1. The critical controversy raised by these two cases mainly impinges upon the jurisdiction of the Commissioner under the provisions of the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holdings) Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) to call for the record of the inquiry of the Collector so as to find out the liability of the holder to file- returns and make appropriate orders under Section 45 (2) thereof. In each case the record that was called for and taken into account consisted of the orders made by the authority under Section 13 (2) holding that the petitioner in each case was not liable to file the land return under Section 12 of the Act. The central submission is that Sub-section (2) of Section 45 does not permit exercise of revisional power by the Commissioner with regard to the orders so made under Section 13.
2. Turning to facts, the same are few. In Special Civil Application No. 703 of 1972 proceedings were initiated under Section 13 of the Act by a notice and the Special Deputy Collector came to the conclusion that the petitioner Jamunabai, being a holder of land less than the ceiling area, was not liable to file a return. He made an order on 18-4-1968 to that effect. After issue of the notice, the Commissioner revised that order holding that the petitioner Jamunabai was a surplus holder. The Commissioner's order dated 21-2-1972, apart from setting aside the order made by the Special Deputy Collector, further purported to give a finding that the sale effected of Section No. 83, area 29 acres 23 gunthas, of Chandpur, was hit by Section 8 and available for taking into account. Thus holding the impugned order held that there was surplus with the landholder and further purported to determine that surplus; and has made a direction to delimit 21 acres 1 guntha as surplus land. Apart from the jurisdiction, the making of such order is also under challenge in this petition.
3. In the companion petition, namely. Special Civil Application No. 565 of 1973, the issue is restricted to jurisdiction, as by the impugned order made by the Commissioner dated 13-4-1973 the Special Deputy Collector is directed to make a detailed inquiry about the land sold by the petitioner Gangshettiwar and make a fresh order against the landholder calling upon the landholder to file a return under Section 12 of the Act. That order does not decide any controversy but only holds that there is a prima facie case calling for fresh inquiry under Section 13.
4. For the petitioners it is contended that Section 45 (2) of the Act operates on a restrictive field and confers jurisdiction only with regard to the inquiries and proceedings which have reference to the provisions of Sections 17 to 21 and Section 27 of the Act. Several provisions of the Act are brought to our notice to indicate that the provisions of Sections 17 to 21 and 27 appropriately are only intended by the Legislature to be the subject-matter of revision. It is contended that the use of the word 'under' followed by the sections mentioned in the body of Sub- Section (2) of Section 45 controls both 'inquiry' and 'proceedings' preceding it. Similarly, the same construction is placed on the phrase occurring in the proviso. Accordingly, whether it be an inquiry or proceedings under Section 13, the revisional power, it is submitted, is not available. As an alternative submission and as a matter of construction, it is submitted that the injunction of Section 13 and the steps required to be taken by that provision partake the character of proceedings and not of an inquiry. If it be proceedings it is clearly excepted from the revisional power. Aid is also taken from the amendment of this law by the further enactments.
5. As against this, for the State as we can gather from submissions of the counsel and the written note dated 21-9-1977, it appears to be the stand that the words 'any inquiry' in Sub-section (2) of Section 45 are referable to Sections 17 to 21 and 27; so also word 'proceedings' and further by construction only effort is to submit that because Section 18 requires the Collector statutorily to find the holding of each person with reference to his entitlement to the ceiling area, the inquiry under Section 13 is also an inquiry under Section 18, and by this circumlocutory logic jurisdiction of revisional scrutiny under Section 45 (2) is asserted. The approach herein is far from clear and is not very happy.
6. It would indeed follow on the submission of the State that the petitioners would be 'entitled to succeed, for if the word 'inquiry' is referable to the provisions of Sections 17 to 21 and 27, it would exclude Section 13 of the Act; as it is futile on the part of the State to say that Section 18 contemplates an inquiry under Section 13 and, therefore, the revisional power is available. Such a strenuous exercise is impermissible while interpreting matters ofjurisdiction and statutory power particularly when language of law should be primarily approached as conveying its terms simply about what it enacts and what powers it confers and jurisdiction it constructs. Circumlocution is fraught with clear uncertainty; and in this case ex facie unsustainable.
7. Moreover, the matters of interpretation of the statute do not depend on such facile and simplistic concessions; and under our system of law interpretation is the primordial function of the Court. Even a bare look at Section 18 shows that it has no reference to Section 13 or any inquiry thereunder and it enacts matters of proceedings in an inquiry under Section 14 itself which has to be initiated upon returns filed by the landholder. There is material distinction between Sections 13 and 14 themselves, the former dealing with the case of a person who has either not filed a return or filed a return which is believed to be false or wrong. Section 13 and its scope is definite as far as the matters of filing returns are concerned. Primarily it is to have the return or a correct return that the provisions are enacted. In a given case inquiry under Section 14 would ensue only after orders are made under Section 13 of the Act. Section 18 has no operative function at the stage of Section 13 itself.
