1. The Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960, for short the Act, has not defined the expression 'survey officer'. This has led to a lengthy argument as to whether the Sub-Deputy Collectors who have been characterised as 'revenue officers' by Section 4 of the Act, can exercise the power at survey officers. The need for decision of this aspect has arisen because the petitioners claim to have obtained settlement of some dags which were carved out from Dag No. 1003. This carving out or creation of off-shoot dags is attributed to the Sub-Deputy Collector of Mayang. The parent dag, this is, 1003 was, however, settled with the respondent-society. Having known about the creation of the off-shoot dags, the co-operative society approached, the learned Deputy Commissioner under Section 41 read with Section 81 of the Act for cancellation of the off-shoot dags. This petition was allowed as the Deputy Commissioner took the view that the off-shoot dags had no entity in the eye of law as they had been created by an officer having no jurisdiction. On an appeal being preferred before the learned Revenue Tribunal, the view of the Deputy Commissioner has been upheld. Before examining the legality of the learned Tribunal's order, it may be pointed out that the carving out of the dags had happened not during the period of 'revenue survey' which in respect to the village in question had been over by March, 1970; but the same was in 1974.
2. We have been taken through the various provisions of the Act and the Rules framed thereunder hereinafter the Rules, by the learned counsel of both the sides to impress upon us their rival contentions. Shri Nodiachand for the petitioners has contended that an analyst of the different provisions of the Act and the Rules would show that the Sub-Deputy Collector is not only a revenue officer, but also a survey officer. To bring home this submission, he has referred to Sections 27, 28, 29, 42, 43 amongst others showing the rights conferred, and duties imposed, on a survey officer. This right includes the power to divide the land into survey numbers and to reconstitute or form new survey numbers, as stated in Section 28 of the Act. We are then referred to Section 48 (a) which has stated that a revenue officer may exercise any of the powers of the survey officer under Section 27 except the power of assessing the cost of hired labour. By drawing our attention to Section 31 which has made a distinction; between a survey officer and a settlement officer, it is contended that the learned Tribunal committed a manifest error of law in holding that a Sub-Deputy Collector has no power in question because he is not one of the officers included in the category mentioned in Section 6 of the Act. The submission is that that section has mentioned about 'Settlement Officers'' as would appear from the heading, of the section; and as such the mere fact that the Sub-Deputy Collector is not an officer mentioned in that section will not be decisive of the matter. Certain provisions of the Rules, to wit, Rules 60, 66, 73, 78, 79 and 88 are also pressed into service to satisfy us that a revenue officer like the Sub-Deputy Collector is intimately connected with the survey of the land, and ay such he has to be regarded as a survey officer.
3. To correctly appreciate the submissions of the learned counsel, we have to examine the relevant statutory provisions by bearing in mind the powers exercised by different categories of officers during the period of 'revenue survey', and those after the close of the survey, that is during the 'term of settlement'. The expression 'revenue survey' has been defined in Section 24 to mean the operations carried out ''to determine or revise the land revenue payable on lands in any local area'. The results of the operations have been called 'settlement'; and the period during which such results are to be in force is called the 'term of settlement'. Before revenue survey is under taken, a proclamation has to be issued in Form-3 as required by Rule 39 (1). This Form states that a revenue survey shall be made with a view to settlement of the land revenue and the preparation of record of rights connected therewith or the revision of the existing settlement/record of rights. As is known, this operation visualises a detailed examination of various aspects relating to the settlement or record of rights, and as such a large army of officers is needled for efficient conduct of the operations. The officers mentioned in Section 6 of the Act alone are not sufficient to discharge the various functions relating to the revenue survey. So assistance of survey officers or revenue officers is taken during these operation Section 27 makes it clear that the power mentioned therein can be exercised by a survey officer 'deputed to conduct or take part in any revenue survey'. Such a survey officer can also exercise the powers given by Sections 28 and 29 of the Act. The powers which have been conferred on a survey officer by Sections 42 and 43 of the Act are confined to the period of revenue survey. This would be apparent from the fact that these powers are related to the preparation and publication of the record of rights both in the draft form as well as finally which exercise is relatable to the survey operations only. This is not subject to any doubt if reference is made to the connected Rates in Chapter-V of the Rules in which Chapter as well Sections 42 and 43 find place in the Act. The assistance taken from the revenue officer mentioned in Rule 60 is also during the period of revenue survey. The power of disposing of objections given to a revenue officer by Rule 73 is also relatable to this period. The enabling provisions in Rules 57 and 66 that the Survey and Settlement Officer 'shall cause' the things mentioned therein to be done only means that the Survey and Settlement Officer can take assistance of others in preparing the dag chitha, jamabandi, tenants khatian. This does not mean that others can exercise this power independently of the Survey and Settlement Officer, Secondly, whatever power is thus exercised, it is during the period of revenue survey. Section 48 deals with assistance in preparation of maps, and this power is subject to the Rules. This provision does not enable us to answer the controversy at hand.
