1. The third respondent-cultivating tenant was inducted into possession of Survey No.350/1 admeasuring Act. 7-40 cents wet situate at Katravulllapalli village, Peddapuram Taluk, East Godvarai District, belonging to Sri Venkateswaraswami Vari Temple of that village, by the temple authorities on August, 15, 1966 when he gave the highest bid of 110 bages of paddy per annum for faslis 1376 to 1381 at a public auction held in respect of those lands. An application under Section 6 of the Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, 1956 (hereinafter called 'the Act' for fixation of fair rent at 3 bags paddy per year, was filed by the cultivating tenant before the Tashildar , Peddapuram on December 14, 1966. The application was contested by the petitioner. The tenant examined himself as P.W. 1 the neighboruing land-owners P.Ws. 2 and 3, and P.W. 4, the village Karnam in support of his case. The Petitioner herein examined R.W.1, who participated in the auction offering 105 bags per annum to the lands in question and R. W.2 the executive officer of the temple and filed Ex. R-1 public auction sale list. Ex, B-21 in O.S. No. 54/61 on the file of the Sub Court, Kakinada and Ex.R.3 which is the price of the paddy in the year 1915 in support of his plea that the rent of 110 bags offered by the tenant at the pubic auction was fair and proper. The Tahsildar, on a consideration of the entire evidence, oral and documentary, adduced before him, has fixed the fair rent at 80 bags of paddy per year, i.e, 51/2 bags for the fist crop and 241/2 bags of summer crop. Aggrieved by that order appeals have been preferred by the landlord as well as the tenant tot he Revenue Divisional Officer who dismissed the appeal preferred by the temple and party allowed the appeal preferred by the tenant and fixed the fair rent at 44 bags per annum. Hence, this writ petition.
2. Sri Venugopala Reddy, for the petitioner contends that the application for fixation of air rent under Section 6 of the Act on 14-12-1966 is not maintainable in view of the coming into force of the Act 17 of 1966 and that the tribunals' approach to the point at issue is illegal and erroneous. Sri Raghava Rao, for the respondent-tenant, opposed the alia that the plea relating to want of jurisdiction for the tribunals to fix fair rent is belated and is not permissible at this state and there is not merit in this writ petition.
3. Upon the facts and circumstances and the contentions raised, the following two questions arise for decision:
1. Whether the impugned order of the Tahsildar and the Revenue Divisional Officer are liable to be quashed on the ground that they have no jurisdiction to entertain the application to fix fair rent?
2. Whether the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer is illegal and liable to be set aside?
4. With regard to the question No.1 it has been held by a Division Bench of this court in Avula Hanuma Reddy v. Sri Pushpagiri Mutt, (1970) 1 APLJ 41,(Short Notes) that the provisions of the Tenancy Act, a Special Act,. are applicable even to the lands owned by or endowed to the religious or charitable institutions in the State of Andhra Pradesh and the tenancy will continue to subsist under the same terms by virtue of Section 10 of the Act subject to fixation of reasonable rent by the Committee appointed under Act No.17 of 1966. The Tahsildar and the Revenue Divisional Offical have no jurisdiction to entertain the application for fixation of fair rent in respect of temple lands. But this point cannot be permitted to be raised for more than one reason. Firstly it was not taken before the Tashilsar or the Revenue Divisional Officer or in the original Writ Petition but was raised for the first time only at time of the hearing of the writ petition. Secondly, no Committee has so far been constituted under the Act 17 of 1966 to fix reasonable rent in respect of the lands belonging to the temple. Hence, this preliminary objection cannot be entertained at this stage.
5. I shall now turn to the submission of Sri Venugopala Reddy that the orders of the Revenue Divisional Officer are liable to be quashed as he did not keep in view the presumption under Section 6 (3) of the Act in determining the fair rent in the present case. It is useful at this stage to refer to the intendment of the Act and the provisions of Section 6. The prime internment of the Act is to provide for the payment of fair rent by the cultivating tenants and to fix a minimum period of leases in respect of agricultural holding. Hence, a machinery to redress the grieving tenant in fixation of fair rent notwithstanding any agreement between them, has been provided under Sec. 6. Sub-Section (2) requires the Tahsildar after the receipt of the application to make an enquiry in the prescribed manner and determine the fair rent taking into account the factors specified in Clauses (a) to (g) of that sub-section. Sub-section (3) which is material for our purpose, reads thus:
'In determining the fair rent, the Tahsildar shall presume, until the contrary is proved, that the agreed rent payable in respect of the holding is the fair rent.'
