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Dasam China Pappayya Raju Vs. Sripada Ramachandra Prabhakara Rao - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCommercial
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Revn. Petn. Nos. 2847, 3535, 3700, 3840, 4068, 4323 and 5223 of 1978 and 1186, 1507, 1527, 216
Judge
Reported inAIR1982AP39
ActsAndhra Pradesh Agricultural Indebtedness (Relief) Act, 1977 - Sections 3
AppellantDasam China Pappayya Raju
RespondentSripada Ramachandra Prabhakara Rao
Excerpt:
commercial - small farmer - section 3 of andhra pradesh agricultural indebtedness (relief) act, 1977 - question regarding definition of small farmer - three conditions to be fulfilled in order to be considered as small farmer - first his primary means of livelihood must be income derived from agricultural land - second he must hold and cultivate agricultural land which does not exceed certain extent mentioned in act - third he should cultivate as tenant or share cropper or mortgagee with possession - personal cultivation referred to under section 3 must be by person concerned on his own behalf and not on behalf of another. - - in order to satisfy the definition of 'small farmer',it is argued on behalf of one side that in regard to the second condition, it is necessary that the land.....alladi kuppuswami, c.j.1. s. 3 (t) of the andhra pradesh agricultural indebtedness (relief) act, referred to in this judgment as the act, is in the following terms :-' ' small farmers' means a person whose principal means of livelihood is income derived from agricultural land and who holds and personally cultivates, or who cultivates as a tenant or share-cropper or mortgagee with possession, agricultural land which does not exceed in extent - (i) in the case of persons other than the members of the scheduled tribes one hectare, if it is wet or two hectares, if it is dry;(ii) in the case of the members of the scheduled tribes, two hectares, if it is wet, or four hectares, if it is dry but does not include any person whose annual household income, other than from agriculture exceeds one.....
Judgment:

Alladi Kuppuswami, C.J.

1. S. 3 (t) of the Andhra Pradesh Agricultural Indebtedness (Relief) Act, referred to in this Judgment as the Act, is in the following terms :-

' ' Small farmers' means a person whose principal means of livelihood is income derived from agricultural land and who holds and personally cultivates, or who cultivates as a tenant or share-cropper or mortgagee with possession, agricultural land which does not exceed in extent -

(i) in the case of persons other than the members of the Scheduled Tribes one hectare, if it is wet or two hectares, if it is dry;

(ii) In the case of the members of the Scheduled Tribes, two hectares, if it is wet, or four hectares, if it is dry but does not include any person whose annual household income, other than from agriculture exceeds one thousand and two hundred rupees in any two years within three years immediately preceding the commencement of this Act.

Explanation : For the purposes of computing the extent of land under this clause, one hectare of wet land shall be deemed to be equal to two hectares of dry land.'

2. Construing this section, a division Bench of this Court in S. Laxmana Rao v. D. China Papaiah Raju, AIR 1980 Andh Pra 191 held that if an individual claims to be a small farmer, the land which he holds and personally cultivates alone has to be taken into account and the lands belonging to the wife or husband as the case may be, or other members of the family, cannot be aggregated in order to ascertain whether he holds more than one hectare of wet land or two hectares of dry land. It observed that the question whether a person is or is not a 'small farmer' has to be decided exclusively on the basis of his individual holding and personal cultivation of agricultural land and not on the basis of the holding of the family. Jeevan Reddy J., however took the view when CRP No. 4670/1978 was heard by him, that where an individual is a members of the family, the holding of all the members of the family has to be into consideration. He also expressed disagreement with regard to another point decided by the Bench on the construction of S. 3 (t) (I) and (ii) of the ACT. He, therefore, directed the case to be posted before a Division Bench or a larger Bench as the case may be. Accordingly, the said C. R. P. was heard by a Full Bench. But in that case, it was only the second question that arose for decision and the Full Bench considered that question and disposed of the Revision Petition. Meanwhile other Revision Petitions in which the first question was involved, were also referred to a Full Bench, and all of them were heard together in a batch. We are now concerned in this batch of Revision Petitions mainly with the question viz., where and individual claims to be a small farmer whether the land belonging to his wife or other members of his family, can be added to his holding in order to arrive at the upper limit referred to in S. 3 (t) (I). defining the expression 'Small farmer'.

