Kaira Encumbered
Estates Act (Bom. XIV of 1877); Broach and Kaira Encumbered Estates Act (Bom.
XXI of 1881); Matadars Act (Bom. VI of 1887) and Gujrat Taluqdars Act (Bom. VI
of 1888). Our attention was also drawn in this connection to the various Acts
passed by the State Legislature (between 1949 and 1955) abolishing the several
land tenures in Bombay where the government was not in direct contact with the
tiller of the soil but there was an interposition of intermediaries between
them, the intermediaries having leased out parts of 503 the lands to the
tenants who actually cultivated the soil and it was urged that the interests of
these intermediaries were estates properly so called.
It is to be noticed, however, that the
several land tenures which were thus abolished were not only tenures in respect
of alienated lands but also comprise unalienated lands, e.g., the Bombay
Bhagdari and Narvadari Tenures Abolition Act, 1949 (Bom. XXXII of 1949); The
Bombay Khoti Abolition Act, 1949 (Bom. VI of 1950) and the Bombay Merged
Territories (Janjira and Bhor) Khoti Tenure Abolition Act, 1953 (Bom. LXXI of
1953). There was no distinction made thus between land tenures in regard to
alienated lands and those in regard to unalienated lands. It may also be noted
that all these Acts followed a common pattern, viz., the abolition of these
land tenures, award of compensation to the tenure holders whose tenures were
thus abolished and the establishment of direct relations between the government
on the one hand and the tenure-holders cultivating the lands personally and the
tenants cultivating the soil on the other. All these persons, thus cultivating
the soil were given the status of occupants and direct relationship was thus established
between the government and them. These Acts so far as our present purpose is
concerned are only mentioned to show the different types of land tenures which
existed in the State of Bombay prior to their abolition as aforesaid.
These were the various land tenures known in
the State of Bombay and we may at this stage appropriately refer to the
statistics (1886-87) of these tenures given by Baden-Powell in Vol.III of his
said Book at p. 251 504 ----------------------------------------------------------Tenure
-Number of -Number of -Area in -Remarks.
estates or Village. acres holding
holders: 1284,238 30,118 1/2 475,016 I have added Raiyatwari (occupied together
Village. land only) these paying at full rates and
-----------------------------------------the much smaller number paying at
privileged rates the latter are 213,405 and how far these represent bhagdar
etc.,etc.,I have no means of travelling.
Overlord 530 1/2 530 1/2 1,419,397 tuners
(gross area) Taluqdari 41 41 79334 Mewasi Udhad 123 123 194,830 Jambandi Kot
17,32 1/2 17,32 1/2 2160,517 Issafat 7 7 3608 Revenue-free 2165 3/4 2165 3/4
4483,343 These refer to i.e.inam & whole villages Jagir or estates not to revenue
privileges on individual fields,etc., which are includeded in village land
505 It is to be noted that the holdings of
the landholders in Ryatwari villages apart from others were also styled therein
as estates or holdings.
It was vehemently urged before us by learned
counsel for the petitioners that the expression " estate " aptly
applied only to lands held by the various tenure holders of alienated lands
above referred to, and that it could not apply to the holdings of occupants who
had merely a right of occupancy in specific pieces of unalienated lands. The
word " estate " had been defined in the Bombay Land Revenue Code,
1879, in s. 2(5) to mean : " any interest in lands and the aggregate of
such interests vested in a person or aggregate of persons capable of holding
the same," and would prima facie cover not only an interest in alienated
lands but also in unalienated lands. It was however urged that the expression
" estate " should be construed in a narrower sense having regard to
the legislative history and particularly to the fact that the lands held by the
tenure holders of alienated lands only had prior to 1879 been recognized as
estates and the holding of an occupant was not treated as such. The distinction
thus sought to be made between holders of unalienated lands and holders of
alienated lands. is not of much consequence because even in regard to
unalienated lands besides the occupants there were tenure holders called
Bhagdars and Narwadars and Khotes who had interests in lands held by them under
those several tenures which lands were unalienated lands. The interests which
these tenure holders enjoyed in the lands held by them were " estates
" and it could not therefore be predicated of the expression
"estate" that it could only be used in connection with alienated
lands. If this distinction was therefore of no avail, we have only got to
consider if there is any reason why a narrow interpretation should be put upon
the expression "estate" as suggested by the petitioners.
Reliance was placed by the learned counsel
for the petitioners on a decision of this Court in Hariprasad Shivshankar
Shukla v. A. D. Divikar (1) where the word retrenchment " as defined in s.
2(00) and the word (1)  S.C.R. 121, 132.
64 506 retrenchment " in s. 25F of the Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947, as amended by Act XLIII of 1953 were held to have no wider
meaning than the ordinary accepted connotation of those words and were held to
mean the discharge of surplus labour or staff by the employer for any reason
whatsoever, otherwise than as a punishments inflicted by way of disciplinary
action, and did not include termination of services of all workmen on a bona
fide closure of industry or on change of ownership or management thereof. Even
though the word " retrenchment" was defined as meaning the
termination of services by an employer of the workmen for any reason whatsoever,
otherwise than as a punishment inflicted by way of disciplinary action, which
words were capable of including within their scope the termination of services
of all workmen on a bona fide closure of industry or on change of ownership or
management thereof, the word " retrenchment " was construed in a
narrow sense because the word " retrenchment " connoted in its
ordinary acceptance that the business itself was being conducted and a portion
of the staff or labour force was discharged as surplusage.
