1. I had the advantage of reading the judgment prepared by Beg, J. but regret that I am unable to agree with the conclusion at which he has arrived,
2. The essential facts are not in dispute. The District Magistrate refused to grant permission to the appellants to file a suit for the ejectment or the respondents from the premises occupied by them as tenants of the appellants. This order was made under Sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the U. P. (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act as it stood prior to its amendment by U. P. Act No. XVII of 1954. The appellants then applied to the Commissioner under Sub-section (2) of that section to revise the order. The Commissioner by an order dated the 28th December, 1953, allowed the application, set aside the order of the District' Magistrate and granted the requisite permission. The validity of the Commissioner's order is questioned on the ground that as the Commissioner did not find that the District Magistrate had acted illegally or with material irregularity he had no jurisdiction to set aside the latter's order.
3. The powers of the Commissioner in revision are to be found in Sub-section (3). This Sub-section says that the. Commissioner may confirm or set aside the order of the District Magistrate if he is satisfied (a) that the District Magistrate has acted illegally or (b) that the District Magistrate has wrongly refused to act. In my opinion there can be no reasonable doubt (if I may say so with all respect) that the District Magistrate in the present case has acted. He had made a specific order, and it was that order which was the subject of the application in revision. I think therefore that the Commissioner could set aside that order only if he was satisfied that the District Magistrate had in making it acted illegally or with material irregularity.
4. I find great difficulty in construing the words 'wrongly refused to act' as meaning, or including, the making of an order refusing to grant a landlord permission to file a suit. If that construction be given to these words then the result will be that whereas an order of a District Magistrate granting permission to file a suit can be revised only if in the opinion of the Commissioner the District Magistrate has acted illegally or with material irregularity, an order refusing permissioncan be set aside notwithstanding the fact that the District Magistrate has acted neither illegally nor with material irregularity. I can see no sufficient reason for thinking that this was the intention of the legislature.
5. The plain meaning of the words 'refused to act' is that the District Magistrate has refused to take any action on an application presented to him under Sub-section (1); and it may well be that the legislature introduced the words 'or has wrongly refused to act' in Sub-section (3) for the purpose of providing the aggrieved party with a remedy to such a case. If that however was its intention the legislature has, in my opinion, failed to give effect: to it.
The Commissioner can exercise his powers of revision under Sub-section (3) only when an application is presented to him under Sub-section (2); and an application can be made under that sub-section only when the District Magistrate had made an order granting or refusing to grant permission to file a suit. There is no provision for an application being made to the Commissioner against the refusal to act; if the District Magistrate refuses to act the remedy is by way of a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. A District Magistrate 'acts' just as much when he makes an order refusing permission to sue as when he makes an order granting permission.
If therefore the words 'wrongly refused to act' are construed as meaning wrongly refused to grant permission they are redundant, for that situation is covered by earlier part of the sub-section: on the other hand if the words are given their plain meaning they serve no purpose for the Commissioner in such event has no power of revision. It maybe observed in passing that the Commissioner's power is to revise the District Magistrate's order: if the District Magistrate refuses to act there can be no order for the Commissioner to revise. I am forced therefore to the conclusion that the words 'or has wrongly refused to act' as used in this sub-section have no meaning in law.
6. I would dismiss the appeal.
7. This is a plaintiffs' Special Appeal. The points that have been debated in this appeal relate to the interpretation of Section 3(3) of the U. P. Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction Act (Act No. III of 1947) hereinafter called the 'Act' as it stood prior to the year 1954. The appeal arises out of a suit for ejectment of the defendants, respondents from a shop and for damages for use and occupation.
The plaintiffs-appellants had brought the suit on the allegations that the defendants were the tenants of the plaintiffs, that the plaintiffs needed the accommodation to carry on their own business in the shop, that they applied to the District Magistrate under Section 3 of the Act, that the District Magistrate refused to give the necessary permission to them, that, thereafter, the plaintiffs moved the Commissioner in revision, and that the Commissioner set aside the order of the District Magistrate and grafted them permission to sue. The plaintiffs also prayed for a decree for Rs. 125 as damages for use and occupation in lieu of rent.
8. The plaintiffs' suit for ejectment was congested by the defendants on a number of grounds, one of which was that the permission which was granted to the plaintiffs by the Commissioner, and which was the basis of their suit for ejectment, was ultra vires and bad in law; and that, therefore, the suit for ejectment was not maintainable. All the pleas taken by the defendants were rejected by the trial court, which decreed the plaintiffs' suit in toto.
9. Dissatisfied with the said judgment, the defendants filed an appeal before the District Judge, Moradabad, who dismissed the appeal with costs.
10. Aggrieved by the dismissal of their appeal, the defendants filed a Second Appeal in this Court. This Second Appeal came up for hearing before a learned Judge of this Court. Before the learned Judge, it was argued on behalf of the defendants that the permission under Section 3 of the Act relied on by the plaintiffs was not valid under the law as it stood prior to the Amendment Act of 1954. This argument found favour with the learned Judge, who allowed the appeal, and dismissed the plaintiffs' suit for ejectment with costs.
The learned Judge, however, granted leave to appeal to a Division Bench. Thereafter, the present Special Appeal was filed by the plaintiffs. It came up for hearing before a Division Bench of this Court consisting of V. Bhargava, J. and myself. aS our view was that in this case a reconsideration of some Bench decisions of this Court was necessary, the case was referred by us to a larger Bench. The Special Appeal was, accordingly, fixed for hearing before this Full Bench.
11. The sole question that has been canvassed at this stage is whether the order of the Commissioner granting the necessary permission to the plaintiffs-appellants to sue is a valid one. It may be noted that the said order of the Commissioner is dated the 28th December, 1953. In the present case, therefore, we are concerned with the Act as it stood prior to the U. P. (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction (Amendment) Act, 1954, (U. P. Act No. XVII of 1954). In order, therefore, to appreciate the arguments advanced in the present case, it would be helpful to reproduce, at the very outset, the material portion of Section 3 of the Act as it stood prior to the Amendment Act of 1954. The necessary portion of Section 3, as it stood at the relevant date, is cited below :
'Section 3 Restriction on eviction.--(1) Subject to any order passed under Sub-section (3), no suit shall, without the permission of the District Magistrate, be filed in any Civil Court against a tenant for his eviction from any accommodation, except on one or more of the following grounds: .............................. (Grounds and explanation omitted as unnecessary).
(2) The party aggrieved by the order of District Magistrate granting or refusing to grant the permission referred to in Sub-section (1) may, within 30 days from the date of the order or the date on which it is communicated to him, whichever is later, apply to the Commissioner to revise the order.
(3) The Commissioner shall, as far as may be, hear the application within six weeks from the date of its making, and, if he is satisfied that the District Magistrate has acted illegally or with material irregularity or has wrongly refused to act, he may confirm or set aside the order of the District Magistrate.
(4) The order of the Commissioner passed under Sub-section (3) shall, subject to any order by the State Government under Section 7-F, be final.' Section 7-F of the Act provided as follows :
'The State Government may call for the record of any case granting or refusing to grant permission for the filing of a suit for eviction referred to in Section 3 or requiring any accommodation to be let or not to be let to any person under Section 7 and may make such order as appears to it necessary for the ends of justice.'
12. It would, therefore, appear that, at the relevant date, the Commissioner could interfere with the order of the District Magistrate under Section 3(3) of the Act on three grounds, namely, if the District Magistrate' (1) had acted illegally, or (2) had acted with material irregularity, or (3) had wrongly refused to act. On behalf of the appellants it was argued before us that, in the present case, the Commissioner's order reversing the order of the District Magistrate and granting permission was covered by ground No. (2); or in any case, by ground No. (3) mentioned above.,
13. I shall first take up the argument based on ground No. (2), namely, 'material irregularity'. On behalf of the appellants it is argued that the expression 'material irregularity' in this provision of law should be interpreted in a broad sense so as to include a case in which the manner of approach adopted by the District Magistrate in arriving at the decision was incorrect. Reference in this connection is made to the facts of the present case which indicate that the manner of approach of the District Magistrate was wrong. The applicant landlord who had sought permission to sue was a big Art business merchant.
He paid income-tax. He owned various shops. He wanted the tenant to vacate this particular shop as he intended to build a residential house for himself on the site, and also to carry on his business there. As the tenant was running his shop at the premises, which the landlord wanted to be vacated, the landlord offered another shop of his as an alternative accommodation where the tenant could shift. The District Magistrate to whom the landlord had applied found that the needs of the landlord were genuine, but he refused the necessary permission to him on the ground that the tenant was not giving his consent to shift to the alternative accommodation.
In agreement with the District Magistrate, the Commissioner also found that the needs of the landlord were genuine. Under the circumstances he took the view that the order of the District Magistrate was erroneous, as a mere refusal by the tenant to occupy the shop which was offered to him in exchange, was, in his opinion, no reason for refusing the necessary permission to the landlord, when the latter's needs were found to be genuine.
14. It is argued that the view of the Commissioner that a mere denial by the tenant to avail himself of the alternative accommodation would not justify refusal appears to be correct. It the District Magistrate's view is upheld, then no application for permission by a landlord would be granted against a tenant's wishes, because, in every case, whenever a tenant wanted to defeat the application, he would just refuse to accept the alternative accommodation offered to him, and he would thereby be entitled to claim the rejection of the application. The whole manner of approach of the District Magistrate, therefore, was an incorrect one. The District Magistrate, therefore, can be said to have acted with 'material irregularity'.
15. On behalf o the respondents it is argued in this connection that the District Magistrate had jurisdiction to act in the matter, and he having exercised his jurisdiction, the conclusions arrived at by him cannot be interfered with in revision by the Commissioner. In reply to this contention, on behalf of the appellants it is argued that a comparison of this provision of law with the analogous provision contained in the C. P. C., viz. Section 115, would indicate that there are no restrictions confining the exercise of the power by the Commissioner under this provision of law to cases of jurisdiction only. The provision of law should, therefore, be interpreted in a broad sense.
