1. This application in revision is directed against an order of the Additional District Judge of Cawnpore, refusing to entertain a reference made by the Collector under Section 18, Land Acquisition Act, 1 of 1894, and to give an award on the ground that the Collector had no power to make the reference, and that the District Judge had no jurisdiction to decide the same.
2. Stripped of all unnecessary details, the facts that led to the reference are as follows:
Certain land situated in the civil lines of Cawnpore, was needed for Gur Narain Khattari High School, and a notification to that effect was published in the Official Gazette, in accordance with the provisions of Section 4, Land Acquisition Act. Tha land was covered with buildings which admittedly belonged to the applicants before us. In pursuance of the provisions of Section 9 of the Act, a public notice of thefact that the Government intends to take possession of the land and that claims to compensation for 'all interest in such land' may be made to the Collector was issued on 19th August 1926. The applicants before us, then, filed an application putting forward a claim to the ownership of the site and, in the alternative, claiming to be permanent lessees of the same, and claimed compensation for their interest in the site either as proprietors or as permanent lessees, apart from the compensation, claimed by them for the buildings standing on the same. The Collector hold that the Government was the proprietor of the site and the assertion of the applicants that they were either the proprietors or the permanent lessees of the site was unfounded, and that their poaition was merely that of tenants at will. He accordingly, held that the applicants were only entitled to compensation in rospoct: of the buildings and were not entitled to any compensation with respect to the site. He assessed the value of the buildings at Rs. 48,235, and adding 15 per cent on that amount, on account of compulsory acquisition, awarded to the applicants in all a sum of Rs. 55,470-4-0, as compensation for the buildings. The applicants were dissatisfied with the award. They took exception to the finding of the Collector that the site belonged to to the Government and that their position was that of tenants at will, and claimed that they were entitled to compensation with respect to the site. They also claimed that the compensation awarded for the buildings was inadequate and, accordingly, moved the Collector to make a reference to the District Judge under Section 18 of the Act. No objection was taken before the Collector, that the Collector, in the circumstances mentioned above, was not competent to make a reference, and the Collector referred the matter to the District Judge.
3. On receipt of the reference, the District Judge issued a notice in accordance with Section 20 of the Act and fixed certain issues for trial. The case was then transferred to the file of the Additional District Judge, who recorded the evidence adduced by both the parties and proceeded to hear the arguments. In the course of arguments, an objection was raised on behalf of the opposite party, that the question of title arising between the Government and the applicants could not be the subject of a reference under Section 18 of the Act, and that the Collector had no jurisdiction to make the reference, nor had the Judge jurisdiction to determine and decide the same. The learned Judge gave effect to this contention and held that
the amount of compensation to be awarded to the plaintiffs in this case depends entirely on. the nature of their interest in the land in dispute, but as I cannot decide the nature of their interest, 1 cannot entertain the reference about the amount of compensation also.
4. He accordingly, directed that the record be sent back to the Collector and that 'the plaintiffs should establish their rights in the Civil Court.' The learned Judge in support oE the conclusion arrived at by him, relied on the decision in Imdad Ali Khan v. Collector of Farru-khabad (1885) 7 All. 817, Grown Brewery, Mussoorie v. Collector of Dehra Dun (1897) 19 All. 339 and Mohammad Wajeeh Mirza v. Secy.of State, AIR 1921 Oudh 31. These decisions are authorities for the proposition that the question of title arising between the Government and a claimant cannot be made the subject of a reference under the Land Acquisition Act to the District Judge, and that the District Judge on reference, is not competent to decide the question of title as between the Government and the claimant. The two reported decisions of this Court noted above were decisions with respect to the true scope of, and the interpretation to be put on Section 15 of the former Land Acquisition Act 10 of 1870, but it seems difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish those cases on. this ground from the case before us. In the case of Mohammad Wajeeh Mirza v. Secy. of State, AIR 1921 Oudh 31, the question, whether a question of title between the Government and a claimant can be referred by the Collector to the Court under Section 18 of the present Act, directly arose for consideration, and one of the learned Additional Judicial Commissioners felt no hesitation in answering the question in the negative. The other learned Additional Judicial Commissioner composing the Bench, however 'felt considerable difficulty regarding the question of law involved' and while holding that, once a notice is issued under Section 9, Land Acquisition Act in respect of land of which the Government claims to be the owner, and some person claims proprietary title to or some interest in respect of that land, the Collector is bound to inquire into and decide the question BO raised in proceedings under Section 11 of the Act, affirmed the proposition that a question of title as between the Government and the claimant does not come within the purview of 8. 18 of the Act and cannot therefore be referred to the Court (the District Judge) for decision.
5. The law may or may not have been correctly laid down in the decisions noted above, but there is no doubt that there is considerable divergence of judicial opinion on the point.
6. In the case of the Government of Bombay v. Ksufali Salebhai (1910) 34 Bom. 618, the two decisions of this Court were referred to and were doubted. Further in Mangaldas Girdhar Das Parekh v. Assistant Collector, Ahmedabad A.I.R. 1921 Bom. 325, a view diametrically opposed to the view taken by this Court was adopted. It was pointed out in that case that the Calcutta and Allahabad High Courts have taken a different view of the question, and the desirability of uniformity of judicial opinion on the question of the scope of the inquiry by the Court on a reference under Section 18 of the Act was emphasized. We further find that in the case of the Secretary, Cantonment Committee, BarracJcpore v. Satish Chandra Sen , a disputed question of title to land as between the Government and a claimant was considered at length and decided by their Lordships of the Judicial Committee, without any objection being raised or suggested as to the jurisdiction of the Court to decide such a question on a reference under Section 18 of the Act. Similarly this Court in the case of Ehushal Singh v. Secy. of State A.I.R. All. 394, which arose out of land acquisition proceedings, considered at length and decided the question whether the Government or the claimant in that case was entitled to the 'kankar.' It is true that in neither of the last two mentioned cases the question of jurisdiction was raised or decided, but if objection to the jurisdiction of the Court to determine a disputed question of titje between the Government and a claimant, on a reference under Section 18 of the Act, was as patent as it has been assumed to be by the District Judge in the case before us; we find it difficult to believe that the matter would not have arrested attention, and there would not have been some observations on the point, either by their Lordships of the Judicial Committee or by the learned Judges of this Court who decided the case of Khushal Singh A.I.R. All. 394.
7. The question of law involved in the case is not free from difficulty and is of far reaching importance, and we consider it desirable to refer this case to a larger Benoh. We therefore direct that the ease be put up before the Hon'ble the Acting Chief Justice with request for the constitution of a Eull Bench for the decision of the case.
8. A preliminary objection to the hearing of this application was taken by Dr. Sen, the learned Counsel for the opposite party on the ground that this Court had no jurisdiction to revise the decision of the District Judge under Section 115, Civil P.C. He argued that the Land Acquisition Act is a self-contained Act, containing detailed provisions as regards the procedure to be followed by the Collector and by the Court, and he emphasized the fact though a right of appeal is given by Section 54 of the Act, there is no provision in the Act authorizing this Court to interfere with the decision of the District Judge in the exercise of its revisional jurisdiction. He conceded that there is no authority in support of his argument and that, on the contrary, the authorities are against his contention, and that Section 53 of the Act, furnishes strong argument in favour of the applicants. As we are referring the whole case for decision to a Full Bench, we refrain from deciding the preliminary objection noted above.