G. Bikshapathy, J.
1. All the matters are placed before the Division Bench for answering the references made by the learned Brother P.S. Narayana, J. The issues arise under the provisions of A.P. (A.A) Tenancy Act, 1956 (hereinafter called the 'Act').
2. The circumstances leading to the reference as spelt out from the Order of reference of the learned Judge are briefly narrated hereunder.
3. The revision petitioners are the landlords and the respondents are the tenants. The tenants filed petitions before the Special Officer, Guntur for a declaration that they are the cultivating tenants and consequential relief of perpetual injunction restraining the landlords from interfering with the possession over the petition schedule lands. The original authority allowed the applications of the tenants as prayed for. Aggrieved by the said Order of the original authority, they filed appeals before the Appellate Authority District Judge, Guntur. The learned Appellate Authority also dismissed the appeals filed by the landlords thereby confirming the Order of the Special Officer. Aggrieved by the said Order of the Appellate Authority, the present revisions have been preferred by the landlords under Article 227 of Constitution of India.
4. The learned Counsel appearing for the petitioner-landlords inter alia contended before the learned Single Judge that the applications themselves are not maintainable before the Special Officer in the absence of a Registered Lease Deed for a period of six years and admittedly all the tenants were not having any Registered Lease Deed in their favour and therefore, the requirement being mandatory in nature and it is totally absent in the eases, the Special Officer ought to have dismissed the applications as not maintainable. Yet, another contention sought to be projected before the learned Single Judge was that the Special Officer declared them as cultivating tenants on the basis of the finding alleged to have been recorded by the Civil Court, which has no jurisdiction. In some cases, it is between the same parties and in some other cases, the finding was between the parties not connected with the dispute and thus it was submitted that the finding recorded by the Civil Court to the effect that the tenants are cultivating tenants under the A.P. (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, was not binding on the Special Officer and the Special Officer ought not to have taken into consideration the said finding. The learned Single Judge observing that there were differences of opinion on the subject and issue is of general importance which effect the livelihood of tenants and as also the interest of landlords in the Andhra Area, found it appropriate to refer the following references to be answered by the Division Bench:
'1. Whether a person claiming to be a tenant, though the landlord and tenant relationship is specifically denied, can pray for declaration of tenancy rights by filing A.T.C. in the absence of a Registered Lease Deed irrespective of the tenancy being prior to the Amending Act or subsequent thereto, under the provisions of A.P. (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, 1956?
2. Whether the finding of a Civil Court in a suit for a mere injunction would operate as res judicata as to the relationship of landlord and tenant in a tenancy proceedings under the provisions of A.P. (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, 1956 and whether such judgments would be relevant under Section 13 of the Indian Evidence Act as against non-parties to the prior litigations?
That's how the matter came up before this Court for answering the references.
5. The learned Counsel for the revision petitioners-landlords and the learned Counsel for the respondents-tenants have advanced elaborate arguments in this regard and cited copious case law.
6. Before dwelling upon the 2nd reference, we find it appropriate to answer 1st reference.
7. The A.P. (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, 1956 received the assent of the President on 9.9.1956 and it was published in the Gazette on 13.9.1956. Thus, it entered the force from 13.9.1956. The Preamble of the Act states that it is an Act to provide for payment of fair rent by cultivating tenants and for fixing the minimum period of lease in the State of Andhra Pradesh. It is necessary to refer to certain definitions in the said Act for properly appreciating the scope of the reference.
8. 'Cultivating tenant' defined under Section 2(c) of the Act, which reads thus:
'Cultivating tenant' means a person who cultivates by his own labour or by that of any other member of his family or by hired labour under his supervision and control, any land belonging to another under a tenancy agreement, express or implied, but does not include a mere intermediary.'
Landlord is defined in Section 2(f), which reads thus:
'Landlord' means the owner of a holding or part thereof who is entitled to evict the cultivating tenant from such holding or part, and includes the heirs, assignees, legal representatives of such owner, or person deriving rights through him'
Section 3 of the Act stipulates maximum rate of rent payable by the cultivating tenant. Under Section 4, every landlord and his cultivating tenant shall come to an agreement in regard to the form of tenancy, and in particular as to whether the rent shall be paid in the form of a share in the produce or in the form of a fixed rent in kind, or in the form of a fixed rent in cash such agreement shall not be liable to be altered except by mutual agreement of the parties.
