1. By this petition and the connected petitions (Misc. Petition No. 41 of 1969 and Misc. Petition No. 42 of 1969) tinder Article 226 of the Constitution, the petitioners have challenged the vires of Madhya Pradesh Scheduled Tribes Debt Relief Regulations, 1962 (hereinafter referred to as the Regulations) and the Madhya Pradesh Anusuchit Jan Jati Rini Sahayata Adhiniyam, 1967 (hereinafter referred to as the Adhiniyam) and prayed for a direction that the order of Debt Relief Court constituted under the enactments and the order in revision by the Collector be quashed.
2. The other petitions (Misc. Peti-tion No. 41 of 1969 (Vallabhdas and 3 Ors. v. Dhanna and 3 Ors.) and Misc. Petition No. 42 of 1969 (Vallabhdas and 3 Ors. v. Navalsingh and 3 Ors.) raise substantially the same points and shall be disposed of by this order.
3. The petitioners who are moneylenders advanced some money to Su-kanya who is admittedly a member of the Scheduled Tribe and is residing in a Scheduled area. The respondent Dhanna is also a member of the tribal community and stood surety for Sukanya. A decree was obtained by the petitioners against the respondents Sukanya and Dhanna for money lent to Sukanya. It seems the decree was not executed immediately and when the petitioners tried to execute it through civil Court. Madhya Pradesh Scheduled Tribes Debt Relief Regulations, 1962 came into force. Under the Regulations, 'debt' was defined to include even liabilities owing to a creditor payable under a decree or order of a Civil Court. By Regulation 5. all proceedings in execution of a decree stood withdrawn and the Court executing the decree issued directions to the petitioners to submit the claim before the Debt Relief Court. The Debt Relief Court exercising powers under Section 6 of the Regulations opened the transactions and determined the amount payable to the petitioners at Rs. 55.15. The order of the Debt Relief Court is dated 31-7-1967. On the date when the order of the Debt Relief Court was made, Madhya Pradesh Anusuchit Jan Jati Rini Sahayata Adhiniyam had already come into force. Therefore, the petitioners preferred a revision before the Collector under Section 22 of the Adhiniyam, which the Collector dismissed.
4. It may be stated that prior to coming into force of the Adhiniyam. Ordinance No. 20 of 1966 entitled the Madhya Pradesh Anusuchit Jan Jati Rini Sahayata Adhyadesh, 1966, containing similar provisions was in force in all the areas of the State. In Scheduled areas of the State, the ordinance came into force on the date on which the Regulations were repealed. The Adhiniyam by its Section 31 repealed the Ordinance after coming into force of the Adhiniyam. The two enactments, namely, the Regulations and the Adhiniyam, were necessitated to protect the Scheduled Tribes from being exploited and for relieving their burden of indebtedness. The State was impelled by the directive principles enshrined in Article 46 of the Constitution of India, The Regulations made by the Governor in exercise of his powers under Article 244 read with Schedule 5 of the Constitution were for Scheduled Tribes in the scheduled areas of the State. The Adhinivam extended to the whole of the Madhya Pradesh and came into force in Scheduled areas on the date on which the Madhya Pradesh Scheduled Tribes Debt Relief Reguations in force therein were repealed and in other areas at once. It is not disputed that the Regulations were repealed by the Governor and the Adhiniyam had come into force on the date when the order of the Debt Relief Court was not passed.
5. The said two enactments are challenged as impinging rights of the petitioners to hold property and carry on business of money-lending under Article 19(1) (f) and (g) of the Constitution. As it would be necessary to go into the purpose for which the enactments were made, we may usefully refer to the statement of objects and reasons of the Act as they give out the need for the legislation. The statement runs thus:--
'Due to the limited resources for earning their livelihood, the members of the Scheduled Tribes have to borrow money to meet their necessities of life. It is observed that taking advantage of the social and economic backwardness of the members of the Scheduled Tribes, the moneylenders lend money to them on exorbitant rates of interest with the result that the original debtor is unable to repay the loan in his lifetime and the over-swelling amount of loan is passed on from generation to generation keeping the families concerned in perpetual bondage of the creditors.
