1. The contention of the petitioner is that persons like him holding, land under what is -known as Sagu tenure in Coorg have to pay double the assessment than persons who own similar lands under Jama tenure have to pay for similar pieces of land; that moreover the latter could use a gun without a license, while the former is required to obtain a license for that purpose.
As this is contended to be discriminatory and violates Article 14 of the Constitution, this application has been filed for the issue of necessary directions or order to the State of Coorg by its Chief Secretary, the Respondent in the case, toreduce the assessment of the land of the petitioner to the level of the assessment of Jama lands and also to alloy; the petitioner to possess a gun without a license.
2. The respondent's affidavit discloses that it is true that the assessment payable on the lands held on Jama tenure and that payable on lands on Sagu tenure differ from each other, but that this does not constitute any denial of equality or discrimination such as is forbidden by Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution. It is contended that there are various tenures under which the land is held all over India and those tenures represent varying rights and any difference in the quantum of rights pertaining to land doss not constitute inequality before the law or discrimination.
Further Jama tenure is associated with liability to perform certain duties enforceable by the state. It is because that persons holding land under Jama tenure are liable to perform military or policy duties when called upon, such persons are granted exemption from obtaining a license for possessing a gun. The land under Jama tenure cannot also be alienated except with the permission of the Assistant Commissioner in writing and cannot also be partitioned. It is contended that the classification is reasonable and does not affect Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
3. There is good deal of force in the contention raised by the respondent. This is one of the cases where what is meant by equality before lav; is misunderstood. After the Constitution it does not mean that all distinctions between one person and another or between one class of persons and another class of persons are wiped out. tO take an extreme case, it is absurd to argue that all men that work for the same length of time should get equal wages irrespective of the nature of the work and their qualification or that because a policeman can be in possession of a gun without a license all officers of other departments but of the same grade should be allowed to do so.
The Constitution allows classification, but the classification must rest upon reasonable grounds of distinction. The classification should not be made arbitrarily and persons in the same classification must have equal rights.
4. As observed by Willis in his 'Constitutional Law' at p. 579:
'The guarantee of the equal protection of title laws means the protection of equal laws. It for^ bids class legislation, but docs not forbid classification which rests upon reasonable grounds ot distinction. It does not prohibit legislation, which is limited either in the objects to which it is directed or by tbe territory within which it is to operate. It merely requires that all persons subjected to such legislation should toe treated alike under like circumstances and conditions both in the privileges conferred and in the liabilities imposed.'
That classification must not be made arbitrarily but must be based on reasonable grounds is made clear in Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe' Ely. Co. v. Ellis, (1896) 165 US 150 (A):
'But it is said that it is not within the scope of the 14th Amendment to withhold from States the power of classification, and that if the Jaw deals alike with all of a certain class it is not obnoxious to the charge of a denial of equal protection. While, as a general proposition, this is (undeniably true ..... yet it is equally true that such classification cannot be made arbitrarily.
The State may not say that all white men shall be subjected to the payment of the attorney's fees of parties successfully suing them, and all black men not. It may not say that all men beyond a certain age shall be alone thus subjected, or all men possessed of a certain wealth. These are distinctions which do not furnish any proper basis for the attempted classification. That must always rest upon some difference which bears a reasonable and just relation to the act in respect to which the classification is proposed and can never be made arbitrarily and without any such basis.'
In this case it is clear that there are more than one kind of tenure under which the land is held by people in Coorg. It has to be remembered that all people under Jama tenure are treated alike, just as ail persons holding land under Sagu tenure are treated alike. It cannot be said that the classification is riot based on reasonable grounds.
If persons holding land lender Jama tenure are subjected to the payment of only half of the assessment paid by the persons holding same piece of land under Sagu tenure, it has to be remembered that the land is not alienable and partible, except with the permission of the Government. If, without a license they are entitled to keep guns, it is because they are liable to be called upon by the Government to do military or police duties.
In fact even in other parts of Karnataka it will be noticed that there are what is known as service inams lands granted to Patels and Shan-bhogues which are not liable to assessment. The lands are free from assessment in lieu of the service rendered or to be rendered by persons. They' are also not alienable. The classification therefore is not arbitrary and no distinction is made between persons of the same class.
It is no doubt true that there is some distinction between the rights and liabilities of persons within one class and the rights and liabilities within, the other class of tenure. But this is net opposed to Article 15 of the Constitution as the classification is hot arbitrary, but is based on reasonable grounds.
5. We find that there is no merit in this petition. It is accordingly dismissed with costs (Advocate's fee Rs. 200/-).
6. Petition dismissed.