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Chhedilal Agarwal Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtMadhya Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberMisc. Civil Case No. 302 of 1980
Judge
Reported inAIR1984MP94
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 14 and 246(3); Madhya Pradesh Samaj Ke Kamjor Vargon Ke Krishi-Bhumi Dharakon Ka Udhar Dene Walon Ke Bhumi Hadapne Sambandhi Kuchakron Se Paritran Tatha Mukti Adhiniyam, 1977 - Sections 2, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10; Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960
AppellantChhedilal Agarwal
RespondentState of Madhya Pradesh and ors.
Appellant AdvocateY.S. Dharmadhikari, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateS.L. Saxena and ;R.K. Khare, Advs.
DispositionRevision dismissed
Cases ReferredParadip v. Their Workmen
Excerpt:
.....indebtedness by nullifying the land grabbing designs resorted to in many a form by lenders of money while and after extending credit to them and matters connected therewith. further, a person who holds eight hectares of unirrigated land or four hectares of irrigated land but has other professional or business income or is otherwise well to do, cannot take advantage of the protection afforded by this act for the simple reason that he cannot be described as holder of agricultural land in the weaker sections of the people. under section 7 the sub-divisional officer if satisfied that the transaction of loan in substance is a prohibited transaction of loan he shall declare such transaction to be void and then make consequential order for restoring the possession or where it is not feasible,..........land falling under act no. 3 of 1977 which makes special provision for certain class of landholders. the act, therefore, is discriminatory and violative of article 14 of the constitution.iii. provisions of sections 2 (c), (d), (f), 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15 are ultra vires article 14 of the constitution because the petitioner who also holds land less than 4 hectares of irrigated land and eight hectares of unirrigated land is denied equality of laws and equal protection of the laws.iv. the petitioner is denied the right to file a written statement and to engage a legal practitioner for defending his case and such denial of procedural safeguards under the code of civil procedure violates his right of equality before law and equal protection of the laws.4. ground no......
Judgment:

K.N. Shukla, J.

1. This is a petition for review of this Court's order dated 14-8-1980 passed on Misc. Petition No. 422 of 1980 dismissing petitioner's petition under Arts. 226 and 227 of the Constitution for quashing the order dated 17-12-1979 passed by the Sub-Divisional Officer, Patan under Section 7 of the M. P. Samaj Ke Kamjor Vargon Ke Krishi Bhumi Dharakon Ke Udhar Dene Walon Ke Bhumi Hadapane Sambandhi Kuchakron Se Paritran Tatha Mukti Adhiniyam, 1976 (Act No. 3 of 1977).

2. The petitioner in the writ petition had claimed that the transaction in question which was held to be a prohibited transaction of loan by the Sub-Divisional Officer was in fact not a transaction of loan but of out-right sale of agricultural land, and, therefore, the impugned order declaring it to be void under Section 7 of the Act was illegal. This Court held that a finding of fact had been recorded by the competent authority i.e, the Sub-Divisional Officer and the same was confirmed by the Collector who was the appellate authority and there was no basis for interfering with this finding in the writ petition.

3. The petitioner then filed the present review petition on the ground that in the writ petition he had omitted to raise some points which go to the root of the matter. The new points which the petitioner has now sought to raise are :--

i. Act No. 3 of 1977 is ultra vires Article 246 of the Constitution because the State Legislature was not competent to pass such an Act.

ii. A holder of agricultural land under Act No. 3 of 1977 is a person holding 8 hectares unirrigated or 4 hectares irrigated land. Under the M. P. Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960, a holder who is not a member of a family cannot possess more than 30 acres of unirrigated land (which comes to about 8 hectares). Such other agriculturists holding lands up to the ceiling limit under the P. M. Law are governed by the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, the Transfer, of Property Act, the Contract Act and other Acts dealing with money-lending and relief of rural indebtedness. In cases falling under these several enactments the forum for decision whether a transaction is a mortgage or not is determined by a Civil Court while the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is barred in respect of holders of agricultural land falling under Act No. 3 of 1977 which makes special provision for certain class of landholders. The Act, therefore, is discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

iii. Provisions of Sections 2 (c), (d), (f), 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14 and 15 are ultra vires Article 14 of the Constitution because the petitioner who also holds land less than 4 hectares of irrigated land and eight hectares of unirrigated land is denied equality of laws and equal protection of the laws.

iv. The petitioner is denied the right to file a written statement and to engage a legal practitioner for defending his case and such denial of procedural safeguards under the Code of Civil Procedure violates his right of equality before law and equal protection of the laws.

