Hatti Vs. Sunder Singh  INSC 189
(11 September 1970)
11/09/1970 BHARGAVA, VISHISHTHA BHARGAVA,
VISHISHTHA SIKRI, S.M.
CITATION: 1971 AIR 2320 1971 SCR (2) 163
Civil Court-Exclusion of Jurisdiction-Delhi
Land Reforms Act, 1954--Sections 84, 185, 186 and item 4 of First
Schedule-Jurisdiction of Revenue Court--Suit to establish Bhumidari right if
competent--Civil Court's competence to decide title in proceedings under First
Under s. 13 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act,
1954 tenant was declared bhumidhar of land belonging to the respondent filed a
suit in the Civil Court claiming that issued to the appellant was illegal, that
he should instead bhumidhar and prayed for possession of the land. Apart on
merits, the appellant raised the issue that the Civil jurisdiction to entertain
the suit in view of the bar in s. The trial court held that the jurisdiction of
civil court was the appellant a respondent. The the bhumidhari be declared the
from the issues Court had no 185 of the Act. not barred, and decreed the suit.
The decree was upheld in appeal by the District Judge. and, in second appeal,
by a single Judge of the High Court. The Letters Patent Appeal was also
Allowing the appeal, this Court,
HELD : (i) The reliefs claimed by the
respondent were within the competent jurisdiction of the Revenue Assistant and
the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
Under s. 84 the right to institute a suit for
possession was granted only to a bhumidar or an asami, or the gaon sabha.
The Act envisaged only these three classes of
persons who would possess rights in agricultural land after the commencement of
the Act. Proprietors as such having ceased to exist, could not, therefore,
institute a suit for possession. This aspect of the case has been lost sight of
by the High Court and the lower courts, because it appears that their attention
was not drawn to the provision of s.
154 of the Act, under which all lands of
proprietors, other than those comprised in their holdings, vested in the gaon
sabha, thus extinguishing their proprietary rights. [ 1 67 G-H] (ii)There is no
provision in the rules for giving notice to different interested parties before
a declaration of bhumidari rights is made, Any person, who is aggrieved by a
declaration of bhumidhari right issued in favour of another person can
appropriately seek his remedy by moving an application before the Revenue
Assistant under item 4 of the First Schedule, whereupon, if he succeeds, he
will obtain a declaration that he is the Bhumidar. Such a declaration will
automatically supersede the declaration issued by the authorities in accordance
with the Rules without any adjudication of rights and without notice to
interested parties [169 B] Lai Singh v. Sardara & Anr. I.L.R.  Vol.
17, 2 Pb.
428 referred to.
(iii)It is true that the declarations made by
the revenue authorities without going through the judicial procedure are
subject to due adjudication of rights; but such adjudication must be by an
application under item 4 of Sch. I and not by approach to the civil court. The
jurisdiction of the civil court is already barred by s. 185 of the Act read
with various items of the first Schedule [169 D-E] The inference contra in Lal
Singh v. Sardara & Anr. I.L.R.
 Vol. 17, 2 Pb. 428 disapproved.
164 (iv)Section 186 only envisages that
question of title will arise before the Revenue Courts in suits or proceedings
under the first schedule and only if such a question arises in a competent
proceeding pending in a Revenue Court an issue will be framed and referred to
the civil court. Such a provision does not give jurisdiction to the Civil Court
to entertain the suit itself on a question of title. [170 B-C]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 1228 of 1966.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
decree dated December 2, 1965 of the Punjab High Court, Circuit Bench at Delhi
in Letters Patent Appeal No. 57-D of 1965.
C. B. Agarwala and P. P. Juneja, for the
Sardari Lal Bhatia, D. R. Gupta and H. K.
Puri, for the respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
Bhargava, J. The appellant Hatti was declared a Bhumidar ,of some land
belonging to the respondent, Sunder Singh, under section 13 of the Delhi Land
Reforms Act No. 8 of 1954 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act"). The
respondent then brought a suit in the Civil Court claiming three reliefs.
The first relief claimed was for a
declaration that the declaration of Bhumidari issued in the name of the
appellant with respect to the land in dispute was wrong, illegal, without
jurisdiction, ultra vires, void and ineffective against the respondent. The
second relief was that the respondent be declared entitled to Bhumidari rights
under section 11 of the Act; and the third relief was for possession of the
land. The suit was brought on the allegation that the respondent was the owner
of the land, while the appellant had no rights in it. The land along with some
other land was on Mustrajri with one Sultan Singh for a period of 20 years
ending in June, 1952, and the appellant had been admitted as a tenant-at-will
by the Mustrajar. On the expiry of the period of 20 years in June, 1952, the
Mustrajri stood terminated and the original Mustrajar's heirs left the land.
