Tribhuban Parkash Nayyar Vs. The Union
of India  INSC 278 (10 October 1969)
10/10/1969 DUA, I.D.
CITATION: 1970 AIR 540 1970 SCR (2) 732 1969
SCC (3) 99
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1973 SC1461 (97) RF 1984 SC1801 (1,2,3) R
1989 SC1019 (7)
Displaced Persons (Claims) Act,
1950-Displaced Persons (Claims) 'Supplementary Act, 1954-Section
5(1)(b)-Revisional Powers of Chief Settlement Commissioner-If extends to
matters which had become final under the 1950 Act-Scope of power--Displaced
Persons (Verification of Claims) Supplementary Rules, 1954-Rule 18, cl. (iv)-If
can be construed ejusdem generis.
The appellant, a displaced person from West
Pakistan, submitted his claim under the Displaced Persons (Claims) Act of 1950
in respect of the property left by him there The Claims Officer verified the
claim for Rs. 8 lacs. The Claims Commissioner, in revision, raised the value of
the verified claim to Rs. 10 lacs. The Settlement Commissioner, exercising the revisional
powers of the Chief Settlement Commissioner under the Displaced Persons
(Claims) Supplementary Act, 1954, reduced the claim of Rs. 10 lacs to Rs.
15,000. In a writ petition filed by the appellant a single Judge of the High
Court quashed the order of the Settlement Commissioner holding that there were
clear errors of law on the fact of the record. It was left open to the
department to reconsider the matter as to evaluation and come to a proper
conclusion on evidence. A Letters Patent Bench reversed the order of the single
Judge and dismissed the: writ petition. In appeal to this Court it was
contended that : (i) the order of the Settlement Commissioner was vitiated by
errors of law on the face of the record; (ii) the Settlement Commissioner
exercising the power of the Chief Settlement Commissioner under the
Supplementary Act had no jurisdiction to revise the order made by the Claims
Commissioner exercising revisional power under the Act of 1950; (iii) the power
of revision conferred on the Chief Settlement Commissioner by section 5(1)(b)
of the Supplementary Act was restricted to the verification of the claim and
its valuation was outside its purview and (iv) the power was circumscribed
within the four-corners of rule 18 of the Displaced Persons (Verification of
Claims) Supplementary Rules, 1954. Allowing the appeal,
HELD : (i) The learned single Judge was right
in his conclusions. The order and the material on record show that the
Settlement Commissioner had, at more places than one, based his conclusions on
pure conjectures and surmises without there being any legal evidence on the
record to support them.
(ii) The language used in Section 5(1)(b) of
the Supplementary Act is unambiguous and it clearly empowers the Chief
Settlement Commissioner, subject to any rules that may be made, to revise any
verified claim and make such orders in relation thereto as he thinks fit. On a
plain reading of the section in the light of the definition of the expression
"verified claim" and the statutory scheme, the Chief Settlement
Commissioner's special power of revision would extend' to suo motu revision of
the verified claims which had become final under the Act of 1950 Is a result of
orders made by the Claims Commissioner on revision. The use of the words
"revised any verified claim"' seem prima facie to extend the power of
revision also to verified claims bearing the stamp of scrutiny by 'the Chief
There being no doubt as to the meaning of s.
5(1)(b) the preamble cannot be used to control or qualify its unambiguous
language. [737 A-F] (iii) The definition of verified claim in s. 2(f) of the
Supplementary Act speaks of the final order and it includes valuation. The
Claims Officer under the Act has also to value the claim and the final order
embraces, both verification of title and valuation. [738 G-H] (iv) The
categories contained in clauses (i) to (iii) of rule 18 do not form a genus or
a class with the result that the expression "other sufficient reason"
occurring in cl.
(iv) of this rule would not attract the
ejusdem generis rule for its construction. But assuming that the first three
clauses constitute a class or kind of objects or genus, the grounds given by
the Settlement Commissioner are analogous to cl. (iii) which speaks of gross
and material irregularity and disparity in the evaluation of the claim. [741 H]
[The case was remitted to the Chief Settlement Commissioner for a fresh
decision in accordance with law.]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 1568 of 1966.
Appeal from the judgment and order dated
September 9, 1964 of the Punjab High Court, Circuit Bench at Delhi in Letters
Patent Appeal No. 2-D of 1963.