4. Ground No. i:-- On the question of legislative competence. Entry 30 of List II of the VIIth Schedule of the Constitution empowers the Stale Legislature to make laws for relief of agricultural indebtedness. The object of Act No. 3 of 1977 has been stated as follows : --

'An Act to better economic condition of holders of agricultural land in the weaker sections of the people by providing further relief from agricultural indebtedness by nullifying the land grabbing designs resorted to in many a form by lenders of money while and after extending credit to them and matters connected therewith.'

Thus, the legislative competence of the State Legislature under Article 246(3) for enacting this Act could not be disputed. In Khajamian Wakf Estates v. State of Madras, AIR 1971 SC 161, while referring to certain provisions of the Madras Inam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act (26 of 1963) the Supreme Court observed that if the Act refers to the reduction of arreals of rent or debts due from agriculturists,

'then the Slate Legislature had competence to legislate in respect of the same under Entry 18 of List II of the VIIth Schedule.'

5. In Ramkishan Agarwal v. Collector, Jabalpur, AIR 1977 Madh Pra 21, a Division Bench of this Court while considering the vires of a similar provision (M. P. Gramin Rin Vimukti Tatha Rin Stfiagan Adhiniyam (32 of 1975)) held that the Act fell within the scope of Entry 30 of List II of VIIth Schedule and was thus within the competence of the State Legislature. Statutes enacted by the Stale Legislatures for providing relief to agriculturists were upheld as constitutionally valid to Pathumma v State of Kerala, AIR 1978 SC 771; Fatehchand Himmatlal v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1977 SC 1825; Khajamian Wakf Estates v. State of Madras, AIR 1971 SC 161 and Madho Singh v. State of Bihar, AIR 1978 Pat 172 (FB). We, therefore, hold that ground No. 1 raised by learned counsel about legislative competence of the State Legislature to pass the Act has no merit.

6. Ground No. ii:-- The gravamen of learned counsel's argument on ground No. ii was that in view of the provisions of the M. P. Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 prescribing a ceiling for a holder of agricultural land, every such holder will come within the sweep of the definition of a holder of agricultural land under Section 2 (c) of Act No. 3 of 1977. But some will have to take resort to procedure as prescribed under the Code, while some others will seek shelter under this Act (Act No. 3 of 1977). This argument cannot be accepted.

7. The definition under this Act (No. 3 of 1977) may be usefully reproduced :--

'2 (c) 'holder of agricultural land' in the weaker sections of the people means, a holder of land used for purposes of agriculture not exceeding eight hectares of unirrigated land or four hectares of irrigated tend within the State whether as a Bhumiswami or an occupancy tenant or a Government lessee either in any one or alt of the capacities together within the meaning of the Code.'

8. Under Section 7 of the M. P. Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 different slabs for ceiling have been provided for holders of agricultural lands. For the holder who is not a member of a family ceiling of 10 acres of irrigated lands for two crops, ceiling of 15 acres of irrigated lands for one crop and 30 acres of dry land have been provided. For a holder who is a member of a family the ceiling is higher and for a holder of a, family of more than five members the ceiling is still higher. Thus, it Is not correct factually to say that all holder of agricultural land will come within the sweep of the definition of a holder of agricultural land under Section 2 (c) of Act No. 3 of 1977.

9. Besides, the title of the Act and its object in clear terms lay down that the Ad has been enacted to provide relief to toe Weaker Sections of the people from agricultural indebtedness by nullifying the land grabbing designs resorted to by money lenders. Protection under this Act is available only to such holders of agricultural land who belong to the weaker, sections of the people. Further, a person who holds eight hectares of unirrigated land or four hectares of irrigated land but has other professional or business income or is otherwise well to do, cannot take advantage of the protection afforded by this Act for the simple reason that he cannot be described as holder of agricultural land in the weaker sections of the people. True, term weaker sections of the people mentioned in the, definition of holder of agricultural land in Section 2 (c) of the Act has not been defined or explained in the Act, but its concept is not unknown and by reference to other provisions the meaning and content can be easily gathered. At the outset we may refer to the preamble of this Act:

'Whereas a holder of agricultural land In the weaker sections of the people is quite often compelled to seek loan from private money lending agencies to meet his various obligations of urgent nature;

And whereas such private agencies seldom if ever advance loan to him without security of land, his only wherewithal;

And whereas due to ignorance of nicetles of law or urgency of financial need or both, he falls an easy prey to them scarcely realizing the legal consequences, arising out of the documents which he executes or which they get executed from him seemingly by way of security for the loan;

And whereas it is necessary to relieve the holders of agricultural land in the weaker sections of the people from such exploitation by nullifying such past transaction of loan as also to put a stop to such transactions.'