In Section 115, C. P. C., it is specifically stated that the Court whose order is the subject-matter of the revision should have 'acted in the exercise of its jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity'. On the other hand, the words restricting the power of interference to matters involving jurisdiction only are conspicuous by their absence in Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Act. I am of opinion that there is substance in the arguments advanced on behalf of the appellants on this point, and the expression 'material irregularity' should, therefore, be interpreted in this provision of law in a broad sense so as to include any incorrect approach to a matter by the District Magistrate.
16. The view taken by me finds support from a judgment of Brij Mohan Lall, J. reported in Dr. Murli Dhar Gupta v. The Additional Commissioner, Allahabad, 1955 All LJ 498. It may be noted that an the case before the learned Judge, as in the present case, the question had arisen under the Act as it stood prior to the amendment Act of 1954. The relevant portion of the judgment runs as follows :
'Although some of the phrases used in Section 3 have been borrowed from the language of Section 115 C. P. C., yet one finds marked contrast in the languages of these two sections. In Section 115, power to interfere is given by Clause (c) if the lower court has acted illegally or with material irregularity 'in the exercise of its jurisdiction'. These words do not find place in Sub-section (3) of Section 3. This means that the Commissioner's power of interference in exercise of his revisional jurisdiction, even under the law as it stood prior to the amending Act of 1954, was wider than the power of revision exercised by the Court under Section 115, C. P. C. This Court can act under Section 115, C. P. C., only if the illegality or material irregularity takes place in the exercise of jurisdiction of the lower court. The Commissioner's power acting under Section 3(3) is not confined within these limits. He can interfere it ha finds illegality or material irregularity in any matter, e.g., exercise of jurisdiction, exercise of discretion or in procedure. It is, therefore, wrong to contend that if the District Magistrate or Rent Control and Eviction Officer has not acted with illegality or material irregularity in the exercise of his jurisdiction his decision cannot be disturbed by the Commissioner. The Commissioner can interfere if he thinks that there was material irregularity in the exercise of the discretion by the District Magistrate or the Rent Control and Eviction Officer although there was no defect in the exercise of jurisdiction.' (p. 499, col. 2).
17. Against the above view, however, it is argued that the legislature might have taken the description of the grounds from Section 115, C. P. C., but the omission of the expression confining the exercise of the power to cases involving jurisdiction alone would not make any difference. It is difficult to accept this argument. If the legislature had Section 115, C. P. C., before itself as the model for reproduction, then the omission of the restriction becomes still more significant and conspicuous. The omission must have been deliberate, and can only be attributed to an intention on the part of the legislature to bestow wider and larger powers on the Commissioner.
18. Moreover, the importance of the limitation relating to jurisdiction, the vital difference that its presence or absence makes in a provision of law and the extremely restricting effect that it has on the exercise of power was emphasised in a number of cases by their Lordships of the Privy Council, vide Rajah Amir Hassan Khan v. Sheo Baksh Singh, 11 Ind App 237 (PC), Balakrishna Udayar v. Vasudeva Aiyar, 44 Ind App 261 : (AIR 1917 PC 71), Venkatagiri Ayyangar v. Hindu Religious Endowments Board, Madras and Joy Chand Lal v. Kamalaksha Chaudhury .
In these cases their Lordships of the Privy Council strongly deprecated the repeated tendency of the High Courts in India to minimise or ignore the difference created by the restrictions imposed by the crucial words confining the power of interference to cases of jurisdiction alone. All the above cases were cited and approved by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the well-known case of Keshardeo Chamaria v. Radha Kissen Chamaria : 4SCR136 , and the same aspect of the matter was emphasised. In the said Supreme Court case Mahajan, J. observed at page 27 as follows :
'A large number of cases have been collected in Edn. 4 of Chitaley and Rao's C. P. C. (Vol. I), which only serve to show that the High Courts have not always appreciated the limits of the jurisdiction conferred by this section.'
After referring to some High Court cases by way of illustration, Mahajan, J. further observed as follows:
'In these circumstances, it is worthwhile recalling again to mind the decisions of the Privy Council on this subject and the limits stated therein for the exercise of jurisdiction conferred by this section on the High Courts.
As long ago as 1894, in 11 Ind App 237 (PC), the Privy Council made the following observations on Section 622 of the former C. P. C., which was replaced by Section 115 of the Code of 1908 :
The question then is, did the Judges of the lower Courts in this case, in the exercise of their jurisdiction, act illegally or with material irregularity. It appears that they had perfect jurisdiction to decide the case, and even if they decided wrongly, they did not exercise their jurisdiction illegally or with material irregularity.
In 1917 again in 44 Ind App 261 : (AIR 1917 PC 71), the Board observed:
'It will be observed that the section applies to jurisdiction alone, the irregular exercise or non-exercise of it, or the illegal assumption of it. The section is not directed against conclusions of law or feet in which the question of jurisdiction is not involved.'
19. In view of the repeated warnings so emphatically given by their Lordships of the Privy Council and of the Supreme Court in the aforementioned cases it is now difficult to accept the position that the absence or presence of the expression confining the exercise of power to cases of jurisdiction makes no difference in the matter.
20. Apart from the consideration arising from the absence of words confining the exercise of power by the Commissioner to cases of jurisdiction, there is ft second reason why the expression 'material irregularity' should be interpreted in a broader sense in this provision of law than in Section 115 C. P. C. In C. P. C., Section 115 relates to cases where both the revising authority as well as the authority whose decision is sought to be revised act as Courts within the strict meaning of the term as used in law.
There are comprehensive provisions in the C. P. Code as well as in other Acts and rules made thereunder prescribing the procedure as well as the manner in which the subordinate Courts as well as the High Court should decide a matter. There are no such provisions under the Act in question, under the Act neither the District Magistrate nor the Commissioner act as Courts in the strict sense of the term. It has been held in a number of cases by this Court that while dealing with an application under Section 3, the District Magistrate acts purely in an executive capacity and an order passed by him is merely an administrative order, vide Kirpashanker Shastri v. Banwari Lal : AIR1952All414 and Shri Mannu Lal v. Shri Chakradhar Hans : AIR1952All859 .
It might, however, be argued that after the amendment of 1954 the District Magistrate acts in a quasi-judicial capacity. Even assuming for a moment that both the District Magistrate and the Commissioner act in a quasi-judicial capacity, the fact remains that they do not act strictly as courts, and the proceedings before such authorities are not regulated by the strict rules of procedure and evidence, as in the case of regular Courts of law.
For the breach of rule of natural justice that might apply to such cases the writ remedy already existed. The Commissioner is apparently vested with the power of revision in this Act in his capacity as the superior officer to whom the DistrictMagistrate is subordinate. In exercising his powers of revision, therefore, he, in a way, merely exercise the supervisory powers which a superior officer has over his subordinates. This might be a second reason for interpreting the expression 'material irregularity' in a broader sense.
21. Considering therefore, the context in which the expression 'material irregularity' has been used and the situation to which it refers, it would not be unreasonable to interpret the expression 'material irregularity' in Sub-section (3) in its ordinary plain sense as given in the dictionary. This meaning appears to be a very wide one. In Webster's New International Dictionary, Vol. 3, Second Edition, the meaning of the word 'regular' is given at No. 6, as 'normal; standard; correct.'
According to Murray's New English Dictionary, Vol. V, (1901 Edition), amongst other meanings, the word 'irregularity' also includes within its definition any 'deviation from what is usual or normal; abnormality, anomalousness.' The expression 'material irregularity' in Sub-section (3) is, therefore, wide enough to cover any case in which, in the opinion of the Commissioner, the District Magistrate had made an incorrect or irregular approach to the question in issue before him.
22. On behalf of the appellants it is further argued that even under Section 115 C. P. C. a wrong manner of reaching a decision would be covered by the expression 'material irregularity' in that provision of law. Reference in this connection is made to : 4SCR136 , where an observation of Bose, J., in Narayan Sonaji v. Sheshrao Vithoba, AIR 1948 Nag 258, is cited with approval. This observation would indicate that the expression 'material irregularity' refers not to the decision arrived at 'but to the manner in which it is reached.'
For the purposes of the present case, however, it is not necessary to consider this argument; because, in the case before us, we are not concerned with the position under Section 115, C. P. C. Whatever might be the position under Section 115 C. P. C., I am of opinion that it is obvious that the meaning of the expression 'material irregularity' in this provision of law must be held to be wider than that in the C. P. C., and should include an incorrect and wrong manner of approach to the matter by the District Magistrate. If the expression 'material irregularity' is interpreted in this broad sense, then the interference of the Commissioner in the present case should be upheld as a justifiable one;
23. On behalf of the appellants a third reason is also suggested for giving a broad interpretation to the powers given to the Commissioner. Our attention is invited to the use of the word 'satisfied' in Section 3(3) of the Act in relation to the power exercisable by the Commissioner, and it is argued that the use of this word shows that the legislature intended to confer a wide power on him. The word 'satisfied' connotes a mental or subjective state personal to the authority whose satisfaction is required and, therefore, emphasises the width of his power. According to Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, volume 2, (1936 Edition) the word 'satisfy' means to meet or fulfil the wish or desire or expectation of; to be accepted by (a person, his taste, judgment, etc.) as all that could be reasonably desired.' According to Webster's New World Dictionary (1936 Edition) by Macmillan the word 'satisfy' means 'to fulfil the needs, expectations, wishes, or desires of'; 'to suffice, fulfil, or answer the requirements or conditions of'; to free from doubt or anxiety; convince', to answer (a doubt, objection etc.) adequately or convincingly'. As distinguished from other synonyms, it is stated that the word 'satisfy' implies 'complete fulfilment of one's wishes, needs, expectations etc.' The word 'satisfaction' is defined in the Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English (Oxford University Press) as 'the state of being pleased or contented.' The phrase 'to one's (own) satisfaction' ' is defined as meaning : 'so that one is pleased, contented or convinced,' The word 'satisfied' is a well-known term in the law and is used to connote the vesting of discretionary powers in the authorities to which it refers.