3. We may now set out some of the relevant provisions of the Act. The preamble provisions of the Act says that it is to provide relief from indebtedness to agricultural labourers, rural artisans and small farmers in the State of Andhra Pradesh and for matters connected therewith, 'Agricultural Labourer' is defined under S. 3 (b) of the Act, as a person who does not hold any Agricultural land whose principal means of livelihood is by manual labour on agricultural land, in the capacity of a labourer on hire or on exchange, whether paid in cash or in kind or partly in cash and partly in kind.

4. 'Rural artisan' is defined in S. 3 (r) as a person who does not hold any agricultural land and whose principal means of livelihood is production or repair of traditional tools, implements and other articles or things used for agriculture or purposes ancillary thereto and includes a person who normally earns his livelihood by practising a craft either by his own labour or by the labour of all or any of the members of his family in rural area.

5. 'Small farmer' is defined under S. 3 (t) which has already been set out The annual household income referred to in S. 3 (t) is defined by S. 3 (d) as the aggregate income from all sources of all the members of a family.

6. 'Debtors' is defined under S. 3 (I) as an Agricultural Labourer, a rural artisan or a small farmer, who has borrowed or incurred any debt and includes his heirs, legal representatives and assigns.

7. 'Creditor' means person from or in respect of whom the debtor has borrowed or incurred a debt and includes his heirs, legal representatives and assigns.

8. 'Person' means an individual or a family according to S. 3 (p) of the ACT.

9. The most important section is S. 4 which provides that 'notwithstanding anything in the various Acts mentioned in that section or any other law for the time being in force or any contract or other instrument having the force of law and save as otherwise provided in this ACT with effect on and from the commencement of the Act, every debt, including interest, if any, owing to any creditor by an agricultural labourer, a rural artisan or a small farmer shall be deemed to be wholly discharged.'

10. In the definition of the expression 'debt' however it is provided under S.3 (I) (xii) of the Act, that does not include any debt contracted by a debtor from a person who is an agricultural labourer, a rural artisan or a small farmer. From this provision, it follows that even if a debtor is a small farmer, an agricultural labourer or a rural artisan, entitled to the benefits of the Act, those benefits will not be available to him if the creditor also is an agricultural labourer, a rural artisan or a small farmer.