This Court observed in the course of the
judgment at page 132:" In the absence of any compelling words to indicate
that the intention was even to include a bona fide closure of the whole
business, it would, we think, be divorcing the expression altogether from its
context to give it such a wide meaning as is contended for by learned counsel
for the respondent. What is being defined is retrenchment, and that is the
context of the definition. It is true that an artificial definition may include
a meaning different from or in excess of the ordinary acceptation of the word
which is the subject of definition; but there must then be compelling words to
show that such a meaning different from or in excess of the ordinary meaning is
intended. Where, within the framework of the ordinary acceptation of the word,
every single requirement of the definition clause is fulfilled, it would be
wrong to take the definition as destroying the essential meaning of the word
defined." 507 Reliance was also placed on a decision of the Court of
Appeal in England in Re The Vexatious Actions Act, 1896, In re Bernard Boaler
(1) where the words " legal proceedings " were held not to include
criminal proceedings, in spite of the words being prima facie capable of
including the same.
Kennedy, C. J., expressed his view at page 32
that it was impossible to say that the meaning of the expression " legal
proceedings " was in itself and by itself clear and unambiguous and
followed the dictum of Lord Esher in Rex v. City of London Court(2):" If
the words of an Act admit of two interpretations then they are not clear ; and
if one interpretation leads to an absurdity and the other does not, the Court
will conclude that the Legislature did not intend to lead to an absurdity, and
will adopt the other interpretation. " Scrutton, J., also expressed the
same opinion at p. 41 :" I find general words used in the Act capable of
two meanings, a wider and a narrower one. On the whole I think the language is
more suited to the narrower than the wider meaning. The narrower meaning will
affect the liberties of the subject to some extent; the wider meaning will most
seriously affect the liberties of the subject in a matter, his personal liberty
and safety, which I see no reason in the Act to believe was in the contemplation
of the Legislature. I decline to make this more serious interference with the
liberty of the subject, unless the Legislature uses language clear enough to
convince me that that was its intention, and I think ample meaning is provided
for its words, and ample remedy is provided for the grievance in respect of
which Parliament was legislating by putting the narrower construction on the
general words it has used. " Are there any circumstances in the present
case which would compel us to put a narrower construction on the expression
" estate " in s. 2(5) of the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879 ? It is
true that the expression " estate " was used prior to 1879 in
connection (1)  1 K.B. 21.
(2)  1 Q.B. 273, 290.
508 with the interests which the various
tenure holders of alienated lands held in their respective lands but it does
not therefore follow that that expression could be used only in connection with
those interests and no others. The Watandars, Saranjamdars, Inamdars and
Taluqdars and the like were no doubt holders of " estates " but does
that fact militate against the occupants also holding " estates " in
the lands which were the subject-matter of their tenures.
The words of the definition contained in s.
2(5) of the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879, were clear and unambiguous.
They meant any interest in lands and the
expression " lands " was capable of comprising within its ambit
alienated and unalienated lands.
As a matter of fact, the definition of "
Superior holder " in s. 2(13) and the definition of " alienated
" in s. 2(20) of the Code, provisions of s. 111 in regard to revenue
management of villages or estates not belonging to the Government, of s. 113
with regard to the partition of estates and of s. 36 prescribing liability for
revenue amongst others refer not only to alienated lands but also to
unalienated lands and the expression " estates " used therein can
have reference not only to alienated lands but also to unalienated lands. If
the definition of the expression " estate " in the context of the
Code is thus clear and unambiguous as comprising both the types -of lands,
there is no reason why a narrower construction as suggested by the petitioners
should be put upon the expression " estate ". (See the observations
of Kennedy, L. J., in Vexatious Actions Act, 1896, In re. Boaler (1) at p. 31
and the observations of this Court in Baia Sri Sailendra Narayan Bhanja Deo v.
The State of Orissa (2). Even if there was any ambiguity in the expression, the
wider significance should be adopted in the context of the objectives of the
Act as stated above.
We are, therefore, of opinion that the
expression estate " had the meaning of any interest in land and it was not
confined merely to the holdings of landholders of alienated lands. The expression
applied not only to such " estate " holders but also to land holders
and occupants of unalienated lands.
(1)  1 K. B. 21.
(2)  S.C.R. 72.
509 It was however contended on behalf of the
petitioners that the Bombay Land Revenue Code was not a law relating to land
tenures in force in the State of Bombay and therefore the definition of the
expression " estate " contained therein would not avail the
respondent. It was urged that the Code was passed by the State Legislature in
order to consolidate and amend the law relating to Revenue Officers, and to the
assessment and recovery of Land Revenue, and to other matters connected with
the Land Revenue Administration in the Presidency of Bombay and was merely
concerned with the collection of land revenue by the State and had nothing to
do with land tenures as such. This argument, however, ignores the various
provisions of the Code which define the status as also the rights and
obligations of the occupant who has been defined in s. 2(16) of the Code to
mean the holder in actual possession of unalienated lands other than a tenant
provided that where the holder in actual possession is a tenant, the landholder
or superior landlord, as the case may be, shall be deemed to be the occupant.