It is also pointed out on behalf of the appellants that while deciding the question whether any ground of interference had been made out in a case under the present Act, the Commissioner does not decide a collateral fact which is a condition precedent to the exercise of his power but the issue itself. This feature also emphasises the fact that the legislature intended to confer wide powers on the Commissioner. This construction of the word 'satisfied' was approved by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in the case of Raman and Raman Ltd. v. State of Madras : 1SCR256 .
On behalf of the appellants reference in this connection is also made to cases reported in Smt. Lila Vati Bai v. State of Bombay : 1SCR721 and Brij Raj Krishna v. S.K. Shaw and Brothers : 2SCR145 . In this connection, it is further argued that in the absence of any objective law or procedure governing or regulating the procedure, the satisfaction contemplated must be deemed to be the subjective satisfaction of the Commissioner. This is also borne out by the use of the word 'may' in the latter portion of the same sub-section.
23a. Fourthly, it is argued that the use of the word 'revise' in connection with the power vested in a primarily executive authority scrutinizing the action of his subordinate who is also primarily an executive officer also supports the same conclusion. The word 'revise' as used in this context should be construed in its plain dictionary meaning. This meaning is a wide one. According to the Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current English (Oxford University Press) the word 'revise' means 'to go through carefully and correct where necessary'. As the later portion of this judgment will show, the word 'revise' is here used in a wide sense so as to cover not only the power to confirm or set aside the order of the District Magistrate but also to issue an altogether fresh permission.
24. Fifthly, it is argued that the same conclusion is supported by the opening words of Section 3(1) by which any order passed by the District Magistrate is expressly made 'subject to any order passed under Sub-section (3)' by the Commissioner as well as by Sub-section (4) by which the order of the Commissioner is declared to be the final order underSub-section (3) subject only to any order that might be passed by the State under Section 7F of the Act.
25. To sum up, the entire Section 3 of the Act bristles with indications pointing to compelling reasons for putting on the expression 'material irregularity'' under Sub-section (3) of that section a meaning as broad and as liberal as possible; and, in any case, a construction broader than that under Section 115 C. P. C.
The absence of the words curtailing the power to that of jurisdiction, the fact that the power is conferred not on a Court but on an executive officer acting either in an administrative or quasi-judicial capacity, the absence of all law or rules of procedure regulating the proceedings before the authority concerned, the superior position of the revising authority, the administrative subordination of the authority whose order is sought to be revised, the use of the term 'satisfied' and 'revise' in relation to the power exercisable by the superior authority and the contents of Sub-section (3) as well as of the entire section go to support this conclusion, I have, therefore, no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the expression 'material irregularity' in Section 3(3) of the Act should be construed in a broad sense as mentioned above, with the result that the Commissioner's interference in the present case should be upheld on ground No. 2.
26. Apart from this ground, the learned counsel for the appellant also argued that the present order can be justified on the basis of ground No. 3 also. A consideration of this aspect of his arguments raises a question as to the meaning of the expression 'refused to act' used in Sub-section (3). On behalf of the appellants it was argued that the words 'refused to act' refer to the order passed under the preceding section, i.e., Sub-section (2) on an application for permission to sue given under Sub-section (1). If these words are read in connection with the two preceding sub-sections, it necessarily follows that the words 'refused to act' refer to an order refusing permission to sue.
On the other hand, on behalf of the respondents, it was argued that either the words 'refused to act' refer to a case where no order at all has been passed by the District Magistrate, in which case this expression is a meaningless surplusage; or, in any case, it refers to an order refusing the application and which is passed regardless of the merits of the matter, in which case the present order will not be covered by it, as it was passed on merits. The question does not appear to be free from difficulty, but, after giving prolonged consideration to the matter, I am inclined to accept the contention advanced on behalf of the appellants in this regard.
27. I shall at the outset take up the respondents' argument that the expression 'refused to act'' refers to a case where no order is passed at all. It is conceded that the existence of an order under Sub-section (2) is a condition precedent to the exercise of power under Sub-section (3). Under Sub-section (3) the Commissioner is required to apply his mind to the order already passed under Sub-section (2). It is difficult to believe that the legislature, having clearly referred to two types of orders passed under Sub-section (2) completely forgot all about themin the sub-section immediately succeeding it and following on its heels, and suddenly presumed a situation where no order of any kind is passed. If, therefore, Sub-section (3) is read with Sub-section (2), the words 'refused to act' should be interpreted to mean refusal to act, as appealing from the order passed under Sub-section (2).
28. This matter is capable of being approached from another angle. The foundation for action by the Commissioner under Sub-section (3) is laid in Sub-section (2). Sub-section (2) shows that there are only two categories of cases in which it is open to an aggrieved party to apply to the Commissioner for action under Sub-section (3). They are :
(1) orders granting permission; and
(2) orders refusing to grant permission. The words 'refused to act' cannot obviously refer to cases under the first category, viz., orders granting permission. They must, therefore, refer, if at all, to cases under the second category, viz., orders refusing to grant permission. Reading Sub-sections (2) and (3) together, it therefore, follows that the phrase 'refused to act' must necessarily refer to an order refusing to grant permission, and not to a case where no order whatsoever is passed.
29. Further, both Sub-sections (2) as well as (3) refer, to the application for revision. Where permission is refused to the landlord, his application for revision would invariably contain a prayer for the grant of such permission. If refusal to act is read in the light of this prayer in the revision application, it can only mean a refusal to grant the prayer in the revision application, viz., a refusal to giant permission.
30. The same conclusion follows also if Sub-sections (1) and (3) are read together. Sub-section (1) relates to the application by the landlord which would contain a prayer for grant of permission to sue. Refusal to act on the application is nothing but a refusal to accede to the prayer in the said application. In other words, it would mean or refer to an order refusing to grant permission. If, therefore, Sub-section (3) is read in the light of Sub-sections (1) and (2) the irresistible conclusion to which one is driven is that the words 'refused to act' refer to a case where an order refusing to grant permission has been passed and not to a case where no order whatsoever is passed.
31. This point may be elaborated by the application of Sub-sections (1), (2) and (3) to the specific application of the landlord in the present case and tracing the various stages it has actually gone through. The three stages through which the present application passed are specified as follows :
First Stage :-- Sub-section (1) -- Present application given by the landlord with a prayer for grant of permission to sue.
Second Stage :--Sub-section (2) -- Revision application before the Commissioner against the order of the District Magistrate refusing to act on the prayer for the grant of permission i.e. refusing to grant the permission, the revision, application itself, again containing the prayer for grant of such permission.
Third Stage:--Sub-section (3) -- Interference by the Commissioner, with the order under Sub-section (2) on the ground that the District Magistrate had wrongly refused to act on the prayer for grant of permission sought for in the initial application under Sub-section (1) as well as in the revision application under Sub-section (2) i.e. had wrongly refused to accede to the prayer for grant of permission, or, in other words, had wrongly refused to grant permission.
32. It will, therefore, be seen that all the three sub-sections, namely, (1), (2) and (3) represent three stages of one continuous proceedings. Every subsequent stage presumes the existence of circumstances specified in the preceding sub-section. Thus the existence of an application for permission under Sub-section (1) is a condition precedent to a passing of the order by the District Magistrate under Sub-section (2). Similarly, the existence of an order by the District Magistrate under Sub-section (2) is a condition precedent to the interference by the Commissioner under Sub-section (3).
Under Sub-section (3), one of the grounds for interference with, the order of the District Magistrate is the refusal on the part of the District Magistrate to act. This refusal to act must, therefore, appear from the order filed before the Commissioner. This order in its turn will relate to the applications under Sections (1) and (2) both of which would contain a prayer for grant of permission. Hence the words 'refused to act' under Sub-section (3) should be interpreted to mean and include an order refusing to grant the permission.
33. No doubt the expression used by the draftsman namely 'refused to act' is not a happy one. It is a clumsy manner of expressing the meaning sought to be conveyed by the Legislature. It has, however, got to be remembered that the draftsman was dealing with a foreign language. If be failed to clearly convey the intention of the Legislature through these words, it is still open to the Court to make an attempt to give effect to it --in fact, in such a predicament it is the Court's duty to do it -- even if this task involves some straining of language, provided of course that such an achievement is within the bounds of reasonable possibility and is not altogether unwarranted by the context. As I have already pointed out, the context in the present case lends full support to this step.
34. There is also no doubt that the interpretation accepted is the result of some mental effort involved in piecing together three sub-sections numbered separately, and in trying to realise the close causal connection between the expression 'refused to act' in Sub-section (3) on the one hand and the applications referred to in Sub-sections (1) and (2) on the other. The Court, however, should not mind it at all, considering that the only alternative to this course is to hold that the expression in question is nothing but a meaningless piece of non-sensical absurdity and senseless surplusage -- a result so unfortunate as to be avoided, so far as possible, at all costs by all courts. The method adopted is the only one possible, if the intention of the Legislature is to be effectuated, and the phrase in question is to be saved from obliteration and given a place arid a status within the four walls of the Act.
35. On behalf of the respondents it is not argued that the above interpretation is not a reasonable or a fair one, or that it does not follow from a combined reading of the three sub-sections. All that is argued in reply is that the words 'refused to act' in Sub-section (3) should' be read in an isolated or detached manner completely 'dissociated from their context. If Sub-section (3) is read in this fashion, it is argued on behalf of the respondents that the words 'refused to act' in Sub-section (3) should be construed to refer to a situation in which the District Magistrate passes no order at all, and adopts an attitude of absolute inaction.
It is strongly argued that this would be the natural and plain meaning of the expression 'refused to act' if it is viewed in complete isolation from its context. No doubt if the method of approach suggested on behalf of the respondents is adopted by the Court, the interpretation suggested on their behalf might be acceptable. I, however, find considerable difficulty in pursuading myself to adopt this attitude. Having given my anxious consideration to this matter, I find that this method of approach is open to a number of serious criticisms. I shall now proceed to enumerate and discuss the same.
