G. Ponniah Thevar Vs. Nellayam Perumal
Pillai & Ors  INSC 328 (15 December 1976)
BEG, M. HAMEEDULLAH BEG, M. HAMEEDULLAH RAY,
A.N. (CJ) SINGH, JASWANT
CITATION: 1977 AIR 244 1977 SCR (2) 446 1977
SCC (1) 500
D 1989 SC1110 (18)
Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act,
1955, s, 2(e) "Landlord", whether relates only to creator of
lease---Section 3(1) whether protects tenancy rights created by life-estate
holder extending beyond his life-time--Provisions of Act, whether prospective.
The plaintiffs-respondents who became owners
of the land in dispute, as remainder-men, sued to evict the appellant, a
cultivating tenant, on the ground that his tenancy rights created by Annamalai
Ammal, a life-estate holder had ceased with her death. The appellant claimed
protection under s. 3(1) of the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act,
The respondents contended that such
protection was only available against the creator of a lease, to persons who
were cultivating tenants in 1955 when the Act came into force, and not to the
appellant who became a cultivating tenant in 1961.The eviction suit was
decreed. by the District Court and the High Court.
Allowing the appeal, the Court,
HELD: (1 ) The statutory definition of the
term "landlord" relates not only to the person who created the lease
but contemplates and takes in every successive holder who could be entitled to
evict a tenant. That. person can only one who has the right, at the time of
filing the suit, to realise rents or evict persons in wrongful occupation.
[449G-H] (2) The terms of the statutory
protection apply to all tenancies governed by the Act irrespective of the
nature of rights of the person who leased the land so long as the lessor was
entitled to create a tenancy. [447E] The Court observed-The Madras High Court's
view that a life estate holder cannot create a. tenancy which could last beyond
his lifetime, applied to statutory tenancies runs counter not only to the
principles underlying creation of statutory tenancy rights in agricultural
land, throughout the country, but is in conflict with the particular statutory
protection conferred upon cultivating tenants in the State of Madras.
[447E-F] (3) The provisions of the Act' are
prospective except for section 4(1) and even s. 4(1) shows that the protection
was not meant merely for those who were cultivating tenants in 1955. The
provisions became enforceable as soon as the Act became operative and there is
nothing in the Act to show that it ceased to be operative at any time or was
limited in its operation only as a protection given to persons who were
cultivating tenants in 1955. [450B-C]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICION: Civil Appeal No.
523 of 1976.
(Appeal by Special Leave from the Judgment
and Order dated 29-1-1976 of the Madras High Court in Second Appeal
K.S. Ramarmurthi and Mrs. S. Gopalakrishnan,
for the appellant.
T.S. Krishnamoorthi Iyer, K. Rajendra
Chowdhary and Miss Veena Devi Khanna, for respondents Nos. 2---4.
447 The Judgment of the Court was delivered
by BEG, J.--This appeal by special leave raises quite a simple question
interpretation of the provisions of the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection
Act, 1955, (hereinafter referred to as 'the act') which we think, have been
ignored entirely by the Madras high court in the judgment under appeal.
The undisputed facts are: one Annamalai
Pillai died leaving behind two widows, namely, Annamalai Ammal and Veerayee.
The last mentioned lady instituted a suit No. 482 of 1927 in the Court of the
District Munsif, Periyakulam, for partitioning the properties of the deceased,
impleading the other widow and a nephew of the deceased Annammalai Pillai as
defendants. That suit ended in a compromise dated 6th July, 1935. Under the
terms of the compromise decree, some land was given to Annamalai Ammal for
enjoyment during her life time, and, thereafter, absolutely to the sons of the
second defendant of suit No. 482 of 1927. Annamalai Ammal died on 26th July,
1968. She had, however, during her life time, inducted a tenant, G. Ponniah
Thevar, the appellant before us, by means of a lease dated 27th March, 1961.
After the death of Annamalai Ammal, the
plaintiffs-respondents, as remainder-men, sued to evict the appellant, the
cultivating tenant, on the ground that his tenancy rights did not enure beyond
the life time of Annamalai Ammal.