Chapter VI deals with the Grant, Use and Relinquishment of unalienated lands
and s. 65 thereof prescribes the uses to which an occupant of land for purposes
of agriculture may put his land. Under s. 68 an occupant-is entitled to the use
and occupation of his land for the period therein prescribed on fulfilling the
conditions therein mentioned and under s. 73 occupancy is stated to be
transferable and heritable.
Section 73 as it was enacted in 1879 read as
follows: " The right of occupancy shall subject to the provisions
contained in section 56, and to any conditions lawfully annexed to the
occupancy and save as otherwise prescribed by law, be deemed an heritable and
transferable property." Certain amendments have been made in this section
by various Bombay Land Revenue Amendment Acts, (Bom. VI of 1901 and Bom. IV of
1913) and the section as it stands at present reads:" An occupancy shall,
subject to the provisions contained in section 56, and to any conditions
lawfully annexed to the tenure, and save as otherwise prescribed by law, be
deemed an heritable and transferable 510 property." This goes to show that
an occupant holds the land under a tenure and occupancy is a species of land
The provisions contained in s. 73(A) relating
to the power of the State Government to restrict the right of transfer and the
provisions in regard to relinquishments contained in ss. 74, 75 and 76 also
point to the same conclusion. These and similar provisions go to show that
occupancy is one of the varieties of land tenures and the Bombay Land Revenue
Code, 1879, comes within the description of " existing laws relating to
land tenures in force" in the State of Bombay within the meaning of Art.
31A (2)(a). Baden Powell has similar observations to make in regard to these
provisions in his Land Systems in British India, Vol. 1 at p. 321:"Nothing
whatever is said in the Revenue Code about the person in possession (on his own
account) being " owner " in the Western sense. He is simply called
the " occupant ", and the Code says what he can do and what he
cannot. The occupant may do anything he pleases to improve the land, but may
not without permission do anything which diverts the holding from agricultural
purposes. He has no right to mines or minerals.
These are the facts of the tenure; you may
theorize on them as you please; you may say this amounts to proprietorship, or
this is a dominium minus plenum; or anything else." There is no doubt
therefore that the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879, was an existing law relating
to land tenures in force in Bombay at the time when the Constitution (Fourth
Amendment) Act, 1955, was passed and Art. 31A in its amended form was
introduced therein and the expression "estate " had a meaning given
to it under s. 2(10) there, viz., " any interest in land " which
comprised within its scope alienated as well as unalienated lands and covered
the holdings of occupants within the meaning thereof.
The 1948 Act was passed by the State
Legislature in order to amend the law which governed the relations between
landlords and tenants of agricultural lands the object sought to be achieved
being as hereinbefore 511 set out. Section 2 of the Act defined the expressions
" to cultivate personally " (s. 2(6)); ,landholder " (s. 2(9));
" protected tenant " (s. 2(14) ) amongst other expressions and
provided in s. 2(21) that words and expressions used in this Act but not
defined shall have the meaning assigned to them in the Bombay Land Revenue
Code, 1879, and the Transfer of Property Act, 1882, as the case may be. This
brought in the definition of the expression " estate " which had the
meaning assigned to it in that Code, viz., any interest in land ". The
expression " landholder in s. 2(9) above was defined to mean " a
zamindar, jagirdar, saranjamdar, inamdar, talukdar, malik or a khot or any
person not hereinbefore specified who is a holder of land or who is interested
in land, and whom the State Government has declared on account of the extent
and value of the land or his interests therein to be a landholder for the
purposes of this Act." The latter part of this definition is significant
and shows that not only holders of alienated lands but also holders of
unalienated lands were comprised therein provided, however, the extent and
value of the land or their interests therein were such as to deserve a
declaration in that behalf at the hands of the State Government. The only point
to note here is that no distinction was made even in this Act between alienated
lands and unalienated lands and all interests in land howsoever acquired were
treated on a par so far as the holdings were concerned, necessarily implying
that even an occupant would come within the description of landholder and his
interests therein would come within the definition of " estate " as
defined in the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879.
Chapter III made provisions for protected
tenants, their special rights and privileges and whoever came within the
category of protected tenant was given the right to purchase from the landlord
the land held by him as such protected tenant notwithstanding any. thing
contrary in law, usage or contract subject to the provisions of sub-s. 6 which
imposed restrictions on the holdings of landlords as well as tenants. These
provisions were analogous to the provisions contained in ss. 32 to 32 R of the
impugned Act except that in the 512 1948 Act the protected tenant had the
option to purchase the land whereas under the impugned Act there was a
provision for compulsory purchase of the land by the tenant on a specified date
subject to certain conditions therein mentioned. Section 34 of the 1948 Act
gave the landlord the right to determine protected tenancy under certain
conditions and was analogous to s. 31 of the impugned Act which empowered the
landlord to terminate the tenancy for personal cultivation and non-agricultural
purposes. 50 acres of land were prescribed as the limit of the holding either
by the landlord or the protected tenant which provision was analogous to the
one found in the impugned Act in regard to ceiling area and economic holdings.