36. The first objection to this method of approach is that it violates the fundamental principle of interpretation which prohibits cutting out inter-related portions of the same Statute, tearing them from their context and construing them as stripped of their relation to each other or to the whole. The cardinal rule of construction in this regard was laid down by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Darshan Singh v. State of Punjab : 1953CriLJ525 , and is to the effect that 'words and phrases occurring in a statute are to be taken not in an isolated or detached manner dissociated from the context, but are to be read together and construed in the light of the purpose and object of the Act itself.'
Similarly, In Aswini Kumar v. Arbinda Bose : 4SCR1 it is observed that 'all the constituent parts of a statute are to be taken together'. As in the case of an instrument so in the case of an enactment 'every part of it should be brought into action, in order to collect from the whole one uniform and consistent sense.' (P. 29 Broom's Principles of Legal Interpretation 1937 Edn.). The same rule is enunciated at pages 351-353 of the Crawford's treatise on 'The Construction of Statutes' (1940 Edition) thus :
'The words, phrases, clauses, sections, subsections, provisos, saving clauses, in fact, every part of the statute, must be interpreted with reference to the context. This means that the court in construing a statute cannot isolate words or give them their abstract meaning or consider the different parts of the statute separately and independently.'
The footnote at page 352 citing Black, Int. Laws (2nd Edition) p. 242 states :
'When we speak of the 'context', it is not meant merely that different words or clauses in the same sentence must be compared with, each other or successive sentences be read together. But in a wider sense, one section of a statute maystand, as context to another, whether it immediately precedes or follows it or is more widely separated from it, provided it bears upon the same general subject-matter.'
The above rule will apply a fortiori in the present case, because the three sub-sections stand next door to each other as integral parts of the same section. All of them deal with the same subject-matter. In fact, they form different facets of the) same matter. They are so inextricably interwoven in the texture of the revisional power of the Commissioner that it is not possible to separate the one from the other. Any mode of construction that seeks to divorce the one from the other must, therefore, be rejected as defective and unsatisfactory.
37. The second objection to the interpretation suggested on behalf of the respondents is that it results in creating an obvious conflict between Sub-sections (2) and (3). The consequence of accepting the interpretation suggested on behalf of the respondents would be that though according to Sub-section (2) the aggrieved party can apply to the commissioner only if there is an order of the District Magistrate; yet it would be open to the Commissioner to interfere under Sub-section (3) even if there is no such order. In other words, though according to Sub-section (2), existence of an order is a, condition precedent to such a proceeding, yet Sub-section (3) would indicate that it is not so. The situation thus created would be obviously anomalous and embarrassing.
According to the well-known rule of harmonious construction, an interpretation that results in creating conflicts and contradictions in the same Act is to be eschewed and an interpretation that enables the Court to steer clear of inconsistencies and anomalies is to be preferred. The principle underlying this rule of interpretation -- called the Golden Rule by Jervis, C. J. in Mattison v. Hart, (1854) 14 CB 357 -- has been approved by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Raj Krishna v. Binod : 1SCR913 , Babu Lal v. Nandram : 1SCR367 , Siraj-ul-Haq v. S. C. Board of Waqf : 1SCR1287 , Veluswami v. Raja Nainar : AIR1959SC422 .
38. This rule has been summarised at page262 of Crawford's treatise mentioned above in thefollowing words :
'The court should seek to avoid any conflictin the provisions of the statute by endeavouringto harmonise and reconcile every part so that eachshall be effective.'
39. It may be mentioned that the Act in question does not, present a sample, of ideal drafting. This is just the sort of legislation in which the application of the aforementioned principle is most needed at every step to enable the entire Act to function in a smooth and harmonious fashion thereby advancing the purposes which it was intended by its framers to subserve.
40. The third objection to the interpretation suggested on behalf of the respondents is that it imputes surplusage and redundancy to an Act passed by the Legislature. If the expression 'refused to act is interpreted to mean failure to pass anyorder, then they serve no purpose in Sub-section (3), because there being no order, the Commissioner will be helpless to interfere in the matter. It is also a rule of interpretation of statutes that any mode of construction that results in attributing superfluity, surplusage or redundancy to Legislature must be avoided. In this connection the following observations of Patanjali Sastri, C. J. reported in : 4SCR1 , are relevant :
'It is not a sound principle of construction to brush aside words in a statute as being inapposite surplusage, if they can have appropriate application in circumstances conceivably within the contemplation of the statute.'
41. In Ditcher v. Denison, (1858) 11 Moore PC 324 at p. 337, the Judicial Committee stated as follows :
'It is a good general rule in jurisprudence that one who reads a legal document whether public or private, should not be prompt to ascribe --should not, without necessity, or some sound reason, impute to its language tautology or superfluity, and should be rather at the outset inclined to suppose every word intended to have some effect or be of some use.' (Craies on Statute Law, p. 98).
42. In the well-known case of Hyams v. Stuart King, (1908) 2 KB 696, it was stated :
'When the Legislature enacts a particular phrase in a statute the presumption is that, it is saying something which has not been said immediately before. The rule that a meaning should, if possible, be given to every word in the statute implies that, unless there is good reason to the contrary, the words add something which has not been said immediately before.' (Crades -- p. 99).
43. The following statement in Craies on Statute Law, 5th Edn. (1952) at pages 99 to 100 is relevant in this regard :
'In R. v. Berchet, (1688) I Show 108, it was said to be a known rule of interpretation of statutes, that such a sense is to be made up on the whole as that no clause, sentence, or word shall prove superfluous, void, or insignificant, if by any other construction they may all be made useful and pertinent. And in Harcourt v. Fox, (1693) 1 Show, 506 (532), Lord Holt said: 'I think we should be very bold men, when we are entrusted with the interpretation of Acts of Parliament, to reject any words that are sensible in an Act.' This rule has often been acted upon. Thus, in Green v. R., (1876) AC 513, 537, Lord Cairns states, as a reason for differing from the Court below, that 'the learned Judges absolutely, reduce to silence the second part of this sentence and make it altogether inapplicable.' So in Cooper v. Slade, (1858) 6 H. L. C. 746, in the Court below, Bramwell, B. was inclined to treat the proviso at the end of Section 2 of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act, 1954, as mere surplusage; but in his advice to the House of Lords ((1858) 6 HLC 746 at p. 765), he stated that he had altered his opinion as to this, because it appeared that a reasonable construction could be put upon that proviso, and therefore, that construction ought to be adopted, instead of treating this proviso as if it did not exist at allSo in East London Rly. v. Whitechurch, (1874) 7 HL 81, 91, Lord Cairns expressed a strong opinion against treating words in an Act of Parliament as surplusage, if any meaning can be put upon them.'
44. The fourth objection to the interpretation suggested on behalf of the respondents is that if it is accepted, it will result in making this part of the Act meaningless. In fact on behalf of the respondents it is argued that this phrase serves no purpose and has no meaning in law. The cardinal rule of construction in this regard is that the Court should try to make every endeavour to avoid such a consequence, and strain every nerve to bend every word and phrase in the direction pointed by the obvious intendment of the Legislature,
45. In Shiv Bahadur Singh v. State of V. P. : 1954CriLJ1480 , Justice Jagannadhandas observed at page 397, col. 1, as follows :
'It is incumbent on the court to avoid a construction, if reasonably permissible on the language, which would render a part of the statute devoid of any meaning or application'.
46. In Gopalan v. State of Madras : 1950CriLJ1383 , it was observed by Kania C. J. that in the construction of a statute, particularly a Constitution, it is improper to omit any word which has a reasonable and proper place in it or to refrain from giving effect to its meaning (p. 27 headnote c.).
47. In Craies on Statute Law, Fifth Edition, at page 90 it is stated as follows :
'The first business of the Courts is to make sense of the ambiguous language and not to treat it as unmeaning, it being a cardinal rule of construction that a statute is not to be treated as void, however oracular.''
48. In Curtis v. Stovin, (1889) 22 QBD 513, 517, Bowen, L. J. stated as follows :
'The rules for the construction of statutes are very like those which apply to the construction of other documents, especially as regards one crucial rule -- viz., that if possible, the words of an Act of Parliament must be construed so as to give a sensible meaning to them. The words ought to be construed ut res magis valeat quam pereat.'
49. The fifth objection to the interpretation suggested on behalf of the respondents is that it would reduce this part of Sub-section (3) to absurdity, for it would mean that under Sub-section (3), the Commissioner is required to revise the order of the District Magistrate on the ground that the District Magistrate has passed no order at all, although under Sub-section (2) the existence of such an order is itself a necessary condition for the exercise of such a power. It is also a rule of construction that where such is the result of an interpretation, the court should try, if possible, even to modify the language of the words for the purpose of giving it some sense or meaning.
50. In Shamrao v. District Magistrate, Thana : 1952CriLJ1503 , Bose, J. observed as follows :
'....... If one construction will lead to absurdity while another will give effect to what commonsease would show was obviously intended, the construction which would defeat the ends ofthe Act must be rejected even if the same words used in the same section, and even the same sentence, have to be construed differently. Indeed, the law goes so far as to require the Courts sometimes even to modify the grammatical and ordinary sense of the words if by doing so absurdity and inconsistency can be avoided.' (P. 327, Col. 1.)
Later on it is observed that whenever it is possible to spell the meaning contended for out of the words actually used, that meaning ought to be attributed. 'The presumption against absurdity, or the leaning of the Court against a construction which would produce one, is only a branch of the larger rule that a statute, like a deed should be construed in a manner to give it validity rather than invalidity -- ut res magis valeat quam pereat'. (p. 177, Odgers on Construction of Deeds and Statutes (1939) Edn.).
51. The sixth objection to this interpretation is that it results in holding that the Legislature has failed to achieve its avowed purpose. On behalf of the respondents it is suggested that the Legislature probably intended to provide a remedy against a case where the District Magistrate does not pass any order at all, but owing to the inefficiency of draftsmanship, the Legislature failed to achieve its object. It is difficult to accept this suggestion, because in such a case the aggrieved party already possessed a well-known and a formidable remedy, viz., the remedy by way of writ.
