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Maddukuri Venkatarao and ors. Vs. the State of Andhra Pradesh and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution;Property
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. Nos. 35, 298, 300, 351, 403, 453, 466, 467, 468, 528, 540, 552, 562, 565, 576, 598, 607,
Judge
Reported inAIR1975AP315
ActsAndhra Pradesh Land Reforms (Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings) Act, 1973 - Sections 3, 3(1), 4, 4(1), 7(1), 73), 7(4) and 7(5), 8 and 8(1), 10(5) and 30; Constitution of India - Articles 14, 19, 31, 31(2), 31A, 31A(1) and 31A(2), 31B, 31C, 39, 141, 245, 246, 254 and 368; Central Excises Act, 1944 - Sections 31 and 32; General Clauses Act, 1897 - Sections 3(42); Andhra Pradesh (Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings) Act, 1961
AppellantMaddukuri Venkatarao and ors.
RespondentThe State of Andhra Pradesh and anr.
Excerpt:
(i) constitution - validity of act - articles 31-a, 31-b, 31-c, 368 and entry 18 of list 2 of schedule to constitution of india and andhra pradesh land reforms (ceiling on agricultural holdings) act, 1973 - writ filed challenging constitutional validity of andhra act of 1973 - act prescribing agrarian reforms - objectives of act to give effect to policies subscribed in article 31-c - act constitutionally valid and avails protection under article 31-c. (ii) power of state legislature - sections 7 (3) and 3 (j) of andhrapradesh land reforms (ceiling on agricultural holdings) act, 1973, entry 18 list 2 schedule 7 to constitution of india and central excises and salt act, 1944 - word 'land' in entry 18 is given widest meaning including agricultural as well as non agricultural land - land.....ramachandra rao, j.1. in this batch of writ petitions filed under article 226 of the constitution of india, common questions as to the constitutional validity of the andhra pradesh land reforms (ceiling on agricultural holdings) act, 1972 (hereinafter referred to as the act) are raised.2. the act was passed on 31-7-1972 and received the assent of the president of india on 1-1-1973 and came into force from 1-1-1975 according to the notification issued by the government of andhra pradesh in the andhra pradesh extraordinary gazette dated 18-12-1974. the act was included in the ninth schedule of the constitution of india by the thirty fourth constitution amendment act, 1974. earlier, with a view to prevent alienations of agricultural lands in anticipation of the ceiling law, the andhra.....
Judgment:

Ramachandra Rao, J.

1. In this batch of Writ Petitions filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, common questions as to the constitutional validity of the Andhra Pradesh Land Reforms (Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings) Act, 1972 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) are raised.

2. The Act was passed on 31-7-1972 and received the assent of the President of India on 1-1-1973 and came into force from 1-1-1975 according to the notification issued by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in the Andhra Pradesh Extraordinary Gazette dated 18-12-1974. The Act was included in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution of India by the Thirty Fourth Constitution Amendment Act, 1974. Earlier, with a view to prevent alienations of agricultural lands in anticipation of the ceiling law, the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Lands (Prohibition of Alienationl Ordinance, was promulgated on 2-5-1972, in and by which all alienations made from that date, have been declared null and void. The Ordinance was subsequently replaced by the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Lands (Prohibition of Alienation) Act. 1972. The said Act has however been repealed by the present Act.

3. The constitutionality of the Act and its provisions is challenged on the grounds that they are beyond the legislative competence of the State legislature and that they violate the provisions of Articles 14, 19, 31(2) the second proviso to Article 31A of the Constitution, and they are not saved by the provisions of Articles 31A, 31B and 31C of the Constitution.