Power was given to the State Government under s. 36 to reduce the limit of 50
acres by a notification in the official gazette and power was also given
similarly to direct that the limits of fifty acres or the reduced limit
specified in such notification shall comprise such kind or kinds of lands in
the area as may be specified in the notification. This power was analogous
again to the power given to the State Government under s. 7 of the impugned Act
to vary the ceiling area or economic holding originally prescribed in ss. 5 and
6 of the Act.
These instances culled out from some of the
provisions of the 1948 Act go to show that the agrarian reform which was
initiated by that Act was designed to achieve the very same purpose of
distribution of the ownership and control of agricultural lands so as to
subserve the common good and eliminate the concentration of wealth to the
common detriment which purpose became more prominent when the Constitution was
ushered in on January 26, 1950, and the directive principles of State Policy
were enacted inter alia in Arts. 38 and 39 of the Constitution. With the advent
of the Constitution these provisions contained in the 1948 Act required to be
tested on the touch-tone of the fundamental rights enshrined in Part III
thereof and when the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, was passed
introducing Arts. 31A and 31B in the Constitution, care was taken to specify
the 1948 Act in the Ninth Schedule so as to make it immune from 513 attack on
the score of any provision thereof being violative of the fundamental rights
enacted in Part III of the Constitution. The 1948 Act was the second item in
that schedule and was expressly saved from any attack against the
constitutionality thereof by the express terms of Art. 31B.
The impugned Act which was passed by the
State Legislature in 1956 was a further measure of agrarian reform carrying
forward the intentions which had their roots in the 1948 Act. Having regard to
the comparision of the various provisions of the 1948 Act and the impugned Act
referred to above it could be legitimately urged that if the cognate provisions
of the 1948 Act were immune from attack in regard to their constitutionality,
on a parity of reasoning similar provisions contained in the impugned Act,
though they made further strides in the achievement of the objective of a
socialistic pattern of society would be similarly saved.
That position, however, could not obtain
because whatever amendments were made by the impugned Act in the 1948 Act were
future laws within the meaning of Art. 13(2) of the Constitution and required
to be tested on the self-same touchstone. They would not be in terms saved by
Art. 31B and would have to be scrutinized on their own merits before the courts
came to the conclusion that they were enacted within the constitutional
limitations. The very terms of Art. 31B envisaged that any competent legislature
would have the power to repeal or amend the Acts and the Regulations specified
in the 9th Schedule thereof and if any such amendment was ever made the vires
of that would have to be tested. (Vide Abdul Rahiman Jamaluddin Hurjuk v.
Vithal Arjun Undare That brings us back to the provisions of Art. 31A and to a
consideration as to whether the impugned Act was a legislation for the
acquisition by the State of any estate or of any rights therein or the
extinguishment or modification of any such rights within, the meaning of subarticle
(1)(a) thereof We have already held that the Bombay Land Revenue Code,, 1879,
was (11)(1957)59:Bom L.R.579.
65 514 an existing law relating to land
tenures in force in the State of Bombay and that the interests of occupants
amongst others fell within the expression " estate " contained
therein. That, however, was not enough for the petitioners and it was further
contended on their behalf that even though the impugned Act may be a law in
regard to an " estate " within the meaning of the definition
contained in Art. 31A(2)(a) it was not law providing for the acquisition by the
State of any estate or any rights therein or for the extinguishment or
modification of any such rights. The impugned Act was certainly not a law for the
acquisition by the State of any estate or of any rights therein because even
the provisions with regard to the compulsory purchase by tenants of the land on
the specified date transferred the title in those lands to the respective
tenants and not to the State. There was no compulsory acquisition of any "
estate " or any rights therein by the State itself and this provision
could not help the respondent. The respondent, however, urged that the
provisions contained in the impugned Act were enacted for the extinguishment or
modification of rights in " estates " and were, therefore, saved by
31A(1)(a). It was on the other hand urged by
the petitioners (1) that the extinguishment or modification of any such, rights
should only be in the process of the acquisition by the ,State of any estate or
of any rights therein and (2) that the provisions in the impugned Act amounted
to a suspension of those rights but not to an extinguishment or modification
thereof We shall now proceed to examine these contentions of the petitioners.
Art. 31A(1)(a) talks of two distinct objects
one being the acquisition by the State of any
estate or of any rights therein and the other being the extinguishment or
modification of any such., rights,. If the = acquires an estate or any rights
therein that acquisition would have to be a compulsory acquisition within the
meaning of Art.
31(2)(A) which was also introduced in the
Constitution by the Constitution (Fourth Amendment) Act, 1955, simultaneously
with Art. 31A(1) thereof. There was no provision made for the transfer of the
ownership of any property to the 515 State or a Corporation owned or controlled
by 'the State with the result that even though these provisions deprived the
landholders of their property they did not amount to a compulsory acquisition
of the property by the State. If this part of Art. 31A(1)(a) is thus eliminated
what we are left with is whether these provisions of the impugned Act provided
for an extinguishment or modification of any rights in " estates ".
That is a distinct concept altogether and could not be in the process of
acquisition by the State of any " estate " or of any rights therein.
Acceptance of the interpretation which is sought to be put upon these words by
the petitioners would involve the addition of words " in the process of
the acquisition by the State of any estate or of any rights therein " or
" in the process of such acquisition " which according to the well
known canons of construction cannot be done. If the language of the enactment
is clear and unambiguous it would not be legitimate for the Courts to add any
words thereto and evolve there from some sense which may be said to carry out
the supposed intentions of the legislature. The intention of the Legislature is
to be gathered only from the words used by it and no such liberties can be
taken by the Courts for effectuating a supposed intention of the Legislature.