8. Now, we proceed to extract provisions of Section 45 (2) along with the proviso that read as follows :
'The State Government may, suo motu or on an application made to it by the aggrieved person, at any time, call for the record of any inquiry or proceedings under Sections 17 to 21 (both, inclusive) or under Section 27 for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of any inquiry or proceedings for any part thereof) under those sections or of any order passed under Section 27 and may pass such order thereon as it deems fit, after giving the party a reasonable opportunity of being heard:
Provided that, nothing in the Sub-section shall entitle the State Government to call for the record of any inquiry or proceedings of a declaration or part thereof under Section 21 in relation to any land, unless an appeal against any such declaration or part thereof has not been filed within the period provided for it, (the possession of such land has not been taken under Sub-section (4) of Section 21) and a period of three years from the date of such declaration or part thereof has notelapsed.' (underlining ours)The words in brackets in the provisohave been omitted retrospectively byMaharashtra Act No. 26 of 1976 dated17-7-1976. This Sub-section (2) is a part ofthe provisions of Section 45 which are titledas 'control'. Sub-section (1) confersupon the State Government authorityover the officers who act under the provisions of the Act. Sub-section (2) inthis form was substituted by Section 4 ofMaharashtra Act No. 32 of 1965, the earlier provision being:
'The State Government may suo motu or on an application made to it by an aggrieved person at any time, call for the record of any inquiry or the proceedings of the Collector under Section 27 or the officer authorised under that section, for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of any order passed by, and as to the regularity of the proceedings of, the Collector or authorised officer and pass such order thereon as it deems fit.'
9. The change made by the amendment which was by substitution of the whole Sub-section, as far as the present debate is concerned, is significant in two respects. Firstly, it maintained the words 'any inquiry' as they were, and secondly, it omitted 'the' which is a de-mite article, before 'proceedings' as was available in the original Sub-section (2). It is clear, therefore, that under the original provision, the revisional power could be invoked with regard to any inquiry. However, the said power was not available with regard to the proceedings under any other section except Section 27. The amendment, though it is by substitution, clearly retained the power of revision which was already there with regard to the records of any inquiry and specifically widened the revisional power with regard to the proceedings by adding the provisions of Sections 17 to 21. Not only, therefore, the proceedings under these sections could be subjected to the process of revisional scrutiny but also the records of any inquiry can be called for that purpose. Retention of the words 'inquiry' and additions to 'proceedings' having reference to sections in this manner prominently indicates that the original scheme with regard to power over 'inquiry' is not affected. Apart from that, the words 'any inquiry' and 'proceedings' are not clubbed together by the conjunction 'and' but are in the setting of a phrase having a disjunction of 'or'. It is primary to attribute to the legislature when 'or' is used that it intends to indicate by its own language a disjunction and effect must be given, unless the context would otherwise indicate, to the use of that disjunction and the meaning of the enactment gathered. On a plain reading of Sub-section (2) as well the proviso appended to that Sub-section, it is apparent, therefore, that the words 'inquiry' and 'proceedings' are separate, distinct and different in scope and contemplation. The word 'any qualifying 'inquiry' shows that every inquiry under the provisions of that Act is clearly intended to be brought in; while as far as the records of the proceedings are concerned, the same are restricted to those under Sections 17 to 21 or under Section 27. This simple reading of the provisions clearly throws light and eminently furthers the intention of enacting revisional jurisdiction. It is intended, subject to the statute or subject to the provisions of other sections of the Act, to enable the State Government or its delegate to call for the record of every inquiry contemplated by the provisions of the Act or call for the proceedings required to be undertaken under Sections 17 to 21 or Section 27 of the Act. It is only when other provisions of the Act provide otherwise that the amplitude of this power with regard to inquiry will be curtailed.
10. The reading suggested for the petitioner or for the State obviously does violence to the words used by the Legislature, for we will have to read 'and' in place of 'or', and we will have to give no significance to the word 'any' preceding 'inquiry'. Similarly we will have to attribute to the Legislature an anomalous intention that though it uses two different words, it intends to convey by two different words the same statutory process--call it inquiry or proceedings. There are no compelling reasons to resort to any such approach.