4. Before we consider the main attack on the constitutionality of the Act, it is necessary to briefly outline the scheme of the Act. The Act fixes a ceiling on agricultural land holdings and provides for acquisition of land which is in excess of the ceiling limit and for distribution of the lands acquired, to the landless and poor agriculturists. The Act contains thirty sections and two schedules. Section 2 declares that the Act is for giving effect to the policy of the State towards securing the principles specified in Clauses (b) and (c) of Article 39 of the Constitution. The expressions 'family Unit', 'holding', 'owner', 'person', are denned in Section 3 Clauses (f). (i), (n) and (o) which are as follows;--

'3 (i). 'Family unit' means:--

(i) in the case of an individual who has a spouse or spouses, such individual the spouse or spouses and their minor sons and their unmarried minor daughters, if any;

(ii) in the case of an individual who has no spouse, such individual and his or her minor sons and unmarried minor daughters;

(iii) In the case of an individual who is a divorced husband and who has not remarried, such individual and his minor sons and unmarried minor daughters, whether in his custody or not;

(iv) where an individual and his or her spouse are both dead, their minor sons and unmarried minor daughters.

Explanation: Where a minor son is married, his wife and their offspring, if any; shall also be deemed to be members of the family unit of which the minor son is a member;

3 (i) 'Holding' means the entire land held by a person:

'(i) as an owner;

(ii) as a limited owner:

(iii) as an usufructuary mortgagee;

(iv) as a tenant;

(v) who is in possession by virtue of a mortgage by conditional sale or through part performance of a contract for the sale of land or otherwise; or in one or more of such capacities; and the expression 'to hold land' shall be construed accordingly:

Explanation: Where the same land is held by one person in one capacity and by another person in another capacity, such land shall be included in the holding of both such persons.

3 (n). 'Owner' includes a person by whom or in whose favour a trust is created end a person entitled to a vested remainder; but does not include a limited owner; and

In the case of any land not held under ryotwari settlement, a person who is or would be entitled to the grant of a ryotwari patta or to the registration as an occupant in respect of such land under any law for the time being in force providing for the conversion of such land into ryotwari tenure and where there is no such law, any person holding such land immediately before the specified date otherwise than in any one of the capacities specified in items (ii) to (v) of Clause (i);

3 (o). 'Person' includes an individual a family unit, a trustee, a company, a firm, a society or an association of individuals, whether incorporated or not.'

5. 'Ceiling Area' specified in Section 4 is as follows:

4. Ceiling Area:

'(1) The Ceiling area in the case of a family unit consisting of not more than five members shall be an extent of land equal to one standard holding.

(2) The ceiling area in the case of a family unit consisting of more than five members shall be an extent of land equal to one standard holding plus an additional extent of one-fifth of one standard holding for every such member in excess of five, so however that the ceiling area shall not 'exceed two standard holdings'.

(3) The ceiling area in the case of every individual who is not a member of a family unit, and in the case of any other person shall be an extent of land equal to one standard holding.

Explanation: In the case of a family unit, the ceiling area shall be applied to the aggregate of the lands held by all the members of the family unit.'

6. The standard holding for different classes of lands and the computations of the holdings are mentioned in Section 5 and the First Schedule.

7. Section 6 refers to the Constitution of Tribunals for the purpose of the Act.

8. Section 7 contains a special provision in respect of certain transfers by way of sale, gift, usufructuary mortgage etc., made prior to the Act and it reads as follows:

'7. Special provision in respect of certain transfers etc., already made :

(1) Where on or after the 24th January, 1971, but before the notified date, any person has transferred whether by way of sale, gift, usufructuary mortgage, exchange, settlement, surrender or in any other manner whatsoever, any land held by him or created a trust of any land held by him, then the burden of proving that such transfer or creation of trust has not been effected in anticipation of, and with a view to avoiding or defeating the objects of any law relating to a reduction in the ceiling on agricultural holding shall be on such person, and where he has not so proved, such transfer or creation of trust, shall be disregarded for the purpose of the computation of the ceiling area of such person.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in Sub-section (1), any alienation made by way of sale, lease for a period exceeding six years, gift, exchange, usufructuary mortgage or otherwise, any partition effected or trust created of a holding or any part thereof, or any such transaction effected in execution of a decree or order of a Civil Court or any award or order of any other authority, on or after the 2nd May, 1972 and before the notified date, in contravention of the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Lands (Prohibition of Alienation) Act, 1972 shall be null and void.

