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Mohammad Hamid HussaIn Vs. Asstt. Custodian of Evacuee Property, Allahabad - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty;Civil
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Writ No. 2387 of 1957
Judge
Reported inAIR1963All101
ActsAdministration of Evacuee Property Act, 1950 - Sections 43; Constitution of India - Article 19(1)
AppellantMohammad Hamid Hussain
RespondentAsstt. Custodian of Evacuee Property, Allahabad
Appellant AdvocateJ. Swarup, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateN.D. Pant, Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
civil - property - section 43 of administration of evacuee property act, 1950 and article 19(1)(f) of constitution of india - whether the right of heirs of evacuee get restricted - vesting of property in custodian - evacuee died - the heirs of evacuee to get title of property - section 43 not to restrict right of an evacuee's heirs to hold property - reasonable restrictions imposed in the interest of general public. - - and it seems to me that on a plain straightforward reading the section is clearly meant to have the effect of perpetuating the vesting of the property in the custodian in all circumstances and for all purposes, notwithstanding the fact that the evacuee has ceased to existwhether by reason of his death or because he is no longer an evacuee. ' this entry, it is to be..........j.1. this writ petition challenges a demand made in september 1957 by the assistant custodian of evacuee property for arrears of rent in respect of the premises at no. 30 elgin road, allahabad; and the petitioner asks for a writ of mandamus to be issued, requiring the assistant custodian not to treat any share or interest in the aforesaid premises as evacuee property and not to realise any amount from him by way of arrears of rent in respect thereof.2. the house in question was purchased by the petitioner and his brother mohammad mohmood husain in the year 1941 in equal shares. in 1947 the petitioner's brother went off to pakistan; and on 26-8-1952 he was killed there in an air-crash. according to the respondent, mohammad mahmood husain had migrated to pakistan and his share of the.....
Judgment:
ORDER

W. Broome, J.

1. This writ petition challenges a demand made in September 1957 by the Assistant Custodian of Evacuee Property for arrears of rent in respect of the premises at No. 30 Elgin Road, Allahabad; and the petitioner asks for a writ of mandamus to be issued, requiring the Assistant Custodian not to treat any share or interest in the aforesaid premises as evacuee property and not to realise any amount from him by way of arrears of rent in respect thereof.

2. The house in question was purchased by the petitioner and his brother Mohammad Mohmood Husain in the year 1941 in equal shares. In 1947 the petitioner's brother went off to Pakistan; and on 26-8-1952 he was killed there in an air-crash. According to the respondent, Mohammad Mahmood Husain had migrated to Pakistan and his share of the property vested in the Custodian of Evacuee Property under U. P. Ordinance No. 1 of 1949. The petitioner did not initially challenge the vesting order but agreed to deposit with the Custodian the net rent accruing on his brother's half share of the house. After the death of his brother, however, he claimed that the half share in question had devolved on his brother's heirs (including himself) and accordingly he along with the other heirs made an application asking for the property to be restored to them under Section 16 of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act. This application was rejected by the Assistant Custodian (Judicial) on 5-6-1953, by the Deputy Custodian on 28-12-1956 and by the Central Government on the administrative side on 21-6-1957; and with the conclusion of those proceedings, the Assistant Custodian began to take steps for the realisation of the arrears of rent, which had been stayed while the application under Section 16 was being decided. On 26-9-1957 an order was passed for attachment; and this writ petition was filed the next day.

3. The petitioner puts forward two main contentions. In the first place he asserts that by reason of the invalidity of Ordinance No. 1 of 1949, there was no legal vesting of his brother's property in the Custodian and it could not be treated as evacuee property at all. And secondly, assuming that it was evacuee property and had vested as such, it ceased to be evacuee property and the vesting came to an end after his brother's death in 1952, when it devolved by inheritance on the petitioner and other members of the family, none of whom had ever migrated to Pakistan or ceased to be Indian citizens. It is further argued in this connection that Section 43 of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act (which provides that the death of an evacuee shall not affect the vesting of his property in the Custodian) is ultra vires and void for infringement of the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution, in so far as it seeks to deprive heirs who are Indian citizens of their right to hold and dispose of property.