The appellant, however, continued in possession, but, since he was a
tenant-at-will of the Mustrajar, he had no rights in the land after the expiry
of the Mustrajri. He was asked to surrender possession, but failed to do so. On
the other hand, he was wrongly granted the declaration under S. 13 of the Act that
he was a Bhumidar when he had no rights as tenant in the land at all. The main
defence taken on behalf of the appellant was that he was a non-occupancy tenant
and he was entitled to the declaration of his Bhumidari rights. Apart from the
issues on merits, one issue was raised by the appellant that the Civil Court
bad no jurisdiction to entertain the suit in view of the provisions 165 of
section 185 of the Act. The trial Court held that the jurisdiction of the Civil
Court was not barred. On merits, the finding recorded was that the respondent
was the proprietor of the land, but no declaration could be granted that he
became Bhumidar under s. 11 of the Act, as that relief could only be granted by
the revenue authorities under the Act. It was held that he was, however,
entitled to possession in exercise of his right as proprietor, so that a decree
for possession was granted in his favour.
That decree was upheld, in appeal, by the
District Judge and, in second appeal, by a learned single Judge of the High
Court of Punjab. The Letters Patent appeal before the Division Bench was also
dismissed, so that the appellant has now come up to this Court in this appeal
by special leave.
The only point that was argued before the
Division Bench in the Letters Patent appeal was that the Civil Court had no
jurisdiction to entertain the suit,, so that, in this appeal, we are also
concerned with this issue alone.
Section 185(1) of the Act, on, which reliance
has been placed for urging that the Civil Court has no jurisdiction, is as
follows :"185. (1) Except as provided by or under this Act, no court other
than a court mentioned in column 7 of Schedule 1 shall, notwithstanding
anything contained in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, take cognizance of any
suit, application, or proceedings mentioned in column 3 thereof." The
relevant entries in the First Schedule, which require consideration, are
Numbers 4, 19 and 28. Item 4 mentions applications for declaration of Bhumidari
rights in column 3 and, inter alia refers to sections 1 1 and 1 3 of, the Act.
For these applications, there is no period of
limitation prescribed at all, and the Court of original jurisdiction is that of
the Revenue Assistant. Item 19 refers to section 84 of the Act, and relates to
suit for ejectment of a person occupying land without title and for damages.
The three sub-clauses mention that the suit can be instituted (i) by a Bhumidar
declared under Chapter III of the Act or by an Asami falling under section 6 of
the Act where such unlawful occupant was in possession of the land before the
issue of the prescribed declaration form; (ii) by a Gaon Sabha where the
unlawful occupant was in possession of the land before the constitution of Gaon
Panchayat; and (iii) by a Bhumidar, Asami or Gaon Sabha in any other case. The
period of limitation is three years, in the first case, from the date of issue
of the prescribed declaration form; in the second case, from the date of
constitution of Gaon Panchayat under s. 151; and, in the third case, from the
1st of July following the date of occupation. The 166 Court of original
jurisdiction in each case is that of the Revenue Assistant. Item 28 refers to
section 104 and relates to declaratory suit under that section. No period of
limitation is prescribed for such a suit, and the Court of original
jurisdiction is again the Revenue Assistant.
The plea put forward on behalf of the
appellant was that this suit, which was instituted by the respondent, ,covered
only those reliefs which could be granted by the Revenue Assistant under the
three items Nos. 4, 19 and 28 of the First .Schedule to the Act mentioned
above, so that, by virtue of section 185 of the Act, the jurisdiction of the
Civil Court was barred. The High Court has taken the view that the suit is
really in the nature of a title suit and such a title suit is not covered by
these items, so that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was not barred. It is
this view of the High Court that has been challenged before us in this appeal.
Learned counsel appearing for the appellant
took us through the various provisions of the Act to show that the Act is a
complete Code which lays down the rights that any person can possess in
agricultural land in the area to which the Act applies, and the remedies that
can be sought in respect of such land for obtaining declaration of their rights
or any other declaration for possession. The Act abolished the ownership of
agricultural land by the previous proprietors.
This was effected by first laying down in
sections 11 and 13 that proprietors will become Bhumidars in respect of their
lands which were their Khud Kasht or Sir, while tenants would become Bhumidars
in respect of their holdings. Under section 6 of the Act, persons belonging to
several classes, which included non-occupancy tenants of proprietor's grove and
sub-tenants of tenant's grove, and non-occupancy tenants of pasture land, or of
land covered by water,, and some other classes, shall become Asamis.