The suit for eviction, decreed by the
District Court and the High Court, is now before us. It is not disputed that
the provisions of the Act conferring protection upon cultivating tenants govern
the rights of the appellant. We are, therefore, not concerned with any rights
under any general or personal law which may enable the remainder--men to evict
a tenant of a life estate holder. The terms of the statutory protection apply
clearly to all tenancies governed by the Act irrespective of the nature of
rights of the person who leased the land so long as the lessor was entitled to
create a tenancy. It is not disputed before us that Annamalai Ammal was
entitled to create a tenancy. The only question, on which there is a dispute,
is whether a tenancy created by her could legally extend beyond her life. The
Madras High Court had, apparently, followed certain decisions of that Court
which had applied the principle that a life estate holder cannot create a
tenancy which could last beyond the life of a life-estate holder. The view
taken by the Madras High Court and applied to statutory tenancies runs counter
not only to the principles underlying creation of statutory tenancy rights in
agricultural land, throughout the length and breadth of the country, but, it
seems to us to be obviously in conflict with the particular statutory
protection conferred upon cultivating tenants in the State of Madras. These
enactments are really meant for the purposes proclaimed by them. The obvious
effect of such statutory provisions cannot be taken away or whittled down by
forensic sophistry. Courts should not allow themselves to become tools for
defeating clearly expressed statutory intentions.
Section 2(aa) of the Act lays down:
"2(aa) 'cultivating tenant' in relation
to any land(1) means a person who carried on personal cultivation on such land,
under a tenancy agreement, express or implied, and 448 (2) includes-(i) any
such person as is referred to in sub-clause (1) who continues in possession of
the land after the determination of the tenancy agreement, (ii) in the district
of Tiruchirappalli, a Kaiaeruvaramdar or a muttuvaramdar who works on the land
under an engagement with the landlord for remuneration by a share in the crop
in respect of which the work is done, and (iii) the heirs of any such person as
is referred to in sub clause (1) or sub-clause (2) (i) and (ii): but does not
include a mere intermediary or his heirs.
Explanation.---A sub-tenant shall be deemed
to be a cultivating tenant of the holding under the landlord if the lessor of
such sub-tenant has ceased to be the tenant of such landlord;' Section 3 (1 )
of the Act lays down:
"3 ( 1 ) Subject to the next succeeding
sub-sections, no cultivating tenant shall be evicted from his holding or any
part thereof, by or at the instance of his landlord, whether in execution of a
decree or order of a Court or otherwise".
Section 3(2) deals with the exceptional
circumstances, such as default in payment of rent, in which the statutory protection
is lifted. Section 3(3) relates to other matters with which also we are not
concerned here. Section 3 (4) lays down the procedure for the eviction of
tenants in those cases in which the statutory protection is removed. It runs as
"4(a) Every .landlord seeking to evict a
cultivating tenant falling under sub-section (2) shall, whether or not there.
is an order or decree of a Court for the eviction of such cultivating tenant,
make an application to the Revenue Divisional Officer and such application
shall bear a Court-fee stamp of one rupee.
(b) On receipt of such application, the
Revenue Divisional Officer shall, after giving a reasonable. opportunity to the
landlord and the cultivating tenant to make their representations, hold a
summary enquiry into the matter and-pass an order either allowing the
application or dismissing it and in a case falling under clause (a) or clause
(aa) of sub-section (2) in which the tenant had not availed of the provisions
contained in subsection (3), the Revenue Divisional Officer may allow the
cultivating tenant such time as he considers just and reasonable having regard
to the relative circumstances of the landlord and the cultivating tenant for
depositing the arrears of rent payable under this Act inclusive of such costs
as he may direct. If the cultivating tenant deposits the sum as directed, he
shall be deemed to have paid the rent under subsection (3) (b). If the cultivating
tenant fails to deposit the 449 sum as directed the Revenue Divisional Officer
shall pass an order for eviction".
Thus, we see that the statutory protection
from eviction, in this exhaustively comprehensive self contained procedure may
last even after the landlord has filed the prescribed application for eviction
an accrual of his cause of action.
