Chanan Singh & ANR Vs. Jai Kaur
 INSC 173 (11 August 1969)
11/08/1969 GROVER, A.N.
SHAH, J.C. (CJ) RAMASWAMI, V.
CITATION: 1970 AIR 349 1970 SCR (1) 803 1969
SCC (2) 429
D 1976 SC2363 (11) R 1986 SC1760 (35)
Punjab Pre-emption Act, 1913, s.
15(2)(b)--Scope of--Amendment by Amendment Act of 1964--if has retrospective
S, the owner of some land in a village in
Punjab, died leaving a widow and the respondent, his daughter by another wife.
The widow sold a part of the land in February 1958 to the appellants, whereupon
the respondent filed a suit for possession by pre-emption of the land sold. The
trial court decreed the suit and a first appeal was dismissed. A single bench
of the High Court allowed the second appeal on the view that the respondent not
being the widow's daughter, had no right of pre-emption under s. 15(2) of the
Punjab Pre- emption Act, 1913, as amended by the Punjab Pre-emption Amendment
Act, 1960. However, a division bench in a Letters Patent appeal, relying on an
amendment made by the Punjab Preemption Amendment Act, 1964 in s. 15(2)(b),
reversed the judgment of the single bench and decreed the suit.
It was contended in appeal to this Court that
there is no indication in the Amendment Act of 1964 that it is to have
retrospective operation and the amendment made by it should be deemed to be
HELD: The Amendment Act of 1964 was merely of
a clarificatory or declaratory nature. Even in the absence of words which were
inserted by the Amendment Act of 1964 under s. 15(2)(b) the only possible
interpretation and meaning of the words "in the son or daughter of such
female" could have reference to and cover the son or daughter of the
husband of the 'female. The entire scheme of s. 15(2) is that the right of
pre-emption has been confined to the issues of the last male holder from whom
the property which has been sold came by inheritance. [805 H] Under s. 15(2)(b)
the right of pre-emption would vest firstly in the son or daughter of the
husband of the female meaning thereby either her own off-springs from the
husband whom she had succeeded or the son or daughter of that husband even from
another wife. [806 G] In the present case the respondent was entitled to
exercise her right of pre-emption under paragraph First of clause (b) of s.
15(2) even before the Amendment of 1964.
Whatever doubts existed they were removed by
that Act which must be given retrospective operation. [807 E-F] Ram Sarup v.
Munshi & Ors,  3 S.C.R. 858 and Mota Singh v. Prem Parkash Kaur &
Ors., I.L.R.  Punj. 614, 627; referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 774 of 1966.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
decree dated August 31, 1965 of the Punjab High Court in Letters Patent Appeal
No. 91 of 1961.
Harbans Singh, for the appellant.
804 Bishan Narain and S.K. Mehta, for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Grover, J. This is an appeal by special leave from a judgment of a division
bench. of the Punjab High Court decreeing the suit filed by the respondent for
possession of certain land by preemption.
The facts may be shortly stated: Santa Singh
was the owner of some land in village Samadh Bhai, tehsil Moga. He died leaving
a widow Smt. Sobhi. He also left a daughter Smt. Jai Kaur from his other wife.
On February 3, 1958 Smt.
Sobhi sold 73 kanals 14 marlas of land to the
appellants, the sale consideration mentioned in the sale deed being Rs.
8,000/-. Smt. Jai Kaur filed a suit for
possession by pre- emption of the land which had been sold by Smt. Sobhi.
According to her a consideration of Rs.
4,000/- only had been paid by the vendee. The trial court decreed the suit in
May 1959 granting a decree for possession on payment of Rs. 6,500/- together
with costs. The second Additional Judge to whom an appeal was taken dismissed
it. In the High Court the learned Single Judge took the view that Smt. Jai Kaur
not being the daughter of the vendor Smt. Sobhi had no right of pre-emption
under s. 15(2) of the Punjab Pre- emption Act, 1913 'as amended by the Punjab
Pre-emption Amendment Act, 1960. The suit was dismissed. Smt. Jai Kaur filed an
appeal under clause 10 of the Letters Patent of the High Court. Relying on an
amendment made by the Punjab Pre-emption Amendment Act 1964 in the first
paragraph of clause (b) of sub-s. (2) of s. 15 of the Punjab Pre-emption Act,
hereinafter called the Act, the Division Bench reversed the judgment of the
Single Judge and decreed the plaintiff's suit.
The relevant provisions of the statute may
now be noticed together with the amendments made in 1960 and 1964.
Section 15 of the Act was substituted by s. 4
of the Amendment Act, 1960. According to the substituted section the right of
pre-emption in respect of agricultural land and village immovable property
shall vest thus :-- (1) (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section
(1)-- (a) where the sale is by a female of land or property to which she has
succeeded through her father or brother or the sale in respect of such land or
property is by the scan or daughter of 805 such female, after inheritance, the
fight of preemption shall vest,-- (i) if the sale is 'by such female, in her
brother or brother's son;
(ii) if the sale is by the son or daughter of
such female, in the mother's brother or the mother's brother's sons of the
vendor or vendors;" By the Amendment Act 1964 in the first paragraph of s.