11. The argument in support of the contention that in determining whether a person is a small farmer or not, not only the holding of the individual who is the debtor but also the holding of the other members of the family as defined in S. 3 (I) of the Act, should be taken into consideration is based upon the definition of 'person'. As already noticed, a person is defined as an individual or a family. It is therefore argued that as the small farmer is defined under S. 3 (t), as a person who holds and personally cultivates agricultural land which does not exceed a particular extent, it follows that the expression 'person' used therein should be understood as a family when the individual is a member of the family as defined in S. 3 (1), and therefore the aggregate of holdings of all the members of the family viz., the individual the wife or husband as the case may be, and their unmarried minor children, must be taken account. We are unable to agree with this contention. It is true that under S. 3 (p). 'person' means an individual or a family. We do not however understand this definition to mean that a person means a family when the individual is a member of a family. The true meaning of this definition, according to us is that if an individual is a debtor or creditor as the case may be, the expression 'person' must be understood wherever it occurs as meaning an individual. If, on the other hand, the creditor or the debtor is a family, the expression 'person' must be understood as meaning a family. In other words, the definition of 'person' must be understood distributively. Understood in this manner, if an individual claims to be a small farmer, as defined by S. 3 (t) the land held and cultivated by him alone must be taken into consideration. If, on the other hand, it is a family which claims to be a small farmer, it is the aggregate of the lands held and cultivated by that family that has to be taken into consideration. It is not permissible to aggregate the lands held by the members of the family when the individual alone is the debtor or the creditor. This view of ours is supported by the following consideration, some of which have been referred to be a Division Bench. In S. 3 (t), 'small farmer' is defined as a person whose principal means of livelihood is income derived from agricultural land. The question for consideration would be whether the individual concerned derives income from agricultural land, as the principal means of livelihood. It could not have been the intention of the framers of the legislation that all the members of the family, should have as their principal means of livelihood, income derived from agriculture. If that were so, unless and until all of them earn their livelihood by agriculture, the individual debtor would not be entitled to the benefits of the Act even though he would be earnings his livelihood principally from agriculture. Our conclusion gains strength if we consider the definition of agricultural labourer and rural artisan for whose benefit also the enactment is made. 'Agricultural labourer' is defined as a person who does not hold any agricultural land and whose principal means of livelihood is by manual labour on agricultural land. If the expression 'person' is understood as including the members of the family; in order that an individual agricultural labourer who had incurred a debt, may obtain the benefits of the Act, all the members of the family should earn their livelihood by manual labour on agricultural land and all of them should not hold any agricultural land. If any of them holds agricultural land or if any of them does not earn his livelihood by manual labour on agricultural land, the agricultural labourer would be denied the benefits of the Act. Similarly. 'rural artisan' means a person who does not any agricultural land and whose principal means of livelihood is production or repair of traditional tools, implements and other articles or things used for agriculture etc., The observations made in respect of 'agricultural labourer' will equally apply to 'rural artisan'. In this case, there is a further factor which would support the view we have taken. At the end of the definition of 'rural artisan', it is said, that it includes a person who normally earns his livelihood by practising a craft either by his own labour or by the labour of all or any of the members of his family in rural area. As the Legislature obviously intended that even of all or any of the members of the family earn their livelihood by practising a craft, the individual would be a rural artisan within the meaning of this section, a specific provision to that effect was made. No such provision would have been necessary if the expression 'person' were to be read as including the members of the family. Even in S. 3 (t) defining a 'small farmer' at the end of the section it is stated that it does nit include any person whose annual household income, other than from agriculture exceeds one thousand and two hundred rupees; and 'annual household income' is defined as the aggregate of the annual income from all sources of all the members of a family. Therefore, in order to find out whether a person's annual household income exceeds one thousand and two hundred rupees, the income of all the members of the family is to be taken into account. Thus it is seen whether the Legislature intended that the part played by members of the family have to be taken into consideration, it has expressly made a provision. In S. 3 (r), defining a rural artisan, the labour of all or any of the members of his family is taken into consideration in determining whether a person normally earns his livelihood by practising a craft. In S. 3 9t) (ii), the income derived by all the members of the family, is taken into consideration in finding out whether a person's non-agriculture; income exceeds one thousand and two hundred rupees, thus depriving him of the benefits of the Act. If a person is understood as including the members of the family, such a provision would not have at all, been necessary, We are therefore of the view that in construing the expression, 'small farmer' in S. 3 (t) of the Act, where an individual claims to be a small farmer, the land which he alone holds and personally cultivates, should be taken into consideration and the lands belonging to the husband or the wife, as the case may be, and that of the minor children, should not be taken into consideration, We agree with the view expressed by the Division Bench on this aspect in S. Laxmana Rao v. D. China Papaiah Raju, (AIR 1980 Andh Pra 191) (supra).

12. Reference was made to the decision of the Court in P. Varahalamma v. Ramanna, : AIR1979AP25 . This decision does not touch upon the question for consideration before us, In that case, it was argued that a debt incurred by a joint family is not attracted by the provisions of the Act.. it was submitted that according to the definition of 'family', it includes only the individual, his husband or wife as the case may be, and their unmarried minor children and therefore the incidents of joint Hindu family cannot be imported in interpreting the provisions of this Act. This contention was negatived and it was held that there is nothing either in the definition of 'debt' or 'family' which expressly or by necessary implication excludes the applicability of the provisions of the Act to a debt incurred by a joint Hindu family. It was observed, approving the decision of the Justice Ramachandra Raju in A. S. No. 346 of 1975, that the holding or interest of each coparceners on the date of the commencement of the Act must be notionally ascertained for the purpose of determining whether each one of the coparceners is a 'small farmer' within the meaning of the Act. In that case as the holding of each one of them did not exceed one hectare of wet land, they were held to be 'small farmers' within the meaning of the definition under Sec 3 (t) of the Act.

13. This decision was referred to in the decision in Krishna Murthy v. Government of Andhra Pradesh : AIR1979AP85 . It was held in that case that the definition of 'family' in relation to a person is deliberately included to give benefit to the different units of a joint family consisting of the husband, wife and minor children, It was, therefore, held that when a debt is owed by a joint family each unit thereof consisting of an individual, the wife or the husband, as the case may be, and the unmarried minor children should be taken as a debtor and it must be considered whether the holding of that unit would exceed one hectare of wet land or not. It was observed that the same view was expressed in P. Varahalamma v. R. Ramanna, : AIR1979AP25 (Supra).