4. A subsidiary argument that is advanced on behalf of the petitioner is that the proceedings for realisation of rent are illegal and without jurisdiction, as there was no agreement for payment of rent and the Assistant Custodian had no power under Section 48 of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act to make an assessment.

5. The first line of argument relied upon by the petitioner need not detain us long, in viewof the Supreme Court pronouncement in Azimunnissa v. Deputy Custodian, Evacuee Properties, District Deoria, AIR 1961 SC 365. Sub-section (2-A) of Section 8 of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, which was introduced by the Amendment Act of 1960, runs :

'Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions contained in Sub-section (2) all property which under any law repealed hereby purports to have vested as evacuee property in any person exercising the powers of Custodian in any State shall, notwithstanding any defect in or the invalidity of, such law or any judgment, decree, order of any Court, be deemed for all purposes to have validly vested in that person, as if the provisions of such law had been enacted by Parliament and such property shall, on the commencement of this Act, be deemed to have been evacuee property declared as such within the meaning of this Act and accordingly, any order made or other action taken by the Custodian or any other authority in relation to such property shall be deemed to have been validly and lawfully made or taken.'

And the Supreme, Court has laid down :

'Section 8 (2-A) as introduced into the Act, in oar opinion, makes the vesting valid, because it gives validity to the vesting which purported to have taken place as a result of Order XXVII of 1949 even though it was only apparently so and was not so in law, because that is what 'purport' implies.

The effect of Section 8 (2-A) is that what purported to have vested under Section 8 (2) of Order XXVII of 1949 and which is to be deemed to be vested under Section 8 of the Act which repealed that Ordinance, notwithstanding any invalidity in the original vesting or any decree or order of the Court shall be deemed to be evacuee property validly vested in the Custodian and any order made bytile Custodian in relation to the property shall be deemed to be valid.' ,

In the present case therefore, notwithstanding the declared invalidity of U. P. Ordinance No. 1 of 1949 and of Order XII of 1949 which replaced it and in spite of any defect that may exist in the provisions of Order XXVII of 1949, Order IV of 1950 and the Administration of Evacuee Property Act (XXXI of 1950) as originally enacted, the vesting of Mohammad Mahmood Husain's property in the Custodian that purported to have taken place under those laws has now been validated; and it is no longer open to the petitioner to argue that in fact there was no vesting and that the property in question never became evacuee property.

6. Now we come to the crucial question that arises in this case viz. whether on the death of an evacuee leaving heirs who are Indian citizens, his property devolves on them in accordancewith the normal rules of inheritance or whether it continues to vest in the Custodian. The contention of learned counsel for the petitioner is that the Custodian does not acquire any title to the property when it vests in him, but is merely given the right to manage the property and to realise the profits accruing from it, so long as it retains the status of evacuee property; that when an evacuee dies the title to the property must pass to his heirs; and that if those heirs are Indiancitizens and not evacuees themselves, the property must cease to be evacuee property and the vesting in the Custodian must come to an end.

7. The contention undoubtedly appears to be sound as far as the legal status of the Custodian with regard to evacuee property vesting in him is concerned. As pointed out in Fruit and Vegetable Merchants Union v. The Delhi Improvement Trust, AIR 1957 SC 344;

'the term 'vesting' has a variety of meaning which has to be gathered from the context in, which it has been used. It may mean full ownership, or only possession for a particular purpose, or clothing the authority with power to deal with the property as the agent of another person or authority.'

On the one hand we have vesting under the Land Acquisition Act, whereby property acquired 'vests absolutely in the Government' and thereby becomes the property of the Government without any limitation either as to title or as to possession; while on the other hand property which 'vests in the receiver 'under the Provincial Insolvency Act vests only for the purpose of administering the estate and paying the debts of the insolvent and the receiver has no interest of his own in such property. The vesting which takes place in the case of evacuee property appears to approximate rather to the latter type. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in Amar Singh v. Custodian E. P. Punjab, AIR 1957 SC 599 :

'The position in its general aspect is that all evacuee property is vested in the Custodian. But the evacuee has not lost ownership in it. The law recognised his ultimate ownership subject to certain limitations. The evacuee may come back and obtain return of his property as also an account of the management thereof by the Custodian.'