Under Section 5, the cultivating tenant and the landlord may agree among themselves in regard to the quantum of rent payable for a holding subject to the maximum rent specified in Section 3 of the Act.
However, under Section 6, it is open for the cultivating tenant or landlord to seek fixation of fair rent by making an application to the Tahsildar subject to certain limitations.
Section 10 as amended reads thus:
Rights of cultivating tenants :-(1) Every lease subsisting at the commencement of the Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Area) Tenancy (Amendment) Act, 1974, shall be deemed to be in perpetuity.
(2) Every lease entered into between a landlord and his cultivating tenant on or after the commencement of the Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Area) Tenancy (Amendment) Act, 1974, shall be for a minimum period of six years. Every such lease shall be in writing and shall specify the holding, its extent and the rent payable therefor with such other particulars as may be prescribed. The stamp and registration charges for every such lease shall be borne by landlord and the cultivating tenant in equal shares.
(3) On the expiration of the period of lease referred to in sub-section (2) every such lease shall be renewable successively for a further minimum period of six years at a time. Every such renewal shall be governed by the same terms and conditions as under the original lease and be subject to the provisions of Sections 3 and 6.
(4) Notwithstanding anything in any law for the time being in force, or any custom, decree or contract to the contrary, it shall be lawful for a cultivating tenant to mortgage, or create a charge on, his interest in the land in favour of the Government, a Co-operative Society including a land mortgage bank, or any other institution, in consideration of a loan advanced to him by the Government, Co-operative Society or institution, as the case may be, under the relevant law relating to the grant of loans to agriculturists for the time being in force in the State; and without prejudice to any other remedy open to the Government, Co-operative Society or institution, in the event of the cultivating tenant making a default in payment of such loan in accordance with the terms on which it was advanced, it shall be lawful for the Government Co-operative Society or institution, as the case may be, to cause his interest in the land to be sold, and the proceeds thereof to be applied in payment of such loan.
(5) All rights of a cultivating tenant under this section shall, subject to the provisions of Sections 12 and 13, be heritable.
Explanation I :-For the purpose of construing the term 'heritable' in this section, the following persons only shall be deemed to be heirs of a cultivating tenant, namely:
(a) his legitimate lineal descendants by blood or adoption;
(b) in the absence of any such descendants, his widow for so long as she does not re-marry:
Provided that where there is more than one heir, the heirs shall be entitled to sub-divide the interest in the holding according to their shares.
Explanation II:-If a cultivating tenant dies without leaving by heir as aforesaid, all his rights shall be extinguished.
Under Section 13, the landlord is entitled to terminate the tenancy and during the currency of the lease by making an application to the Tahsildar for eviction on the grounds mentioned in sub-clauses (a) to (f) of Section 13. Besides, this also open for the cultivating tenant to terminate the tenancy and surrender the holding under Section 14.
Section 17 confers overriding effect over the contracts and other laws and recognises the primacy of this Act.'
However, prior to the amendment, Section 10 reads thus:
'10. Minimum period of lease :-(1) The minimum period of every lease entered into between a landlord and his cultivating tenant on or after the commencement of this Act shall be six years. Every such lease shall be in writing and shall specify the holding, its extend and the rent payable therefore, with such other particulars, as may be prescribed. The stamp arid registration charges for every such lease shall be borne by the landlord and the cultivating tenant in equal shares.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), all tenancies subsisting on the date of promulgation of the Andhra Cultivating Tenants' Protection Ordinance, 1956 (Andhra Ordinance I of 1956) and protected by that Ordinance, and all subsequent tenancy agreements entered into up to the commencement of this Act, shall continue for a period of three years from the 1st June, 1956 or until the expiry of the lease in the normal course, whichever is later, on the same terms and conditions as before, but subject to the determination of fair rent in case of dispute.
(3) After such termination, the landlord may resume the land from the cultivating tenant without any notice, and if the tenant does not surrender possession, the landlord may by an application before the Tahsildar obtain an Order for delivery of possession in the prescribed manner.'
9. The question that calls for consideration is whether the Registered Lease Deed for a period of six years is sine qua non for entry into the protective provisions of the Act by the tenant?
