Ram Krissen Singh Vs. Divisional
Forest Officer Bankura Division & Ors  INSC 168 (4 August 1964)
04/08/1964 AYYANGAR, N. RAJAGOPALA AYYANGAR,
N. RAJAGOPALA GAJENDRA GADKAR, P.B. (CJ) WANCHOO, K.N.
CITATION: 1965 AIR 625 1965 SCR (1) 1
West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953
(West Bengal Act 1 of 1954) as amended by West Bengal Act (25 of 1957)-Section
5(aa) Estates-Acquisition of-Estates and rights of intermediaries in estates
vesting in State from date specified in notification by State Government Right
to cut zamindari trees granted by intermediary to third person whether would
also vest in State by virtue of amended law--construction and validity of
The appellant had been granted by the Zamindar
of Simlapal in West Bengal a right to cut trees in certain forests of the
zamindari. The exercise of this right was interrupted by action taken against
him under the West Bengal Private Forests Act, 1948. The appellant filed a writ
petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. In the meantime, the
West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953, (Act 1 of 1954) was passed. This Act
provided that from the date specified in a notification under section 4 of the
Act, property and interests specified in section 5 of the Act would vest in the
State Government. According to the Forest Department the right to cut trees
enjoyed by the appellant was within the purview of section 5 of the Act and,
therefore, had become vested in the State Government.
Certain decisions of the Calcutta High Court,
however, went against this interpretation; it was held therein that a right to
cut trees granted by an intermediary to a third person was not within the terms
of section 5. Thereupon the State Legislature of West Bengal passed Act 25 of
1957 which by adding section 5(aa) to the Act provided that upon the due
publication of a notification under section 4, on and from the date of vesting,
all lands in any estate comprised in a forest together with all rights to trees
therein or the produce thereof and held by an intermediary or any other person
shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any judgment,
decree or order of any Court or Tribunal, vest in the State. The appellant's
writ petition, coming up for hearing after this amendment, was dismissed.
An appeal to the Division Bench also failed.
Appeal before the Supreme Court came by virtue of a certificate of fitness
under Article 133 (1) (c) of the Constitution.
The question for consideration was whether
the terms of section 5(aa) were sufficient and apt to provide for the vesting
of the right to cut the trees when such right belonged, on the date of vesting,
not to the intermediary or zamindar but to another person to whom it had been
granted under a contract with the said intermediary.
HELD : (i) The words "together
with" used in section 5(aa), on the basis of which it was contended by
counsel for the appellant that it was only where the right to the trees
constituted an integral part of the right to the land that a vesting was
effected of the latter right, meant in the context of the section no more than
the expression 'as well as' and imported no condition that the right to the
trees should also belong to the owner of the land. Also, it was not possible to
read the words "held by an intermediary 2 or any other person" to
mean that they were applicable only to cases where the entirety of the
interest-to the land, to the trees, and to the produce were vested in a single
person-be he the intermediary or another person. These words would obviously
apply equally to cases where the land belonged to an intermediary and the right
to the trees or to the produce of the trees to another person. In construing
the section, moreover, the fact that it was amended to overcome certain
decisions rendered under the original enactment was not an irrelevant factor to
be taken into account. [41-G; 5B-D, 5G].
(ii) From the mere fact that there was no
provision in the Act for compensating the interest of persons like the appellant,
the Court could not hold that such an interest was not within the vesting
section--section 5(aa). The absence' of a provision for compensation might
render the vesting section unconstitutional, but it could not detract from the
clear operation of the words used in section 5(aa).
After the passing of the 17th Amendment to
the Constitution and the inclusion of West Bengal Act 1 of 1954 among those
specified in Schedule IX, the absence of a provision for compensation for the
acquisition of the appellant's rights would not render the West Bengal Act or
the acquisition thereunder, unconstitutional. [6B; 6E].
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeals
Nos. 781 to 784 of 1963.
Appeals from the judgment and order dated
March 17, 1961 of the Calcutta High Court in Appeal from Original orders Nos.
212, 433, 435 and 436 of 1959 respectively.
D. N. Mukherjee, for the appellant (in C.A.
N. C. Chatterjee, Ramkrishna Pal, Taraknath
Roy and D. N. Mukherjee, for the appellants (in C.As. Nos. 782-784/63).