4. As in the present proceeding we are concerned with an action of the Sub-Deputy Collector taken by him during 'term of settlement', let it be seen on whom the Act has conferred the power of survey etc, during this term. Section 41 deals with this aspect and states:
'41. Power of Deputy Commissioner to correct errors etc.--(1) The powers and duties 'exercisable by the officers referred to in Section 6 may also be exercised, during the term of settlement, by the Deputy Commissioner or such other revenue officer as may be specified by the State Government for the purpose by notification in the Official Gazette.
(2) The Deputy Commissioner at any time during the term of settlement correct any error in the area or the assessment of any survey number or sub-division due to a mistake of survey or arithmetical miscalculation :
Provided that no arrear of land revenue shall become payable by reason of such correction'.
Relying on this section, it has been held by the learned Revenue Tribunal that the power of creating separate plots in 1974 could not have been exercised by the Sub-Deputy Collector inasmuch as the power has been conferred on the Deputy Commissioner, or such other revenue officer, as may be specially notified by the State Government. It is an admitted position that the Sub-Deputy Collector in question or the Sub-Deputy Collectors was/were not conferred with this power by a notification. Shri Nodiachand Singh, however, contends that the power and duties referred in Section 41 cannot be kept confined to the Deputy Commissioner. He contends that the responsibility of the Deputy Commissioner in this regard is only of ''custody and maintenance'' of the records handed over to him after the final publication of the record of rights, as stated in Rule 78. As per the counsel, the word 'maintenance' in Rule 78 means preservation only as one speaks of maintenance of a building. As against this, Shri Sauajaoba Singh submits that the word 'maintenance' cannot be given so prescribed a meaning and according to him this expression has been used in the same sense as one speaks of maintaining of accounts. As is well-known, a word is a skip of a living thought, and in it can fee poured any content one would like. The meaning of a word has also to be understood in the context in which it is used and the purpose it is meant to serve. Rule 78 having spoken of 'custody'' which would take within its fold the responsibility of taking care of wear and fear the word 'maintenance' has to be given a different meaning. If Rule 78 is read along with Section 41 of the Act, the power conferred by this expression cannot be kept confined to physical preservation alone. We may not pursue this matter because we are not called upon in this proceeding to decide the ambit of the power of the Deputy Commissioner exercised by him under Section 41 of the Act. What we have to determine is whether the Sub-Deputy Collector can exercise the power of survey etc. after the revenue survey of a village is over. In so far as that is concerned, the learned counsel for the petitioners has not been able to bring to our notice any provision in the Act and the Rules except (i) those which a revenue officer exercises during the time of revenue survey which would not assist the petitioners in finding out the rights of a Sub-Deputy Collector during the term of settlement, and (ii) those mentioned in Sections 46 and 83 of the Act. As to Section 46 which deals with prayers for mutation, it is enough to point out that that power is exercisable not by the Sub-Deputy Collector as such, but by a competent authority, which expression has been defined to mean in Section 2 (e) of the Act as 'any officer appointed by the State Government to be the competent authority for the purposes of that provision'. The Sub-Deputy Collector exercises the mutation power by virtue of this authorisation. In this connection, we may refer to Section 5 (6) of the Act which has stated that the duties and powers of the Sub-Deputy Collectors shall be such as may be imposed or conferred on them (i) by or under this Act, (ii) any other law in force for the time being, or (iii) any general or special order of the Administration. The power of mutation is an illustration of the third source mentioned in Sub-section (6). Section 48 furnishes an instance of the power conferred by the Act. But as already held that that power does not lake within its fold the power of carving out dags. In so far as Section 83 is concerned, the power of survey given by this provision is not an omnibus power e survey but is connected with and limited to the discharge of duties under the Act or any other law for the time being in force. So, a Sub-Deputy Collector cannot exercise the powers conferred by Sections 28 and 29 on the survey officer during the term of settlement by virtue of what is stated in Section 83, unless it can be shown aliunde that such a power is being exercised by him in discharge of his duties under the Act, to which effect we do not find anything clinching.
