1. The petitioner is the owner of wet lands of the extent of Ac. 35-39 cents in Raparthi village. Pithapuram Taluk, East Godavari District. He leased out the said lands to respondents 3 and 4 for a cist of Rs 8000/- for the year 1968-69 which was paid to him in advance. Respondents 3 and 4 took possession of the lands and carried on cultivation. On 19th December, 1968 they filed A.T.P No. 36 of 1968 in the Court of the Deputy Tahsildar, Pithapuram, under Section 8 of the Andhra Tenancy Act, 1956, hereinafter referred to as 'The Act', praying for remission the cist for the year 1968-69 on the ground that due to want of rains in proper time the whole of the lands was left untransplanted though they raised seed-beds of paddy and tilled the lands. The petitioner contested the said petition that Section 8 was inapplicable to the case as the cist had been paid in advance and no rent was due from the tenants. He also stated that though respondents 3 and 4 had averred in the application that the whole land could not be cultivated in any way, they in their evidence before the Deputy Tahsildar stated that after the seedlings of paddy have withered away, they had raised jawar crop in the schedule lands and after the jawar crop also withered away, they raised Bengalgram and gingelly crops. According to the petitioner, respondents 3 and 4 had to say so because of the provision in the Explanation to Section 8 of the Act that a land-holder is entitled to the collection of the whole of the cist in case the tenants are negligent in the cultivation of the lands. The petitioner also raised a ground that the application was not served on him 15 days prior to the cutting of the crops and as such no relief can be given to respondents 3 and 4 under Section 8 of the Act. The Deputy Tahsildar did not accept the contentions of the petitioner and granted a remission of Rs. 4000/- to respondents 3 and 4. The petitioner then filed an appeal. T.A No. 15 of 1969, before the Revenue Divisional Officer, Kakinada, who confirmed the decision of the Deputy Tahsildar without adverting to the evidence and the material on record. The petitioner, therefore, prays for a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer dated 5th September, 1969, confirming the order of the Deputy Tahsildar dated 20th March, 1969.
2. The contentions raised before us in this writ petition are: (1) Section 8 of the Act is inapplicable to cases where the rent has been paid by the tenants in advance because a remission can be granted only in cases where the rent is to be paid and has not been paid by the tenant. (2) The decision of the Deputy Tahsildar that respondents 3 and 4 are entitled to a remission under Section 8 of the Act is based on no evidence. The Revenue Division a Officer has not at all adverted to the evidence and the material on record and without doing so, has merely confirmed the order of the Deputy Tahsildar. The orders therefore of both the lower authorities are not sustainable in law.
3. In order to appreciate the contention in regard to Section 8 of the Act, it is necessary to read the said section:
'Where there has been a total partial failure of crops in any year due to widespread calamities such as cyclone, draught or flood, the cultivating tenant may make an application to the Tahsildar for the remission of the rent due by him and the Tahsildar shall, after making an inquiry, in the manner prescribed, order such remission of rent as he may consider just in the circumstances of the case. Every such application shall be made at least fifteen days before the crop is cut and removed, and a copy of such application shall also be served on the landlord by the cultivating tenant.
Explanation: Any neglect or failure on the part of the cultivating tenant to raise any crop shall not disentitle the landlord to the collection of the rent due.'
4. The learned counsel for the petitioner laid very great stress on the words 'remission', rent due and 'Collection of rent due'. The argument is that remission can be granted only when rent has not been paid and has still to be paid at the time when the application under Section 8 is made. Remission cannot be granted of rent which has already been paid by the tenant. This position, according to the learned counsel has been made further clear by the use of the words 'rent due'. Only that rent can be considered to be due which was not paid at the data of the application under Section 8. The Explanation to Section 8, it is argued, further supports the interpretation put by the petitioner on Section 8. The Explanation provides that in case of neglect or failure raise any crop, the landlord will be entitled to the collection of the rent due. Collection can be only of an amount which has not been paid. The word 'Collection' by any stretch of imagination cannot be used with respect to an amount or rent which was already received.