C. K. Daphtary, Attorney-General, S. C. Bose
and P. K. Bose, for respondents Nos. 1 to 3 (in C.A. No. 781/63).
B. Sen, S. C. Bose and P. K. Bose, for
respondents Nos. 1 to 3 (in C.As. Nos. 782 to 783/63) and respondents (in C.A. No.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Ayyangar J. These appeals are before us by virtue of certificates granted by
the High Court under Art. 133(1)(c) of the Constitution and they raise for
consideration the question of the proper construction of S. 5(aa) of the West
Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953 (West Bengal Act 1 of 1954) as amended by
West Bengal Act 25 of 1957.
The relevant facts in these four appeals are
analogous and they raise the common question of law which we have already
indicated. For the disposal of these appeals it is sufficient therefore to
refer to the facts of any one of them. We propose to set out those of Civil
Appeal 781 of 1963.
3 The Zamindar of Simlapal in the
Collectorate of Bankura entered into a contract with the appellant Ram Krissen
Singh and by a document dated September 3, 1946, granted him the right to cut
the trees, in certain demarcated areas, of certain forests of the Zamindari on
payment of a sum of Rs.
7,131/8/-. Under the terms of the said
document the period during which the appellant was given this right to cut
trees was to end on April 14, 1955. The appellant started the cutting
operations and cut only for, the first few years, but thereafter action was
taken by the Forest Officers of the State to prevent him from further cutting
under the powers vested in them by the West Bengal Private Forests Act, 1948.
Thereupon, the appellant tiled a petition under Art. 226 of the Constitution
for a writ of certiorari for quashing the orders passed against him and also for
an injunction restraining the Forest Officers from taking delivery of
possession and from cutting and disposing of the forests covered by his
agreement. By the time the petition was filed the West Bengal Estates
Acquisition Act, 1953 (Act 1 of 1954), (hereafter referred to as the Act) had
been passed and in the counter-affidavit which was filed to this petition
reliance was placed upon its provisions for contending that the
"estate" belonging to the Zamindar in which the forest lay as well as
all the rights to the trees therein, to whomsoever belonging, had vested in the
State -under S. 5 of the Act by reason of a notification issued by the State
Government under s. 4. By the date the writ petition came to be heard the West
Bengal Legislature had, in view of certain decisions rendered by the Calcutta
High Court which held that the terms of s. 5 of the Act which specified the
property or interest in property which would vest in the Government did not
include the right to cut trees in a forest, which had been granted to a third
person by the proprietor or intermediary before the date of the vesting,
amended the said vesting section by introducing S.
5 (aa) to have retrospective effect from the
date of the commencement of the principal Act. Section 5 (aa) read:
"5. Upon the due publication of a
notification under section 4, on and from the date of vesting(aa) all lands in
any estate comprised in a forest together with all rights to the trees therein
or to the produce thereof and held by an intermediary or any other person
shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any judgment,
decree or order of any court or Tribunal, vest in the State';
4 After this amendment was brought to the
notice of the Court the petitioner was allowed to amend -his writ petition by
adding allegations (a) regarding the construction of the said section, and ( b)
its constitutional validity. The petition then came on for hearing in December,
1958, and the learned Single Judge, by his judgment dated December 24, 1958 discharged
the rule follow certain earlier decisions of his on the same point. An appeal
filed to the Division Bench under the Letters Patent was also dismissed but the
learned Judges granted a certificate under Art. 133(1) (c) and that is how the
appeal is before us.
The first, and possibly the only, question
that now calls for consideration is whether the terms of s. 5 (aa) are
sufficient and apt to provide for the vesting of the right to cut the trees
when such right belonged, on the date of the vesting, not to the intermediary
or Zamindar but to another person to whom it had been granted under a contract
with the said intermediary. The argument addressed to us by Mr.
Chatterjee-learned counsel for the appellant-was that it was only the land held
or other rights possessed by an intermediary that became vested in the State
and that cl.