(3) Where at any time within a period of five years before the notified date, any person has converted any agricultural land held by him into a non-agricultural land, then the land so converted shall be deemed to be agricultural land on the notified date for the purpose of this Act.

(4) Where on or after the 24th January, 1971, but before the notified date:

(a) any declaration of dissolution of marriage has been made by a court on an application made on or after the 24th January, 1971; or

(b) any other dissolution of marriage in accordance with any law or custom has taken place, then the land held by each spouse immediately before the date of such dissolution shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be the land held on the notified date by the family unit of which they were members immediately before such dissolution.

(5) Where on or after the 24th January, 1971, but before the notified date, any person has been given in adoption, then the land held by such person immediately before the date of such adoption shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be held on the notified date by the family unit of which he was a member immediately before such adoption.

(6) In every case referred to in Sub-section (4) or Sub-section (5), the computation of the ceiling area shall first be made in respect of the family unit referred to in the said sub-section, and after the surrender of the land held in excess of the ceiling area by such family unit, the remaining land held by such divorced spouse or adopted person, as the case may be, shall be included in the holding of such divorced spouse or adopted person, whether as an individual or as a member of a family unit of which such spouse or person has become a member.

(7) If any question arises,--

(a) whether any transfer or creation of a trust effected on or after the 24th January. 1971, had been effected in anticipation of. and with a view to avoiding or defeating the objects of anv law relating to a reduction in the ceiling on agricultural holdings;

(b) Whether any alienation made, partition effected or trust created on or after the 2nd May. 1972, is null and void;

(c) Whether any conversion of agricultural land into non-agricultural land had taken place within a period of five years before the notified date;

(d) Whether any dissolution of a marriage had taken place on or after the said date, or in accordance with any law or custom :

(e) Whether any person had been given in adoption on or after the 24th January, 1971, such question shall be determined by the Tribunal, after giving an opportunity of being heard to the affected parties, and its decision thereon shall, subject to an appeal and a revision under this Act, be final.

(8) If the Tribunal decides that any transfer, or creation of trust had been effected in anticipation of, and with a view to avoiding or defeating the objects of, any law relating to a reduction in the ceiling on agricultural holding or that any alienation made or partition effected or trust created is null and void and if as a result of such transfer, alienation or creation of trust, the holding of the person or the family unit, that remains on the notified date, does not exceed the extent of land that he or the family unit is liable to surrender, then, the Tribunal shall treat the entire holding thus left over as the extent of land to be surrendered under the provisions of this act by the person or the family unit, as the case may be ;

Provided that the balance of extent of land that remains liable to be surrendered by the person or family unit shall, subject to such rules as may be prescribed, be surrendered by the alienee who is in possession of such holding by virtue of any transaction effected in contravention of the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Lands (Prohibition of Alienation) Act, 1972.

9. Section 8 requires the filing of declarations of the holdings in the forms prescribed and is as follows:--

8. Declaration of holding: (1) Every person, whose holding on the notified date together with any land transferred by him on or after the 24th January, 1971, whether by way of sale, gift, usufructuary mortgage, exchange, settlement, surrender or in any other manner whatsoever, and any land in respect of which a trust has been created by him on or atter the 24th January, 1971, exceeds the specified limit, shall, within thirty days from the notified date or within such extended period as the Government may notify in this behalf, furnish declaration in respect of his holding together with such land, to the Tribunal within whose jurisdiction the whole or a major part of his holding is situate containing such particulars including those relating to lands held by him in any part of India outside the State, and in such form as may be prescribed.

Explanation I: Where the land is held by a minor, lunatic, an idiot or other person subject to like disability, not being a member of the family unit, the declaration shall be furnished by the guardian, manager or other person in charge of the property of such person; and where the land is held or is deemed to he held by a company, firm, association or other corporate body, the declaration shall be furnished by any person competent to act for such company, firm, association or corporate body in this behalf.

Explanation II:-- Where the land is held or is deemed to be held by a family unit, the declaration shall be furnished by a person in management of the property of such family unit and the declaration so furnished shall be binding on all the members of the family unit:

Provided that the Tribunal shall in the event of a dispute as to the declaration furnished by the person in management, give to the other members of the family unit an opportunity of making their representation or of adducing evidence, if any, in respect of such declaration and shall consider such representations and evidence before determining the ceiling area under this Act.