11. Now, it appears to us well settled that the words like 'proceedings' or 'inquiry' used by a given statute are to be understood in the context of that given statute; for the legal term like 'proceeding' may have a wide as well as narrow connotation: See Ganga Naicken v. Sundaram Ayyar AIR 1956 Mad 597; Shantilal v. N. A. Rangaswami 1977 Mh LJ 587 for the consideration of the term 'proceeding' in Article 226 of the Constitution, Collector of Monghyr v. Pratap Singh : AIR1957Pat102 (FB) where 'proceeding' is treated as a form of action in which it is brought or defended; Brijallal v. State of U. P. : AIR1958All621 as indicating that 'proceeding' can be a civil action; and Kapur Singh v. Union of India . In Pryor v. City Offices Co. (1883) 10 QBD 504 a distinction is noted while considering the provisions of Sections 89 and 90 of the Judicature Act, 1873, that the word 'proceeding' can be used as denoting action, or as was held in Richards v. Cullerne (1881) 7 QBD 623 it may indicate any stage of action.
12. It appears to us primary to observe that the word 'proceeding' would take colour from the context, and the context alone is determinative of its true scope, for proceeding by itself may indicate the whole action or it may be a mere step in action. That term in the context of law is generally understood as indicating the form and manner of conducting juridical business before a court or judicial officer; regular and orderly progress in form of law; including all possible steps in an action from its commencement to conclusion by judgment. The term can appropriately be applicable in a legal sense, only to judicial acts before some judicial tribunal or may take in the prescribed mode of action for carrying into effect the legal right or the scheme of the statute (Black's Law Dictionary, revised fourth edition, p. 1368). It can be synonymous with a step in action or may even indicate as comprising of every stage of the action: see Smalley v. Robey & Co. (1962) 1 QB 577, including that of signing of the judgment; see Deighton v. Cockle (1912) 1 KB 206. The decision in Bassano v. Bradley 1896) 1 QB 645 shows that an action may not be a proceeding. There the question arose whether an action by charity trustees to recover rent-charge would be a proceeding within Section 41 of the Charitable Trusts Act, 1853, having a phrase 'suit or other proceeding', (see also Humphrise v. Worwood (1894) 64 LJ QB 437 negativing the contention that an action under the Municipal Corporation Act, 1882, having reference to Section 41 would be a proceeding within the meaning of the Public Authorities Protection Act, 1894)).
13. Having these in-built distinctive characteristics of a 'proceeding' lead us to interpret in the present context that proceedings means 'step in action' or 'the form of action' of the statutory requirements enjoined upon by law upon the instrumentality or authority and is as such distinguishable from the action of the inquiry or the cause itself. There is no reason to think that the Legislature was not aware of these distinctive processes known to law. In the context too, the words 'inquiry' and 'proceedings' appear to be used by the present section clearly in different sense.
14. On this aspect there is further internal evidence offered by the other provisions of the Act. Section 14 (1) directs the Collector to hold an inquiry. Section 17 (1) enjoins upon the Collector to issue notice for holding an inquiry under Section 14. Section 18 further enjoins upon the Collector to hear the holder and other persons interested during the inquiry and further requires him to consider the statutory matters enacted by Clauses (a) to (1) thereof. Section 19 again uses the words 'any inquiry' and confers power on the Collector to restore land to the landholder. Section 20 which goes with Section 19 requires the Collector to issue notice to the landlord and Sub-section (3) thereof directs the Collector to ascertain the matters stated in Clauses (a) and (b) thereof. Chapter V deals with compensation and Section 25 (1) enjoins upon the Collector to inquire into the claims made for compensation. Chapter VI deals with distribution of surplus land and lays down the procedure therefor. Section 40 empowers the Collector to make orders of summary eviction after such inquiry as he may deem fit.
15. These provisions are useful guide as providing internal evidence to indicate that the word 'inquiry' has a special connotation and a specific purpose and it cannot be intermixed with some statutory steps which may precede or be contemporaneous or may ensue upon the making of the inquiry. The process of inquiry is specific and unified by the very purpose for which the law enjoins upon the authority to hold the same. Contradistinguished with the inquiry is clearly the term 'proceedings' and no better evidence is offered of the distinction than the language of the Legislature available particularly in Sections 17 and 18 of the Act. Having enjoined upon the Collector to hold an inquiry under Section 14, for the purpose of determining the surplus, Section 17 mandates that for the purpose of holding an inquiry under thatsection, the Collector shall cause a public notice in the prescribed form to be given at convenient places with the specifications mentioned therein and further calling upon interested persons to submit to the Collector their objections. Sub-section (2) of Section 17 directs to the same effect that the notice shall be served on the holder and all other persons known or believed to be interested in the land. This provision of issue of process in an inquiry is a step in action or a statutory provision so as to initiate the proper inquiry. So is the language of Section 18 in that it enjoins upon the Collector to hear the holder and other persons interested in the land as well take the evidence adduced and consider the matters statutorily raised by questions indicated by Clauses (a) to (1) of that section. Section 18 leaves no manner of doubt that by the word 'proceedings' the Legislature intends to convey the steps in action or the steps or the stages and its modality or form.