Section 2(e) defines the landlord as follows:
"2(e) 'landlord' in relation to a holding
or part thereof means the person entitled to evict the cultivating tenant from
such holding or part;" The plaintiffs respondents, on their own showing,
are landlords as defined by the Act because they claimed, as the learned
Counsel for the contesting respondents admitted, to be able to evict the
There is no doubt whatsoever that the
appellant was the lessee whose right to cultivate as a tenant had not been
determined by anything in the lease or under any statutory provision. The
learned Counsel for the appellant pointed out that, even if there had been a
determination of the tenancy under a lease, the appellant would still be a
cultivating tenant as defined in the Act because of the provisions of Section
2(aa) (2) (i) of the Act. Apparently, such a statutory definition of a
cultivating tenant and an exhaustive procedure for his eviction in certain
cases only and in no other case, are there so as to carry out the purpose
.stated in the preamble as follows:
"Whereas it is necessary to protect
cultivating tenants in certain areas in the State of Madras from unjust eviction".
The plaintiffs landlords could be entitled to
resume land only under section 4(A) of the Act added by the Madras Cultivating
Tenants Protection (Amendment) Act of, 1956, for purposes of personal
cultivation in the manner laid down in the Act itself. The tenant could also be
evicted for arrears of rent as provided in Section 3 (2) of the Act, because,
in that case, the protection given by Section 3 (1) would not apply. But, none
of the conditions for eviction is fulfilled in the case before us. Moreover,
the procedure for eviction is a special procedure provided by Section 3 (4) of
the Act by proceedings in the Court of the Revenue Divisional Officer.
Learned Counsel for the contesting respondent
had tried to advance two contentions in support of the view taken by the High
Court. Firstly, he submits that the protection given under Section 3(1) was for
the landlord of the cultivating tenant. In view of the statutory definition of
the term "landlord", we think that the suit itself would fail if the
plaintiffs were not landlords. The statutory definition of the term landlord
relates not only to the person who created the lease but contemplates and takes
in every successive holder who could be entitled to evict a tenant. That person
can only be one who has the right, at the time of filing the suit, to realise
rents or evict persons in wrongful occupation. 'There is nothing in the Act
itself to show that the protection given to 450 the cultivating tenant, as
defined in the Act, was given only against his original lessor and did not
extend to subsequent holders of land occupying the capacity of the landlord.
Secondly, it was urged that the protection was given only to those persons who
were cultivating tenants in 1955 when the Act came into force. The argument has
only to be stated to be rejected. There is not a scintilla of indication in the
provisions of the Act to support such an impossible interpretation. The
provisions of the Act are clearly prospective except for the provisions of
Section 4( 1 ) of the Act, showing that even a person who was a cultivating
tenant of any land on 1st December, 1953. but is "not in possession
thereof at the commencement of the Act" could be treated if he was in
possession of the land on 1st December, 1953. Even Section 4(1) of the Act
shows that the protection was not meant merely for those who were cultivating
tenants in 1955. Provisions of the Act show that they became enforceable as
soon as the Act became operative. There is nothing whatsoever in the. Act to
show that it ceased to be operative at any time or was limited in its operation
only as a protection given to persons who were cultivating tenants in 1955.
Hence, we are unable to see any reason whatsoever for denying the appellant the
clearly intended protection conferred upon cultivating tenants, as defined in
the Act, by the provisions of the Act set out above.
Our attention has been invited to some cases
which relate to the. applicability of Section 76(a) of the Transfer of Property
Act. It is. true that this provision has been applied to tenancies created
under various statutory provisions regulating the rights of tenants to
agricultural lands in States all over India. But, we are not concerned here,
with a case in which the position of the alleged lessee is struck by Section
76(a) of the Transfer of Property Act. Such alleged lessees are not tenants at
all at the time when they are inducted on the land as tenants whatever else
they may be. We, therefore, need not even refer to the cases cited before us
which relate either to this provision of law or to enactments of other States.
Consequently, we allow this appeal and set
aside the judgment and decree of the High Court. But, in the circumstances of
the case the. parties will bear their own costs.
M.R. Appeal allowed.