14. It was argued in some of the cases in the batch before us that there is a difference between the two decisions in the application of the Act to a debt incurred by a joint family. In the first case, it was held that the holding of each coparcener has to be ascertained in order to find out whether they come under the definition of 'small' farmer' or not and in the second it was held that the holding of each unit consisting of the husband, the wife and their minor children should be considered and that the observation in the second case in paragraph 32 that a Division Bench of this Court expressed the same view in P. Varahalamma v. R. Ramanna : AIR1979AP25 (Supra), is not correct.

15. Reference was also made to a decision of Justice P. A. Choudary in Sunkanna v. Ramaswamy Setty (1981 (1) Andh LT 82). In that case, it was held that in order to determine whether the judgement-debtor is or is not a 'small farmer' what has to be taken into account is only the share that belongs to him in the joint family and nit the shares of other coparceners, whether they are majors or minors, and the share of the minor children cannot be counted along with that of the judgement-debtor for the purpose of determining the status of the judgement-debtor as a 'small farmer'. He followed the decision in P. Varahalamma v. R. Ramanna, : AIR1979AP25 (supra). But no reference was made to the decision in Krishna Murthy v. Govt. of Andhra Pradesh . : AIR1979AP85 (Supra).

16. We shall deal with the question as to whether in a case where the individual debtor is a member of a joint family the share of each individual coparcener alone has to be taken, into consideration in computing the holding or whether the shares held by a unit constituting a family within the definition of Sec. 3 (1) of the Act, namely, the husband the wife and the minor children should be taken into consideration, at a later stage when we have to deal with the revision petitions which raise this question.

17. The decisions referred to above do not throw any light on the question arising out of the decision in S. Laxmana Rao v. D. Chinna Papaiah Raju, (AIR 1980 Andh Pra 191) (Supra) which we have dealt with earlier, namely, whether in the case of a debt incurred by an individual, the holdings of the husband or the wife, as the case may be and their minor unmarried children have also to included in deciding whether he is a small farmer or not. That matter was not the subject of consideration in any of the above cases.

18. In the result we hold, agreeing with the view expressed in S. Laxmana Rao v. D. China Papaiah Raju (AIR 1980 Andh Pra 191) (Supra) that where an individual is a debtor or a creditor the land which the individual alone holds and personally cultivates should be taken into consideration in deciding whether he or she is a small farmer.

19. We now proceed first to deal with those cases in which this question alone arises for consideration. C. R. P. No. 3700 of 1978:

20. In this case the decree-holder claimed to be a small farmer and contended that, in view of Sec. 3 (I) (xii) which excludes a debt contracted by a debtor from a small farmer from the definition of 'debt', the judgement-debtor was not entitled to the benefits of the Act. The learned District Munsif held that the decree-holder, who is a woman was entitled to Ac. 1-41 cents of wet land. He also found that her husband was entitled to Ac. 1-13 cents of wet land and Ac. 0.87 cents of dry land. Adding the two holdings, he came to the conclusion that the total holding amounted to Ac, 5-95 cents of dry land(one acre of wet land being equivalent to two acres of dry land) and therefore held that as the holding exceeds two hectares, the decree-holder could not be considered to be a small farmer. Having regard to the view taken by us that the holding of the husband cannot be included it would follow that the extent of Ac. 1-41 cents of wet land alone of the decree-holder has to be taken into consideration. In this view, the decree-holder would be a small farmer with the result that even if according to the decision of the lower Court., the judgement-debtor is a small farmer he would not be entitled to the benefits of the Act. The civil revision petition is therefore allowed, but in the circumstances without costs.

C. M. A. No. 231/1977:

21. In this case, it was held that the mortgagor-judgement-debtor, who is a woman, owns and personally cultivates Ac. 2-09, cents of wet land. The lower Court also took into account, in computing her holding, the extent held by her minor children, namely, Ac 3-50 cents of wet land and held that she was not a small farmer. As in our view the holding of individual debtor alone has to be taken into account and the holding of the minor children cannot be added to her holding, it follows that the judgement-debtor is a small farmer within the meaning of the Act. The C. M. A. has therefore to be allowed. It is accordingly allowed, but in the circumstances without costs.