16. It is not universal nor is necessary rule that every proceeding must be an inquiry and every inquiry must be a proceeding. The context may indicate otherwise in that a proceeding may contain several inquiries and an inquiry may contain different proceedings. As we are at Section 18, the fulcrum of the statutory questions raised by Clauses (a) to (1) calling for answers by determination is the basis of an inquiry. The determination has to be done after hearing the persons interested and the holder, and after taking into account the evidence adduced. These clauses, though raised as questions, take into account several matters having reference to different tonics for eventual finding of the entitlement of the persons in respect of land. It may be possible to submit that each of the topics from (a) to (1) contemplates gathering information and hence holding of some inquiry, but as we indicated, the Legislature has used the word 'proceedings' in the sense that it has to be the step in action, and what is enjoined by Section 18 or by the provisions of Sections 19 and 20 are the statutory steps or modes thereof by which eventually the stage of the declaration under Section 21 is reached that gives rise to new statutory consequences. The inquiry is one unified process of gathering necessary material and that is indicated by Section 14 itself. So also the declaration that is the result of such inquiry is one and composite which is indicated by the terms of Section 21. The statutory steps during all this which are of necessity mandatory in character are all indicated by other sections preceding Section 21 having foundation in power declared by Section 14 of the Act. Thus, this scheme of Sections 14 to 21 which is unified statutory scheme, if viewed as such in the context of the provisions of the Act, clearly indicates that the inquiry and the mode and manner of its holding by the steps statutorily enacted are different in legislative intendment and are not one and the same.
17. We have already indicated that the word 'inquiry' does not only mean the inquiry contemplated by Section 14 but there are other inquiries specifically contemplated by the provisions of this Act like the one for compensation under Section 25 or for the purpose of summary eviction under Section 40. Even in the context of these provisions and the intrinsic evidence available in the Act, the words 'inquiry' and 'proceedings' used by Section 45 (2) cannot be treated as synonymous.
18. Now, the purpose of Section 45 (2) which also can be a guiding principle for proper interpretation is clearly to provide supervision and scrutiny in higher jurisdiction of the record of the inquiry as well making available a remedy to an aggrieved person. This process is commonly known to law as the modality of revision. Being a matter of finding jurisdiction and providing remedy, it would be right to lean in favour of the construction that would further that object. Object of the provisions of the Act can very well be an aid in interpretation : see Boohringar Knoll Ltd., Bombay v. Regional Director, Employees State Insurance Corporation, Bombay 1977 Mh LJ 389 : 1977 Lab IC 1116 where this Court observed that a construction that favours the object should be preferred, Conferment of the revisional power is meant to subserve the judicial scrutiny and is an exercise that operates upon the original record. It is not the same as appeal; for the appeal is the continuation of the proceeding and Is as such distinct from revision as the latter may not be the continuation at all. Enacting provision providing for revision and indicating qualifications and limitation for its exercise are matters of law that permits calling for records in higher jurisdiction so as to reach the errors which may be available on the face of the record and correct the same by curing defects coming to the surface within the ken of the area of 'legality and propriety', see Babulal and Sons v. Asst. Commr. of Sales Tax, Nagpur 1977 Mh LJ 324 and the cases relied upon in para. 8 thereof. To the construction of the provisions conferring such salutary jurisdiction we must apply the rule of interpretation in bonam partem, so as to give effect to the terms of law and to subserve the object of the provisions itself. By holding for the petitioner we will be constructing the scope of the jurisdiction itself which does not even on plain reading of the language of the section admit any such construction. The power is clearly conferred so as to be operative upon and available as such with regard to 'any inquiry' contemplated by the provisions of the Act and the same is not restricted to mere 'proceedings'. 'Inquiry' not being 'proceedings' the matters of particular proceedings such as under Sections 17 to 21 or under Section 27 are subjected to revisional scrutiny. The word 'under' which means 'below' and hence having reference to statutory steps well goes with the proceedings required to be taken by Sections 17 to 21 or Section 27, and not with inquiry.
