(1) The common question arising in these six cases is, whether the appeal preferred from the award of the Civil Judge, or the Sub-ordinate Judge, in a reference under the Land Acquisition Act, either for apportionment or for enhancement of compensation, in which the appointment or for enhancement of compensation, in which the amount or the value of the subject-matter of the proceeding did not exceed Rs. 10,000/-, lay to this Court or to the Court of the District Judge.
(2) Before the amendment of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 which will be referred to as the principal Act, by the Land Acquisition (Mysore Extension and Amendment) Act, 1961 (Mysore Act No. 17 of 1961) which will be referred to as the amending Act, which came into force on August 14, 1961, Section 54 of the principal Act authorised an appeal in all cases from an award made by a Court in proceedings under that Act, to this Court. But the amending Act altered the structure of Section 54 of the principal Act and that section as it now stands reads:
'(1) Subject to the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 applicable to appeals from original decrees, an appeal shall lie from the award, or from any part of the award, of the Court in any proceedings under this Act to the Court authorised to hear appeals from the decision of that Court.
(2) From any decree of a Court, other than the High Court, passed on an appeal under sub-section (1) an appeal shall lie to the High Court, if, but only if, the amount or value of the subject-matter in dispute in appeal exceeds two thousand rupees or the case involves any question of title to land.
(3) From any decree of the High Court passed on an appeal under sub-section (1) an appeal shall lie to the Supreme Court, subject to the provisions contained in Section 110 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, and in Order XLV of the first Schedule to the said Code.'
(3) The relevant statutory provision specifying the Court which could hear appeals from the decision of the Court making an award in proceedings under the principal Act and to which section 54(1) as it now stands amended refers, was Section 13 of the Mysore Civil Courts Act, 1883. According to the provisions of that section, an appeal from a decree or order passed by a Subordinate Judge or Civil Judge in proceedings in which the amount or value of the subject-matter does not exceed Rs. 10,000/- lay to the concerned District Court.
(4) It is not disputed that in all the matters before me in which there was a reference to the Court either for enhancement of compensation or for its apportionment, the value of the subject-matter of the reference did not exceed Rs. 10,000/-. That being the position the Court to which an appeal would lie under Section 54 of the principal Act as it now stands amended would normally be the District Court and not this Court.
(5) But the argument maintained on behalf of the appellants was that the right of appeal created in the exercise of which these appeals are preferred is not the right as altered by the amendment made to Section 54 but the right which resided in the appellants when the preliminary notification in all these land acquisition proceedings was made under Section 4 of the principal Act. It was contended that since those notifications were made before the principal Act was amended, the appellants had the right to prefer their appeals to this Court and to have their appeals heard by this Court and not by the Court indicated by the amended 54th section of the principal Act.
(6) It is now authoritatively declared by the Supreme Court in Garikpati Veerayya v. Subbaih Choudhury, (S) : 1SCR488 that the right of appeal is a vested right and that such a right to enter the superior Court accrues to the litigant and exists as on and from the date the lis commences. It is equally well settled that there in no difference in principle between the abolition of an appeal altogether and the transfer of the appeal to a new tribunal, and that in either case there is an interference with that existing right.
(7) But it was also pointed out in Garikpati's case, (S) : 1SCR488 that that vested right can be taken away by a subsequent enactment if it so provides expressly or by necessary intendment.
(8) The principle enunciated in Garikpati's Case, (S) : 1SCR488 therefore makes it abundantly clear that unless there in anything in the amending Act which brought about a deprivation of the right of the appellants to prefer their appeals to this Court, and to have them heard by this Court, and such deprivation is either express or by necessary intendment the appellants have the right to appeal to this Court and not the District Court indicated in the amended 54th Section of the principal Act.
(9) In my opinion the necessary intendment of the amendment made to the 54th Section of the principal Act is that in all cases in which a reference was made to the Court under the provisions of the principal Act, the appeal in cases in which the subject-matter of the proceedings does not exceed Rs. 10,000/- should lie only to the District Court and not to this Court. The reasons influencing that view may be briefly stated.
(10) Section 54 of the principal Act as it stood before its amendment and also as it stands after its amendment, provides for an appeal from as award of the Court in any proceeding under the Act. What creates a right of appeal under this section is that commencement of a proceeding before a Court under the provisions of the principal Act. So it may be possible to say that the date of the commencement of the proceeding is the date relevant for determining the forum to which an appeal could be preferred. Even if it can be said that the proceeding referred to in that section commences with the preliminary notification under Section 4 of the principal Act and it is the commencement of the lis in that way that creates a vested right not only to prefer an appeal but also to prefer an appeal to a particular forum, what is more than manifestly clear from the amended Section 54 is that in all cases in which there is an award by a Court in any proceeding under the principal Act, on whatever date it might have commenced, the appeal shall lie, if the subject-matter of the proceeding does not exceed Rs. 10,000/- to the District Judge and not to the High Court.
The word 'in any proceedings under this Act' occurring in sub-section (1) of the Section reveals that the necessary intendment of that sub-section is that the proceeding before the Court in which the award was made is a proceeding under the Act and the value of the subject-matter of that proceeding does not exceed Rs. 10,000/-, the appeal lies to the Court of the District Judge. It is not, in my opinion, correct to restrict the operation of the amended sub-section(1) only to those proceedings which commenced before the Court after the 54th section was amended. The clear meaning of sub-section (1) of that section is that from every award made by the Court in a proceeding under the principal Act, after its amendment, if the value of the subject-matter of the proceeding does not exceed Rs. 10,000/- the appeal shall lie to the District Court.
(11) That being the meaning of sub-section (1) of Section 54 as it now stands amended, the old right of the appellants to prefer their appeals to this Court is no longer available.
(12) These appeals should therefore be heard by the concerned District Judge. They will be returned for presentation to the proper Court. The learned Advocates for the appellants ask for time till Monday to take back the appeals. They are permitted to do so.
(13) Before concluding I should observe that the interpretation of the amended 54th section did involve some difficulty and it is therefore not surprising that the appellants bona fide believed that they could appeal to this Court although the concerned District Judge had acquired the competence to entertain and dispose of the appeals. I have therefore no doubt in my mind that if the appellants make an application to the concerned District Judge for the condonation of the delay in the presentation of the appeals, that delay will be condoned.
(14) In all these matters, the appellants pray for extension of time to take back the appeals for representation to the concerned District Judge. By my order which I made on the 6th instant I made a direction that the appeals should be taken back on Monday, the 9th instant. But since it was not possible for the appellants to comply with that direction, it has become necessary for them to apply for extension of time. Mr. Shirgurkar, the learned Government Pleader, does not object to the time being extended as prayed for. I accordingly direct that these appeals may be taken back by the appellants on or before Monday, the 16th instant, for representation to the proper Court.
( 15) Order accordingly.