10. The provisions of the Act came to be considered by the various Benches of this Court on number of occasions.
11. As early as in 1963, the Division Bench of this Court in Sricheruvu Srinivasa Sastry v. Metta Appayya, (1964) 1 An.WR 37, considered the provision of Section 10 of the Act. In the said case, an extent of Ac. 9-64 cents of land was leased out by the landlord to the tenant in Fasli 1367 for 47 bags of paddy. Even after expiry of the lease, the tenant continued in possession. Therefore, the landlord presented a petition before the Tahsildar for eviction. The tenant filed a petition for determination of fair rent on the ground that the lands were not capable of fetching more than 21/2 bags paddy per year. The said application was rejected by the Tahsildar. Against the said order, the matter was carried to the Appellate Authority and the Appellate Authority reversed the judgment of the Tahsildar in view of Section 10 of the Act holding that the provision was not mandatory, but only directory and that the tenancy agreement need not be necessarily in writing and registered one and therefore, the matter was remitted back to the Tahsildar for fresh consideration. It is this order that was sought to be challenged in revision.
12. The decision of a learned Single Judge in Subbaraju v. Dandiganapudy Dharmacheruvu, (1961) 2 An.WR 144, which was in favour of tenant and sought to be pressed into service, but as the learned Single Judge was not inclined to share the view taken in that case, the matter was directed to place before the Division Bench. The Division Bench after considering various provisions of the Act observed as follows:
'The scheme of the Act taken as a whole given an indication as to the purpose and intendment thereof. It discloses that it was mainly designed to give protection to the tenant. The legislative policy as could be gathered from the Preamble, appears to be to give 'security of tenure to the tenant and also for payment of fair rent by cultivating tenants. It is thus apparent that this legislation was made mainly for the benefit of the cultivating tenant. As pointed out by our learned brother, Mr. Justice Ekbote, this measure not only lends the tenants security of tenure, but also provides conditions which would enable them to pay fair rent, and that it was considered as an essential step towards the various land reforms contemplated by the Government. And, before the cultivating tenants could be made as tillers of the soil, the Legislature intended that the tenants should have stability, which is necessary to facilitate better agricultural production.
In such a situation, could it be posited that section to invalidated and rendered ineffectual a lease, which was for a period less than six years, or did it insist upon the lease being granted for a minimum period of six years? The section lays stress upon the duration of the lease and postulates that no lease shall be for less than six years. It is true, as contended by the learned Advocate-General, that the statute does not proprio vigore extend the lease to a period of at least six years and the agreement between the parties is also relevant in this behalf. But, does this make a material difference in the construction of Section 10? The learned Advocate-General contends that it does make a vital difference because it is only a person that holds a lease for a minimum period of six years reduced to writing and duly stamped and registered that could avail himself of the provisions of this Act. The intendment of the Act was that, every lease should be for a period of six years and that it should be in writing specifying the holding, total extend and the rents payable, and that it should be duly stamped and registered, and that this is so is revealed in several sections which lay emphasis on the currency of the lease, continue the learned Advocate General. He added that this Act was not meant only for the benefit of the tenants but it was for the benefit of both the tenants and the landlords. It was also his contention that there is no other section in the Act, which posits that notwithstanding the lease being for less than six years it will run for six years. In the absence of such provision, Section 10 should be strictly construed and should not be given any other interpretation. According to him, the foundation of the rights of the tenant is a lease deed duly stamped and registered, and any lease which does not satisfy the requirements of the section is unenforceable and cannot form the basis for the application under Section 6 of the Act. We feel that we cannot accede to these propositions.'