19. Reading the proviso and keeping its purpose in view which is laying down qualifying conditions for exercise of revisional jurisdiction, does not make, in our opinion, any difference. The proviso no doubt appended to a sub-section like this is clearly enacted for indicating exceptions to the main provision but may aid explaining what is meant to be conveyed by its part: see V.U. Uttarwar v. State : AIR1977Bom99 relying on Ishvarlal v. Motibhai : 1SCR367 ). However, the main function of the proviso is, as is stated by the learned Lord Greene, M. R., in Tabrisky, In re Ex Parte Board of Trade (1947) 1 Ch 565 and which appears to us, with respect, apposite in the present controversy, is to put a qualification on the power and to attach conditions to it. The learned Master of the Rolls observed:
'All that the proviso does is to put a qualification on the power to attach conditions. That qualification is, of course limited to precisely what the proviso says. Once the requirements of the proviso are complied with, there is nothing left to affect or cut down the general power to attach conditions on which the proviso is a proviso. It is common learning that the object of a proviso is to cut down or qualify something which has gone before.'
20. Turning to the present proviso which we have quoted above, it is explicit in that it lays down conditions or qualifications subject to which alone the revisional power earlier indicated will be available. The emphasis in the non obstante clause with which proviso is enacted would cut down the power if the conditions of the proviso are satisfied. These conditions clearly have a point of reference being the declaration or any part thereof made under Section 21, but the condition is equally a part of the statute and it need not, on extraneous considerations, be enlarged by interpretation. With regard to this proviso in Baswantrao v. Commr. Nagpur Division (Special Civil Application No. 91 of 1972 decided on 5-9-1977 : AIR1978Bom167 we had occasion to observe that the conditions enacted by the proviso have reference to the composite declaration made under Section 21 (1) and not to any anterior stages thereof. The period of limitation stipulated by the proviso shows that the making of the declaration is the point of reference for the purpose of computing the time of three years. If conditions are satisfied, it is apparent that the revisional jurisdiction conferred by Sub-section (2) of Section 45 would not be available to the authority for its exercise.
21. The submission for the petitioner that these conditions of the proviso indicate that the revisional scrutiny can only be made after a composite declaration is rendered under Sub-section (1) of Section 21, is without any merit. In fact, the language of the proviso shows otherwise. The revisional power and its enactment is widely worded so as to be available to the authority to reach the matters of legality and propriety with respect to any inquiry under the Act, and with respect to specific proceedings as contemplated by Sections 17 to 21 as well Section 27. The power is intended to be exercised thus even before the final declaration is made. The whole interlocutory field of the inquiry which includes several statutory steps or stages is thus open to revisional scrutiny under Sub-section (2) of Section 45 even before the declaration is made.
22. Reliance placed on Section 45-A inserted by Maharashtra Act 21 of 1975 which also amended the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 45 does not really further the present debate in favour of theconstruction canvassed for the petitioners. By Section 30 of that Act, from the body of Sub-section (2) references to Section 27 were taken out and a separate Section 45-A specifically enacting revisional jurisdiction in favour of the Commissioner with regard to proceedings under Section 27 was enacted. It was suggested that the words 'any inquiry or proceedings under Section 27' in the amended Section 45-A (1) (a) are indicative of the intention of the Legislature to treat the words 'inquiry' and 'proceedings' as synonymous and that intention should be given effect to while even construing the words of the present Sub-section (2) of Section 45. We are conscious of the doctrine that amendments sometimes throw light on the intention of the Legislature provided there are ambiguities in that regard. Here, as we indicated, we do not find any ambiguity in the language used by Section 45 (2). On the other hand, we are following the rule of plain reading of the language and giving effect to the words used by the Legislature which is the only best repository of the legislative intent. There is no anomaly in the language of Section 45 (2), and by interpretation it should be impermissible to read an anomaly and then draw upon the amendment so as to receive such constructed anomaly.
23. The purpose of the Amending Act No. 21 of 1975 was moreover to introduce several changes in the structure of law itself including the provisions for different ceiling areas and provisions for even penalties quite different in contemplation. Section 45 (2) was further split up by the amendment so as to make it specific by enactment of Section 45 that all the records of inquiry or proceedings under Section 27 should be available to the Commissioner for revisional scrutiny. Now, the matters of Section 27 which are primary and in law can be said to be matters of proceedings, for without following the steps enjoined upon by that provision no distribution could ensue, may also involve the making of certain inquiries to find out entitlement of persons to allotment of the surplus land in distribution proceedings. So as to clarify that such Inquiries too which would be held under the provisions of Section 27 be available for revisional scrutiny, Section 45-A appears to have been enacted as a separate provision.