C. R. P. No. 1186/79:

22. In this case it was held by the lower Court that the judgement-debtor, who is a woman, held Ac. 1-00 of dry land and Ac 1-13 cents of wet land in all equivalent to Ac. 3-26 cents of dry land. Her husband was entitled to Ac. 1-491/2 cents of dry land. Even if both the extents are clubbed together the total extent is less than the limit prescribed under the Act. It was, however, contended on behalf of the decree-holder that the husband's share is Ac. 1-741/2 cents of dry and if it is added to the debtor's holding of Ac. 3-26 cents dry, the total would exceed the limit prescribed, apart from the fact that the finding of the Court below cannot be canvassed in the revision petition, even assuming that the husband's holding of Ac. 1-741/2 cents as contended by the decree-holder, as it cannot be taken into account in view of our decision, the finding of the Court below that the judgement-debtor is a small farmer entitled to the benefits of the Act does not call for any interference, The civil revision petition is, therefore, dismissed, but in the circumstances without costs.

C. R. P. No. 1507/1979:

23. The petitioner in this case is the judgement-debtor, The creditor, a woman, claimed that she was a small farmer and hence the petitioner is not entitled to the benefits of the Act. The Court below held that she was entitled to Ac. 2-50 cents of wet land. But, it was, however contended by the judgement-debtor that the husband of the decree-holder was earning RS. 3000/- per annum and if this income is taken into consideration, the decree-holder would not be a small farmer. The Court below held that the husband had deserted the wife and therefore his income has to be excluded. He, however, held that the income was less than RS. 1200/- per annum. In view of the finding that the income of the husband was less than Rs. 1200/- per annum, even if it is taken into consideration, it is clear that the decree-holder would be a small farmer. In this view, it is unnecessary to go into the correctness of the finding that the income of the husband who had deserted his wife cannot be taken into consideration in determining whether she is a small farmer or not. It may be noted that under Sec. 3 (t) (ii) it is provided that 'small farmer' does not include any person whose annual household income other than from agriculture exceeds Rs. 1200/- per annum in any tow-years within three years immediately preceding the commencement of the Act, and 'annual household income' is defined under Sec. 3 (d) as the aggregate of the annual income from all sources of all the members of a family. As 'family' is defined as meaning the individual, the wife or husband, as the case may be, and their unmarried minor children, it was argued that the income of the husband has to be taken into consideration in arriving at the annual household income. On the other hand it was contended that the income of the husband, who has deserted the wife, cannot be taken into consideration as such a husband cannot be considered to be a member of the family. It is not necessary for us to decide this question in view of the fact that the Court below found that the income of the husband is less than Rs. 1200/- per annum. The civil revision petition is dismissed, but in the circumstances without costs.