There is no warrant at all, in our opinion,' for adding these words to the
plain terms of Art. 31A (1)(a) and the words extinguishment or modification of
any such rights must be understood in their plain grammatical sense without any
limitation of the type suggested by the petitioners.
It, therefore, remains to consider whether
the relevant provisions of the impugned Act were designed to bring about an
extinguishment or modification of the landlord's rights in their " estates
". These provisions are contained in ss.
32 to 32R of the impugned Act and are under
the heading " Purchase of lands by Tenants ". Section 32 provides
that " on the first day of April, 1957 (hereinafter referred to as "
the tillers day ") every tenant shall, subject to the provisions of the
next succeeding sections, be deemed to have purchased from his landlord, free
of all incumbrances 516 subsisting thereon on the said day, the land held by
him as tenant........................ provided certain conditions are
fulfilled. Under s. 32A the tenant shall be deemed to have purchased the lands
up to the ceiling area and the tenant shall not be deemed to have purchased
lands held by him as such tenant if he holds lands partly as owner and partly
as tenant but the area of the land held as owner is equal to or exceeds the
ceiling area (s. 32B). Section 32C empowers the tenant to chose the land to be
purchased if he holds lands separately from more than one landlord and in spite
of anything contained in the Bombay Prevention of Fragmentation and
Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1947 (Bom. LXII of 1947) the tenant shall be
deemed to have purchased even such fragments of the land held on tenancy (s.
The balance of any land after the purchase by
the tenant as above is to be disposed of as if it were land surrendered by the
tenant (s. 32E); and the right of the tenant to purchase such land where the
landlord is a minor, or a widow, or a person subject to any mental or physical
disability or a serving member of the armed forces is postponed till one year
after the cessation of disability. The price to be paid by the tenant is to be
determined by the Tribunal as soon as may be after the tiller's day and the
Tribunal is in the first instance to record in the prescribed manner the
statement of the tenant whether lie is willing or is not willing to purchase
the land held by him as a tenant and if the tenant fails to appear or makes a
statement that he is not willing to purchase the land, the Tribunal is to
declare by an order in writing that such tenant is not willing to purchase the
land and that the purchase is ineffective (S. 32G). These provisions also apply
to a sub-tenant of a permanent tenant who is deemed to have purchased the land
subject to the conditions specified in ss. 32 to 32E (S. 321). Section 32J
provides for an appeal to the State Government against the decision of
Tribunal. Section 32K prescribes the mode of payment of price by the tenant;
and the purchase price is recoverable as arrears of land revenue (S. 32L).
Under s. 32M on the deposit of the price in lump sum or of 517 the last installment
of such price, the Tribunal is to issue a certificate of purchase to the tenant
in respect of the land, which certificate of purchase shall be Conclusive
evidence of purchase. If a tenant fails to pay the lump sum within the period
prescribed or is at any time in arrears of four installments the purchase is to
be ineffective and the land is to be at the disposal of the Collector and any
amount deposited by such tenant towards the price of the land is to be refunded
to him. Section 32N gives the landlord a right to recover rent when purchase
becomes ineffective, as if the land had not been purchased at all.
Section 32P gives the power to the Collector
to resume and dispose of land not purchased by tenants. The amount of purchase
price is to be applied towards satisfaction of debts (s. 320) ; and the,
purchaser is to be evicted from the land purchased by him as aforesaid if he
fails to cultivate the land personally (s. 32R).
It is argued on the strength of these
provisions that there is no effective purchase or effective sale of the land
between the landlord and the tenant on the tiller's day or the alternative
period prescribed in that behalf until certain conditions are fulfilled. To
start with it is only an inchoate right which is given to the tenant to
purchase the land which he can perfect on a statement being made by him before
the Tribunal that he is willing to purchase the land. Even if he does so, the
land does not vest in him because only on the payment of the purchase price
either in lump or by installments can he get the certificate of purchase from the
Tribunal. If he commits default in payment, the purchase is ineffective and he
gets no title to the land. These provisions, it is submitted, do not vest the
title to the land in the tenant at all until all these conditions are fulfilled
and if any one or more of them is not fulfilled the purchase becomes
ineffective-in fact it is no purchase at all-with the result that the title to
the land which is already vested in the landlord is not at, all transferred to
the purchaser. If that is so, there is no compulsory sale or compulsory
purchase of the land in question on the tiller's day or the alternative period
of time prescribed therefor and 518 there is no extinguishment of the rights of
His rights in the land are merely suspended
and such suspension is certainly not an extinguishment of his rights therein
nor a modification thereof within the meaning of the expression used in Art.
31A (1)(a). Reliance is placed in support of this proposition on the
observations of this Court in Thakur Raghubir Singh v. Court of Wards, Ajmer
In that case, this Court considered the
provisions of s. 112 of the Ajmer Tenancy and Land Records Act (XLII of 1950)
which provided that if a landlord habitually infringes the rights of a tenant
under the Act he would be deemed to be a landlord who is disqualified to manage
his own property and his property would be liable to be taken under the
superintendence of the Court of Wards. Mahajan, J., (as he then was) observed
at p. 1055:" Section 112 of the Act XLII of 1950, intended to regulate the
rights. of landlords and tenants, is obviously not a law providing for "
the acquisition by the State " of the estates of the landlords, or of any
rights in those estates.