5. The learned counsel for respondents 3 and 4 on the contrary contends that the provisions of Section 8 have been enacted with the intent to reduce the burden on a tenant in case there has been a failure of crops. According to the general law of contract, when once an agreement is entered into and consideration fixed, the said consideration cannot in any manner be reduced on the ground of failure of crops, whatever may be the reason for such a failure. Section 8 is obviously intended to relieve the tenant from the hardship to which he would be put under the provisions of the general contractual law in cases where the crops fail and he is not able to recover anything from the land. In view of this, it cannot be said that the legislature, while enacting Section 8, intended to exclude those tenants who had paid the rents in advance. It is also argued that payment of advancement only means that the liability which would accrue at the end of the year has been discharged before entering into possession of the land. He contends that the expression 'rent due' should, in the context and intendment of the section, be read as rent contracted. Such a meaning of the expression 'rent due' does not in any manner conflict with the expression 'remission of rent due' or 'collection of rent due'.
6. The Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act of 1956 was enacted on 9th September, 1956 to provide for the payment of fair rent by cultivating tenant' and for fixing the minimum period of agricultural leases in the State of Andhra. By Section 3 of this Act, the maximum rent payable by a cultivating tenant has been fixed. Section 6 empowers the Tahsildar to fix fair rent for the holding notwithstanding any agreement between the landlord and the cultivating tenant for the payment of an agreed rent. Section 8, which we have already referred to, provides for remission of rent in cases where there is a total or partial failure of crops due to widespread calamities such as cyclone, drought or flood. By Section 10, minimum period of lease has been prescribed and Sections 11 and 12 provide for the continuance of the tenancy on the same terms and conditions as before in the event of a change in the ownership of any land, and for the continuance of tenancy on the death of a cultivating tenant. Section 13 enjoins that a landlord shall not be entitled to terminate a tenancy and evict has cultivating tenant during the currency of the lease except by an application made in that behalf to the Tahsildar and unless the conditions prescribed in clauses (a) to (f) of the said section are fulfilled. In case of any dispute arising under the Act between a landlord and a cultivating tenant, the same has to be decided by the landlord or the cultivating tenant after making an inquiry in the manner prescribed. By virtue of Section 17, the provisions of the said Act have effect not withstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in any pre-existing law, custom, usage, agreement or decree or order of a Court. The aforesaid review shows that the Act is a beneficent ameliorating the conditions of cultivating tenants. Under the ordinary contractual law, no maximum rent can be fixed; and similarly no period of lease can also be determined. It is left entirely to the violation of the parties to agree to the rent and also the period of lease. But the law puts a fetter on the right of the landlord to fix the rent and also the period of lease. Even if an agreement is entered into between the parties, Section 6 empowers the Tahsildar to fix a fair rent on an application made in that behalf. This provision clearly shows that an agreement between the parties in regard to rent, is not final and is subject to the decision made by the Tahsildar under Section 6 of the Act. By Section 13, the power vested in the landlord, under the ordinary law, to terminate a lease has been taken away and a laws can be terminated only on the ground mentioned in the said section. It is thus evident that the Act limits the powers of the landlord to fix the rent and determine the lease. In this context the provisions of Section 8 have to be interpreted. After providing for fixation of fair rent under Section 6 of the Act, Section 8 makes a provision for remission rent on the happening of certain events specified in that section. A reading of Section 6 of the Act shows that fixation of fair rent can be done even after the rent is paid in advance by the tenant. The wording of Section 6 is 'Notwithstanding any agreement between the landlord and the cultivating tenant for the payment of an agreed rent, either party may apply to the Tahsildar for the fixation of fair rent for the holding'. The words, used are 'agreed rent' and these words clearly specify that even in case where the rent has been paid in advance, an application for fixation of the Act. The question for consideration then is whether Section 8, when it provides that the rent due by a tenant can be remitted by the Tahsildar on an application made by the tenant, has to be restricted only to cases where the rent has not been paid by the tenant at the time of the application under Section 8 of the Act.
7. The learned counsel for the petitioner contended that 'if the words used are capable of one construction only then it would not be open to the courts to adopt any other hypothetical construction on the ground that such hypothetical construction is more consistent with the alleged object and policy of the Act. The words used in the material provisions of the statute must be interpreted in their plain grammatical meaning and it is only when such words are capable of two constructions that the question of giving effect to the policy or object of the Act can legitimately arise'. (Vide: Kanai Lal v. Paramnidhi : 1SCR360 ).