24. We have till now considered the case where the debtor or the creditor as the case may be, is an individual. We now proceed to consider the case where the debtor or the creditor is a joint Hindu family. In Krishna Murthy v. Govt. of Andhra Pradesh : AIR1979AP85 (supra) it was held that when a debt is owed by a joint family, each unit thereof consisting of an individual, the wife or husband as the case may be. of such individual and their unmarried minor children should be taken as a debtor within the meaning of the Act in respect of each share of the debt owed by the family. As an illustration, the learned Judges considered a joint family consisting of five such units and observed that as per the definition contained in Sec. 3 (1) read with the other provisions, it is logical to conclude that the family must be deemed to be consisting of five smaller units to consider the position of each unit with reference to the definition of 'small farmer'. We are in agreement with the said decision and we are of the view that when a debt is owed by a joint family, it has to be split up into different units according to the expression 'family' for the purpose of giving benefit under the Act. Otherwise, there was no purpose in defining the expression 'family' in that manner. Our attention is however drawn to the decision in Sunkanna v. Ramaswamy Setty (1981) 1 Andh LT 82 (supra) where it was held that 'In order to determine whether the judgement-debtor is or is not a 'small farmer' what has to be taken into account is only the share that belongs to him in the joint family and not the shares of other coparceners whether they are majors or minors. The shares of the minors cannot be counted along with that of the judgement-debtor for purposes of determining the status of the judgement-debtor as a small farmer.' It is not clear from the decision whether the judgement-debtor in that case was an individual or a joint family. We are in agreement with that decision for the reasons stated earlier, if the Judgement-debtor was an individual. But if however the judgement-debtor in that case was the entire joint family, we are not inclined to agree that in determining whether the benefits of the Act should be given or not, it is the share of each member only that has to be taken into consideration. In such a case, as has been pointed by the Division Bench in Krishna Murthy v. Govt. of Andhra Pradesh : AIR1979AP85 (supra) the joint family has to be split up into units of a family as defined in the Act and it has to be considered whether each unit is a small farmer or not, No reference is made to the judgement in Krishna Murthy v. Govt. of Andhra Pradesh : AIR1979AP85 (supra) in the decision in Sunkanna v. Ramaswamy Setty ( (1981) 1 Andh LT 82) (supra) though a reference is made to the decision in P. Varahalamma v. R. Ramanna : AIR1979AP25 (supra). But in the latter decision, the question which fell to be considered was only whether the provisions of the Act could be applied to a debt incurred by a joint Hindu family consisting of two or more coparceners. That decision cannot be taken as an authority for the proposition that to is only the interest of each coparcener that has to be taken into consideration in order to ascertain whether the requirements of the definition of 'small farmer' are complied with. It is no doubt true that reference is made to two decisions of single Judges of this Court where it was held that though the debt was incurred by a joint family, the holding or interests of each coparcener on the date of the commencement of the Act must be notional ascertained for the purpose of determining whether each one of the coparceners is a small farmer within the meaning of the Act. But these decisions, are, to some extent, contrary to what was decided in Krishna Murthy v. Govt, of A. P. (supra) and we prefer to accept the view expressed in that decision.

25. The decision in some of the revision petitions before us turns upon the interpretation to be given to the expression 'who holds and personally cultivates' in the definition of 'small farmer' contained in Sec. 3 (t) of the Act. Though this question did not directly arise for consideration in the decision of this Court in S. Laxmana Rao v. D. China Papaiah Raju, (AIR 1980 Andh Pra 191) (supra) and the order of Jeevan Reddy J. in CRP No. 4670 of 1978 referring it to a Full Bench, as a consequence of which , the other revision petitions in this batch were also posted before this Bench, does not refer to this question, we consider it desirable to deal with this as this matter has also been argued at considerable length.

26. Under Sec, 3 (t) of the Act, the following conditions have to be fulfilled in order that a person may be a small farmer (1) His primary means of livelihood must be income derived from agricultural land (2). He must hold and personally cultivate agricultural land which does not exceed certain extent mentioned in the Section or (3). He should cultivate as a tenant, or share cropper or mortgagee with possession, agricultural land not exceeding such extent. In order to satisfy the definition of 'small farmer', it is argued on behalf of one side that in regard to the second condition, it is necessary that the land which is held by the person does not exceed the extent referred to in that section, and also that the agricultural land which he cultivates does not exceed that extent in other words both the requirements should be satisfied. On the other side it is contended that the expression 'and' should be read as 'or' and it is sufficient if any one of the conditions is fulfilled. In other words, a person would be a small farmer if he holds agricultural land which does not exceed one hectare of wet land or two hectares of dry land or if he personally cultivates agricultural land which does not exceed those extents, We are unable to agree with the latter contention. It should not be forgotten that the main object of the Act is to provide relief from indebtedness to agricultural labourers, rural artisans and small farmers. If the later contention is accepted, it would lead to anomalous results. A person may be holding large extents of land: say, even 100 acres but may be personally cultivating only an extent less than one hectare of wet land or two hectares of dry land , such a person would also be a small farmer. Again a person may be holding (without personally cultivating) a very small extent of land, but may be personally cultivating very large extends of land. Even such a person would be a small farmer. It would not have been definitely the intention of the Legislature that such person should be given the benefit of the Act and they should be relieved of their indebtedness at the expense of creditors which would be much poorer than the debtor himself. We are therefore of the view that in order to come within the definition of 'small farmer', it should be proved that the person concerned holds an extent less than the extent prescribed in S. 3 (t) and also cultivate an extent less than the said extent. A question was raised at the bar as to what would be the position if a person 'holds' land less than the extent prescribed and also personally cultivates land less than the extent, but the total extent of the land held as well as personally cultivated by him is more than the extent prescribed in the definition. We are of the view that even in such a case, as long as each category viz, the extent which a person holds and the extent which he personally cultivates, is less than the area prescribed in the definition, the person would be small farmer notwithstanding that the total of the two categories of land exceeds the extent prescribed.