It is also not a law providing for the
extinguishment or modification of any such rights. The learned Attorney General
laid emphasis on the word " modification" used in Article 31 A. That
word in the context of the article only means a modification of the proprietary
right of a citizen like an extinguishment of that right and cannot include
within its ambit a mere suspension of the right of management of estate for a
time, definite or indefinite." These observations were confined to
suspension of the right of management of the estate and not to a suspension of
the title to the estate. Apart from the question whether the suspension of the
title to the estate for a time, definite or indefinite would amount to a
modification of a right in the estate within the meaning of Art. 31A (1)(a),
the position as it obtains in this case is that there is no suspension of the
title of the landlord at all. The title of the landlord to-the land passes
immediately to the tenant on the tiller's (1)  S.C.R. 1049.
519 day and there is a completed purchase or
sale thereof as between the landlord and the tenant. The tenant is no doubt
given a locus penitential and an option of declaring whether he is or is not
willing to purchase the land held by him as a tenant. If he fails to appear or
makes a statement that he is not willing to purchase the land, the Tribunal
shall by an order in writing declare that such tenant is not willing to
purchase the land and that the purchase is ineffective. It is only by such a
declaration by the Tribunal that the purchase becomes ineffective. If no such
declaration is made by the Tribunal the purchase would stand as statutorily
effected on the tiller's day and will continue to be operative, the only
obligation on the tenant then being the payment of price in the mode determined
by the Tribunal. If the tenant commits default in the payment of such price
either in lump or by installments as determined by the Tribunal, s. 32M
declares the purchase to be ineffective but in that event the land shall then
be at the disposal of the Collector to be disposed of by him in the manner
provided therein. Here also the purchase continues to be effective as from the
tiller's day until such default is committed and there is no question of a
conditional purchase or sale taking place between the landlord and tenant. The
title to the land which was vested originally in the landlord passes to the
tenant on the tiller's day or the alternative period prescribed in that behalf.
This title is defeasable only in the event of the tenant failing to appear or
making a statement that he is not willing to purchase the land or committing
default in payment of the price thereof as determined by the Tribunal. The
tenant gets a vested interest in the land defeasable only in either of those
cases and it cannot therefore be said that the title of landlord to the land is
suspended for any period definite or indefinite. If that is so, there is an
extinguishment or in any event a modification of the landlord's right in the
estate well within the meaning of those words as used in Art. 31A(1)(a).
We have, therefore, come to the conclusion
that the impugned Act is covered by Art. 31A and is protected 520 from attack
against its constitutionality on the score of its having violated the
fundamental rights, enshrined in Arts. 14, 19 and 31 of the Constitution. That
being so, the attack levelled against ss. 5, 6, 8, 9, 17A, 31 A to 31 D and 32
to 32R on the score of their being violative of the fundamental rights
conferred upon the petitioners is of no avail to the petitioners. This being
the true position it is not necessary for us to consider the interesting
questions which were argued before us at some length, viz., the nature, scope
and extent of the provisions contained in Arts. 31(1) and 31(2) of the
Constitution and the line of demarcation between them as also the impact of
Art. 31(1) on the fundamental right enshrined in Art. 19(1)(f) of the
Constitution. Suffice it to say that under the circumstances no fundamental
right of the petitioners before us is infringed by the impugned Act or the
provisions thereof and the petitions under Art. 32 cannot be sustained.
The impugned Act being within the legislative
competence of the State Legislature no question as to its being a piece of
colourable legislation can arise. It is not a legislation resorted to by the
State Legislature with a view to by-pass the provisions of List II of the
seventh schedule to the Constitution, attempting to do something which it was
otherwise not competent to do. The legislation being covered by Entry 18 of the
said List is really a further measure for agrarian reform which it was well
within its competence to enact. It is not an expropriatory legislation in the
guise of one covered by Entry 18 in the said List.
It only fixes the ceiling area for the
holding of the landlord cultivating the land personally and transfers the
excess holding to the tenant in actual cultivation thereof and there too the
price of the land as fixed by the Tribunal has got to be paid by the tenant to
the landlord. The tenant also is not entitled to hold land beyond the ceiling
area and there is a balance sought to be struck between the interests of the
landlord and those of the tenants so that the means of production are not
concentrated in the hands of one party to the common detriment. The price
payable is also either 521 in lump or in such installments as may be determined
by the Tribunal and on default committed by the tenant in payment thereof the
purchase becomes ineffective and the land deemed to have been purchased by the
tenant reverts to the Collector to be dealt with in accordance with the
provisions contained in the Act in that behalf. It may be that installments may
be spread over a particular period which may thus be determined by the Tribunal
and unless default is committed by the tenant in payment of four installments
the purchase does not become ineffective. That, however, is not a provision
which makes the payment of price in any manner illusory. The landlord is
entitled to the rents of the land as if there had been no purchase of the land
by the tenant and the payment of such rent is made the first charge on the
land. There is, therefore, no scope for the argument that the provisions in
this behalf contained in the Act were illusory or that the impugned Act is a
piece of colourable legislation.