24. It is also possible to see in the scheme of Section 45-A as compared with the earlier provision of Section 45 (2) that the operative part of Sub-section (2) permitted the revisional authority to affect the order passed under Section 27 and presumably that phrase indicated a restrictive operation of jurisdiction. Now, under Section 45-A not only the order can be touched but every stage of the inquiry or proceedings that may be available under Section 27 can be the the subject-matter of this jurisdiction. It was faintly argued that in some cases as there is a provision for appeal, the scrutiny under Section 45 (2) would create conflict of jurisdiction and the terms of proviso upon our interpretation would not be adequate to foreclose the scrutiny under Section 45 (2). In Baswantrao's case : AIR1978Bom167 (supra) we have emphasised that these, the revisional and appellate jurisdictions are co-ordinate and exercise of the jurisdiction in these coordinate divisions will be uniform and not contradictory. It is, therefore, implicit that in a given case if the matter has been subjected to appellate scrutiny, the revisional jurisdiction to annul or contradict the orders made in appeal would hardly be available. So would be the position with regard to the orders made in exercise of the revisional power with regard to interlocutory stages of the inquiry when the self-same ground is made before the appellate authority. The jurisdictions being co-ordinate the orders and decisions made therein would be equally binding and will have to be given effect to as such. We have, therefore, no doubt that if the record called for revisional scrutiny answered the description of the term 'any inquiry' postulated by any of the provisions of the Act, the authority under Sub-section (2) of Section 45 will have the power and jurisdiction to peruse the same for the purpose of satisfying itself as to the legality and propriety of that inquiry and make such consequential orders as may be necessary for curing the defects, of course, operating upon the field of illegality and impropriety.
25. Now, what is an inquiry or what can constitute an inquiry the record of which can be subjected to this revisional scrutiny, and whether the provisions of Section 13 and the decisions recorded therein could be styled as the decisions recorded in an inquiry, are two companion questions which arise having found the jurisdiction in favour of the Commissioner.
26. Wherever the sections of this Act use the term 'inquiry' as we indicated above, with reference to the provisions of Section 14 leading to Section 21, or under Section 25, or Section 40, its scheme indicated that in the context of the present law, the term 'inquiry' is used by the Legislature having some distinctive attributes of its own. As a term of law 'inquiry' simply means a legal or judicial proceeding wherein facts are found on the basis of which the liability or the disability of a person is eventually judged. To. the English language the word 'inquiry' connotes the act or an instance of seeking the truth, information or knowledge about something or examination into facts or principles. Though it is synonymous with the words like inquisition, investigation, probe or inquest, it acquires a specific meaning by the context in which it is used, primarily being a term applicable to any quest for truth or information; see for meaning Webster's Third New International Dictionary, page 1167 and Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, fourth edition, pages 1378-79.
27. In the context of the present Act which is declaratory in part and enabling in part, it is appropriate to observe that a statutory machinery is created so as to find entitlement of the persons to hold agricultural land to the extent of the ceiling area and to acquire surplus land for the purposes of the State. With this purpose, the statutory declaration prohibiting persons from holding land in excess of the ceiling area as determined under the provisions of the Act is made by Section 4. To give effect to this statutory declaration which, in other words, is entitlement of the person to hold the ceiling area, the process of determination of that area is postulated. In the background of this process of determination we have to understand the term 'inquiry' as available in several sections by this Act. Chapter IV which is titled as 'Surplus Land' contains Sections 12 to 21 and the aim and object of all the several provisions is to permit under the authority of the law the Collector to make a declaration as contemplated by Section 21. As we stated above, for that Sections 14 to 21 contemplate a unified inquiry which has initiation in issue of a notice and which contains proceedings partaking of the steps enjoined by statute of taking evidence, hearing the parties affected, raising statutory issues and answering them. Having answered them, Section 21 shows that the decision on Clauses (a) to (e) has to be recorded in a compendious or composite form and that composition is a statutory statement called declaration under Section 21 (1) of the Act: see Baswantrao v. Commr., Nagpur Division (Special Civil Application No. 91 of 1972) : : AIR1978Bom167 . Upon this declaration, Sub-sections (3) and (4) show that new entitlements arise in favour of the person who is a holder of the land as well in favour of the State which can acquire the surplus land. This declaration or any part thereof can be subjected to appeal under Section 33, or can be the subject-matter of revision under Section 45 (2). Thus, there are distinct characteristics of the inquiry in that there is an initiation by a notice affording hearing including recording of evidence followed by consideration and decision that can be subjected to an appeal. So is the position with regard to the inquiry contemplated by Section 25 regarding the matters of determination of compensation and its apportionment. Somewhat similar is the scheme of Section 40 dealing with summary eviction of the person which can only be after holding such inquiry as the Collector may deem fit. It is implicit in Section 40 that there would be initiation by a notice and a hearing afforded before the order for summary eviction is made. All such matters, Section 33 indicates, can be the subject-matter of appeal.