In fact the very existence of this remedy provided by the Constitution would serve as a powerful deterrent against the adoption of an attitude of absolute inaction by the District Magistrate and reduce its chances to almost nil. An effective remedy being already in existence, it is difficult to impute to the Legislature an intention to provide a remedy for the removal of a grievance which in fact never existed. In any case, a Court entrusted with the task of interpreting a statute should be loath to hold that the Legislature made a futile attempt to achieve a purposeless purpose. In Income-tax Commr. v. S. Teja Singh : 35ITR408(SC) , it is observed that an interpretation the acceptance of which results in the Court holding that the Legislature has signally failed to achieve its object should, if possible, be avoided.
52. Further, I am disinclined to accept the suggestion that the use of the words 'refused to act' shows that the Legislature contemplated a situation where the District Magistrate adopts an attitude of absolute inaction and passes no order at all. It is difficult to imagine that a responsible public officer like the District Magistrate should, when faced with an application of this nature, refrain from passing any order whatsoever at all. In the usual course one would expect an officer reposed with so much trust and responsibility and invested with such extensive powers under the Act would behave in a normal fashion, and pass some order one way or the other.
The contingency suggested on behalf of the respondents, though possible, is such a remote one as to make it difficult to believe that the Legislature contemplated it at all for the purpose of providing a remedy against it. On the other hand, it is much easier to believe that the Legislature contemplated not this almost non-existent contingency, but a situation which is the usual and the normal one and which is expressly envisaged in the preceding sub-section.
53. This conclusion is strengthened by a reference to Section 7-F of the Act. A perusal of this section shows that there were only two cases in which the Legislature wanted to provide a relief to the aggrieved party from the State, viz., (1) against an order granting permission, and (2) against ail order refusing to grant permission. These two grounds are thus exactly the same as those provided for relief from the Commissioner under Section 3(2) of the Act. If the Legislature intended to provide a relief against the failure of the District Magistrate to pass an order, one would have expected a clause to that effect in Section 7-F also, particularly because Section 7-F prescribes the State as the last and the final authority from which relief can be obtained.
54. A perusal of Sub-section (3) itself indicates that there is inherent evidence in it pointing to the conclusion that the words 'refused to act' contemplates a case where an order is passed and not a case where no order is passed. This inherent evidence is provided by the use of the word! 'wrongly' before the expression 'refused to act'. If the words 'refused to act' are interpreted to mean an attitude of absolute inaction, then it would invariably be a highly objectionable and wrong attitude. The fact that the Commissioner is called upon to apply his mind to the situation, and determine whether it was right or wrong, itself shows that the Legislature contemplated a positive order by the District Magistrate to which the Commissioner could apply his mind. It is only when such an order exists that it would be possible for the Commissioner to determine whether it was a right or a wrong order.
55. Further, Sub-section (3) also provides another inherent evidence indicating that the words 'refused to act'' relate to the prayer for permission to sue contained in the revision application, on which the Commissioner is required to act. In fact, the word 'application' is used in the earlier part of the same sub-section, namely, Sub-section (3). It is, therefore, quite natural to associate the words 'refused to act' with the prayer in the application referred to both under Sub-section (3) as well as under Sub-section (1).
In fact, this application is the basis of the entire activity under Section 3 of the Act. It is, therefore, most natural to associate the phrase 'refused to act' with the prayer in this application which is the foundation of all action under Section 3 and which is referred to in all the three sub-sections viz., (1), (2) and (3). Thus there are indications in Sub-section (3) itself pointing to the conclusion that the words 'refused to act' refer to an order refusing to grant the necessary permission asked for in the application.
56. Further, if the Legislature wanted to provide a remedy against the refusal of the District Magistrate to pass an order, it is difficult to understand as to why instead of using the words 'refused to act' the Legislature did not use the words 'refused to pass an order', or other similarwords as 'failed to pass an order', The fact than the Legislature avoided using such simple and clear words to define the situation itself points strongly to the conclusion that it was not the intention of the Legislature to provide a remedy against a situation in which the District Magistrate failed to pass any order whatsoever.
57. On behalf of the respondents it is suggested that the words 'refused to act' have no purpose as that situation is covered by the earlier part of the sub-section. It can be said in reply that the purpose of using the words might be to emphasise the width of the power of the Commissioner in this regard. The District Magistrate might refuse to grant the application of the applicant in two ways. Firstly, he might pass an express order refusing permission. Secondly, he might not pass an express order refusing permission, but might pass an order which virtually has the same effect.
Thus, he might pass an order to the effect that he had no time to attend to the matter and, therefore, he would not proceed with the application. In such a case the District Magistrate has not expressly refused to grant permission. He has, however, passed an order which has the virtual effect of shelving the application. Cases where permission to eject the tenant is sought by the landlord are usually cases of dire necessity or extreme urgency.
An order of this nature would certainly have the effect of indefinitely protracting the proceedings. The Act itself shows that the Legislature was also conscious of the fact that time factor in such cases is a matter of prime importance. This would be evident from the fact that the limitation prescribed for filing a revision before the Commissioner is only 30 days, and further, the Commissioner is enjoined to dispose of the application as far as possible within six weeks from the date of the action taken by the aggrieved party.
An indefinite order of this nature, therefore, would have the result of practically defeating the whole purpose of the application. Such an order, therefore, though not an express order of refusal, would be tantamount to an order of refusal. It is, therefore, possible that the intention of the Legislature in using the expression 'refused to act' was not to circumscribe the power of the Commissioner as is suggested on behalf of the respondents but, on the other hand, to enlarge his power as is suggested on behalf of the appellants.
58. Another objection raised on behalf of the respondents to the above interpretation is that it would result in creating an arbitrary distinction between a case where a landlord's application is refused and a case where a landlord's application is granted. It is suggested that in a case where landlord's application is granted, it will be open to the tenant to challenge the order only on the ground of illegality or material irregularity only. On the other hand, if the application of the landlord is refused, it will be open to the landlord to challenge the order not only on the ground of illegality or material irregularity, but also on the ground of wrong refusal by the District Magistrate.
This objection loses much of its force, if the wide interpretation of the phrase 'material irregularity', which is accepted by me, is adopted, for, according to the said view the ambit of power of the Commissioner to interfere under ground No. 2 would be similar to that under ground No. 3. Even supposing, however, for a moment that it is held that there is a difference between the area covered by the two grounds, and a distinction is created between the two cases, such a distinction cannot, in my opinion, be characterised as either arbitrary or unreasonable. The reason, for it is obvious.
So far as the landlord is concerned, he has a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution to hold and to enjoy property in any . fashion that he likes. His fundamental right in this regard can only be cut down by reasonable restrictions. If the restrictions imposed on the fundamental right are not reasonable, then the fate of the whole Act might be imperilled, as it might be open to attack on the ground that it was unconstitutional and contravened Article 19 of the Constitution. The distinction in question, therefore, might have been made for the purpose of saving the validity of the Act. This point will be again adverted to in a subsequent portion of my judgment.
59. In this connection it might be noted that under the Act, as it was originally passed in 1947, the District Magistrate's order was intended to be final. Probably after the coming into force of the Constitution, the Legislature realised that orders under this section virtually affected the fundamental rights possessed by the landlords. It might be considered to be unreasonable to place these fundamental rights at the mercy of a single executive officer uncontrolled and unchecked by any higher authority. This consideration would therefore, provide another reason for interpreting the ground mentioned in Sub-section (3) as widely as possible.
The wider the meaning that is ascribed to these grounds, the stronger will be the case for the constitutionality of the entire enactment. For this reason, the Legislature, might have enacted the Amendment Act, 1952, namely, the U. P. (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction (Amendment) Act, 1952, (U. P. Act No. 24 of 1952), taking away finality from the orders of the District Magistrate, and making his orders open to revision by no less than two higher authorities viz., the Commissioner and the State.
60. On behalf of the respondents learned counsel also invited our attention to the provisions of the U. P. (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction (Amendment) Act, 1954, (U. P. Act No. 17 of 1954), for the purpose of showing that the Legislature subsequently changed the phraseology of Sub-section (3) with a view to enlarge the power possessed by the Commissioner. His argument was that the changes brought about by the Legislature by the Amendment Act of 1954, showed that the Legislature realised that the powers conferred on the Commissioner by the Amendment Act of 1952 were restricted and limited. I am, however, not impressed by the argument, Fromthe mere fact that the Legislature amended the relevant provisions of the Act subsequently, it does not necessarily follow that the aim of the Legislature was to modify the law in that regard. The Amendment Act might have been made not for the purpose of bringing about modification of the law, but for the purpose of clarification of the same.
61. Lastly, on behalf of the respondents reliance was placed on an unreported decision of this Court in Special Appeal No. 80 of 1955, Ram Swarup v. Behari Lal, and another Bench decision reported in 1958 All LJ 57, Joti Prasad v. Dau Dayal. No doubt there are certain observations in these two cases which might support the respondents. The arguments, however, that have been urged in this case before us were not advanced in those cases at all. Moreover, the meaning and import of the phrase 'refused to act' embodied in ground No. 3 was never canvassed in any of those cases. Under the circumstances, the aspects of the matter to which I have adverted did not arise for consideration in any of those cases.
62. I shall now pass on to consider the alternative argument that is also advanced in favour of the respondents on this aspect of the case. It is contended that in the present case it is possible to ascribe a clear meaning to the expression 'refused to act'. It is argued that the expression 'refused to act' refers to an order of the District Magistrate rejecting the landlord's application to file a suit without considering it on merits or applying his mind to the same. The instance cited in support of this argument is of an order passed by the District Magistrate rejecting the landlord's application on the ground that he had decided not to allow any such application for the next two years.
Before, however, proceeding to examine the merit of this contention, it may be noted at the very outset that this contention is completely contradictory to the earlier contention on the same point, viz., that the expression in question is meaningless or superfluous. Though there is no bar in Jaw preventing two contradictory contentions being advanced in support of the same position, yet where such contentions relate to the meaning or interpretation to be put on a particular provision of law, they obviously appear to be mutually destructive of each other.