The only question that now survives is
whether s. 7 of the impugned Act is bad by reason of excessive delegation of
legislative power. Section 7 invests the Government with the power to vary the
ceiling area and economic holding which have been prescribed in ss. 5 and 6 of
Sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Act read as under
:" 5. Ceiling area: (1) For the purposes of this Act, the ceiling area of
land shall be(a) 48 acres of jirayat land, or (b) 24 acres of seasonally
irrigated land or paddy or rice land, or (c) 12 acres of perennially irrigated
(2) Where the land held by a person consists
of two or more kinds of land specified in sub-section (1), the ceiling area of
such holding shall be determined on the basis of one acre of perennially
irrigated land being equal of two acres of seasonally irrigated land or paddy
or rice land, or four acres of jirayat land.
6. Economic holding-(1) For the purposes of
this Act an economic holding shall be(a) 16 acres of jirayat land, or (b) 8
acres of seasonally irrigated land, or paddy or rice land, or (c) 4 acres of
perennially irrigated land.
(2) Where the land held by a person consists
of two or more kinds of land specified in sub-section (1) an economic holding
shall be determined on the basis applicable to the ceiling area-under
sub-section (2) of section 5.
7. Power of Government to vary ceiling area
and economic holding: Notwithstanding anything contained in sections 5 and 6,
it shall be lawful for the State Government, if it is satisfied that it is
expedient so to do in the public.
interest, to vary, by notification in the
Official Gazette, the acreage of the ceiling area or economic holding, or the
basis of determination of such ceiling area or economic holding, under subsection
(2) of section 5, regard being had to(a) the situation of the land, (b) its
productive capacity, (c) the fact that the land is located in a backward area,
and (d) any other factors which may be prescribed." It is contended that
s. 7 does not fix any criteria for the guidance of the State Government and
that the power which is given to the State Government to vary the ceiling area
and economic holding is unguided and unfettered and that it is possible to
exercise it at the sweet will and discretion of the State Government even in
favour of a, single individual or in favour of political sufferers and the
like. It is urged that no broad principle or policy is enunciated by the
Legislature in this behalf and it would be open to the State Government to exercise
this power arbitrarily and even in a discriminatory manner and that such
entrustment of power to the State Government amounts to excessive delegation of
legislative power and s. 7 therefore must be held to be void.
523 The principles by which the courts are
guided in the determination of this question are now well settled. In the State
of Bihar v. Maharajadhiraja Sir Kameshwar Singh of Darbhanga (1) Mahajan, J.,
(as he then was observed):The legislature applied its mind to the question Of
the method and manner of payment of compensation. It settled its policy and the
broad principles. It gave the State Government the power to determine matters
of detail after having settled vital matters of policy. It cannot be said that
the legislature did not apply its mind to the subjectmatter of the legislation
and did not lay down a policy.
The proportion in which compensation was
payable in cash or in bonds or whether the whole of it was to be paid in cash
is a matter which only the State Government could fix and similarly, the
interval of installments and the period of redeemability of the bonds were also
matters of detail which the executive could more appositely determine in
exercise of its rule-making power. It cannot be said in this case that any
essential legislative power has been delegated to the executive or that the
legislature did not discharge the trust which the Constitution had reposed in
it. If the rule-making authority abuses its power or makes any attempt to make
the payment illusory the expropriated proprietor will not be without a
remedy." If the legislature settles the policy and the broad principles of
legislation, there is no bar against leaving the matters of detail to be fixed
by the executive and such delegation will not amount to excessive delegation of
legislative power such as to vitiate the enactment. In the case before us the
preamble to the Act says what the policy of the impugned Act is, viz., further
to amend the 1948 Act which as we have already observed sets out specific
objectives to be achieved. Sections 5 and 6 prescribe the ceiling area and the
economic holding which are fixed by the legislature itself having regard to the
normal conditions then prevailing within the State. The legislature knew what
were the different types, of land, their situation (1)  S.C.R. 889, 954.
524 and productive capacity and having regard
to all the relevant factors determined the ceiling area as also the economic
holding. There were, however, bound to be differences between district and
district and one part of the State and another and having therefore enunciated
the broad principles and policy which were embodied in ss. 5 and 6 of the Act
the legislature enacted s. 7 empowering the State Government to vary the
ceiling area and the economic holding if it was satisfied that it was expedient
so to do in the public interest, regard being had to the various criteria
therein specified. The State Government was to be guided in arriving at its
satisfaction in regard to the expediency thereof by (a) the situation of the
land, (b) its productive capacity, (c) the fact that the land is located in a
backward area, and (d) any other factors which may be prescribed. In so far as
the situation of the land and its productive capacity were variable factors, more
so if the land was located in a backward area, the State Government was
enjoined to have regard to these factors as determining the variations one way
or the other from the normal standard adopted by the Legislature in ss. 5 and 6
of the Act. " Any other factors which may be prescribed " would be
factors ejusdem generis to the factors mentioned earlier in the section and
could not be any and every factor which crossed the mind of the executive. The
very terms of the section preclude any single individual being treated in this
manner because it talks of the variation in the ceiling area and the economic
holding being considered by the State Government to be expedient in the public
interest and the satisfaction of any individual interest could hardly be said
to be a matter of public interest.