While dealing with the expression 'cultivating tenant', the Division Bench elaborated thus:
'Before we deal further with the section, it is useful to read the definition of 'cultivating tenant' as given in Section 2(c) of the Act. 'Cultivating tenant' means a person who cultivates by his own labour or by that of any other member of his family or by hired labour under his supervision and control, any land belonging to another under a tenancy agreement, express or implied, but does not include a mere intermediary. It is plain from this definition that it is not only in the case of an express tenancy agreement but also in the case of an implied tenancy agreement that a person could be described as a cultivating tenant. The learned Advocate-General invites us to read the expression 'implied' only with reference to sub-section (2) of Section 10, and as not applying to sub-section (I) of Section 10. We are unable to give effect to this argument. There is no warrant for reading the expression 'tenancy agreement implied' only in relation to sub-section (2), and we are of opinion that it governs all the relevant provisions. Obviously, the implied tenancies comprehend tenancies like those of holding over. If that were so, it is difficult to assent to the view sought to be pressed upon us by the learned Advocate- General. If a tenant holding over or tenants similarly situated could get the benefit of this Act, we fail to see why a lessee for a period of one year and in possession of the lands should be deprived of the benefits of this Act. It is true that it is only a person possessing the status of a cultivating tenant that could invoke Section 6 as argued by the learned Advocate-General. Can it then be said that a person with a lease entered into between the parties for a period of one year could not come within the definition of a 'cultivating tenant'? It is clear to our minds that such a person is a cultivating tenant notwithstanding that the minimum period of the lease is less than six years. The underlying idea of the section seem to be that if the property is leased out to a tenant, it must be at least for a period of six years. If we remember that it was with a view to give stability of tenure to the tenant, then all the difficulties in the construction of this section disappear. The intention of the Legislature appears to be that no lease should be for a period less than six years. In other words, the landlord, when he leases out the lands to a tenant, must lease it out at least for a period of six years. If he leases out lands for a period of less than six years, it cannot enure to his benefit.
Further, could it be postulated if under sub section (2) of Section 10 persons who were cultivating the lands on the date of the coming into force of this Act would have the benefit of this Act, a person who is let into possession of the property as a tenant for a period of less than six years could be denied that benefit? We do not think that such an intention could be attributed to the Legislature. In our judgment, this section was inserted for the benefit of the tenant so that he could have security of tenure i.e., he could be in possession of the land as a tenant at least for a period of six years, and it was chiefly conceived in the interests of the tenant. As our learned brother has pointed out, all these legislations were conceived in the interests of the growth of the agricultural production. That being so, the landlord could not take advantage of the fact that he has given a lease of the land for less than six years.'
While affirming the judgment of the learned Single Judge in Subbaraju's case (supra) and holding the registration of the Lease Deed is not the requirement, the Division Bench held as follows:
'The argument of the learned Advocate- General that without a stamped and registered document a lessee cannot invoke Section 6 as that is the very foundation of his right is unsubstantial. The latter part of sub-section (I) of Section 10 is procedural in nature and it merely specifies the contents of the document. It also lays down that the stamp and registration charges for every such lease shall be borne by the landlord and the cultivating tenant in equal shares. This provision was evidently introduced in view of Section 107 of the Transfer of Property Act, which requires lease for a particular period to be in a particular form and to be stamped and registered. So, this does not enact anything new, but it only provides that the charges should be borne by the two parties equally. That does not mean that even if Section 107 of the Transfer of Property Act does not require a lease to be registered, he must yet obtain a registered instrument to enable him to invoke Section 6 of the Act. That could be only for leases, which require to be stamped and registered in law.
As we have already stated, the requirement as to minimum period of lease was introduced with a view to benefit the tenant. This interpretation is in conformity with the policy and intendment of the Act. This is the same view which our learned brother, Mr. Justice Satyanarayana Raju expressed in Subbaraju v. Dandiganapudy Dharma Cheruvu, 1961 (2) An.WR 144. In our opinion, the principle enunciated by our learned brother is sound and is in consonance with the terms of the Act. In this view of ours, it is unnecessary to consider whether the provisions of Section 10 are mandatory or directory. It is conceded by the learned Advocate-General that leases for a period of less than six years cannot be regarded as being void, and that Section 10 does not contain any prohibition against the lease deed being for less than six years.'
Even the learned Single Judge in Subbaraju's case (supra) observed as follows:
'Before the lower Tribunals, there was much debate on the question as to whether the provisions of Section 10 are directory or mandatory. That discussion is, to my mind, really unnecessary. The real point for consideration is whether there is any statutory provision invalidating leases for a term short of the minimum period provided under Section 10(1). There is no such prohibition anywhere in the Act, and having regard to the main purpose and intendment of the Act, it could not have been so. That the words of a remedial statute must be construed so far as they reasonably admit, so as to secure that the relief contemplated by the statute shall not be denied to the persons intended to be relieved is a well known canon of construction. This rule of interpretation received judicial recognition from their Lordships of the Federal Court in Rai Ram Taran v. Mrs. Hill (AIR 1949 F.C. 135).
