1. This Writ Petition gives rise to a short question of law relating to the interpretation of the provisions of Section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, 1956 (hereinafter called 'the Act').
2. The respondents 1 and 2 are the tenants of the petitioner-landlord inrespect of about 22 acres of wet land. The agreed rent for the lands in question is 190 bags of paddy, half bag of green gram and two cart-loads of hay. For the year 1967-68, an application under Section 8 of the Act for remission of rent on the ground that there was failure of crop due to lack of rains. was filed by the tenants before the Tahsildar , Pithapuram. The application was opposed by the petitioner-landlord contending inter alia that there was no widespread calamity or drought and that the crop was good in about 16 acres and in about 4 acres, crop was not good on account of the neglect of the tenants and the reaming Ac. 1-50. cents was always 'beedu'. At the request of the landlord,. one Sri. M. Subrahmanyam was appointed as Commissioner on December 4, 1967 by the Tahsildar to assess the exact yield of the crop after harvesting the same. The Commissioner, who had the paddy crop harvested, submitted his report to the effect that the gross yield of paddy was 170 bags and 66 kgs. A memo stating that he has no objection to the Commissioner's report as to the true yield from the Schedule lands was filed by the landlord. As disclosed from the counter filed by the landlord, the normal yield of paddy on the land in question was 300 bags. The Tahsildar, on a consideration of the material before him, granted remission of rent by 82 bags of paddy out of the agreed rent of 190 bags. The appeal preferred by the landlord to the Revenue Divisional Officer, Kakinada under Section 16 (2) of the Act was without success. Hence, this writ petition.
3. Sri Poorniah, for the petitioner, contended that there was neither widespread calamity nor any evidence or material in support of the conclusion of the tribunals to grant remission under Section 8 of the Act. Sri Suryanarayana Murthy for the respondents contended country.
4. The only question that arises for decision is whether, on the facts and in the circumstances the cultivating tenets are entitled to the remission of rent under Section 8 of the Act.
5. The answer to the question depended largely on the interpretation of the expression 'widespread calamities' occurring in Section 8 of the Act. The provisions of Section 8 must be read in the light of scheme and intendment of the Act. The intendment of the Act as evident from the preamble is to provide for the payment of fair rent by cultivating tenants and for fixing a minimum period of agricultural leases in the State of Andorra Prudish. The opening words 'Notwithstanding any agreement between the landlord and the cultivating tenant for the payment of an agreed rent' in Section 6 (1) which provides for the determination of fair rent, manifest that the legislature intended to protect and safeguard the interests of the cultivating tenant as well ass the landlord with regard to the fixation of fair rent. Both the landlord and the cultivating tenant are at liberty to approach the Tahsildar for fixation of fair rent in spite of an agreement between them relating to the rent. Neither the landlord nor the tenant need suffer any disadvantage due to the pressure of circumstances in fixation and payment of fair rent. The agreed or fair rent, as the case may be is normally payable in the years in which there was normal yield of crop. The legislature has made adequate provisions to safeguard the interests of a diligent and industrious cultivating tenant in case the crop for and year fails totally or partially due to widespread calamities like cyclone, drought or flood. The cultivating tenant should not be expected to pay the normal fair or agreed rent in such years as he is not to be blamed for acts of God or is major.
At the same time, precaution had been taken by the framers of the Act as revealed from Explanation to Section 8 of the Act, not to confer the benefits of Section 8 to cultivating tenants if the failure of crop is found to be on account of their neglect or fault. The very object and purpose, therefore, of providing for remission of rent under Section 8 of the Act is to relive the cultivating tenant from the burden of paying the full rent to the landlord in case of total or partial failure of crops in any year on account of any calamities failure to do his duty to raise crops, but for reasons beyond his control.
6. Judged from the aforesaid in tendment and scheme of the Act, I am of the view that the expression 'widespread calamities' in Section 8 must be construed in a fair, reasonable and just manner but not in a pedantic way. The words 'such ass' occurring after the expression 'widespread calamities'. would clearly indicate that the legislature had given cyclone, drought or flood ass some instances of widespread calamities and they are only illustrative but not exhaustive. The expression 'widespread calamities' is of wide import. The words 'cyclone, drought or flood' should be given a liberal interpretation so ass to take in all cases where the failure of crop, total or partial, results directly of indictely due to cyclone. drought or flood. Where the crops raised in the lands have been submerged due to heavy rains or when there was diminution in the normal supply of water in the feeding channels due to failure of rains or any other reasonable and just cause resulting in failure of crops, for which the cultivating tenant is not responsible, he must be given the benefits of Sec. 8.