No doubt individuals would be benefited by
the variations contemplated in s. 7 but for that purpose the State Government
has got to be satisfied that it is expedient in the public interest to do so
and no variation in regard to ceiling area or the economic holding of a single
individual can ever be said to have been contemplated within the terms of s. 7.
It appears however that this argument found favour with the Bombay High Court
in its decision in Parashram Damodhar v. 525 State of Bombay (1) where the
Court observed that the power to issue a notification may be exercised in
favour of a single individual under the authority reserved under s. 7 and may
lay the State Government open to a charge of favouritism. With great respect to
the learned judges of that High Court, we are of the view that no such thing is
ever contemplated in the terms of s. 7 of the Act. There is also no warrant for
the suggestion that the State Government might vary the ceiling area and the
economic holding, say for instance, for benefiting the political sufferers
within the State. If the situation of the land and its productive capacity as
also the fact that the land is located in a backward area are the criteria to
be determined before the State Government is satisfied that it is expedient to
vary the ceiling area and the economic holding in the public interest and
" any other factors which may be prescribed " are to be read ejusdem
generis with the above as already observed, no question of benefiting political
sufferers can ever enter into the picture. That would be an extraneous
consideration. It does not come within the criteria specified in s. 7. of the
Act on a true construction thereof. Such considerations therefore do not
militate against the validity of the provisions contained in that section. In
our opinion, the broad principles and policy have been laid down by the
legislature, the criteria have been fixed according to which the State
Government has to be satisfied that it is expedient to vary the ceiling area
and economic holding already prescribed by the legislature and the mere matter
of working out the details having regard to those criteria which are
specifically mentioned therein which has been delegated to the State Government
does not amount to any excessive delegation of legislative power.
It is also to be remembered that this power
of variation of the ceiling area and the economic holding is vested in the
State Government and is left to its subjective satisfaction having regard to
the criteria therein specified. As was observed by Kania, C. J., in Dr. N. B.
Khare v. The State of Delhi (2):(1) A. I. R. 1957 Bom, 252.
(2)  S.C. R. 519, 526.
526 This whole argument is based on the
assumption that the Provincial Government when making the order will not
perform its duty and may abuse the provisions of the section. In my opinion, it
is not proper to start with such an assumption and decide the legality of an
Act on that basis. Abuse of the power given by a law sometimes occurs; but the
validity of the law cannot be contested because of such an apprehension."
These observations of Karda, C. J., were quoted with approval by Patanjali
Sastri, C. J., in The State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar (1) where -it
was stated:" Whether a law conferring discretionary powers on an
administrative authority is constitutionally valid or not should not be
determined on the assumption that such authority will act in an arbitrary
manner in exercising the discretion committed to it." The above
observations of Kania, C. J., were then quoted and the judgment proceeded:"
On the contrary, it is to be presumed that a public authority will act honestly
and reasonably in the exercise of its statutory
We may lastly refer to the observations of
this Court in Pannalal Binjraj v. Union of India (2):" It may also be
remembered that this power is vested not in minor officials but in top-ranking
authorities like the Commissioner of Income-tax and the Central Board of
Revenue who act on the information supplied to them by the Incometax Officers
concerned. This power is discretionary and not necessarily discriminatory and
abuse of power cannot be easily assumed where the discretion is vested in such
high officials. (Vide Matajog Dobey v. H. S. Bhari,  2 S. C. R. 925,
932). There is moreover a presumption that public officials will discharge
their duties honestly and in accordance with the rules of law. (Vide People of
the State of New York v. John E. Van De Carr, etc., (1950-310-199 U. S. 552; 50
L. Ed. 305)). It has also been observed by this Court in A. Thangal Kunju (1)
(1952] S. C. R. 284, 301.
(2)  S. C. R. 233. 257, 258.
527 Musaliar v. M. Venkitachalam Potti,
 2 S. C. R. 1196, with reference to the possibility of discrimination
between assessees in the matter of the reference of their cases to the
Income-tax Investigation Commission that " it is to be presumed, unless
the contrary were shown, that the administration of a particular law would be
done " not with an evil eye and unequal hand " and the selection made
by the Government of the cases of persons to be referred for investigation by
the Commission would not be discriminatory." This presumption, however,
cannot be stretched too far and cannot be carried to the extent of always
holding that there must be some undisclosed and unknown reason for subjecting
certain individuals or corporations to hostile and discriminatory treatment
(Vide Gulf, Colorado, etc. v. W. H.
Ellis, (1897) 165 U.S. 150; 41 L. Ed. 666).
There may be cases where improper execution of power will result in injustice
to the parties. As has been observed, however, the possibility of such
discriminatory treatment cannot necessarily invalidate the legislation and where
there is an abuse of such power, the parties aggrieved are not without ample
remedies under the law (Vide Dinabandhu. Sahu v. Jadumony Mangaraj,  1 S.
C. R. 140,146). What will be struck down in such cases will not be the
provision which invests the authorities with such power but the abuse of the
power itself." It, therefore, follows that s. 7 of the Act cannot be
impugned on the ground of excessive delegation of legislative power.
All the various contentions urged by the
petitioners therefore fail and the result is that the petitions filed by the
petitioners before us must be dismissed with costs. The State of Bombay which
is the only respondent in all these petitions will however get only one set of