In order to emancipate the members of the Scheduled Tribes from this unfortunate state of affairs and to relieve them of the heavy burden of their debts the Madhya Pradesh Scheduled Tribes Debt Relief Regulations, 1962, were made by the Governor. These Regulations however extend only to the Scheduled areas in the State. As the number of the members of the Scheduled Tribes residing outside the Scheduled areas is also very large, it is necessary to enact a measure which would afford the necessary relief to them both within and without the Scheduled areas in the State,'
The return filed by the State also shows that the earlier enactments, namely the Adhyadesh and the Regulations, were made for similar reasons, 6. Article 15(4) of the Constitution permits that a special provision could be made by the State for the Scheduled Tribes. This is in the nature of an exception to Article 14 and, therefore, the Adhiniyam could not be struck down as being discriminatory. The challenge to the Regulations on the ground of discrimination was already turned down by this Court in Chandmal Mahaian v. State of Madhya Pradesh, 1966 MPLJ 800 = (AIR 1967 Madh Pra 52). The two enactments are now challenged on the ground of their being repugnant to Article 19(1) (f) and (g). An attack on the Regulations as being violative of Article 19(1) (f) and (g) was repelled by the High Court in Chandmal's case (supra). In that case, the validity of the various provisions of the Regulations was examined and it was held that the provisions were for the purpose of 'peace and good Government'. While repelling the contention that the Regulations went beyond the extent of a regulatory measure permitted by the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, it was observed that 'peace and good Government' was a phrase of wide import and the phrase would embrace the purpose sought to be achieved by the Regulations. It was stated:--
'The main purport of Paragraph 5 (2) is the making of regulations for peace and good Government while the subheading which mentions the business of money-lending is only by way of illustration. The phrase 'peace and good Government' is so wide that it can justify a course of action by which certain lines of business are altogether forbidden provided of course it is done on the face of it for the protection of the Scheduled Tribes in the area and for the promotion of their welfare. As they are situated, the tribes are particularly easy victims to what are reputed to be the devices of private money-lenders and at the same time liable to outbursts of temper and violence when they begin to realise that they are being cheated or victimised by exorbitant terms and conditions. In what manner and to what extent this danger should be guarded against is a question of policy; but the measures taken in that regard would certainly come under the purpose of peace and good Government and at the same time the regulation of the carrying on of the business of money-lending.'
Now, if the enactment is found to be for general good and in the interest of the public, the complaint of the petitioners that it violated Article 19(1) (f) and (g) would avail him only if the provisions place unreasonable restrictions on his right to hold the property or carry on business of money-lending.
7. It would be necessary to examine the provisions of the enactments which are wanted out as being unreasonable restriction on the petitioners' right to do the business of money-lending and to infringe his rights in the decree obtained against the respondents. The Schedule First of the Regulations as well as the Adhiniyam restrict the rate of interest payable to the money-lender to 41/2 per cent per annum in case of secured debts and 6 per cent per annum when the debt was unsecured. The provision is wholly regulatory and it cannot be said that this, in any way, places a restriction on the rights of the petitioners to do the business of money-lending. As has been pointed out in Chandmal's case, 1966 MPLJ 800 = (AIR 1967 Madh Pra 52) (supra), the business of money-lending was not banned as such. The petitioners were free to do their money lending with other persons but if they chose to advance money to a member of the tribal community, he would not be able to charge more interest than what is provided in the Schedule. The State certainly has the power to regulate the business of money-lending in the general interest of the public. The Schedule only seeks to limit the rate of interest when advanced to a member of the tribal community and the interest that has been fixed by the Schedule cannot be said to be unreasonable. In any way it was open to the State to fix a rate ' of interest which they thought would save the members of the tribal community from being unduly exploited.