27. It was argued by some advocates that if a person does not hold any land at all or does not personally cultivate any land at all, he will not come within the definition of 'small farmer'. This argument cannot be accepted. If a person holds as we have observed, an extent of less than one acre of wet or two acres of dry land, as the case may be and also personally cultivates a smaller extent, he is a small farmer. It would be absurd to suggest that a person who does not hold any land at all or who does not personally cultivate any land at all cannot be a small farmer. In our view, a person who does not hold any land is, still a small farmer if he personally cultivates land less than the extent prescribed as in such a case he also satisfies both the conditions. Similarly, a person who does not personally cultivate any land but 'holds' land less than the extent prescribed, will also be a small farmer as that person also satisfies both the conditions laid down. It may again be asked what would be the position if he neither 'holds' any agricultural land, nor personally cultivates any such land. In a such a case he would not be a 'small farmer' as under the definition a further condition has to be satisfied viz, his principal means of livelihood is income derived from agricultural land.

28. Reference was made to the decision in K. Koteswaramma v. A. Krishna Rao ((1978) I APLJ 282) where it was held that the expression 'and' in the definition of 'small farmer' should be read as 'or' in order to effectuate the object of the Act. In that case, the debtors owned less than one hectare of land but they were not personally cultivating their lands. It was held that they were still entitled to the benefits of the Act even though they did not personally cultivate the lands. In arriving at this conclusion, the learned Judge held that the expression 'and' should be read as 'or'. We have however arrived at the same conclusion in such a case by giving a somewhat different interpretation to the definition of small farmer, stated above. It will be noted that our conclusion is the same as that of the learned Judge though the reasoning is different. In K. Subrahmanyam v. B. Satyanarayana (1978 APHCN 383). Gangadhara Rao J. held that he would not agree with Lakshmaiah J., in K. Koteswaramma v. A. Krishna Rao (1978-1 APLJ 282) that it is not necessary that a person should personally cultivate the land in order to be a small farmer. We respectfully disagree with the view. As we have already observed, we consider that a person, even though he may not personally cultivate any land, he would still be a 'small farmer' if he holds land less than the extent mentioned in the definition.

29. A further question that arises is what is the meaning of the word 'hold'. It was argued that the expression 'hold' should be understood in the context as 'own'. On the other hand, it was submitted that the expression 'hold' is wide enough to include all types of holding property, whether by way of ownership or by way of possession. We are however not inclined to agree with this submission. In the context, we are of the view that the expression 'hold' must be interpreted as equivalent to 'own' as pointed out by the Division Bench in S. Laxmana Rao v. D. China Papaiah Raju (AIR 1980 Andh Pra 191) (supra). In C. C. Vemanari v. P. R. K. chetty ((1979) 1 APLJ 392) it was held that the expression, 'holds' must have been deliberately used by the legislature to indicate holding in one's own right and not mere physical possession irrespective of the question as to how that possession is obtained by the person concerned. It was observed that of the word 'holds' is intended to mean mere possession regardless of the source of the right to hold such possession, there would be no need to use that word as personal cultivation would necessarily imply possession. We agree with these observations and the observations in S. Laxmana Rao v. D. china Papaiah Raju (AIR 1980 Andh Pra 191) (supra). Of course, the ownership may not be complete ownership; but there must be an element of ownership. For instance, a person with a life estate or a vested remainder, would also be held not have the complete ownership of the land in question.

30. Another question that has to be considered is whether a person can be said to personally cultivate land if he does so on behalf of another; we are inclined to the view that he cannot be said to personally cultivate such land. If he does so as an agent or on behalf of another and if the benefit is derived by the latter. In other words the personal cultivation referred to under Sec. 3 (t) of the Act must be by the person concerned on his own behalf.

31. The Revision Petitions other than those which have been disposed of by us in the earlier part of this Judgement, will be posted in the usual course before a single Judge who will hear and dispose of the petitions in the light of the law laid down in this Judgement.

32. Oral application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is made on behalf of the respondent. We do not consider that may question of law of general importance which requires to be considered by the Supreme Court is involved. Oral application is rejected.

33. Order accordingly.


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