8. The Supreme Court in Buckingham & Carnatic Co. Ltd v. Venkaiah : (1963)IILLJ638SC , while construing a piece of social legislation like the Employees' state Insurance Act which intended to confer certain benefits on work men, observed that such a legislation 'should receive a liberal and beneficent construction from the Courts. But at the same time the courts cannot overlook the fact that the liberal construction must ultimately flow from the words used in the section. If the words used in the section are capable of two constructions one of which is shown patently to assist the achievement of the object of the Act. Courts would be justified in preferring that construction to the other which may not be able to further the object of the Act. On the other hand, if the words used in the section are reasonably capable of only one consideration, the doctrine of liberal construction can be of no assistance.'
9. In the case of legislation intended to benefit a tenant if there is any doubt about the meaning of a particular section or sub-section , that doubt should be resolved in favour of the tenant for whose benefit the Act was passed (vide Jivabhai Purshottam v. Chhagan Karson : 1SCR568 ).
10. While interpreting a statute, if a statute leads to absurdity hardship of injustice, presumably not intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words, and even the structure of the sentence:, as was held by the Supreme Court in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Azad Bharat Finance Co. : 1967CriLJ285 .
11. The accepted principle of interpretation of a statue is to ascertain the intention of the legislature and while ascertaining such an intention 'all such factors as can legitimately betaken into account in ascertaining the intention of the legislature, such as the history of the statute, the reason which led to its being passed, the mischief which it intended to suppress and the remedy provided by the consideration as held by the Supreme Court in Shivanarayan v. State of Madras : 1967CriLJ946 .
12. It is in the light of the aforesaid pronouncements of the Supreme Court that section 8 of the Act has to be interpreted. The argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the word 'due' has only one meaning in the context in which it appears; and therefore even though the Act is a beneficent piece of legislation the section cannot be interpreted liberally taking into consideration the object and purpose of the Act. For the meaning of the word 'due', he referred to Stroud's Judicial Dictionary, 2nd Edn., Vol. I at page 578, where it has been stated 'A debt is 'due' when it is payable'. This definition is also applicable to cases where a debt is contracted and payable in future. It is argued that the word 'due' is used when a debt is still payable and is not us in cases where the debt has already been discharged. He also referred to Wharton's Law Lexicon, 10th Edition at page 274 where the word 'due' has bee defined 'anything owing. That which one that which law or justice requires to be paid or done'. He also relied upon Cherukuru Krishniah v. Rajah Sri M. A. Muthiah Chettiar (1958) 1 AWR 206 : AIR 1958 AP 342 where the question for consideration was whether the provisions of Sections 3 (c) and 45 of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotowari) Act, 1948 apply to a Kavimera grant. While considering that question, the learned Judges at page 208 considered whether Kavimeradar is a creditor within the meaning of Section 45 of the said Act. It was observed that the term 'creditor' postulates indebtedness and that there should be a debt, and an existing debt which falls due at present or in future. If is not sued in a case where a debt has already been discharged.
13. Reference is also a made to Kesoram Industries & Cotton Mills Ltd. v. Commr. or Wealth Tax : 59ITR767(SC) where the Supreme Court, considered the meanings of the words 'owe' and 'debt owed'. Our attention was drawn to a passage by Mookerjee, J from the judgment of the Supreme Court of California in People v. Arguello,(1869) 37 Cal 521 which runs:
'Standing alone, the word 'debt' is as applicable to a sum of money which has been promised at a future day as to a sum now due and payable. If we wish to distinguish between the two, we say of the former that it is a debt owing and of the latter that it is a debt due.'
14. The argument is that the word 'due' is used in the sense that the debt or amount is presently payable or payable on a future date, but it is not used in cases where the debt or amount has already been paid. Stress is also laid on the word 'remit' which has been defined in he Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary as 'to refrain from exacting or inflicting'. One cannot refrain from exacting or inflicting what has already been recovered or received. The use of the word 'remission' clearly goes to show, according to the learned counsel for the 'petitioner, that Section 8 is applicable to a case where the rent is still payable by the tenant. Stress is also laid on the word 'collection' appearing in the Explanation to Section 8 and argued that one cannot collect an amount which has already been received by him. In reply, the learned counsel for respondents 3 and 4 contends that the word 'due' has more than one meaning. That word is used in different senses and the appropriate meaning thereof has to be determined in the context in which the word is used and also considering the object and purpose of the Act, the history of the law at the time of enactment of the Act and the mischief which the law intended to cure. According to Wharton's Law Lexicon, the word 'due' has also the meaning 'that which one contract to pay or perform to another'. If the expression 'rent due' is read in the sense that it means the rent which a tenant has contracted to pay, the word 'remission' also can be given its proper meaning and the word 'collection' in the Explanation also does not conflict with the meaning of the expression' rent due' as rent agreed to pay or contracted to pay. The learned counsel in support of his contention relied upon a decision of Full Bench of this Court in Nainamul v.B Subba Rao AIR 1957 AP 546 . The question for consideration before the learned Judges was whether under Section 13 of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act IV of 1938, interest of a debt incurred after the commencement of the Act and paid can be scaled down. Section 13 of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act reads:
'In any proceeding for recovery of debt, the Court shall scale down all interest due on any debt incurred by an agriculturist after the commencement of this Act, so as not to exceed a sum calculated at 6 1/4 per cent per annum, simple interest, that is to say, ]one pie per rupee per mesnem simple interest, or one anna per rupee per annum simple interest: Provided that the State Government may be notification in the Official Gazette alter and fix any other rate of interest from time to time.'