(aa) did not deal with those cases where the
right to the trees had been severed from the right to the land and belonged to
a third person on the date of the vesting. For this purpose learned counsel
laid stress on two features of the clause. The first was the use of the words
"together with" and the second the words "and held by an
intermediary or any other person". Taking up, first, the word
"together with" the submission was that it was only where the right
to the trees constituted an integral part of the right to the land that a
vesting was effected of the latter right and that where there had been a
severance of the two rights it was only the land that remained in the intermediary
that became vested and not the right to the tree,-,. We feel unable to accept
this argument. We consider that the expression "together" is
obviously used to denote not the necessity for integrality between the land and
the right to cut trees by way of common ownership but as merely an enumeration
of the items of property which vest in the State. In the context, the word
means no more than the expression "as well as" and imports no
condition that the right to the trees should also belong to the owner of the
land. It may be added that the words "or to the produce thereof"
occurring next also emphasis what we have just now pointed out, for if these
words are read disjunctively, as they must, in view of the conjunction
"or", the words would indicate that not merely lands in the estate
and the right to the 5 trees but independently of them the right to the produce
of the trees on the land would also vest in the State.
Coming next to the words "and held by an
intermediary" learned counsel could not justifiably submit an argument
that both the land and the right to the trees should inhere in the intermediary
to attract the operation of the clause, because the words "held by an
intermediary" are followed by "any other person". Obviously, that
other person i.e., person other than the intermediary, could have the right
either to the land, a right to the trees or a right to the produce. By the use
of the expression "or any other person" therefore the legislature
could obviously have intended only a person like the appellant who might not
have any right to the lands which are held by the intermediary but has a right
to the trees in that land. Besides, it is not possible to read the words
"held by an intermediary or any other person" to mean that they are
applicable only to cases where the entirety of the interest-to the land, to the
trees and to the produce-are vested in a single person-be he the intermediary
or another person. These words would obviously apply equally to cases where the
land belongs to an intermediary and the right to the trees or to the produce of
the trees to another person.
This apart, there is one further aspect Of
the matter to which also reference might be made. The amendment effected by the
addition of cl. (aa) to s. 5 was admittedly necessitated by certain decisions
of the High Court of Calcutta which held that where an intermediary had granted
a right to cut trees or to forest produce, the rights so conferred were
unaffected by the vesting provision in s. 5 of the Act as it stood before the
amendment. If the argument now put forward by Mr. Chatterjee is accepted it
would mean that the amendment has achieved no purpose. Undoubtedly, if the
words of the amendment, on their plain reading, are insufficient to comprehend
the case now on hand the fact that the legislature intended to overcome a
decision of the High Court could not be any determining consideration but, if
as we find, the words normally bear that construction, the circumstance that
the amendment was effected with a view to overcome certain decisions rendered
under the original enactment is not an irrelevant factor to be taken into
Mr. Chatterjee next submitted that the scheme
of the Act was the provision of compensation for every interest acquired by the
State by virtue of the vesting under s. 5 and that as there was no provision in
the Act for compensating the interest of persons 6 like the appellant, the
Court should hold that such. an interest was not within the vesting
section-,-,. 5 (aa).
This is, of course, a legitimate argument,
and if there had been any ambiguity in the construction of s. 5 (aa), the
circumstance referred to by learned counsel would certainly have great weight.
But in view of the plain words of S. 5 (aa) which we have discussed earlier, we
do not find it possible to accept the argument. The absence of a provision for
compensation might render the vesting section unconstitutional, and that indeed
was the argument addressed to the High Court and a matter which we shall
immediately consider, but it cannot detract from the clear operation of the
words used in s. 5 (aa).
A further point that was urged before the
High Court was that the enactment was unconstitutional in that no provision was
made for the award of compensation to persons in the position of the appellant
whose rights to cut trees became vested in the State. Mr. Chatterjee pointed
out that the learned judges of the High Court had upheld the validity of the
enactment by holding that compensation had, in fact, been provided. Learned
counsel drew our attention to the provisions quoted and submitted that the
learned judges erred in their construction of these provisions and that, in
fact, no compensation was provided, but this question about the constitutional
validity of the amending Act does not really fall for consideration because
learned counsel for the appellant did not contest the position that after the
enactment of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, and the inclusion of West
Bengal Act 1 of 1954 among those specified in Schedule IX, the absence of a
provision for compensation for the acquisition of the appellant's rights would
not render the West Bengal Act or the acquisition there under unconstitutional.
These appeals fail but in the circumstances
of the case there will be no order as to costs.