Similarly the Madras High Court, in the case of N. B. Namazi v. Deputy Custodian E. P. Madras, AIR 1951 Mad 930 has observed :

'the entire scheme of the Ordinance in respect of what is called 'evacuee property' is a provision for the custody and administration of such property and not for confiscation. The evacuee's title as such is never affected. Even the rights of an heir are recognised. Restoration of the property is contemplated. The Custodian acts practically as a statutory agent with large powers, but under a duty to keep accounts.'

It is clear from these authorities that the vesting of evacuee property in the Custodian confers no title on him but only gives him powers of administration and control.

8. It still remains to be seen, however, what legal consequences will flow from the death of an evacuee whose property has vested in the Custodian. The petitioner's contention is that after the evacuee's death the vesting can only continue if the heirs who inherit the property from him are themselves evacuees; whereas if the heirs are Indian citizens, the property will devolve on them absolutely and the interest of the Custodian will come to an end. In this connection reliance is placed on certain observations of the Supreme Court inthe case of Ebrahim Aboobaker v. Tekchand Dolwani, AIR 1953 SC 298, in which it was remarked. :

'the fact of a property being evacuee property is not a permanent attribute of such property and ........................... it may cease to beso under given conditions. The property does not suffer from any inherent infirmity but becomes evacuee because of the disability attaching to the owner. Once that disability ceases, the property is rid of that disability and becomes liable to be restored to the owner.'

Amplifying this proposition, it is argued that if an evacuee owner dies and his property devolves upon heirs who are Indian Citizens, the 'disability attaching to the owner' must be deemed to have come to an end and thereupon 'the property is rid of that disability and becomes liable to be restored to the owner', i.e. to the heirs.

9. I very much doubt, however, whether the observations .................. made in EbrahimAboobaker's case, AIR 1953 SC 298 can be stretched to .............. this extent. It isimportant to note that in that case the evacuee had died before the property had vested in the Custodian; whereas in the present instance we have to consider a situation in which the evacuee died' after, the vesting had taken place. In the former case, the heirs obviously inherited the property outright and it became theirs without any kind of restriction; and by the time the Custodian attempted to take it over and deal with it, it no longer belonged to an evacuee. But in the present case, the property was taken over while the evacuee was still alive and must be deemed to have validly vested in the Custodian; and the heirs inheriting that property subsequently cannot be treated as occupying the same position as they would have done if the property had not already vested. Once vesting has taken place, it remains unaffected by the death of the evacuee, as is clear from the provisions of Section 43 of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, which runs as follows :

'Where in pursuance of the provisions of this Act any property has vested in the Custodian, neither the death of the evacuee at any time thereafter nor the fact that the evacuee who had a right or interest in that property had ceased to be an evacuee at any material time shall affect) the vesting or render invalid anything done in consequence thereof.'

10. An attempt has been made by learned counsel for the petitioner to argue that this Section 43 is a mere 'saving clause', designed to avoid the invalidation of acts performed by the Custodian in ignorance of the evacuee having died or having ceased to be an evacuee. But there is no indication in the section that it is meant to apply only in the case of ignorance on the part of the Custodian; and it seems to me that on a plain straightforward reading the section is clearly meant to have the effect of perpetuating the vesting of the property in the Custodian in all circumstances and for all purposes, notwithstanding the fact that the evacuee has ceased to existwhether by reason of his death or because he is no longer an evacuee.

11. It is contended that Section 43 is ultra vires, because in this section the Legislature has attempted to legislate in respect of property which has in effect ceased to be 'evacuee property.' But entry 41 in the Seventh Schedule permits Parliament to make laws with regard to :

'Custody, management and disposal of property (including agricultural land) declared by law to be evacuee property.'

This entry, it is to be noted, refers to 'property declared by law to be evacuee property' (not 'property belonging to an evacuee') and clearly covers property which has been declared evacuee property under Section 7 or which has vested or is deemed to have vested in the Custodian under Section 8 of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act. And I see no reason to think that such property ceases to be within the ambit of entry 41 merely because the evacuee to whom it belonged at the date of the declaration or vesting has later on died or ceased to be an evacuee.