It is no doubt true that the question raised for decision in this case is not directly covered by accused. This is not surprising because the enactment is a recent one. But, similar provisions contained in the Madras Buildings (Lease and Rent Control Act (XXV of 1949) were the subject-matter of construction by a Division Bench of the Madras High Court consisting of Govinda Menon, J., and Chandra Reddy, J., (as he then was) in Ramalingam v. Gurumurthi Reddy (1954)2 M.L.J. 752). There the question arose as to whether the provisions of Madras Act (XXV of 1949) could be invoked in the case of a lease of a property for one year. It may be stated that the Madras Act regulates the relations between the landlord and tenant in respect of buildings situated within certain towns. The tenants there agreed, contrary to the provisions of the Act, to deliver possession of the property demised at the expiry of the period of one year, the effect of which was that the tenant contracted himself out of the benefits of the Act. It was held that Section 6 of Madras Act (XXV of 1949) was enacted to save the tenant from the terms of an express agreement when those terms were to his detriment and it applied not only to leases created prior to the Act but even to those coming into existence after the Act. It was further held that the tenant could take advantage of the provisions of the Act, notwithstanding that the lease was for a specified period. On the facts, the conclusion was reached that the tenant could not be evicted, although what was auctioned was only the leasehold right for one year if he was a 'tenant' within the meaning of the Act. In the above decision, the learned Judges cited with approval the observations of Rajamannar, C.J., in George Oakes Ltd. v. The Chief Judge, Small Causes Court, Madras, 1950(2)MLJ317:
'I would like to say something about the doubt expressed by my learned brother whether the decision in Raja Chetty 's case would impliedly lead to the conclusion that the tenant can also contract himself out of the benefits conferred on him by the Act taking a lease after the Act containing terms and conditions which operate to curtail the rights and privileges conferred upon him by the Act. There was no doubt in our mind that he could not. I would be prepared to go to the length of holding that it would be against public policy and the spirit of the Act. The provisions of Section 6 embody the principle that the tenant can be saved from the terms of an express agreement when such terms are to his detriment.'On analogous principle, it must be held that a lease for one year contrary to the terms of Section 10(1) is not a void transaction.'
Another Division Bench in the case reported in P. Suryanarayana Murty v. M. Subbanna, AIR 1980 AP 38, referred to the earlier decisions with regard to the interpretation of Section 10. Two issues came up for consideration before the Division Bench one was with regard to the nature of the lease under Section 10 and other issue related to interpretation of Section 13 regarding the termination of tenancy. While dealing with the Section 10. The Division Bench observed as follows:
'The question is when there is no written stipulation as to the day of payment of rent can a tenant be evicted on the basis of his oral agreement.
Under Section 10(1) of the Act, the minimum period of a fresh lease entered into after the commencement of the Act shall be for six years. The Act says that such a lease shall not only be in writing but also be registered. Section 10(2) of the Act directs that all pre-existing leases shall continue to be in force.
It is necessary to note that a 'cultivating tenant' was defined to mean a person who cultivates by his own labour or by that of any other member of his family or by hired labour under his supervision and control, any land belonging to another under a tenancy agreement express or implied: but does not include a mere intermediary.
Now our Courts have held that notwithstanding the mandatory form of the language used by Section 10(1) of the Act fresh oral leases are valid; they are valid although for a period of less than six years. It is on that basis they upheld the benefits that this socially ameliorative measure confers on the tenants under lease either written or unwritten, either registered or unregistered, either for a period of six years or less. All this is now well settled and the decisions firmly determine the scope and meaning of several sections of the Act (See: Subbaraju v. Dandiganapudy Dharma Cheruvu, 1961 An.WR 144, Srinivasa Shastry v. Appayya, 1964 (1) An.WR 37, Venkata Narasimharaju v. Venkataramayya, (1965) 1 An.WR 481 and Sri Venugopalaswamy Varu v. K. Chittayya (1974)1 An. WR 388).'