5. This being the state of affairs as appears from the relevant provision of the Act and the Rules, the contention of Shri Nadiachand Singh that the Sub-Deputy Collector could have carved out some dags cannot be accepted. An alternative submission is, therefore, made before us that as the Deputy Commissioner had given allotment of the carved out dags to the petitioners, it should be held that the Deputy Commissioner has virtually confirmed the creation of off-shoot dags. Reference to the impugned judgment of the learned Tribunal shows that in the allotment order as passed by the Deputy Commissioner in favour of the petitioners, no dag numbers were mentioned. Indeed, in the applications of the petitioners for allotment no dags had been referred. When the allotment orders were, however, prepared it was mentioned that the allotments were with respect to Dag Nos. 1003 and 1038, 1003 and 1039 and so on. The off-shoot dags were, however, really numbered as 1003/1038, 1003/1039 etc. From this narration of facts, we would not be justified in holding that the Deputy Commissioner had confirmed the creation of off-shoot dags from parent Dag 1003. There is also force in the submission of Shri Sanajaoba Singh that allotment of a plot of land is a different mental process than that of confirming the creation of an off-shoot dag, This part of the submission of the learned counsel for the petitioners cannot, therefore, be accepted. The question of estoppel on the part of the Deputy Commissioner to cancel the off-shoot dags does not therefore arise, which was also mentioned by Shri Nadiachand Singh.
6. The final assault on the validity of the impugned order is that the Deputy Commissioner could not have exercised his powers under Section 41 read with Section 81 of the Act inasmuch as the same really amounted to review of the order of allotment passed by none else than the Deputy Commissioner in which case Section 96 (1) alone could have been invoked. The ingredients of that section relating to limitation and the grounds being not satisfied, it is contended that recourse to Section 41 was a colourable exercise of power. We do not accept this submission because, according to us, the impugned order cannot be read to be the cancellation of the allotment orders made in favour of the petitioners. As Dag No. 1003 is stated to cover an area of about 1000 acres, and as allotment in favour of the respondent-Co-operative Society was in all 427.5 acres covered by Dag Nos. 2 and 1003, and the petitioners were allotted 2.5 acres each out of the de-reserved fishery area, there is no real conflict in the allotment orders needing cancellation of any. It may be pointed out that the allotment order of the Deputy Commissioner has not referred to specified dag numbers in so far as the petitioners are concerned. What has in fact been cancelled is carving out of some land from Dag No. 1003, of which possession had been handed over to the respondent-Society on 1-3-1976, whereas the petitioners were purportedly given possession of the same land on 12-3-1976. We have not accepted this submission for another reason and that is to safeguard the interests of the petitioners themselves which lies in not treating the order of allotment in their favour as cancelled, but as subsisting.
7. The impugned order cannot therefore be said to suffer from any apparent error of law or of jurisdiction. The petitions are, therefore, dismissed. Before parting, we may state that, it seems to us, that while amending Section 4 in 1976 by inserting the name of revenue commissioner in the section and while changing the alphabetical order of the earlier revenue officers, consequential change was perhaps not made in Section 6 while designating the settlement officers.
T.N. Singh, J.
8. I agree.