63. An examination of this argument on merits however, discloses that it goes rather to support the appellant's case than the respondent's. This argument concedes the major point in this case in favour of the appellant, viz., that the expression 'refused to act' includes an order refusing to grant an application. It also concedes the further important point that the intention of the Legislature in inserting the third ground was to provide, a relief against an order of the District Magistrate refusing to grant the application.
These concessions reduce the difference to a very narrow margin. In fact, the only point of difference that is left is whether the refusal to act covers only an order passed regardless of merits or also an order passed on merits. On behalf of the appellants, it is argued that it includes both, whereas on behalf of the respondent, it is argued that it includes only an order passed regardless of merits but not an order passed on merits. It will have to be further conceded that there is nothing express in the provisions of the Act to warrant this distinction.
On the other hand, the use of the qualifying adverb 'wrongly' before the expression 'refused to act' points to the conclusion that the order passed on merits was also intended to be included, for the question whether the order is right or wrong can normally arise only in cases where the order is passed on merits. An order passed regardless of merits would obviously be a wrong order invariably. It is only when the order is passed on merits that the Commissioner would be called upon to apply his mind to the merits, and adjudicate whether it is right or wrong. Thus there is clear indication in the section itself to show that an order passed on merits was also sought to be included under this head.
64. The only ground that is suggested in support of this distinction is that such an interpretation would create discrimination between the two classes, viz., landlord and tenant. So far as Article 14 of the Constitution is concerned, there can be no question of discrimination, because the question could only arise if both of them belonged to the same class. What Article 14 prohibits is not reasonable classification into different classes, but unreasonable class discrimination in the same class, vide Sakhawat Ali v. The State of Orissa : 1SCR1004 , Kedar Nath Bajoria v. State of West Bengal : 1953CriLJ1621 and Lachman Das Kewalram v. State of Bombay : 1952CriLJ1167 .
On the same principle in State of Orissa v. Mt. Kamla Debi : AIR1953Ori170 , a discrimination between proprietors and tenants was held to be reasonable, and it was observed that 'this discrimination between one class of raiyats on the one hand and proprietors and tenure-holders on the other is based on the fundamental difference in the nature of rights in land of those classes', (p. 178). Moreover, such a distinction would be reasonable, because, as already observed earlier, so far as the landlord is concerned, his application involves a curtailment of his fundamental right to hold and enjoy his property under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. No such considerations apply in the case of tenants.
65. Further, it is argued that this interpretation would not be justified by the policy of the Act which was to prevent the eviction of tenants. Before, however, the policy of the Act can be given effect to, the Act itself has got to be saved. If the Act is swept away by the Constitution then the policy of the Act itself will be frustrated. Hence adequate provision safeguarding the rights of the owners of property by the imposition of only reasonable restrictions on the fundamental right of ownership was a condition precedent to the implementation of that policy, and Section 3 of the Act was obviously introduced to protect the landlords and to impart constitutionality to this Act. The adequate protection of the interests of the landlord must, therefore, be considered to be a part and parcel of the same scheme or policy which was formulated to protect the tenants.
66. Moreover, in the present case, we are concerned with the interpretation of a part of Section 3 of the Act, and this specific section was obviously introduced for the benefit of the landlord and not of the tenant; and if the policy is taken to be the guide, then the specific policy of the particular section sought to be interpreted is more relevant than the general policy of the Act. In any case, as already pointed out by me above, there being inherent indications in the section itself pointing to the conclusion that an order rejecting an application on merits is covered by this ground, the general policy of the Act cannot be utilised to override an obvious interpretation suggested by the provisions of the specific section itself, nor can it be a justifiable ground for throwing overboard the apparent meaning clearly borne out by the phraseology of the section, sought to be interpreted.
67. Two other considerations which have already been adverted to earlier while dealing with the initial contention also go to support the appellant's case on this aspect of the matter. The first is that in the case of an order which is not on merits and is on the face of it vitiated by non-application of mind by the District Magistrate, the Constitutional remedy of writ already existed. Under the circumstances, it is more reasonable to presume that the Legislature intended to provide a remedy for a grievance in respect of which there was no remedy in existence than a remedy for a grievance in respect of which there was already an effective remedy in existence.
68. The second consideration is that it is difficult to imagine cases where a responsible officer like the District Magistrate would pass en arbitrary order of this nature without applying his mind at all. In fact the very existence of a patent remedy like writ would deter him from passing such orders. In any case, instances where such orders are passed must be very very rare and are hardly conceivable in the exercise of the normal or usual performance of official duties. On the other hand, the other class of cases, viz., cases where the District Magistrate passes orders wrong on merits would be the normal or the usual class of cases. It is again, therefore more reasonable to hold that the Legislature had in mind the usual and the existent type of erroneous orders than the highly unusual and hardly existent type of erroneous orders.
69. Certain criticisms raised on behalf of the respondents may now be dealt with. On behalf of the respondents it is argued that the use of the word 'if' before the specification of three grounds shows that the power of the Commissioner is limited by three conditions. There is no doubt that this is so. The real question in the present case, however, is not whether the power of the Commissioner is limited or unlimited, but as to what is the extent of the limits prescribed. Some limits had to be prescribed to prevent the Commissioner from acting in an absolutely arbitrary fashion and to make his order conform to grounds covered by reason, justice and propriety.
The only difference between the rival contentions advanced on behalf of the appellants and the respondents is that whereas according to thelatter the limitation is very strict, according to the former it is not so. It may be noted in this connection that the use of the word 'if' is continued even after the position is clarified and the wider interpretation contended for on behalf of the appellants recognised by the Amendment Act (Act XVIII of 1954).
70. It is also argued that if the intention of the Legislature was to vest the Commissioner with such wide powers, it would have provided for an appeal against the decision of the District Magistrate. This argument is also answered by a reference to the Amendment Act (Act XVII of 1954) where, even after the extended power is given to the Commissioner, the Legislature still chose to describe the power as a revisory and not an appellate one.
It may be that the draftsman preferred to describe the remedy as a revision and not an appeal with a view to emphasise the width of discretionary powers conferred on the Commissioner in this regard. Whether this be so or not, the fact remains that the Amendment Act of 1954 shows that the Legislature did not attach any importance to the nomenclature of the relief. The answer to the question in the present case, therefore, will depend not on the choice of the term used to describe by the relief, but on the interpretation of the actual clauses vesting power in the revisional authority.
71. It is also argued in this connection that the effect of construing the third ground in a wider sense would be to wipe off the effect of the first two phrases by converting a limited power into an un-limited power. It seems to me that the three phrases were used, because each of them represent the three well-recognised heads under which the multifarious grounds of interference are generally grouped in law viz.,
1st, that the decision is illegal, i.e. against law;
2nd, that the decision is irregular, i.e. against procedure; and
3rd, that the decision is erroneous i.e., against evidence or, in other words, wrong on merits.
72. The intention obviously appears to be to emphasise the width of the Commissioner's power by exhausting the entire range of all the three broad categories known to law, under which the power of interference is exercisable by the higher authorities. The three grounds may sometimes, overlap, but they certainly do not contradict each other. Nor can it be justifiably said that the third ground gives an unlimited power of interference. All that can be said is that under the third ground there is a greater scope for the exercise of discretion than in others, but even under that head, it cannot be said that the discretion is an unfettered one.
Thus it would not be open to the Commissioner to interfere with the order of the District Magistrate on the ground that he did not like the face of a particular landlord, or that the grant of his application was against his political views, or his residence in a particular area would be inauspicious or that he was advised by some friend or ordered by some superior to reject his application, or that he had taken a vow not to allow any such application for thenext two years, or that he had decided to allow and reject such applications alternately, and so on. It cannot, therefore, be said that the addition of the third ground results in giving an unlettered or unlimited power to the Commissioner.
73. In this connection again it is important to note that even after the Legislature brought in the amendment by the Amending Act of 1954 giving effect to the wider interpretation, clarifying the position and entitling the Commissioner to interfere on merits, it still retained the two previous grounds, viz., illegality or irregularity in the order of the District Magistrate, The mere use of the word 'if', or the existence of other grounds, therefore, cannot be considered to be clinching factors in the present case.
74. Lastly, it is suggested that the Legislature intended to attach more importance to the District Magistrate's views as he had local knowledge. A most effective answer to this suggestion is, however, again provided by the Amendment Act of 1954 which shows that the Legislature had no such intention as the said Amendment Act accepted the position contended for on behalf of the appellant and finally clarified the situation.
75. Once it is accepted that the expression 'refused to act' in Sub-section (3) of Section 3 should be interpreted to include an order of refusal to grant permission passed on merits, the Commissioner's order in the present case must be held to be justifiable on ground No. 3 also. This interpretation would leave the door wide open for the Commissioner to entitle him to interfere with the order and would itself show that the impugned order of the District Magistrate was, in his opinion, wrong on merits.
In this situation, it was rightly conceded on behalf of the respondents that if the above interpretation was accepted, the Commissioner's order could not be assailed on the ground that he had no power to interfere. I am, therefore, of opinion that the order of the Commissioner in the present case must be upheld on the basis of ground No. 2 and, in any ease, on ground No. 3. From whichever angle the question in issue before us is approached, I feel constrained to hold that the Commissioner's order setting aside the order of the District Magistrate in the present case was a good and valid order and must be sustained.
76. Learned counsel for the respondent advanced another argument before us. He argued that, even assuming for a moment that the Commissioner had power to interfere in the matter, he had no jurisdiction to grant the necessary permission to the landlord. All that he could do was to set aside the order of the District Magistrate refusing to grant permission. In this connection, he invited our attention to the provisions of Sub-section (3) of Section 3 and argued that under it, the Commissioner could only 'confirm or set aside the order of the District Magistrate'.