K. L. Gosain, K. L. Mehta, D. N. Bhasin, S.
Inderjeet Gulati and Sona Bhatiani, for the
B. Sen and S. P. Nayar, for the respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Dua, J. The appellant, a displaced person from Lahore, now in West Pakistan,
submitted his claim in respect of the immovable property left by him there. The
claim was submitted under the provisions of the Displaced Persons (Claims) Act.
XLIV of 1950 (hereafter called the principal Act). The property in respect of
which the claim was submitted was valued by the appellant at Rs. 10 lacs. It
consisted of a building 21/2 storeyed high with 12 shops and a well as also
some platform etc. in Landa Bazar, in Lahore.
The Claims Officer verified this claim for
Rs. 8 lacs.
Against this order a revision was taken by
the appellant to the Claims Commissioner who on May 1, 1953 in a brief order
raised the value of the verified claim to Rs. 10 lacs. The relevant part of
that order reads as under "I have gone through the order of the learned
Claims Officer and I find that he has given a queer argument to allow Rs.
8,00,000/to the claimant. By every method tried by him the assessment went
beyond Rs. 10,00,000/and I think he ought to have allowed Rs. 10,00,000/as
claimed by the claimant I enhance the assessment and allow Rs. 10,00,000/to the
claimant." 734 We would assume that the Claims Commissioner had been duly
delegated the power of the Chief Claims Commissioner to revise the order of the
Claims Officer, because no dispute was raised on this point. On the strength of
the verified claim the appellant purchased two properties in Delhi at a public
auction; one of them is situated in Daryaganj and the other in New Rajinder
Nagar. On November 8, 1957 Shri M. S. Chaddha, Settlement Commissioner,
exercising power of the Chief Settlement Commissioner issued to the appellant a
notice under the Displaced Persons (Claims) Supplementary Act, 1954 calling
upon him to show cause why the order of the Claims Commissioner dated May 1,
1953 be not revised and varied. On May 23, 1958 the said officer reduced the
appellant's claim of Rs. 10 lacs to Rs. 15,000/-. The appellant then filed a
writ petition under Art. 226 in the Punjab High Court challenging the order
reducing the value of his claim. A learned Single Judge on November 1, 1962
allowed the writ petition holding that the learned Settlement Commissioner
exercising the power of the Chief Settlement Commissioner had proceeded to deal
with the value of the property on wholly conjectural grounds. In a detailed
order the learned Single Judge came to the conclusion that the Settlement
Commissioner had not only ignored important evidence but had also held certain
documents to be forged without any evidence in support of the finding. In the
opinion of the learned Single Judge, therefore, there were clear errors of law
on the face of the record rendering the order of the Settlement Commissioner
open to challenge in writ proceedings in the High Court. On this view the order
was set aside and quashed. It was, however, observed that it would be open to
the department to reconsider the entire matter as to valuation and come to a
proper conclusion on evidence.
The respondent took the matter on appeal to a
Division Bench under the Letter Patent and the Letters Patent Bench reversed
the order of the learned Single Judge holding that on a reading of the order of
the Settlement Commissioner it could not be said that his finding was based on
no legal evidence. The appeal was accordingly allowed and setting aside the
order of the learned Single Judge, the appellant's writ petition was dismissed.
The appellant has come to this Court on appeal with certificate.
On behalf of the appellant two main points
were raised before us. It was contended, in the first instance, that Shri M. S.
Chaddha, while exercising the power of the Chief Settlement Commissioner, had
no jurisdiction to revise the order made by the Claims Commissioner exercising
the revisional power of the Chief Claims Commissioner under the principal Act.
Secondly, 735 it was contended that there was a clear error of law apparent on
the face of the record with the result that the learned Single Judge was fully
justified in quashing the order of the Settlement Commissioner, and that the
Letters Patent Bench was in error in allowing the appeal. While developing this
ground of attack the council also submitted that in exercising the power of
revision the Settlement Commissioner could not interfere with conclusions of
fact and that he had, therefore, exceeded his jurisdiction in so doing.
In order to examine the first submission we
have to turn to the provisions of the Principal Act and of the Displaced Persons
(Claims) Supplementary Act 12 of 1954 (hereafter called the Supplementary Act).
The principal Act, enacted with the object of providing for the registration
and verification of claims of displaced persons in respect of immovable
property in Pakistan, was brought on the statute book on May 18, 1950 and was
initially to remain in force for a period of two years only. Its life was
extended by a further period of one year by means of an amendment in 1952.