However, while interpreting Section 13, the Division Bench observed that the expression 'such stipulation' appearing in Section 13(a) has to be only correlated to the Lease Deed and it does not apply to the oral lease. However, we are not concerned with the interpretation of Section 13, but we are only basically concerned with Section 10. The learned Counsel appearing for the landlords, however, vehemently contends that in case of a landlord for eviction of the tenant on the grounds mentioned in Section 13 and also in case of any dispute arising between the parties at the instance of landlord, it is open for the tenant to plead oral tenancy so as to bring himself within the definition of 'cultivating tenant'. But, when the tenant himself approaches the authorities under the Act seeking adjudication of dispute between himself and the landlord, he should first establish that he fulfilled the requirement under Section 10 namely that there should be Registered Lease Deed for a period of six years and this requirement is mandatory as also sine qua non for approaching the Tribunal for appropriate relief.
13. He also relies on the decisions of the learned Single Judge of this Court reported in Pothana Venkatarao v. N. Narayanamurthy, CRP 2729/1995, dated 12.2.2002 = Decisions Today AP 746, which was rendered by J. Chelameshwar, J. and Kamireddy Venkataramana Reddy v. Appellate Authority under the Andhra Pradesh (AA) Tenancy Act, 1956, Anantapur, : 2003(6)ALD894 , which was rendered by B. Prakasha Rao, J. to the effect that the Registered Lease Deed is a mandatory requirement and failure to produce the Registered Lease Deed would render the tenant ineligible for approaching the authorities constituted under the Act for any relief.
14. As already observed by us, the Act was conceived in the interest of cultivating tenant and the very Preamble itself concentrates on fixation of fair rent and for fixing minimum period of agricultural leases. In Sections 3 and 4 also there is a reference to the agreement with regard to the tenancy and the rent payable, but there was no requirement that the agreement should be in writing and it should be registered. Therefore, the above provisions would clearly indicate that the existence agreement and requirement of Registered Lease Deed was not stipulated. Moreover, the definition 2(c) itself clearly indicates that the tenancy agreement may be either express or implied and it only excludes the intermediary. In the pre- amended Section 10 was also it contained that every lease entered between the landlord and cultivating tenant shall be for six years and it is further stipulated that every lease shall be in writing and shall specify holding its extent and rent payable with such other particulars as may be prescribed. The stamp and registration charges for every such registration shall be born equally by landlord and cultivating tenants. Therefore, the requirement was that a lease must have been entered for a minimum period of six years after commencement of the Act and it shall be in writing and in case it is registered, the charge shall be born equally. The intention of the provision was to protect the interest of the tenant as landlord would be able to create many obstacles when a oral lease was pressed into service by the tenant and in order to relieve the tenant from the financial liability also 50% of the registration and stamp duty was directed to be borne by the landlord.
15. Under pre-amended sub-section (2) of Section 10, the rights of the cultivating tenants were protected by stipulating that all the tenancies subsisting as on the date of Andhra Ordinance 1 of 1956 and protected by that Ordinance and all subsequent tenancy agreements entered thereafter up to the commencement of the Act, shall continue for a period of three years from 1st June, 1956 until the expiry of the lease in normal course whichever is later on the same terms and conditions as before.
16. However, in 1974 number of amendments were made to the Act by Amendment Act 39 of 1974. Section 10 was substantially amended and came into force with effect from 1.7.1980. By sub- section (1) of Section 10, every lease subsisting shall be deemed to be in perpetuity and under Sub-section 3 after expiration of the lease period, the lease shall be renewed successfully for a minimum period of six years at a time subject to fixation of fair rent and maximum rent as specified in Sections 3 and 4 respectively. Under Section 12, power of resumption by the landlord is provided subject to certain conditions and also re-resumption of the land in case the landlord does not cultivate within a period of one year from the date of such resumption. Under Section 14, the cultivating tenant is permitted to terminate and surrender the land holding after giving three months notice to landlord and Special Officer and such surrender shall come into force only if it is accepted by the Special Officer on being satisfied that such a surrender is voluntary and genuine.
17. From a perusal of pre-amended and amended Section 10 of the Act, we find sub-section (1) of pre-amended provision and sub-section (2) of amended provision of Section 10 is substantially identical. What was aimed at by introducing Act 39 of 1974 was that lease shall be deemed to be in perpetuity if the lease is subsisting as on the date of the commencement of the Act. But, it has to be noted that the definition of cultivating tenant remained unchanged, even in the amended provision also.