He had no power to go further, and substitute in its place his own order granting permission. On the other hand, on behalf of the appellants it was argued that such a power is conferred on the Commissioner under Sub-section (2) of Section 3, which empowers the Commissioner to 'revise the order'. Learned counsel for the respondents in reply to thisargument reiterated his previous contention, namely, that both these sub-sections should be construed independently of each other. I have already given my reasons for rejecting this mode of approach to the matter, and have observed in the earlier portion of this judgment that it would not be justifiable to construe Sub-sections (2) and (3) independently.
Under the circumstances, it is not necessary for me to repeat the same at this stage. No doubt the matter could have been easily clarified by the Legislature by the addition of only a few words. The Act, however, is, as already indicated, replete with instances of careless and defective drafting, and this merely adds to their number. The intention of the Legislature is, however, clear, and is in my opinion, capable of being effectuated in spite of such lapses on the part of the draftsman.
77. Sub-section (2) clearly confers on the Commissioner, who is the higher authority, the power to 'revise the order' of the District Magistrate, who is the lower authority. I have already held in the earlier portion of this judgment that, bearing in mind the setting and the context word 'revise' in Sub-section (2) should be construed in a wide sense so as to clothe the Commissioner with extensive powers to correct errors and mistakes made by the District Magistrate.
78. Under Sub-section (3) the Commissioner is admittedly given the power to wipe out completely the order of the District Magistrate by setting it aside. Where the order of the District Magistrate is set aside his order having disappeared altogether, the position can only be rectified by the Commissioner by passing a fresh order in its place. Once, therefore, the Commissioner was satisfied that the District Magistrate had acted wrongly in refusing the permission, he had power to correct the mistake committed by the inferior authority by passing the correct order. In other words, in the present context the power to correct the wrong order must necessarily carry with it the power to pass the correct order in place of the wrong order.
79. Further, the intention behind the U. P. (Temporary) Control of Rent and Eviction (Amendment) Act, 1952, appears to be to create a hierarchy of authorities, the higher one being able to revise the order of the lower one. Section 2(d) of the Act empowers the District Magistrate to delegate his powers to perform any of his functions to any officer. The result of the acceptance of the arguments on behalf of the respondents would be that, even though an officer subordinate to the District Magistrate would be competent to grant permission, an officer higher than the District Magistrate would be debarred from doing it. It is difficult to impute unreasonableness to the Legislature in this regard.
80. It is to be noted that the Commissioner admittedly has power to confirm the order of the District Magistrate granting or refusing to grant permission. Further, the Commissioner admittedly has power even to nullify altogether the order of the District Magistrate. The Commissioner is certainly a higher authority. He is presumed to be a more capable and experienced officer. Under the circumstances, there appears to be no reason why the Legislature should have thought of depriving the Commissioner of the power of passing the necessary orders himself, where he was of the opinion that the order of the lower authority was wrong.
81. If the contention advanced on behalf of the respondents is accepted, then, where the Commissioner has set aside the order of the District! Magistrate refusing permission, the only remedy open to the landlord in such a Case would be to approach the District Magistrate again, There would, however, be nothing to prevent the District Magistrate from passing the same order of refusal a second time. After this, the landlord would go up again in revision to the Commissioner who can only set aside the second order. This procedure would result in a deadlock and end nowhere.
Thus instead of getting relief under the Act, the aggrieved party would be making futile applications alternatively before the Commissioner and the District Magistrate, who would create between themselves a situation of a stalemate. Under the circumstances, the interpretation suggested on behalf of the respondents would result in a situation not conducive to a smooth and effective working of the Act. 'Where alternative constructions are equally open, that alternative is to be chosen which will be consistent with the smooth working of the system which the statute purports to be regulating; and that alternative is to be rejected which will introduce uncertainty, friction or confusion into the working of the system (Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 9th Edn. p. 20).
82. Further, considerations of convenience are not irrelevant in the matter of interpretation of statutes, and, where a choice is open to the Court, there is every reason for it to prefer an interpretation that is in accord with convenience and reason rather than the one that runs counter to them. (Vide Craies on Statute Law '5th Edn.' at page 85). It would further be unreasonable to hold that the legislature while creating a higher authority for revision, simultaneously intended to create a loophole for the lower authority to thus flout the orders of the higher authority with impunity. It is difficult to hold that the Legislature intended to set its seal of approval to proceedings so futile if not farcical. The following passage from the judgment in International Railway Company v. United States, (238 Fed 317) quoted at page 290 of the aforementioned book by Crawford is relevant in this connection:
'There are fewer surer tests in statutory construction than to observe whether the interpretation contended for exposes the statute itself to ridicule'.
83-84. The position becomes worse when it is remembered that the aggrieved party in this situation might not even be able to get any relief from the State. The provisions of Sub-section (4) of Section 3 indicate that the Legislature contemplated that the Commissioner should be normal channel through whom the orders in proceedings under Section 3 should pass before being brought to the notice of the State Government under Section 7-F of the Act. It may be noted that Section 7-F of the Act shows that the State can only grant relief in a case where an order granting or refusing to grant permission exists.
Where the order of the District Magistrate is set aside by the Commissioner, the order itself is swept away at the intermediate stage, with the result thatthere is no existing order either granting refusing to grant permission, or any order of any kind, to enable the State to give any relief under Section 7-F of the Act. It is significant to note in this connection that Sub-section (4) of Section 3 provides that the order of the Commissioner shall, subject to any order passed by the State Government under Section 7-F, be final.
It is, therefore, obvious that between the two executive authorities who deal with the application (viz. the District Magistrate and the Commissioner), the Legislature intended that the order of the latter (i.e. the Commissioner), should be final. Vis-a-vis the District Magistrate, the intention of the Legislature, therefore, appears to be to attach finality to the order of the Commissioner. Sub-section (4), therefore, indicates that the Legislature did not contemplate that, after the Commissioner had determined the matter, the case should go back to the District Magistrate for a re-determination by him. Such a procedure would obviously interfere with the finality of the orders passed by the Commissioner.
85. The learned counsel for the respondents also argued that the power of the Commissioner being a statutory one, could only be conferred expressly. He strongly contended that statutory powers could only be conferred expressly, and not by implication. I am, however, unable to endorse the proposition of law propounded by him. The principle governing such cases has been clearly expounded at pp. 19-20 of Vol. 3 of Sunterland's Statutory Construction (3rd Edn.) thus:
'Where a statute confers powers or duties in general terms, all powers and duties incidental and necessary to make such legislation effective are included by implication. Thus it has been stated, 'An express statutory grant of power' or the imposition of a definite duty carries with it by implication, in the absence of a limitation, authority to employ all the means that are usually employed and that are necessary to the exercise of the power of the performance of the duty ..... That which is clearly implied is as much, a part of a law as that which is expressed. The reason behind the rule is to be found in the fact that legislation is enacted to establish broad or general standards. Matters of minor detail are frequently omitted from legislative enactments, and if these could not be supplied by implication the drafting of legislation would be an interminable process and the true intent of the legislature likely to be defeated'.
The same principle is stated at page 360 in Maxwell's Interpretation of Statutes (9th Edn.) as follows:
'Where an Act confers a jurisdiction, it impliedly also grants the power of doing all such acts, or employing such means, as are essentially necessary to its execution. Cui jurisdictio data est ea quoque concessa esse videntur, sine quibus jurisdictio explicari non potest'.
86. It is significant to note that, in the present case, the conferment of power to grant permission even on the District Magistrate is, in fact, not express. Reference in this connection might also be made to a Bench decision of this Court reported in Ghanshyamdas Bhagat v. Gulab Chand : AIR1952All624 in which it was heldthat the powers might be conferred upon on authority by a statute either expressly or by necessary implication. In this case, it was further held that in this Act the power of the District Magistrate to grant permission was itself conferred by implication.
87. The view taken by me above is in consonance with the view taken by Upadhya J. in a case reported in Dwarka Prasad v. Mahammad Zahur, 1958 All LJ 297. The learned Judge in this case has clearly held that the power of revision to the Commissioner implies a power in the Commissioner to substitute his own order for the order passed by the District Magistrate. Where, therefore, the District Magistrate has refused to grant permission, the Commissioner does not act ultra vires in granting the necessary permission to the plaintiff. The reasoning given by the learned Judge is on lines parallel to that adopted by me above. I find myself in complete accord with the said reasoning and the conclusion arrived at by the learned Judge in the said case.
88. To sum up, the interpretation suggested on behalf of the appellants is in accord with rule of harmonious construction. It avoids conflict. It reconciles the various portions of the Act and makes them consistent. It saves the Act from charges o surplusage, meaninglessness and absurdity. It effectuates the purposes of the Legislature and is conducive to the smooth and efficient working of the machinary set into motion under the Act. On the other hand, the interpretation suggested on behalf of the respondents violates fundamental principles of construction.
It results in conflicts between successive sub-sections of the Act and) creates confusion, uncertainty and friction in the running of the system devised by the Act. It nullifies the intention of the Legislature and defeats its avowed purposes. The effect of the multifarious considerations that arise in the matter and are referred to by me above is to lead me to the irresistable conclusion that in the present case the order of the Commissioner setting aside the order of the District Magistrate and granting permission to the landlord to file a suit for eviction is a valid one and should be upheld and maintained.
89. The net result of the conclusions arrived at by me is that I would allow this appeal, set aside the judgment of the learned Single Judge, and decree the plaintiffs suit for ejectment with costs throughout.
90. The facts of this case have been stated in the judgment of my learned brother Beg which I have had the privilege to read. I shall confine myself, to the question of law which involves an interpretation of Section 3(2) of the U. P. Control of Rent and Eviction Act, as it stood at the time.
91. Sub-section (2) was added by the Uttar Pradesh (Asthai) Control of Rent and Eviction (Sanshodhan) Adhiniyam, 1952. The Legislature evidently wanted to create an authority which could revise the order of the District Magistrate granting or refusing permission to file a suit for eviction. It is equally evident that there was no intention to give the Commissioner an unlimited power to interfere with the discretion of the District Magistrate. If that had been the intention, it would have beenenough to provide an appeal against the decision of the District Magistrate or to say that the Commissioner could interfere if he considered the decision of the District Magistrate to be wrong.