On the expiry of the third year the Displaced
Persons (Claims) Supplementary Ordinance No. 3 of 1954 was promulgated pending
the passage, by the Parliament of the bill which later emerged in the shape of
The Ordinance was enforced on January 18,
1954. The supplementary Act was enacted, as its preamble shows, to provide for
the disposal of certain proceedings pending under the principal Act and for
matters connected therewith. We have specifically referred to the preamble
because on behalf of the appellant strong reliance was placed on the preamble
in support of his construction of ss. 4 and 5 of the supplementary Act, which
deal with the revisional power of the Chief Settlement Commissioner appointed
under this Act.
It is not disputed at the bar that this Act
was primarily designed to finalise the disposal of certain proceedings pending
under the principal Act at the time of its expiry.
According to the appellant the words
"for matters connected therewith" in the preamble are intended to
have the effect of restricting the ambit of its provisions exclusively to the
proceedings actually pending on the date of the expiry of the principal Act,
whereas, according to the respondent these words demand a liberal construction
so as to bring within the fold of the Act all proceedings initiated for the
registration of claims, notwithstanding the fact that final order of
verification and valuation had already been made thereon. The respondent also
placed strong reliance on the language used in s. 5 which, he argued, is plain
and unambiguous and its ambit cannot be restricted by the Preamble. That
section reads as under 736 "Special power of revision in respect of cases
decided under Act XLIV of 1950.
5. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in
the principal Act, the Chief Settlement Commissioner (a) may, on an application
for revision made to him within time by any person aggrieved by the decision of
the Claims Officer, call for the record of the case and make such order in the
case as he thinks fit.
"Explanation-For the purposes of this
clause, an application for revision shall be deemed to be or to have been made
within time, if(i) such application was not barred by limitation on the
appointed day under the rules made under the principal Act and is filed within
one month from the commencement of this Act; or (ii) such application had been
filed before the appointed day and was not, on the date on which it was filed
barred by limitation under the rules made under the principal Act;
(b) may, on his own motion, but subject to
any rules that may be made in this behalf, revise any verified claim and make
such order in relation thereto as he thinks fit.
(2) No order varying the decision of the
Claims Officer or revising any verified claim which prejudicially affects any
person shall be made without giving an opportunity of being heard." This
special power of revision was conferred on the Chief Settlement Commissioner in
addition to the ordinary power of revision conferred by the proviso to S. 4(3)
which was similar to the power of revision conferred on the Chief Claims
Commissioner, under the principal Act. The suo motu power to revise verified
claims, according to the appellant's learned counsel, was designedly vested in
the Chief Settlement Commissioner, he ,being the final authority under the
supplementary Act. But this power, argued the counsel, was not intended to
extend to proceedings, which could not be considered to be pending under the
principal Act. This argument was sought to be founded on the Preamble of the
supplementary Act. A verified claim which had been subjected to scrutiny by the
Chief Claims Commissioner and 737 bore that officer's seal under the principal
Act, according to the appellant's counsel, could not be described to be a
matter pending under the principal Act and a revision of such a claim could not
be held to be a matter connected with a pending proceeding.
The object and purpose of a preamble to a
statute is well settled and at the bar before us there was no serious dispute
on this point. A preamble is a key to open the mind of the legislature but it
cannot be used to control or qualify precise and unambiguous language of the
It is only when there is/ a doubt as to the
meaning of a provision that recourse may be had to the preamble to ascertain
the reasons for the enactment and hence the intention of the Parliament. If the
language of the enactment is capable of more than one meaning then that one is
to be preferred which comes nearest to the ;purpose and scope of the preamble.
In other words, Preamble may assist in ascertaining the meaning but it does not
affect clear words in a statute. The courts are thus not expected to start with
the preamble for construing a statutory provision nor does the mere fact that a
clear and unambiguous statutory provision goes beyond the preamble give rise,
by itself, to a doubt on its , meaning.