8. The scheme of Section 13 of the Regulations read with Schedule 2 and that of Section 14 of the Adhiniyam read with Schedule two appended to the Act is practically the same. Under Section 13 of the Regulations power is given to the Debt Relief Court to reopen all transactions of 25 years before the last transactions or before the 1st January, 1955 whichever was earlier. Under Section 14 of the Adhiniyam the Debt Relief Court could reopen transactions made 34 years before the last transactions or before 1st January 1964 whichever was earlier. Thereafter under both the enactments, the Court was enjoined first to find out the principal actually advanced to the debtor and the date on which it was originally advanced. Thereafter, interest at the rate provided in the First Schedule was to be calculated on the amount due. The Court then determines the amount of principal, if any which remains unpaid if the calculation of interest had been in the manner stated above. It would be seen that the Court first found out the actual principal and thereafter the principal as determined according to the provisions contained either in Section 13 of the Regulations or 14 of the Adhiniyam. The amount determined thus reopened the actual amount of advance made to the debtor plus the interest at the rate provided in Schedule First, minus the amount actually paid by the debtor. If it was found that any sum had remained unpaid then the principal so determined was scaled down as provided by the Second Schedule. This provision as well as the Second Schedule could not be said to be unreasonable looking to the object sought to be achieved by the Act. In effect, the creditor does not lose his principal and gets back the same without any reduction in most of the cases. The State was trying to deal with the social evil of indebtedness amongst the members of the tribal community. This aspect of the case was considered in Chandmal's case 1966 MPLJ 800 = (AIR 1967 Madh Pra 52) and Bench after having considered the observations of the Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Mukan Chand AIR 1964 SC 1633 observed'--
'The fact that the debts are owed to a Government or local authority or other bodies mentioned in the impugned part of Section 2 (e) has no rational relationship with the object sought to be achieved by the Act, namely to reduce the debts secured on Jagir lands which had been resumed under the provisions of the Rajasthan Land Reforms and Resumption of Jagirs Act. Further no intelligible principle underlies the exempted categories of debts. The reason why a debt advanced on behalf of a person by the Court of Wards is clubbed with a debt due to a State or a scheduled bank and why a debt due to a non-scheduled bank is not excluded from the purview of the Act is not discernible.'
Accordingly, while approving of the Act generally, as being in the interest of general public, the Supreme Court all the same in part agreement with the High Court ruled out the exemption of certain debts. The key to this decision is that the purpose of the legislation was just to scale down the Jagirdars' burden of debt and it was immaterial from this view point to whom the debt was payable. If, therefore, the above purpose of the legislation was advancement of the interest of the tribals, this purpose was amply served by the legislation even without much hardship to the money-lenders themselves. What the moneylenders were deprived of was the excessive interest. In some cases, if the interest exceeded the principal it was provided that the interest awarded would in no case exceed the principal. We have, therefore, no hesitation in saying that the provisions are reasonable restrictions permissible under Article 19 (5) and (6) of the Constitution.
9. It was next contended that Sub-clause (3) of Regulation 1 was liable to be struck down as the Governor in exercise of his powers under Fifth Schedule of the Constitution could not delegate his legislative functions to the State Government. It was pointed out that Sub-clause (3) of Regulation 1 of the Regulations giving power to the State Government to bring into force the Regulations by a notification on a date considered suitable by them was a legislative function and such a notification could only be made at the instance of the Governor. We do not see any force in the contention. Having made the Regulations for the peace and good government in a scheduled area and having provided that they shall extend to all Scheduled Areas in Madhya Pradesh, the date on which the Regulations were to be brought into force could be left to the State Government. For the implementation of the Regulations a machinery had to be provided. A number of Debt Relief Courts and Inspectors were to be appointed. How best the Regulations could be implemented could certainly be left to the State Government. For the administrative reasons it was not thought proper to appoint the date. By paragraph 2 of Fifth Schedule, the executive power of a State would extend to the Scheduled Areas in the State. The implementation of the provisions was, necessarily to be done by the State Government. The delegation of such function cannot, therefore, be said to be bad.