18. As held by the Division Bench as early as in 1963, the person to fall within the definition cultivating tenant, there could not be any Lease Deed much less the Registered Lease Deed. Even under Section 107 of the Transfer of Property Act, the lease need not be registered, as it is an agricultural lease. Therefore, the two provisions as contained in Section 2(b) and also Section 10(2) have to be harmoniously construed keeping in view the objects sought to be achieved for bringing out the amendments. As already observed by us, the Act is conceived in the interest of the tenant. Therefore, when there is an agreement between the cultivating tenant and the landlord in respect of the schedule land, it is not necessary that it should be in writing and registered. A person, who is cultivating the land, even under oral lease is also covered by the definition and he is entitled to take all the benefits under the Act. The period of fixed six years and the condition that the lease shall be in writing specifying the extent thereof and stipulation of rent payable thereof are only with a view to protect the interest of the tenant. Moreover, under sub-section (1), every lease subsisting as on the date of the commencement of the Amendment Act shall be deemed to be in perpetuity. Therefore, the predominant object of the Act is to ensure the tenancy in perpetuity subject to the provisions contained in Sections 12 and 13. The intention of the Legislature is clearly spelt out in the Act by creating various protections ensuring continuity of leasehold rights of cultivating tenants.
19. The term 'cultivating tenant' has been defined under the Act. The object of definition is to avoid unnecessary, frequent repetitions to which the word or expression so defined is intended to apply. When the word is defined to 'mean' such and such the definition is prima facie restrictive and exhaustive. (See: P. Kasilingam v. P.S.G. College of Technology, : AIR1995SC1395 ).
20. Admittedly in the definition clause, a person, who cultivates any land belonging to another under tenancy agreement either express or implied covered by the definition of cultivating tenant. Section 10 stipulates the rights of the cultivating tenant to the effect that every lease entered between the landlord and tenant subsisting at the commencement of the Amendment Act shall be deemed to be in perpetuity and every lease entered between the landlord and tenant thereafter shall be for a minimum period of six years and the lease shall be in writing containing various particulars as prescribed. The stamp and registration charges for every such lease shall be borne by the landlord and cultivating tenant in equal shares. By this process, we do not find any conflict between the definition and the provisions of Section 10. While, a person, who cultivates the land under oral or written lease falls under cultivating tenant and once he swims into the definition, he is entitled for the benefits of the protections given under the Act. Apart from that, Section 10 gives further protection by stipulating deeming provision so as to ensure the lease in perpetuity. Thus, under Section 10, every subsisting lease as on the date of the amendment is protected and thereafter it became mandatory that every lease shall be for minimum period of six years and the lease shall be in writing. That does not mean that a lease entered between the landlord and the cultivating tenant for a period of less than six years is void. So also it cannot be construed that the lease which was not in writing, which does not contain the details as prescribed is unenforceable. It is well settled principle of construction that words of statute, when there is a doubt about their meaning, are to be understood in the sense in which they best harmonise with the subject of the enactment and the object, which the Legislature has in view. Their meaning is found not so much in a strict grammatical or etymological propriety of language, nor even in its popular use, as in the subject or in the occasion on which they are used, and object to be attained (See: Workmen of Dimakuchi Tea Estate v. Management of Dimakuchi Tea Estate, : (1958)ILLJ500SC , and Santa Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1976 SC 2386).
21. It is' also well-recognised rule of interpretation of statute that expression used therein ordinarily be understood in which they best harmonise with the object of statute and which effectuate the object of Legislature. Therefore, when two interpretations are feasible, the Court will prefer that which advances the remedy and suppresses the mischief as Legislature envisioned. Thus, the Court should adopt object oriented approach keeping in mind the principle that the legislative futility is to be ruled out so long as interpretative possibility permits.
22. In the words of Lord Grifftin, 'the Courts now adopt a purposive approach which seeks to give effect to the true purposes of legislation and are prepared to look at much extraneous material that bears on the ground against which the legislation was enacted (Pepper v. Hart, 1993 (1) A11.E.R.42).