Now the language used in s. 5(1)(b) of the
supplementary Act is unambiguous and it clearly empowers the Chief Settlement
Commissioner, subject to any rules that may be made, to revise any verified
claim and make such orders in relation thereto as he thinks fit. A verified
claim, as defined in s. 2(f) of the Supplementary Act, means any claim
registered under the principal Act in respect of which a final order has been
passed under that Act. Now it is difficult to' contend that on a plain reading
of s. 5(1)(b) in the light of the definition of the expression "verified
claim", the Chief Settlement Commissioner had no power suo motu to revise
a claim on which a final order had been passed under the principal Act by the
Chief' Claims Commissioner. It may be pointed out that according to the
statutory scheme, under s. 5(1) (a) of the Supplementary Act an aggrieved party
is entitled to apply to the Chief Settlement Commissioner for revision of
decisions of the Claims Officers and there is adequate provision for
safeguarding the interests of the aggrieved parties from any possible injury by
reason of lapse of time. The difference in the language used in clauses (a) and
(b) of s. 5(1) throws sufficient light on the legislative intent. The use of the
words "revise any verified claim" seems prima facie to extend the
power of revision also to verified claims bearing the stamp,/of scrutiny by the
Chief Settlement Commissioner. Had the Parliament intended this power to be
restricted, as suggested on behalf of the appellant, 738 then it would have
expressed such intention in clear words.
The statutory scheme also supports this view.
Under the proviso to S. 4(3) the Chief Settlement Commissioner has suo motu
power of revision from the decisions of the settlement Officers and under s.
5(1)(a) he has the power of revision on applications by aggrieved parties from
the decisions of Claims Officers. But under s. 5 (1) (b) the suo motu power of
revision does not extend to all decisions but is confined only to verified
claims though in this respect it takes within its fold all such claims and is
not restricted to the claims verified only by the Claims Officers. On a plain
reading of s. 5(1)(b), therefore, the Chief Settlement Commissioner's special
power of revision would seem to us to extend to suo motu revision of the
verified claims which had become final under the principal Act as a result of
orders made by the Chief Claims Commissioner on revision., Neither any
statutory bat' nor any precedent has been cited against the exercise of this
power; nor has any principle been brought to our notice which would induce us
to restrict the plain language of s.
The submission that an order made on a
revision can in no case be subjected to further revision, is also unacceptable
on the statutory scheme and language. No constitutional bar to further scrutiny
of such orders on revision was pointed out. It may in this connection be, borne
in mind that verification of claims under the principal Act involved proof in regard
to title to, and value of, property left by the displaced persons in West
Pakistan; and this had to be completed within a period of, originally, two
years which was later extended by one year. The best evidence in this respect
was only available in West Pakistan, and it is a matter of common knowledge
that it was not easy for an average displaced person to secure such evidence.
Chances of errors in verification and valuation of claims, in these
circumstances, being Not too few, the highest authority was advisedly in larger
public' interest vested with a wide power to review and reassess such verified
It was then contended that the power of
revision under s. 5(1)(b) is restricted to the verification of the claim and
its valuation is outside its purview. This contention is difficult to accept.
It is true that "claim" as defined in the principal Act broadly
speaking means the assertion of a right to ownership of, or to any interest in,
immovable property. But the Claims Officer under that Act has also to value the
claim and the final order embraces both verification of title and valuation.
The definition of "verified claim" in s. 2(f) of the supplementary
Act speaks of the final order and it includes valuation.
This takes us to the submission that the
power of revision of the Chief Settlement Commissioner is circumscribed within
the 739 four corners of r. 18 of the Displaced Persons (Verification of Claim)
Supplementary Rules, 1954. This rule, of course, specifically controls the
exercise of the power of revision conferred by s. 5(1)(b) and this is not
disputed. Rule 18 is in the following terms :
"Special revision of verified claims
under clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 5.
18. The Chief Settlement Commissioner may,
while exercising the powers of special revision conferred on him by clause (b)
of sub-section (1) of section 5, call for the record of any verified claim and
may pass any order in revision in respect of such verified claim in such manner
as he thinks fit, if he is satisfied that such order should be passed on one or
the other of the following grounds, namely:(i) the discovery of any new matter
or documentary evidence which after the exercise of due diligence was not
within the knowledge of or could not be produced by the claimant at the time
when the claim was verified; or (ii) correction of any clerical or arithmetical
mistake apparent on the face of the record; or (iii) gross or material
irregularity or disparity in the valuation of the claim; or (iv) any other
sufficient reason Provided that the Chief Settlement Commissioner shall not
entertain or take into consideration any application or representation made to
him under this rule by any claimant if such application or representation is
made after the 30th day of April, 1954." It was contended that the grounds
on which the Chief Settlement Commissioner revised the verified claim do not
fall within the first three clauses of this rule. The fourth clause, according
to Shri Gosain's argument, must be read ejusdem generis and so read this clause
would also be inapplicable to the case. Reliance in support of this argument
was placed on M.M.B. Catholicos and another v. The Most. Rev. Mar Poulose and
others(1), a case dealing with the power of review under Order 47 rule 1 Civil
P.C., the language of which, according to the appellant's counsel, is
completely identical with that of rule 18..