But the power of interference has been made subject to three 'ifs' -- namely (1) if the Commissioner is satisfied that the District Magistrate has acted illegally, (2) or with material irregularity or (3) has wrongly refused to act. The words 'acted illegally'' or 'with material irregularity' appeared to have been copied from Section 115 C. P. C. with this difference that the words 'in the exercise of its jurisdiction' have been omitted. I shall consider presently whether this omission has any significance.
The words 'wrongly refused to act' are a paraphrase of Clause (b) of Section 115 which deals with failure to exercise jurisdiction. They may also have been picked from the law governing the issue of a writ of mandamus (the Constitution was a year and a half old when the amending Act was passed and the legal world in India, including the Legislative Department of the State of Uttar Pradesh, was very much writ-conscious).
92. The use of these three well-known legal phrases, -- 'illegally', 'material irregularity' and 'wrongfully refused to act' -- makes it clear that the draftsman had in mind a limited power of interference. It would be inconsistent to assume that the legislature included the first two phrases, and then proceeded to wipe out their limiting effect by conferring virtually unlimited power of interference. I am inclined to the view that, these three 'ifs' suggest that the intention was to confer upon the Commissioner limited powers of revision, and the limit is to be ascertained from these phrases.
93. Controversy has centred round two phrases -- (1) 'to revise the order' and (2) 'has acted illegally or with material irregularity or wrongly refused to act'. Was the power of the Commissioner 'to revise' the order of the District Magistrate limited to the confirmation or the setting aside of that order or did it enable him to correct and, if necessary, improve upon the decision of the District Magistrate? This is the first question. Next could the' Commissioner interfere only when the District Magistrate had refused to entertain or hear on merits the landlord's application, or could he also revise an order which, after hearing the parties on merits, refused permission, to file a suit for ejectment. In other words, what is the meaning of the phrase 'acted illegally or with material irregularity or wrongly refused to act'? This is the second question.
94. On the first point I see nothing in the section or the Act to justify a narrow moaning of the words 'to revise the order'. The party aggrieved by the order of the District Magistrate had been given the right to ask the Commissioner 'to revise' the order. There is no reason to cut down the extent and value of this right, and the Court must hold that the party aggrieved had the right to get the order revised by the Commissioner, nothing less.
Counsel for the respondent argued that the words 'to revise the order' are controlled by the words 'may confirm or set aside the order' in Sub-section (3) and that the revisional power was limitedto the confirmation or setting aside of the order. I do not agree. The power to set aside or confirm is mentioned as included in the general power to revise the order and is not intended to be in derogation of this power. To hold otherwise would mean condemning a useful and effective remedy to a farce.
95. The second question involves the scope and meaning of the words 'acted illegally or with material irregularity or has wrongfully refused to act'. The justification for the Commissioner's interference must be found in this phrase.
96. Learned counsel for the respondent argued that material irregularity must be given the same meaning as under Section 115, C. P. C. On the other hand, counsel for the appellant contended that the vital phrase 'in the exercise of its jurisdiction' which is included in Section 115, C. P. C., is missing in this sub-section and that this omission makes all the difference. Reliance was placed on a few observations of Brij Mohan Lal, J. in 1955 All LJ 498, in which the learned Judge took the view that the absence of the words 'in the exercise of its jurisdiction' in Sub-section (3) meant that the Commissioner's power of interference was wider than the revisional power of the civil court under Section 115, C. P. C. The learned Judge observed,
'The Commissioner can interfere if he thinks that there was material irregularity in the exercise of the discretion by the District Magistrate or the Rent Control and Eviction Officer although there was no defect in the exercise of jurisdiction, (p. 499, col. 2).
97. With deep respect, I do not think that the presence or the absence of the words 'in the exercise of jurisdiction' makes much difference. The important words in Section 115, C. P. C. are 'acted ..... illegally or with material irregularity,' and both these have been included in the sub-section under consideration. The word 'acted' is vital. A court or tribunal does not act illegally or with material irregularity when it decides a question on merits. On the contrary, it acts according to law though its view may be erroneous. Examples of acting illegally or with material irregularity are to decide a case in the absence of a necessary party or to dismiss summarily an application of a person to be made a party. Umed Mal v. Chand Mal, 53 Ind App 271 : AIR 1926 PC 142; Atma Ram v. Beni Prasad 0049/1935 . But if the court correctly follows the procedure established by law and gives a fair hearing to both sides and does not act capriciously or in wilful or flagrant disregard of any rule of law or procedure (this last condition is the subject of some controversy), it cannot be said to have acted illegally or with material irregularity even if its decision is found to be erroneous.
98. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the intention behind Sub-section (3) was to confer upon the Commissioner a limited power of interference. It is not open to the Court to speculate why the power was so restricted or to enlarge the meaning of the restrictive phrase because it feels that it would have been wiser to give the Commissionervery wide powers of interference. The Court cannot substitute its own wisdom for that of the legislature. It is not unlikely that it was thought that the discretion of the District Magistrate (or his representative), who is the man on the spot, most likely to know the local conditions within his area, should not be disturbed unless he was guilty of having acted illegally or with material irregularity or had wrongfully refused to act at all.
99. It was then argued before us that the words 'wrongly refused to act' should be interpreted to mean 'wrongfully refused to grant permission'. I cannot agree. The words 'wrongfully refused to act' cannot be considered in isolation from the words 'acted illegally or with material irregularity'. I have already indicated that the Commissioner's power of interference has been made subject to three 'ifs'. These have to be taken together and mean that the Commissioner could interfere only if the District Magistrate acted illegally or with material irregularity or refused to act at all.
Refusal to act is a well-known term of art which means a refusal to consider a case on merits. For example, if the District Magistrate passes an order that the application must be rejected because he has decided, as a matter of policy, that no such application should be allowed for the next two years, this would amount to a wrongful refusal to act. The District Magistrate may have passed an order refusing to grant permission but it would be open to the landlord to complain before the Commissioner that his application was not considered on merits, and the District Magistrate refused to exercise his jurisdiction or apply his mind to the merits of the case -- in other words, wrongly refused to act.
100. If the meaning of the words 'wrongly refused to act' is enlarged to include an erroneous rejection of the landlord's application after considering it on merits, this would place the tenant at a disadvantage, for the result would be to give the landlord a right to go to the Commissioner in revision on the ground that permission was wrongfully refused, but would give no such right to the tenant if permission was wrongfully granted. This interpretation must be rejected in view of the fact that the policy of the Act is to safeguard the rights of the tenants and protect them against arbitrary eviction. I see no justification for accepting an interpretation which would make the section discriminatory against the tenant as regards the right, to apply for revision.
101. I do not think that there is any analogy between Sub-section (3) and Rule 6 of the Control of Rent and Eviction Rules. The two provisions deaf with entirely different situations. Rule 6 provides that when an accommodation has fallen vacant or as likely to fall vacant, the District Magistrate may permit the landlord to occupy it if he is satisfied that it is needed by him bona fide for his own personal occupation. Thus the rule applies only to an accommodation in which there is no tenant and there is no conflict between the rival needs of the landlord and the tenant.
No tenant will be prejudiced if the landlord is permitted to occupy a vacant accommodation. But Sub-section (3) of the Act deals with a case where a tenant has to be evicted and the prohibition imposed by the Act has to be lifted after deciding the conflicting claims of the landlord and the tenant. The policy of the Act is two-fold, (1) to restrict the power of landlord to evict the tenant, and (2) to control rent and letting. Rule 6 relates to the second category of control and has nothing to do with the lifting of the prohibition against eviction.
102. It was argued that Sub-section (3) should be liberally interpreted in favour of the landlord as the Act imposes a restriction on his rights of property under the general law which is otherwise all in favour of the landlord, In my opinion the scope of an Act which restricts the right to evict a tenant cannot be estimated from the policy of the law conferring the very rights which it seeks to restrict. The restrictive law has its own policy and the Court must judge its scope in the lights of that policy. In the present day situation of acute shortage of accommodation, it cannot be argued that it was intended to give the landlord a right of revision while refusing it to the tenant.
103. Lastly it was argued that the words 'wrongfully refused to act' should be interpreted according to their ordinary meaning. I have already indicated that the context shows that the intention behind Sub-section (3) is to give the Commissioner limited powers of interference, and the three conditions under which he can interfere have been specified the question of any enquiry into the 'ordinary meaning' of the phrase 'wrongfully refused to act' does not arise.
Moreover the rule of ordinary meaning may not be a safe test today in every case when ascertaining the meaning of words in a statute drafted in the English language by Indian draftsman and passed by a Legislature composed of Indians. It is one thing to talk of the ordinary meaning of English words and phrases in England where everybody's mother tongue is English but quite another matter when enquiring into the ordinary meaning of the same word in a multi-lingual country where English has ceased to be even the official language and has been deprived of the vitality which comes from every day use.
The Court cannot shut its eyes to the decline in the standard in English and in linguistic precision in the use of English words and phrases. It is, however, not necessary for me to dilate on this subject. The problem before this Court is to ascertain the meaning of the phrase 'acted illegally or with material irregularity or has wrongfully refused to act'. I have pointed out that this phrase has a well known connotation of which the draftsman was presumably aware. Its object was to confer upon the Commissioner limited powers of interference.
104. For these reasons I am of the opinion that the Commissioner had no power to interfere with the order of the District Magistrate merely because in his (the Commissioner's) opinion permission should have been granted when the District Magistrate found that the landlord's need of the accommodation was genuine. The District Magistrate had considered the rival needs of the tenantand the landlord and decided that the former should, prevail. Under the law, as it existed, he had the power to make this decision. He did not act illegally or with material irregularity nor did he wrongfully refused to act. The Commissioner's interference was, therefore, without jurisdiction,
105. I am of the opinion that the judgment of the learned Judge is right and would dismiss this appeal.
106. By the Court: This appeal is dismissed with costs.