28. Applying thus the available tests, i.e. initiation by notice, hearing by the concerned authority and determination of the cause by making an order which can be the subject-matter of appeal, we have little hesitation in holding that the provisions of Section 13 indicate that an inquiry is postulated by its own terms. The purpose of all this law is the determination of the person's entitlement to hold land to the extent of the ceiling area and of surplus surrender for acquisition by the State. All persons who hold land which could be said to be surplus are enjoined by Section 12 to file returns. If the return is filed. Section 14 enjoins an inquiry into the return. It is firstly in those cases where the return is not filed or the person omits to file the return but it is necessary to determine the entitlement of the person to hold the land under the provisions of this Act that Section 13 postulates that wherever the Collector, having reason to believe that a person, without any reasonable cause, though required by Section 12 to file the return has failed to do so, will issue notice to such person asking him to show cause why the penalty provided by Sub-section (1) should not be imposed on such person. In case of wrong return wilfully made same steps will have to be taken. This is a clear conferment of power or creation of jurisdiction in favour of the Collector so as to call won the person by issue of notice to show cause and that power can be exercised upon the satisfaction of the Collector from material that may come to his cognizance that such person was bound under Section 12 to furnish the return of his holding and has failed without a reasonable cause so to do. Sub-section (2) of Section 13 thus postulates issue of the notices and indicates the purpose for which the notice is issued, being the one as to why the penalty provided by Sub-section (1) should not be imposed upon such person. It further enjoins upon the Collector and it is all implied by the very concept of imposition of penalty that the Collector will consider the reply and give a fair opportunity of hearing to the notices; and after that alone would record by an order a finding or a conclusion that will enable the Collector to impose penalty. Thus, there is hearing postulated; so also determination by making an order. Sub-section (2) of Section 13, therefore, postulates holding of an inquiry about the reasonable cause into the failure to submit the return or even wrong filing of the return. These have all the attributes of an inquiry as contemplated by this law. It has initiation by notice, of granting hearing, and further of making order. Taken all these together it cannot but be 'the inquiry.' It is further clear from the provisions of Section 33 (1) that an order made under Sub-section (2) of Section 13 can be the subject-matter of appeal. We cannot, therefore, share the view that was seriously canvassed for the petitioners that what is contemplated by Sub-section (2) of Section 13 of this Act is a mere proceeding and not an inquiry within the meaning of Section 45 (2) of the Act. As we see, in the context of the several provisions, the term 'inquiry' has a specific meaning, being the one that it is a process by which information is collected so as to determine the eventual entitlement of the person in the matters of his holding land. That process has distinctively the initiation by a notice followed by requisite hearing and the conclusion which will take the shape either of a decision or an Order. Added to this are the provisions providing for appeal against the orders that conclude the inquiry (see the provisions of Section 33).
29. By this attributive test, whatever passes under the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 13 and is concluded by an ordersubject to appeal clearly answers the term 'inquiry'. Once we reach result, there is nothing to arrest the operation of Section 45 (2) of the Act subject to what we have observed earlier that this being a coordinate jurisdiction the same shall not nor can be exercised so as to affect the competent orders that may be made in appeal and that power can only be exercised so as to achieve uniformity in adjudication by coordinate authorities. If the inquiry under Sub- section (2) of Section 13 be not within the re-visional jurisdiction, there is clear possibility of perpetrating even fraud on statute, for the person though liable to be subjected to the determination of the ceiling area, would not be touched simply because an erroneous or improper order is made under Section 13 (2) of the Act. One of the purposes for which the power under Section 45 (2) is conferred was to ensure fair investigation and proper and effective implementation of the provisions of the Act: see Kashinath v. State of Maharashtra (1975 Mah LJ 479 paras 10 to 12). There is no compelling reason to keep out the inquiry under Section 13 (2) from the revisional jurisdiction conferred and created by Section 45 (2). Whether the Legislature uses the word 'inquiry' or not in Section 13 would not for this purpose be decisive. It will be the character of the entire process that would determine whether it is an inquiry or not, and where upon scrutiny it answers the attributes of an inquiry, there is no reason to except the same from the revisional jurisdiction. On the other hand, both for the aggrieved person who may be affected by any unjust, improper or onerous orders made under Section 13 (2) as well as for the authorities under the Act, interpretation of the revisional power so as to include the inquiry under Section 13 (2) would further the object of justice and fairplay. To the aggrieved person it has to be a remedy so as to get redress; and to the law machinery of supervision so as to achieve the objects thereof. If we were to hold that there is no revisional scrutiny possible, then by sheer failure to file an appeal, the aggrieved person will be subject to the penalty without there being any other remedy available under this Act. The process under Section 13 (2) can be a penal process and we cannot conceive of the imposing of the penalty without holding an inquiry and decisions about the penalty without being open to correction either in appeal or by taking up scrutiny in revision even suo motu. The Legislature appears to have consciously and for good reasons enacted the compulsive process of Section 13 (2) providing for serious penal consequences as the part of system of law regarding agricultural lands by clearly keeping it exposed to scrutiny both in appellate and revisional jurisdiction.