(1)  1 S.C.R. 520.
L5SupCI(NP)/70-2 740 Let us examine the
language of these two provisions. Rule 18 has already been reproduced. Order 47
r. 1(c) Civil P.C.
which alone is relevant for our purpose is in
the following terms.
"Rule 1. Any person considering himself
aggrieved (a) (b) (c) by a decision on a reference from a Court of Small Causes
and who, from the discovery of new and important matter or evidence which,
after the exercise of due diligence, was not within his knowledge or could not
be produced by him at the time when the decree was passed or order made, or on
account of some mistake or error apparent on the face of the record, or for any
other sufficient reason, desires to obtain a review of the decree passed or
order made against him, may apply for a review of judgment to the Court which
passed the decree or made the order.
(2) . . . . . . .
From a plain reading of these two provisions
the difference in their language is quite obvious. Clauses (i) and (ii) of r.
18 are certainly similar to cl. (c) of Order 47 r. 1, but clause (iii) of r. 18
is wholly different from cl. (c) of r. 1 of Order 47.It is difficult to hold
these clauses to be similar in kind or to have a common genus. The former seems
not only to take within its fold gross and material irregularity in the
valuation of the claim, which to some extent resembles one of the grounds on
which revisional power as contemplated by S. 115 Civil P.C. can be exercised,
but also to include cases where there is disparity in the valuation of the
claim. Quite clearly this clause is much wider in scope than Order 47 r. 1 (c).
The expression "other sufficient cause" occurring in cl. (iv) of r.
18 has therefore to be construed in this context. When in a statute there are
general words following particular and specific words, the general words are
sometimes construed as limited to things of the same kind as those specified.
This rule of interpretation generally known as ejuedem generis rule has been
pressed into service on behalf of the appellant. This rule reflects an attempt
to reconcile incompatibility between the specific and general words, in view of
the other rules of interpretation, that all words in a statute are given effect
if possible, that a statute is to be construed as a whole and that no words in
a statute are presumed to be superfluous. Ejusdem generis rule being one of the
rules of interpretation, only serves, like all such rules, as an aid to
discover the legislative intent; it is neither final nor conclusive and is
attracted only when the specific words enumerated, constitute a class, 741
which is not exhausted and are followed by general terms and when there is no
manifestation of intent to give broader meaning to the general words.
The first three categories contained in r.
18, in our opinion, do not form a genus or a class with the result that clause
(iv) would not attract the ejusdem generis rule for its construction. But
assuming that they constitute a class or kind of objects or genus, it appears
to us that grounds given by the Settlement Commissioner are analogous to clause
(iii) which speaks of gross and material irregularity or disparity in the
valuation of the claim. This submission must, therefore, be rejected.
We now come to the merits of the order of the
Settlement Commissioner. After going through the order and the material on the
record, to which our attention has been drawn, we are satisfied that the
Settlement Commissioner has at more places than one based his conclusions on
pure conjectures and surmises without there being any legal evidence on the
record to support them. We do not consider it necessary to exhaustively deal
with the argument in support of the errors of law on the face of the record for
the purpose of considering the alleged infirmities in the order of the
Settlement Commissioner. The learned Single Judge has dealt with this question
at length and we are in agreement with his conclusions. We may only add that we
have also looked at the original documents which appeared suspicious to the
Settlement Commissioner, but we are unable to find any circumstance which could
be said to be suspicious or abnormal so as to give rise to any reasonable doubt
about their genuineness. The respondent's learned counsel also expressed his
inability to bring to our notice any material throwing suspicion on the,
genuineness of these documents. Indeed the learned counsel was frank enough to
express his inability to support the view taken by the Letters Patent Bench or
to find fault with the conclusions of the learned Single Judge, whose order
seems to be unexceptionable. We accordingly allow the appeal and setting aside
the order of the Letters Patent Bench restore that of the Single Judge. It was
agreed at the bar that as directed by the Single Judge the case should go back
to the Chief Settlement Commissioner for a fresh decision in accordance with
law. That this case can be remitted back to the Chief Settlement Commissioner
in these proceedings was not disputed before us. We should, however, make it
clear that this order is not to be construed to contain any expression of
opinion on merits on the evidentiary value of the material on the record on the
question of valuation of the claim. The appellant is entitled to his costs.
Appeal allowed R.K.P.S.