"Holding" was defined in section 3(11a) ,of the Act by stating that
it means:-(a) in respect of(i) Bhumidar or Asami; or (ii)tenant or sub-tenant
under the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887, or the Agra Tenancy Act, 1901; or
(iii)lessee under the Bhoodan Yagna Act, 1955, a parcel or parcels of land held
under one tenure, lease, engagement or grant; and (b) in respect of
proprietors, a parcel or parcels of land held as sir or khud-kasht.
The effect of sections 6 and 13 was that,
thereafter, tenants and :sub-tenants are lessees under the Bhoodan Yagna Act,
1955, 167 ceased to continue as such, and either became Bhumidars or Asamis in
respect of their holdings. Similarly, under section 11, proprietors in respect
of their sir and khud kasht land became Bhumidars. These sections have to be
read in conjunction with section 154 of the Act of which the relevant portion
is quoted below:-" 154. On the commencement of this Act(i) all lands
whether cultivable or otherwise, except land for the time being comprised in
any holding or grove, situate in a Gaon Sabha Area, shall vest in the Gaon
Sabha Sections 6, 11, 13 and 154 of the Act read together, thus, show that,
after the Act came into force, proprietors of agricultural land as such ceased
to exist. If any land was part of a holding of a proprietor, he became a
Bhumidar of it. If it was part of a holding of some other person, such as a
tenant or a sub-tenant etc., he became either a Bhumidar or an Asami, whereupon
the rights of the proprietor in that land ceased. Lands, which were not
holdings of either the proprietor or any other person, vested in the Gaon Sabha.
In the case of proprietors, their rights in the land continued to exist only in
respect of holdings which, under the definition, must have been either their
sir or khud kasht at the commencement of the Act. If it was not sir or khud
kasht of a proprietor, it would not be his holding and, consequently, such land
would vest in the Gaon Sabha under section 154, the result of which would be
that the rights of the proprietor would be extinguished. It appears that it was
in view of this scheme of the Act that, under section 84, the right to
institute a suit for possession was granted only to a Bhumidar, or an Asami, or
the Gaon Sabha. The Act envisaged only these three classes of persons who would
possess rights in agricultural I-and after the commencement of the Act.
Proprietors as such having ceased to exist could not, therefore, institute a
suit for possession. This aspect of the case has been lost sight of by the High
Court and the lower courts, because it appears that their attention was not
drawn to the provisions of section 154 of the Act, under which all lands of
proprietors, other than those comprised in their holdings, vested in the Gaon
Sabha, thus extinguishing their proprietary rights.
168 A second aspect that needs examination
relates to the provisions of the Act for declaration of Bhumidari rights.
Sections 11 and 13 grant power to the Deputy
Commissioner to declare proprietors in respect of their holdings and certain
classes of tenants in respect of their holdings as Bhumidars. The procedure to
be adopted for issuing the declaration forms was laid down in the Delhi Land
Reforms Rules, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as "the Rules") made by
the Chief Commissioner of Delhi in exercise of the powers conferred by sections
9, 105, 149, 162, 180 and 191 of the Act. The relevant Rules are 6 to 8. These
Rules envisaged preparation of declaration forms by the revenue authorities
without any application from any party. The declaration forms are based on the
entries in the revenue records and, having been prepared on their basis, the
declaration forms are issued to the persons who, under the forms, are held to
be entitled to. be declared as Bhumidars. These Rules, thus, do not envisage
any application under section 11 of section 13 at this early stage. Rule 8(4)
lays down that anyone, who challenges the correctness of entries in the forms
of declaration, shall, except where it refers to a clerical omission or error,
be directed by the Revenue Assistant to file a regular suit within two months
of the date of issue. Obviously, this sub-rule has to be interpreted in
conformity with section 185 and item 4 of the First Schedule to the Act, so
that the scope of this subrule must be confined to institution of suits in
respect of matters not covered by item 4 of the First Schedule. This sub-rule
would not stand in the way of an application being made by any person claiming
to be Bhumidar under item 4 of the First Schedule.
The Rules were examined by Khanna J., in Lal
Singh v. Sardara and Another(1) and in our opinion, he rightly held that a
perusal of the Rules goes to show that there is no provision for giving notice
to different interested parties before a declaration of Bhumidari rights is
made and the whole thing is done in more or less a mechanical way. That being
the position, it becomes obvious that an application for declaration of a
Bhumidari right under item 4 of Schedule I of the Act is intended to be made
even in cases where a declaration may have been previously granted under
section 11 or section 13 in accordance with the Rules. The ,scheme of the Act
appears to be that, initially, a declaration of Bhumidari right can be granted
under s. 11 or s. 13 without calling for objections and without hearing
contesting parties in favour of the person who appears to the revenue
authorities to be entitled to the declaration on the basis of the records
maintained by them. Thereafter, any person aggrieved and claiming Bhumidari
rights is expected to move an application before the Revenue Assistant (1).