7. I shall now turn to examine the contention for the landlord that there was no evidence of any widespread calamity in support of the finding of the lower tribunals. True as pointed out by Sri Poornaiah, no oral evidence has been adduced by the cultivating tenants in support of their claim. The burden also is undoubtedly on the cultivating tenants to establish the failure of crop due to any widespread calamity. The specific case set up by the cultivating tenants was that there was failure of rains during the year 1967-68 in that area resulting in diminution of the regular and normal water supply in the feeding channel. It was also specifically averted that on account of the diminution or irregular supply of water in the canal, the crops in the land in question withered resulting in low yield of paddy. This plea of the cultivating tenants is substantiated by the report of the Commissioner appointed by the Tahsildar at the instance of the landlord, It is also admitted in the counter filed by the landlord that the normal yield will be about 300 bags of paddy. As pointed out earlier, the report of the Commissioner was not only not objected to but accepted by the landlord to be correct. The gross yield was only 170 bags and 66 Kgs. of paddy. The landlord has not established that the failure of the crop is due to the neglect or fault of the cultivating tenants. The irregular supply of water in the feeding channel must be held to be due to the drought conditions that prevailed in that area. The normal supply of water in the feeding channels will not be diminished or affected if there was normal rainfall in that area in that year. Even if seasonal rains fail, the normal supply of water in the canals would be affected. The widespread calamity within the meaning of Sec. 8 need not be equated to a national or state wise or district wide calamity. The calamity may occur in respect of a block of lands situated in the very same village where the other lands in another block might have normal yield of crop in any year. The court can certainly take judicial notice of the fact that rains in the State of Andorra Prudish are so uncertain and uneven as a result of which a portion of land in a particular village may have rains when there are none in a portion of another land belonging to the same village.
The provisions of Rule 3 (5) of the rules empower the Tahsildar to pass such orders as he deems fit and proportion a consideration of the statement of the respective parties and the evidence adduced before him. The Tahsildar therefore, has to afford reasonable opportunity to both the parties, to State their case and to adduce such evidence, oral and documentary in support of their respective please and shall thereupon pass such order as he deems fit. Under Rule 14 of the Rules, the Code of Civil Procedure is made applicable as far as possible to the inquiries under the Act. As per the provisions of O. 26, R. 10(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, the report of the Commissioner appointed by the Tahsildar is evidence and forms part of the record. This report of the Commissioner which was accepted by the landlord. referring to the correct yield of the paddy on the lands is certainly material and admissible evidence. It is not open to the petitioner at this stage to object to the report being considered by the Tahsildar having not raised such an objection at the earlise to opportunity. That apart the proceedings before the Tahisldar and the appellate authority under the Act is summary in nature and hence it cannot be said that the authorities are precluded from deciding the questions or disputes arising under the Act between the landlord and tenant without any oral evidence being let in by the parties in support of their respective pleas. AS referred to above the Tahsidlar has a statutory duty to decide the dispute under Section 16(1) on a consideration of the statements of the parties and the evidence adduced by them. The tribunals have rightly based their conclusion on the actual yield of paddy in the lands and the general conditions of drought prevailing in Fasli 1377 to the knowledge of one and all. I am to the view that the Court can certainly taken judicial notice of the drought conditions prevalent in any year in the area in determining the claim of the cultivating tenant of that area for remission of rent under S. 8 of the Act.
8. The decision of a Division Bench of this Court in C.R.P. No. 1796 of 1967 (Andh Pra) on which strong reliance has been placed by Sri Poornaiah has no application to the facts of the present case. In that case , the validity of Section 8 of the Act was upheld, but the quantum, of remission granted by the appellate authority was modified as no basis for granting remission in respect of 4 acres of land was given by the appellate authority.
9. On a consideration of the entire facts and circumstances, I am satisfied that there was widespread calamity resulting in partial failure of crops in the lands entitling the cultivating tenants for the benefits under Section 8 of the Act. That apart, when real and substantial justice has been done by the tribunals. I do not feel it just and proper to interfere with their decision in this application under Article 226 of the Constitution.
10. For all these reasons, this writ petition must fail and is dismissed but, in the circumstances with costs.
11. Petition dismissed.