10. The legislative intent can be gathered from this preamble. The Act provides an umbrella to such holders of agricultural land who do not possess land in excess of eight hectares of unirrigated or four hectares of irrigated land and who also belong to the weaker sections of the people. This definition, will include only such holders of land who can be classed as economically, socially and educationally weaker sections as compared to those who are comparatively in a batter position.

11. If the definition which has to be understood in the context of the preamble of the Act, is kept in mind it will become clear that the alleged discrimination in respect of the remedies and forum available to the holders of land covered by Act No. 3 of 1977 and those referred to in the M. P. Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 is reasonable and does not offend any of the Articles of the Constitution. It is incorrect to say that the procedure and forum prescribed under the impugned Act is discriminatory because other agriculturists holding lands up to the ceiling limits will have to resort to the procedure and forum under the Code of Civil Procedure, Transfer of Property Act, Contract Act etc. for a decision on the question whether a transaction is a mortgage or not.

12. Ground No. iii:-- Ground No. iii which has been reproduced above from the petition was projected by learned counsel in a slightly different fashion. According to him provisions of Sections 4, 5, 6 and 7 of the Act were ultra vires because the procedure for enquiry is unreasonable and unfair. We are unable to accept the validity of this argument. Section 3 of the Act provides that this Act overrides, other laws or rules inconsistent with the provisions of the Act. Section 4 lays down that all claims in relation to a prohibited transaction of loan subsisting on the appointed date or entered into thereafter notwithstanding anything contained in the Code or any other enactment, shall be subject to protection and relief in accordance with the provisions of this Act. Sections 5, 6 and 7 deal with the procedure for taking action on an application by a holder of agricultural land who is a party to a transaction of loan subsisting on the appointed date, for protection and relief under this Act Section 6 empowers the Sub-Divisional Officer to assume jurisdiction after holding a preliminary enquiry for ascertaining whether the transaction of loan is a prohibited transaction of loan and after recording such satisfaction he shall issue notices to the parties concerned and allow them to produce documents and lead evidence. Sub-section (4) of Section 6 in great detail lays down the guidelines for ascertaining the Hue nature of the transaction of loan i.e. whether it is a prohibited transaction of loan within the meaning of Section 2 (f) of the Act or not. The guidelines are exhaustive and have bearing on all relevant aspects for determination of this issue. Under Section 7 the Sub-Divisional Officer if satisfied that the transaction of loan in substance is a prohibited transaction of loan he shall declare such transaction to be void and then make consequential order for restoring the possession or where it is not feasible, direct the money lender to pay the difference of price to be determined in accordance with Sub-section (2) of Section 7. Clearly the procedure is as fair as the one under the Code of Civil Procedure with the only difference that it does not possess the various other trappings of the Code.

13. Ground No. iv:-- Last ground in the petition and in the argument relates to Section 10 which bars appearance of a legal practitioner on behalf of any party interested in the proceedings. This bar is applicable to both the parties. There is no fundamental right for obtaining appearance of a lawyer in a proceeding before a Tri-i bunal. In A.N. Rangaswamy v. Industrial Tribunal, Fort St. George, Madras, AIR 1954 Mad 553; Nagaliriga Nadar Sons v. Ambalapuzha Taluk Head Load Conveyance Worker's Union, Alleppey, AIR 1951 Trav Co 203 and C. S. Sharma v. Nyaya Panchayat, Barwaha, 1974 MPLJ 477, this question was considered in relation to Section 36(4) of the Industrial Disputes Act. It was held that such a bar in the context of a particular law cannot be struck down on the ground of unreasonableness or in violation of any constitutional right. In Paradip Port Trust, Paradip v. Their Workmen, AIR 1977 SC 36 the Supreme Court while considering Section 36(4) of the Industrial Disputes Act, upheld the restrictions imposed by the provision on the appearance of lawyers. The Court emphasised that the Legislature was competent to take into account the unequal strength of the contestants. Thus, the provision of Section 10 of Act No. 3 of 77 do not render the Act or the provision unconstitutional or unreasonable.

14. In the result, none of the grounds taken and canvassed by the learned counsel for the petitioner for challenging the vires of the Act No. 3 of 1977, the above described Adhiniyam, or any sections therein can be upheld. The review petition is dismissed. There will be no older as to costs.


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