I.L.R.  Vol. 17 (2) Pb.. 428.
169 who is to adjudicate upon the rights
after following the usual judicial procedure. The order made by the Revenue
Assistant in such a proceeding will then have to be given effect to and would
override the declarations earlier issued in accordance with the Rules. This
shows that any person, who is aggrieved by a declaration of Bhumidari right
issued in favour of another person, can appropriately seek his remedy by moving
an application before the Revenue Assistant under item 4 of the First Schedule,
whereupon, if he succeeds, he will obtain a declaration that he is the Bhumidar.
Such a declaration will automatically supersede the declaration issued by the
authorities in accordance with the Rules without any adjudication of rights and
without notice to interested parties.
Khanna, J., in the case of Lai Singh v.
Sardara & Another(1) correctly interpreted the scope and purpose of the
Rules, under which forms of declaration of Bhumidari rights are issued, but, in
our opinion, incorrectly inferred that, since there is no effectual
adjudication of rights by the revenue authorities while declaring Bhumidari
rights, their declaration must be subject to the due adjudication of rights
which, in the absence of anything to the contrary, can only be by a Civil
Court. It is true that the declarations made by the revenue authorities without
going, through the judicial procedure are subject to due adjudication of
rights; but such adjudication must be by an application under item 4 of
Schedule I and not by approach to the Civil Court. The jurisdiction of the
Civil Court is clearly barred by section 185 of the Act read with the various
items of the First Schedule mentioned above. If a Bhumidar seeks a declaration
of his right, he has to approach the Revenue Assistant by an application under
item 4, while, if a Gaon Sabha wants a clarification in respect of any person
claiming to be entitled to any right in any land, it can institute a suit for a
declaration under item 28, and the Revenue Assistant can make a declaration of
the right of such person. So far as suits for possession are concerned, we have
already held earlier that section 84 read with item 19 of the First Schedule
gives the jurisdiction to the Revenue Assistant to grant decree for possession,
and that the suit for possession in respect of agricultural land, after the
commencement of the Act, can only be instituted either by a Bhumidar or an
Asami or the Gaon Sabha.
There can be no suit by any person claiming
to be a proprietor, because the Act does not envisage a proprietor as such
continuing to have rights after the commencement of the Act. The First Schedule
and s. 84 of the Act provide full remedy for suit for possession to persons who
can hold rights in agricultural land under the Act.
(1) I.L.R.  Vol. 17 (2) Pb 428.
2 L235Sup.CI/71 170 The High Court, in this
connection, referred to section 186 of the Act under which any question raised
regarding the title of any party to the land, which is the subject-matter of a
suit or proceeding under the First Schedule, has to be referred by the Revenue
Court to the competent Civil Court for decision after framing an issue on that
Inference was sought to be, drawn from this
provision that questions of title could be competently agitated by a suit in
the Civil Court, as the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was not barred. It
appears to us that there is no justification for drawing such an inference. On
the contrary, section 186 envisages that questions of title will arise before
the Revenue Courts in suits or proceedings under the First Schedule and, only
if such a question arises in a competent proceeding pending in a revenue Court,
an issue will be framed and referred to the Civil Court. Such a provision does
not give jurisdiction to the Civil Court to entertain the suit itself on a
question of title. The jurisdiction of the Civil Court is limited to deciding
the issue of title referred to it by the Revenue Court. This clearly implies
that, if a question of title is raised in an application for declaration of
Bhumidari rights under item 4 of Schedule I of the Act, that question will then
be referred by the Revenue Assistant to the Civil Court; but a party wanting to
raise such a question of title in order to claim Bhumidari right cannot directly
approach the Civil Court. The ,Act is a complete Code under which it is clear
that any one, wanting a declaration of his right as a Bhumidar, or aggrieved by
a declaration issued without notice to him in favour of another, can approach
the Revenue Assistant under item 4 of the First Schedule and this he is allowed
to do without any period of limitation, because he may not be aware of the fact
that a declaration has been issued in respect of his holding in favour of
another. A declaration by a Gaon Sabha of the right of any person can also be
sought without any period of limitation. If there is dispute as to possession
of agricultural land, the remedy has to be sought under section 84 read with
item 19 of the First Schedule. All the reliefs claimed by the respondent in the
present suit were, thus, within the competent jurisdiction of the Revenue
Assistant, and the Civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
In the result, the appeal is allowed, the
decree passed by the High Court is set aside and the suit of the respondent is
dismissed. The appellant will be entitled to his costs in this Court, while,
costs in other Courts will be borne by the parties themselves.
Y.P. Appeal allowed.