30. For all these reasons, we are inclined to hold that there was no lack of power in the Commissioner in calling for the record of the inquiry under Section 13 (2) and making appropriate orders in that regard. In view of this conclusion, the first question raised in Jamunabai's case and the sole question raised in Gangshettiwar's case are answered in the negative, and Special Civil Application No. 565 of 1373 would stand dismissed.
31. That leaves a small matter as far as Jamunabai's petition is concerned, and there the petitioner appears to us to be on a firm ground. By the impugned order the Commissioner has purported to decide the entire ceiling area entitlement as well found the surplus land by the simple fact of ignoring a sale because of the provisions of Section 8 of the Act. Such exercise of power by the Commissioner is not at all warranted and is erroneous. The records that were called for pertained to an inquiry under Section 13 (2) which had terminated in favour of the landholder as the Special Deputy Collector found that the landholder was not liable to file a return. If the Commissioner was minded to set aside that order by exercising the revisional power, he could only make order which would be in consonance with and which will be within the contemplation of Section 13 (2) of the Act and none else. The impugned order clearly exceeds this limitation for it purports to make a declaration under Section 21, which stage in fact had not arisen. Having set aside the order of the Special Deputy Collector, Land Reforms, Yavatmal, the only order that could have been made by the Commissioner was to direct a fresh inquiry by that authority under Section 13 (2) and not proceed to determine the surplus itself. As we indicated above briefly, Section 13 (2) contemplates an inquiry that results in an order. The purpose of that inquiry is to find out as to whether the person who was liable to file a return had, without reasonable cause, failed to do, so and whether he should be subjected to penalty as provided for by Sub-section (1). Further the purpose is to direct such a person to file a return in which an inquiry will be held under Section 14. Sub-section (2) does not postulate making of any declaration with regard to the ceiling area of the landholder of the land, nor docs it postulate making of an order with regard to the surplus land. This simple scheme has been overlooked and the order, in our view, in that part is unsustainable.
32. A brief mention of few facts herein is necessary to make now the eventual order. It appears that without S. No. 83, area of which is 29 acres 23 gunthas, the petitioner will not be a surplus landholder, nor would be required to file a return. That survey number between the period 1959-60 to 1961-62 is shown to be in the cultivating possession of one tenant by name Shamrao and it further appears that the said field was transferred in favour of one Narayan in the year 1965. The Special Deputy Collector found that on the appointed day this property was not in the actual possession of the landholder and was transferred at the behest of the tenant. Mr. Deshpande wanted to submit that this view of fact should be affirmed and the petitioner should be adjudged to be not liable to file a return.
33. We have difficulty in accepting this submission, for it will have to be found out upon evidence as to who was in possession of this land till it was transferred and in what right. In this view, the ends of justice will be met by directing a fresh inquiry by the Special Deputy Collector with regard to this survey number so as to determine the liability of the petitioner to file return. He will afford an opportunity to the petitioner to show that she was not in possession of this land and as such was not liable to file a return. In Special Civil Application No. 703 of 1972, therefore, we modify the impugned order made by the Commissioner to the extent of setting aside the finding with regard to S. No. 83 and the consequent directions given by the Commissioner with regard to the ceiling area and the surplus, and instead direct the Special Deputy Collector, Yavatmal, having powers under the Ceiling Act to hold an inquiry by affording opportunity to the petitioner with regard to S. No. 83 of Chandpur so as to establish that she was not liable to file a return under Section 12 of the Act. After giving proper hearing the Special Deputy Collectorwill make fresh order. Rule absolute to this extent in this petition. No order as to costs.
34. Order accordingly.