12. Section 43 is further challenged as unconstitutional on the ground that it infringes the fundamental right of those heirs of an evacuee who are Indian citizens to hold and dispose of property under Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution. But clause (5) of Article 10 permits the State to make laws imposing reasonable restrictions on the exercise of this right in the interests of the general public. As pointed out, with reference to the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, in Abdul Majid Haji Mohammad v. P. R. Nayak, AIR 1951 Bom 440 :

'any law passed under unusual circumstances must result in a certain amount of hardship. Undoubtedly it is the duty of the Court to see that these hardships are reduced to the minimum. But one cannot apply the yardstick of normal and peaceful conditions to conditions which resulted from an upheaval rare in the history of our country and perhaps rare in the history of any country in the world, and therefore, one must approach this legislation knowing that it is an emergency legislation, an offspring of emergency and intended to deal with abnormal and unusual times and conditions.'

If we look at the Act in this light, bearing in mind the circumstances in which it was conceived and the problems with which it was intended to cope, it seems to me that we cannot but conclude that the restrictions which the Act imposes are reasonable from the point of view of the interests of the general public. It is to be noted that in the Bombay case referred to above, it was conceded that the definition of 'evacuee' was so wide as to include persons who had not migrated but had remained citizens of India; but nevertheless the conclusion reached was that :

'all the restrictions pointed out are really necessary and ancillary to the main purpose and object of the legislation which is to provide for the administration of evacuee property. It will be found that all the restrictions are to protect the possession of the Custodian and to prevent the evacuee from dealing with the property, the objectbeing that this property should be secured and safeguarded until its ultimate destination is determined by Parliament.'

The Bombay High Court has held, therefore, that, the Act in no way violates any of the fundamental rights guaranteed to those Indian citizens who happen to be evacuees; and this view, if I may say so with respect, appears to be sound. Nor do I think that any logical distinction can be drawn, for the purpose of determining whether the restrictions imposed by the Act on the right to hold property are reasonable or not, between an Indian citizen who is himself an evacuee and an Indian citizen who is the heir of an evacuee. The latter is certainly no worse off than the former. I am not prepared to hold, therefore, that Section 43 of the Act unreasonably restricts the rights of an evacuee's heirs to hold property, so as to be void for infringement of Article 19(1)(f).

13. My conclusion is that when an evacuee dies after his property has vested in the Custodian, the title to such property devolves upon his heirs, but nevertheless the property continues to vest in the Custodian for the purposes of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, by virtue of Section 43. Accordingly, in the present case I am satisfied that the respondent Custodian is still entitled to treat Mohammad Mahmood Husain's share of No. 30 Elgin Road as evacuee property, even after Mohammad Mahmood Husain's death.

14. There remains the subsidiary argument regarding the legality of the specific orders for the realisation of rent in respect of the evacuee interest. Learned counsel for the petitioner has urged that the Custodian had no power to assess rent on Mohammad Mahmood Husain's share in No. 30 Elgin Road and that consequently no proceedings for realisation of any specific amount could be taken. But in 1957, when the order for attachment was passed. Section 48 of the Administration of Evacuee Property Act had been amended so as to include the following sub-section :

'48(1) any sum payable to the Government or to the Custodian in respect of any evacuee property, under any agreement, express or implied lease or other document or otherwise howsoever, may be recovered in the same manner as an arrear of land revenue.'

And as pointed out by learned counsel for the respondent Custodian, there was an agreement in existence between the Custodian and the petitioner as to the amount payable in respect of Mohammad Mahmood Husain's share. In his letters of 7-10-1949 and 25-5-1952 (Annexures III and IV to the counter affidavit) the petitioner had clearly expressed his willingness to pay one half of the net rent of No. 30 Elgin Road to the Custodian in respect of Mohammad Mahmood Husain's half share in the house. It is true that those offers related only to the period when the evacuee was still alive; but even after his death, the only plea that was taken was as to whether his share could still be treated as evacuee property and no objection was ever raised as regards the quantum of rent payable.

15. In the circumstances, I do not see how the petitioner can challenge the legality of theproceedings initiated by the respondent for the realisation of rent in respect of the evacuee interest in the premises in question.

16. This writ petition therefore fails on allthe points raised and is accordingly dismissed withcosts, the interim stay granted on 27-9-1957, being vacated.


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