10. Next, it was contended that the provisions of the Regulations could not be affected either by the Ordinance or by the Adhiniyam as the Governor held the exclusive field for the purpose of legislation in the matter of Scheduled Areas. It has however, not been pointed out how either the Adhiniyam or the Ordinance in any manner trenched upon the provisions contained in the Regulations and thereby transgressed the prohibited field of legislation. After the repeal of the Regulations by the Governor, the Adhiniyam provides by Section 3 (b) that all things done and all actions taken under the Regulations in Scheduled Areas shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the relevant provisions of this Act as if those provisions were in force on the date on which such things were done or actions taken. It would be seen that the State was competent to legislate in respect of the Scheduled Areas also in the State. If the Governor felt that certain Acts of the Parliament or of the State Legislature should not apply to a Scheduled Area or in part thereof in the State, the Governor could by notification declare that such Act of the Parliament or the Act of Legislature in respect of the Scheduled Area shall not apply to such Scheduled Area. No such power has been exercised by the Governor in respect of Adhiniyam brought in Force in the Scheduled Areas. The Adhiniyam clearly speaks that the Act shall come into force on the date the Regulations are repealed. The Adhiniyam saves the proceedings under the Regulations and provides that they shall be deemed to have been done or taken under the relevant provisions of the Act. The argument of the learned counsel clearly ignores the fact that the legislature also has the power to legislate in respect of Scheduled Areas in the State. The State was therefore, wholly competent to save things done or actions taken under the Regulations. The Governor undoubtedly has the power under Sub-clause (1) of Paragraph 5 to declare by a notification that this could not be done in respect of the Scheduled Areas. This however (has not been done.
11. In this context, the petitioners allege that the revision before the Collector as provided by the Adhiniyam was, In the circumstances of the case, incompetent. This argument cannot be permitted to be raised as the petitioners themselves preferred the revision before the Collector and having obtained a decision from him now seek to question it. That apart, we are of the opinion that after coming into force of the Adhiniyam it would be the Collector who would hear the revisions against the Debt Relief Court. This is clear from Sub-section (b) of Section 3 of the Adhiniyam. Since the order of the Debt Relief Court would be deemed to have been passed under the Adhiniyam the revision would clearly He to the Collector under Section 22 of the Adhiniyam.
12. The petitioners then urged that the Debt Relief Court erred in coming to a conclusion that only Rs. 55.15 were due from the respondents. The argument now referred to certain factual statements in the calculations with reference to their account-books. The argument is now directed against the assessment of evidence and the factual conclusions arrived at by the Debt Relief Court. It has been pointed out by the Supreme Court in T. C. Basappa v. T. Nagappa, AIR 1954 SC 440 as under :--
'The second essential feature of a writ of certiorari is that the control which is exercised through it over judicial or quasi judicial tribunals or bodies is not in an appellate but supervisory capacity. In granting a writ of certiorari the superior Court does not review or reweigh the evidence upon which the determination of a inferior tribunal purports to be based. It demolishes the order which it considers to be without jurisdiction or palpably erroneous but does not substitute its own views, for those of the inferior tribunal. The offending order or proceeding so to say is put out of the way as one which should not be used to the detriment of any person vide per Lord Cairns in Walsall's Overseers v. L. & N. W. Rly. Co. (1879) 4 AC 30 at P. 39).'
13. It is manifest that in proceedings under Article 226 the High Court does not sit as a Court of Appeal and unless the mistake is obvious and patent it would generally refuse to interfere with the findings arrived at by a Court who had jurisdiction to deal with the matter. In the scheme of the present Act the decision of the Debt Relief Court has been made final subject to its being revised under Section 22 by the Collector on the ground that it is contrary to law or that the Court had exercised jurisdiction not vested in it by law or has failed to exercise jurisdiction vested in it by law or that the instalments fixed under Sub-section (4) of Section 15 were inequitable. It is in the scheme of the Act that the determination of facts should rest finally with the Debt Relief Court-We would, therefore not re-appraise the evidence in the case in detail and we are satisfied that the findings of the Debt Relief Court are generally correct.
14. In the result, we find that there is no substance in the writ petition and the same is dismissed with costs. The balance of the security deposit, if any, shall be refunded to the applicants.