15. It was argued on behalf of the creditor before the Full Bench that the scope of Section 13 is confined to the scaling down of interest due and that the scope of Section 13 is confined to the scaling down of interest due and that only in a proceeding taken by a creditor to recover a debt. The intention of the legislature in using the words 'interest due' was to mean interest outstanding at the time the relief is sought under the Act. In this view, when earlier payments, were appropriated towards interest calculated at the contact rate, to that extent the interest is paid off and, therefore, it is not due. It was argued on behalf of the debtors that the object of the Act is to give relief to an agriculturist debtor. The extent of the relief is made to depend upon the time factor. While in the case of debts incurred before 1st October, 1932, the words 'interest outstanding' were used in the case of debts covered by Section 13, the words 'all interest due' are used indicating thereby that in one case presumably because it relates to old transactions the appropriations made are not intended to be reopened and in the other as the debts were incurred after the act the entire interest payable under the debts irrespective of appropriations is scaled down. While considering this question, Subba Rao, C.J.(as he then was ) referred to the meaning of the word 'due' in the Webster's New International Dictionary as 'payable' (We have already extracted the meaning of the word 'due' in Wharton's Law Lexicon). The Full Bench then went on to determine the appropriate meaning in the context which if substituted for the word 'due' in the section, would bring out the real intendment of the legislature. From a review of the provisions of the Madras Agriculturists Relief Act, the object of the said Act was apparent that it was to give relief to agriculturists in respect of debts incurred by them. The extent of the relief varies with them. The extent of the relief varies with the date of indebtedness. The learned Judges have further held:
'The meaning that which one contracts to pay fits in the context. The meaning 'payable' is also not inappropriate. If so all interest one contracts to pay or all interest payable is scaled down under Section 13.
The word 'due' is descriptive of the word 'interest' and does not connote any particular tense, past, present or future. The interest the debt earns is scaled down. If so understood, payments or appropriations made towards interest payable on the debt will have to be ignored for reducing the interest.'
16. The learned counsel for the petitioner brought to our notice that the aforesaid meanings of the word 'due' given by the Full Bench is conditioned because of the words 'all interest due' appearing of the words in Section 13 and also of the expression 'all interest outstanding' in Section 8, It is only in the context of these words that the learned Judges gave the particular meaning to the word 'due'.