Under Sub-section (3) to Section 6, the Tahsildar in an enquiry to determine the fair rent in respect of an agricultural holding, shall presume that the agreed rent is the fair rent. The use of the expression 'shall' in sub-section (3) makes is obligatory on the part of the Tahsildar to proceed on the basis that the agreed rent is the fair rent. The statutory presumption enacted under sub-section (3) to Section 6 is not an absolute but a rebuttal presumption. The language of the provisions of Section 6 (3) manifests that the agreed rent has to be presumed for all practical purposes to be the fair rent until the contrary who challenges the agreed rent as not fair, must establish his case by independent evidence. The Tribunal therefore, is bound to start with the assumption, that the agreed rent was the fair rent and consider the evidence adduced by the parties in the light of the statutory presumption. The tribunal may adept to the factor whether the agreed rent was fixed out of free volition or due to any compulsion, duress, undue influence o misrepresentation. The rent offered by any cultivating tenant in a public auction held by the owner or any one authorised by him in respect of an agricultural holding must ordinarily be presumed to be fair, reasonable and proper until the contrary is proved by either party. Any order passed by the Tashildar or the Revenue Divisional Officer without keeping in view the statutory presumption under Section 6 (3) of the Act resulting in injustice, must be quashed by the High Court under Art. 226 if the Constitution. Whether or not the Statutory presumption has been kept in view by the Tahsildar and the Revenue Divisional Officer in determining the fair rent, is a question of fact depending upon the facts and circumstances of each ease. The tribunals are bound to consider the entire material, oral and documentary, adduced by the parties and arrived at a just and proper decisions on the disputes raised before them.
6. In the light of the aforesaid succession. I shall examine the impugned order of the Revenue Divisional Officer fixing the fair rent at 44 bags per year. The tribunal should have started with the assumption that the offer of 110 bags of paddy made by the cultivating tenant at the public auction was the fair and property rent for the lands in question and seen whether the cultivating tenant has established that 33 bags of paddy as pleaded by him was the fair rent. The conduct of the cultivating tenant in the instant case also is a material fact to be taken into consideration in arriving at a proper and just conclusion relating to the fair rent. He is no other than the neighbouring land-owner of the temple land and he was not even a tenant of the temple for the proper years. He was not under any obligation to offer 10 bags of paddy per annum at the public auction. By offering 110 bags, he has deprived R. W. 1 who gave his offer at 105 bags of getting the benefits of the lease and also the temple which would have got the benefit of 1055 bags. The aforesaid facts clearly establish that no pressure, undue influence or coercion has been exercised either by the temple authorities or any one on behalf of the temple over the cultivating tenant P.W. 1 who gage his offer of 110 bags in public auction, That apart, the tenant who was put in possession of the land on 15-8-1966 must have transplanted only subsequent to that date. The rent for which he has given the bid is undoubtedly for the entree year covering both the cries. He did not even wait till he harvested the first crop nor raised the second crop. He rushed to the Tahsildar to file the application on December 14, 1966. The authorities should have certainly taken into consideration the aforesaid factors in determining the fair rent in the present case.
7. I am unable to agree with the plea of Sri Raghasva Rao, that the presumption under Section 6 (3) of the Act must be held to have been taken into consideration when the evidence on record has been considered by the tribunal . On a careful perusal of the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer, I am satisfied that it is liable to be quashed as the statutory presumption under S. 6 (3) of the Act has not been taken as the basis. Nor can it be said that the presumption under Section 6 (3) of the Act has been rebutted in the present case.
8. That apart, the Revenue Divisional Officer failed to take into consideration the documentary evidence Ex. R-2 on which reliance has been placed by the Tahsildar. The rent fixed for the land in question in the year 1915 was Rs.500/- when the net price of the paddy was Rs. 4-per bag as per Ex. R-2. The order of the Revenue Divisional Officer in modifying the well-considered order of the Tahsildar who fixed the fair rent at 80 bags, is illegal.
9. For all these reasons, the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer is hereby quashed and that of the Tahsildar fixing the fair rent at 80 bags per annum is restored. In the result the writ petition is allowed to the extent indicated above with costs Advocate's fee Rs. 100.
10. Order accordingly.