Explanation III: In this sub-section specified limit means,

(a) In the case of wet land -- 4.05 hectares (10 acres);

(b) in the case of dry land -- 10.12 hectares (25 acres), and for the purpose of computing the specified limit in a case where the holding of any person includes both wet land and dry land, one hectare of wet land shall be deemed to be equal to two and half hectares of dry land.

(2) Without prejudice to the provisions of Sub-section (1), the Tribunal shall have power to issue notice requiring any person holding land or residing within its jurisdiction who it has reason to believe, holds or is deemed to hold land in excess pf the ceiling area, to furnish a declaration of his holding, or that of his family unit under Sub-section (1) within such period as may be specified in the notice, not being less than fifteen days from the date of its communication, and such person shall furnish the declaration accordingly.

(3) If any person who is liable to furnish a declaration under Sub-section (1) or Sub-section (2) fails to furnish the declaration within the specified time, the Tribunal may obtain the necessary information in such manner as may be prescribed.

10. Under Section 9, the Tribunal has to hold an enquiry and pass orders determining the ceilinfi area in respect of a person, and the extent of land in excess of the ceiling area.

11. Section 10 provides for the surrender of the land in excess of the ceiling area.

12. Under Section 11, the lands surrendered are to vest in the Government and any claim or liability enforceable against the lands surrendered immediately before the date of vesting in the Government may be enforced only against the amount payable under the Act in respect of such land or against any other property of the owner.

13. Section 12 provides for reversion of the lands surrendered by a tenant or an usufructuary mortgagee to the owner and for payment of the mortgage money by the owner and proportionate rent by the tenant.

14. Section 13 excludes the lands held by a protected tenant from the holding of the owner. Under Section 14, the lands vested in the Government shall be disposed of by the Government by allotment for use as house-sites for agricultural labourers, village artisans or other poor persons owning no houses or house-sites or for transfer to the weaker sections of the people dependent on agriculture for purposes of agriculture or for purposes ancillary thereto. Proviso to Section 14 (1) requires that as far as may be practicable, not less than one half of the total extent of land so allotted or transferred shall be allotted or transferred to the members if the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and out of the balance, not less than two thirds shall be allotted to members of the backward classes of citizens notified under Article 15(4) of the Constitution.

15. Section 15 specifies the amount payable for the lands vested in the Government and it reads as follows:--

'The amount payable for any land vested in the Government under this Act, shall be a sum calculated at the rates specified in the second Schedule and it shall be paid at the option of the Government, either in cash or in bonds or partly in cash and partly in bonds. The bonds shall be issued on such terms and carry such rate of interest as may be prescribed.'

16. Claims for the aforesaid amounts will be determined by the Tribunal under Section 16 in accordance with the rules prescribed.

17. Section 17, prohibits alienation of holdings by any person or a member of a family unit after the notified date until he has furnished a declaration under Section 8, and the extent of the land if any to be surrendered, has been determined by the Tribunal and an order has been passed by the Revenue Divisional Officer taking possession of the land in excess of the ceiling area, and a notification published under Section 16 and alienations made in contravention of this Section are declared to be null and void.

18. Section 18 refers to filing of declarations in respect of future acquisitions and Section 19 provides for declarations to be furnished before the registering officer to the effect that the holding of the transferor does not exceed the ceiling area.

19. An appeal is provided against an order of the Tribunal under Section 20 and a further revision to the High Court under Section 21.

20. Section 23 exempts certain categories of lands from the operation of the Act.

21. Section 24 provides for imposition of penalties for contravention of the provisions of the Act.

22. Section 30 repeals the Andhra Pradesh Ceilings on Agricultural Holdings) Act. 1961 (Act X of 1961) and the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Lands (Prohibition of Alienation) Act, 1972.

23. First Schedule to the Act relates to the classification of lands according to terms or Bhagannas; and second schedule leys down the manner in which the amount payable for the lands vested in the Government, has to be calculated.