17. The ratio decided of the Full Bench case is that considering the object of the Act and the context in which the word 'due' has been used, it has to be determined whether, which of the various meanings of the word 'due' can be the appropriate meaning which then substituted for the said word in the section, would bring out the real intendment of the legislature. The Madras Agriculturists Relief Act is a beneficent legislation intended to relive the agriculturist debtors from the clutches of the creditors and reduce the burden of interest on them. When we consider the provisions of the Tenancy Act, we also find that the object of the legislature is to benefit the tenants and relive them from the hardships which an agreement in regard to tenancy under the ordinary law would cause them. We have already shown that, under the Act, rent agreed upon between the parties can be scaled down or enhanced by fixing a fair rent. The purpose of Section 8 of the Act is to reduce the rent is cases where there is a total or partial failure of crops. It is very difficult to imagine that the legislature, while making this provision, intended to exclude those tenants who had paid rent in advance. The provision being made for the benefit of the tenants, it can legitimately be said that all tenants, irrespective of the fact whether they had paid the rent in advance or were to still pay the rent on the date of the application, are intended to be covered by the provisions of Section 8, The intendment of the legislature can be fulfilled if the expression 'rent due' is substituted by the expression 'rent one contracts to pay'. It has to be determined whether the substitution of this expression would in any manner conflict with the word' remission'. The word 'remission' has been defined to mean 'giving up; slackening' therefore need not necessarily point to the fact that the rent should be payable at the date when the application for remission is made. The meaning of the expression 'rent due' does not in any manner conflict with the expression 'remission of the rent due'. It has also to be seen whether the substitution that we have made in any way conflicts with the explanation which states that 'any neglect or failure on the part of the cultivating tenant to raise any crop shall not disentitle the landlord to the collection of the rent due'. In our opinion, if the Explanation is reads any neglect of failure on the part of the cultivating tenant to raise any crop shall not disentitle the landlord to the collection of the rent contracted to any, such a reading will not in any manner conflict with the word 'collection'. We find that the substitution we are making does not in any manner conflict with any of the words used in Section 8; and on the other hand, brings out the real intendment and object of Section 8; and on the other hand, brings out the real intendment and object of Section 8 of the Act. Respectfully following the Full Bench decision in Nainamul's case AIR 1957 AP 546, we hold that Section 8 of the Act is applicable to cases where the rent has been paid in advance.
18. We now proceed to consider whether the order of the lower authorities is based on no evidence. The learned counsel for the petitioner argued that respondents 3 and 4 have in their application before the Tahsildar, stated that they had not sown any crops; but during the course of the evidence, they admitted that when they could not sow paddy, they had sown Jawar and when that crop had also withered away, they sowed Bengalgram and gingelly crops. It is thus evident that respondents 3 and 4 did not come to the Court of the Tahsildar with clean hands, and had been sown. The evidence therefore of respondents 3 and 4 that they had sown paddy crop could not be grown, should not have been accepted by the lower authorities. The contention raised by the learned counsel for the petitioner is with respect to appreciation of evidence which this Court cannot go into.
19. It was next contended that the Tahsildar, when there was evidence before him that there were Bengalgram and gingelly crops standing on the fields, should have taken into consideration the value of those crops. We do not find any force in this contention also. A reading of the order of the Tahsildar shown that he has taken the view that the jawar crop and the Bengalgram crop had fared normally though not up to the extent not entitling a remission. Proceeding on that basis , he has estimated the yield of jawar crop and Bengal gram crop at 2 to 2 1/2 bags per acre. Taking into consideration the value of such yield and also the failure of the Khariff paddy crop and the expense incurred by paddy crop and the respondents 3 and 4 for raising the seed-beds and raising alternate crops, the Tahsildar has give half the rent as remission. We do not think that there is any force in the contention that the relevant evidence has not been taken into consideration by the Tahsildar for coming to the conclusion that respondents 3 and 4 had suffered also because of failure of crops due to failure of rains.
20. Lastly, it was argued that there is no evidence on record to show that the yield could have been only 2 to 2 1/2 bags per acre of jawar crop and Bengalgram crop. The evidence tendered by the parties is not before us and therefore we are not in a position to say whether the aforesaid decision is based on any evidence or there is no evidence to come to that conclusion.
21. There is yet another aspect of the matter. In all the cases of remission, the authority has to make an estimate of the loss suffered. Unless it is shown to the Court that the decision reached by the authorities is perverse, this Court cannot interfere. There is no material before us to come to the conclusion that the estimate made by the Tahsildar is perverse. We, therefore, reject this contention.
22. It was also argued by the learned counsel for the petitioner that the provisions of Section 8 have not been fully complied with. Under Section 8, an application for remission has to be made at least 15 days before the crop is cut and removed. Respondents 3 and 4, in their application made to the Tahsildar, stated that there were no standing crops at all. The petitioner, therefore, did not go and inspect the fields to estimate the crops. The purpose of giving a notice under Section 8 is that the landlord must have an opportunity to inspect the crop that was standing on the fields and the Tahsildar should inspect the crops and make the estimate about the damages suffered by the tenants. It is true that respondents 3 and 4 started their case stating that there were no crops at all. But there is nothing to show that the application under Section 8 was made after the crops which they admitted to be standing on the lands were cut by them. We, therefore, do not find that any prejudice has been caused to the petitioner. This contention also fails.
23. In the result, we do not find any force in the contentions raised by the learned counsel for the petitioner and the Writ Petition is dismissed, but, in the circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs.
24. Petition dismissed.