15(2) (b) between the words "such" and "female" the words
"husband of the" were inserted. The result was that after the amendment
the portion of clause (b) relevant for our purpose was to read as follows:
"FIRST, in the son or daughter of such
husband of the female." Now if the Amendment Act of 1964 could be regarded
as having retrospective operation so as to affect pending proceedings there can
be no dispute that the judgment of the division bench was light and must be
affirmed. The contention which has been raised on behalf of the appellants is
that. there is no indication in the Amendment Act of 1964 that it was to have retrospective
operation and therefore the 'amendment made by it should be deemed to be only
prospective. It may be mentioned that by s. 6 of the Amendment Act of 1960 a
new section 31 was inserted in the Act. That section provided, "no court
shall pass a decree in a suit for pre-emption whether instituted before or
after the commencement of the Punjab Pre-emption Amendment Act of 1960 which is
inconsistent with the provisions of the said Act." in Ram Sarup v. Munshi
& Ors.(1) this Court held that the language used in s. 31 was comprehensive
enough so as to require an appellate court to give effect to the substantive
provisions of the Amending Act whether the appeal before it was one against a
decree granting pre-emption or one refusing that relief. Although s. 31 was
inserted in the Act for all times the phraseology employed therein does not
show that its language was meant to cover those amendments which would be made
subsequent to the Amendment Act of 1960. The word "said" can have
reference in the context only to the enactment of 1960 and to no other. it
would not be legitimate for the courts to give an extended effect to a
provision used and words employed warranted such a course being followed. That
does not appear to be the case here.
It appears to us that the Amendment Act of
1964 was merely of a clarificatory or declaratory nature. Even in the absence
of the words which were inserted by the Amendment Act of 1964 in s. 15(2)(b)
the only possible interpretation and meaning of (1)  3 S.C.R. 858.
806 the words "in the son or daughter of
such female" could have reference to and cover the sort or daughter of the
husband of the female. The entire scheme of sub-s. (2) of s. 15 is that the
right of pre-emption has been confined to the issues of the last male holder
from whom the property which has been sold came by inheritance. Looking at
clause (a) of sub-s. (2) where the properly which has been sold has come to the
female from her ,father or brother by succession the right of pre-emption has
been given to. her brother or brother's son. As has been observed in Mota Singh
v. Prem Parkash Kaur & Ors.(1), the predominant idea seems to be that the
property must not go outside the line of the last male holder and the right has
been given to his male linea descendants. Where the sale is by the son or the
daughter of such female the right is given to the mother's brother or their
sons. The principle which has been kept in view is that the person on whom the
right of pre-emption is conferred must be a male lineal descendant of the last
male holder of the property sold. This is so with regard to clause (a) of
sub-s. (2). Coming to clause (b) where the sale is by a female of land or
property to which she has succeeded through her husband or through her son in
case the son has inherited the same from his father the right of pre-emption is
to vest firstly in the son or daughter of such female and secondly in the
husband's brother or husband's brother's son of such female. Now if the son or
daughter of the female who has sold the property could refer to her son or
daughter from a husband other than the one from whom the property devolved on
her, it would be contrary to the scheme and purpose of sub-s. (2) which
essentially is to vest the right of pre-emption in the lineal descendants of
the last male holder. Similarly it is unthinkable that a husband's brother or
husband's brother's son should have reference to a husband to whom the property
never belonged. In other words it could never be intended that if a female has
had a previous husband who has either died or with whom the marriage has been
dissolved and the female has remarried and succeeded to the property of her
second husband the brother or the brother's son of her previous husband should
be able to claim the right of pre-emption when they had nothing whatsoever to
do with the property sought to be preempted.
It would follow that under clause (b) the
right of preemption would vest firstly in the son or daughter of the husband of
the female meaning thereby either her own off- spring ,from the husband whom
she has succeeded or the son or daughter of that husband even from another
If the above discussion is kept in view there
is no difficulty in attributing a retroactive intention to the legislature when
the Amendment Act of 1964 was enacted.
It is well settled that if a (1) I.E.R.
 Punj. 614. 627.
807 statute is curative or merely declares
the previous law retroactive operation would be more rightly ascribed to it
than the legislation which may prejudicially affect past rights and
transactions. We are in entire agreement with the following view expressed in a
recent full bench decision of the Punjab High Court in Moti Ram v. Bakhwant
Singh & Ors. (1) in which a similar point came up ,for consideration:
"A close analysis of paragraphs (First)
and (Secondly) of clause (b) of sub-section (2) of section 15 before the
amendment introduced by Punjab Act 13 of 1964 would demonstrate that a son of
the husband of a female vendor though not born from her womb would be entitled
to preempt, particularly when the husband's brother and even the son of the
husband's brother of that female are accorded the right of preemption. To
reiterate, the right of preemption is accorded manifestly on the principle of
consanguinity, the property of the female vendor 'being that of her husband,
and there is no reason why the step-son should be excluded and the nephew of
the husband included. From this alone it must be inferred that the Legislature
had intended to include a step-son and consequently retrospective operation had
to be given to the amending Act as such a construction appears to be in
consonance 'and harmony with the purpose of the Act".
The result, therefore, is that the respondent
was entitled to. exercise, her right of preemption under paragraph First of cl.
(b) of sub-s. (2) of s. 15 even before the amendment made in 1964. At any rate
whatever doubts existed they were removed by the Amendment Act of 1964 which
must be given retrospective operation.
The appeal consequently fails and it is
dismissed with coats.
R.K.P.S. Appeal dismissed (1) I.L.R.
Punjab 104, 120.