24. The Act has been included in the Ninth Schedule by the Thirty Fourth Amendment Act and is protected by Article 31B which gives protection to the Act from attack on the ground of violation of any of the rights conferred by the provisions of Part III of the Constitution. Further the challenge to the Act on the basis of Articles 14, 19 and 31 would not be available to the petitioners if the Act falls within the purview of Articles 31-A, 31-C of the Constitution.

25. We shall now refer to the contentions urged on behalf of the petitioners in these petitions. Sri P. A. Chowdary, appearing for the petitioners in W. P. No. 35 of 1975 started by contending that several of the contentions based on Articles 14, 19, 31, are covered by the Judgments of the Supreme Court. However he raised the following points:--

(1) The definitions of 'family unit' and 'person' are ultra vires the powers of the State Legislature, that any law made under Article 245 is subject to the provisions of second proviso to Article 31-A, that the State Legislature could not by definition create an artificial 'family unit' or 'person', that the 'family unit' as defined in the Act, is an artificial family, that under the second proviso to Article 31-A, the Legislature can only make a law with regard to fixation of ceiling limit in respect of an individual, or a natural or juristic person, and not an artificial person like the family unit as defined in the act and that impugned provisions are therefore void ab initio for want of legislative competence.

(2) The provisions of Article 14 and the second proviso to Clause (1) of Article 31-A are injunctions against the legislature from enacting a law contrary to the aforesaid provisions, and any law made in contravention of the aforesaid provisions, would be void for want of legislative competence and therefore the said law is not protected by Article 31-B which applies only to rights conferred by Part III and not to Constitutional limitations imposed on the legislative power by Article 14, and second proviso to Clause (1) of Article 31-A of the Constitution.

(3) (a) Article 31-B became unconstitutional after Kesavanada's case (AIR 1973 SC 1461).

(b) At any rate, the inclusion of the Act in the Ninth Schedule by Thirty Fourth Amendment, affects the basic structure or essential feature of the Constitution, and does not get the protection of Article 31-B.

(4) The definition of 'family unit' is unrelated to agrarian reform, therefore Article 31-A does not protect the law from challenge under Articles 14. 19 and 31.

(5) Section 4 (1) fixing the 'ceiling area' in respect of a family unit read with the definitions of 'family unit' and 'person' affect the basic structure, as the said provision deprives a citizen to hold minimum property as provided by Section 4 (3) in respect of an individual. The right to hold minimum property is secured by the preamble to the Constitution and the provisions of Articles 19(1)(f), 23, 24, 31, 31-A and therefore the deprivation of the said right of minimum existence by the aforesaid provisions affect the basic structure.

(6) Section 7 (1) which provides for computation of ceiling area by including lands already transferred on or after 24-1-1971, and before notified date, and Section 8 relating to filing of declarations, are unrelated to 'land' and therefore not within the legislative competence of the State Legislature. Similarly the lands 'deemed to be held' in Explanation II read with Section 7 (4) and (51 are unrelated to 'land'. Section 24 imposing penalty is also beyond its legislative competence.

(7) (a) Section 14 (1) proviso regarding allotment of lands to Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes and to Backward Classes notified by Government for purposes of Article 15(4) is arbitrary and discriminatory.

(8) Article 31-C does not protect the impugned law as 31-C applies only to laws relating to industry and not agrarian reforms.

(b) Further, an Act giving effect to the principles in Article 39 (b) and (c) to get the protection under Article 31-C must deal with an individual as a unit and not a body of individuals.

(9) Ratio decidendi in Kesavananda Bharati's case (AIR 1973 SC 14611 is not discernible; therefore it is not binding as a precedent.

26. Sri M. Natesan, submitted that for the purpose of this case, it is not necessary to determine whether right to property is a basic structure or essential feature of the Constitution and that he is confining his challenge to the ground that the provisions of the Act are arbitrary and discriminatory and offend the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution.

27. He raised the following contentions.

1. Article 14 of the Constitution.

, the right of equality constitutes a basic structure or an essential feature of the Constitution and therefore the impugned law could be challenged on the ground of Article 14 of the Constitution.