23. The ascertainment of legislative intent is basic rule of statutory construction. A rule of construction should be preferred which advances the purpose and object of a legislation. Though a construction according to plain language, who ordinarily be adopted, such a construction should not be adopted where it leads to anomalies, injustice and or absurdities. Having ascertained the intention, the Court must strive to so interpret the statute as to promote or advance the object and purpose of enactment. For this purpose, where necessary, the Court may even depart from rule that the plain words should be interpreted according to their plain meaning to avoid patent injustice anomaly or absurdity or invalidation of a law (See : M/s. Giridharilal and Sons v. Balbir Nath Mathur, : 1SCR383 ).
24. The Supreme Court further observed in State of Tamil Nadu v. Kodaikanal Motor Union (P) Limited, : 2SCR927 , to the effect that the Courts must always seek to find out the intention of the Legislature. This can be done from the language used in the statute. But Courts should not always cling to the literalness and should endeavour to avoid an unjust or absurd result. The purpose of the Act and the object of a particular section have to be borne in mind. To make sense out of an unhappily worded provision, where the purpose is apparent to the judicial eye 'some' violence to language is permissible.
25. Therefore, if harmonious construction is resorted to, we come to the conclusion that the lease need not be in writing and registered, but in case it is a written lease, the minimum period fixed shall be six years and the expenses for the stamp duty and the registration are to be shared by the cultivating tenant and the landlord in equal shares. Section 10 did not contemplate compulsory registration, but if lease is registered for various reasons, the charges for stamp and registration shall be borne equally. Thus, we find that it is an additional protection given to the tenant in case of any written leases, but that cannot be construed and unless there is a written lease, the tenant cannot obtain the benefits arising under the Act. The very purpose of the Act is to ensure the lease in perpetuity fixing the minimum period of lease for six years and subject to further successive renewal for minimum period of six years at a time and we also do not find any provision under the Act to the effect that if the lease is not in writing and if it is not for a minimum period of six years, the lease becomes void. Therefore, when once the provision is brought into effect for the benefit of the tenant, it has to be interpreted and given meaning so as to extend and ensure the benefit which the statute contemplated. Therefore, we are of the considered view, that it is always open for the tenant to invoke the provisions of the Act, even in cases where the tenant is cultivating the lands by way of oral lease irrespective of period of lease. Even, a person cultivating the land under a lease as on the date when the amendment Act came into force was extended the benefit of legal fiction by deeming that such leases are in perpetuity subject to Sections 12 and 13.
26. Under those circumstances interpreted to Section 10(2) to the effect that it applies only in case of written lease and registered leases and that too having the minimum period of six years could be nothing but denying the benefit where the statute conferred and that would go contrary to the very object and purport of the Preamble of the Act thereto. The additional protection was conferred under sub-section (2) of Section 10 and it is not in derogation of existing terms of the lease. The teamed Single Judge while taking the contrary view in the cases reported in Pothana Venkatarao (supra) and Kamireddy Venkataramana Reddy (supra) did not take note of the definition of 'cultivating tenant' and also the decisions rendered by the earlier Division Benches touching this aspect. Therefore, these decisions cannot be said to be laying down correct legal principles.
27. In the result, we answer the Reference as follows:
(1) The tenant who is cultivating the land by way of oral lease is also entitled to the protection of provisions contained in the Act on par with the tenant holding written lease as provided under sub-section (1) of Section 10 and it is not necessary that he should possess the written and Registered Lease Deed for a minimum period of six years. However, the tenant is required to establish the oral lease by adducing necessary evidence.
(2) In case of written leases, they should be in conformity with sub-section (1) of Section 10 being mandatory requirement. If the terms of lease are in conflict with the above provision, it is always open for the tenant to approach the statutory authorities under the Act and seek appropriate directions/declarations.
(3) With regard to 2nd reference, we find that the same cannot be answered as whether the finding of the Civil Court is binding on the parties or whether it constitutes res judicata or the finding rendered by the Civil Court is within its jurisdiction or all the questions which are to be decided depending on the facts and circumstances of each case. Therefore, the matter has to be decided individually in each case.
28. The reference is accordingly answered.
29. The Registry shall place the matter before The Honourable the Chief Justice for listing the matters before the appropriate Bench.