; and the provisions of Articles 31-A, 31-B and 31-Cwould hot confer Constitutional immunity from challenge under Article 14.

2. The provisions of Section 3 (f), (i) (n), (o) Sections 5 (3) (4) (5) and 7 and 8, 10 (5) and 11 are not related to agrarian reform and deprive the individual of adequate means of livelihood and offend the right of equality under Article 14 and are not saved by Articles 31-A, 31-B and 31-C.

3. Article 31-Cis inapplicable as it applies only to laws made for giving effect to principles in Article 39 (b) and (c) which relate to the sphere of Industry and Commerce, and not to laws relating to agrarian reform.

4. Even if the impugned law relates to agrarian reform, it is hit by the second proviso to Clause (1) of Article 31-A as it purports to take away the land under the personal cultivation of a person and which is within the ceiling limit, and Article 31-Bdoes not bar challenge to the Act as offending the second proviso to Article 31-A(1) of the Constitution.

28. Sri G. R. Subbarayan, while adopting the contentions of Sri P. A. Chowdary and Sri M. Natesan raised the following contention.

1. The provisions of Explanation read with Sec. 3 (1) denning 'holding', Sec. 10 (5) (ii), 'surrender of land by vested remainderman', Sec. 7 (1) relating to burden of proof regarding transfers in anticipation of ceiling laws, are ultra vires the powers of the legislature as they are hit by the second proviso to Article 31-A(1).

29. Sri P. Babul Reddy, raised the following contentions:

1. The right of equality and the right to property constitute the basic structure or essential features of the Constitution and the impugned law in so far as it offends the said basic structure or essential features is ultra vires.

2. The impugned law offends the second proviso to Clause (1) of Article 31-A of the Constitution and is not saved by Article 31-B.

3. The definitions in the Act of 'family unit', 'holding', 'owner', 'person', 'double crop wet land', and fixation of compensation under Section 15 of the Act, are arbitrary and discriminaloiy and are unrelated to agrarian reform and violate Articles 14, 19 and 31 of the Constitution.

4. The State while making a law for giving effect to the directive principles under Article 39 (b) and (c) of the Constitution, should not derogate from the directive principles contained in Article 39(a), that minimum property and adequate means of livelihood should be assured to every individual as required by Article 39(a) and that the impugned Act offends the provisions of Article 39(a) of the Constitution.

5. Articles 39 (b) and (c) of the Constitution contemplate distribution of the ownership and control of the material resources of the community and the removal of concentration of wealth and means of production; but they do not provide for acquisition of property of an individual, and the impugned law which provides for acquisition of lands is unrelated to the objects of Article 39 (b) and (c) and the law is therefore not saved by Article 31-C of the Constitution,

30. Sri P. Kodandaramayya, contended that right to property and the right of equality constitute basic structure or essential features of the Constitution and Articles 31-A, 31-B and 31-C cannot have the effect of overriding basic structure or essential features of the Constitution and therefore the impugned Act in so far as it offends the said rights is not saved by Articles 31-A. 31-B and 31-C of the Constitution. He further submits that according to the majority view in Kesavananda's case : AIR1973SC1461 , fundamental rights constitute the basic structure and therefore are outside the amendatory power of the Parliament-31, Sri K. V. Narasinga Rao, learned counsel appearing for the petitioners in W. P. No. 1059 of 1975 raised the following contentions:

1. The impugned Act deprives the owners of their individual holdings by adopting artificial definitions with regard to 'family unit' and 'person' and thus offends the directive principles contained in Article 39(a) which requires the State to provide adequate means of livelihood to every citizen and that the said definitions are unrelated to agrarian reform and not covered by Articles 31-A and 31-C of the Constitution.

2. Section 14 (1) contemplates allotment of lands mainly for house-sites, and the Government may not distribute the lands for agricultural purposes and therefore the section is wholly unrelated to agrarian reform and is not protected by Article 31-A of the Constitution.

3. The Act offends the provisions of the second proviso to Clause (1) of Article 31-A and is not saved by Article 31-A,


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