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The Secretary to Govt., Punjab, Revenue Deptt., Chandigarh and ors. Vs. Jagar Singh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetters Patent Appeal Nos. 680 and 681 of 1974
Judge
Reported inAIR1977P& H114
ActsPunjab Land Reforms Act, 1973 - Sections 11(5), 11(7) and 23; Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953 - Sections 10A and 10B
AppellantThe Secretary to Govt., Punjab, Revenue Deptt., Chandigarh and ors.
RespondentJagar Singh and ors.
Appellant Advocate H.S. Brar, Sr. Adv. General
Respondent Advocate B.S. Bindra, Adv.
Cases ReferredPunjab Law. In Sampuran Singh v. State of Punjab
Excerpt:
- sections 100-a [as inserted by act 22 of 2002], 110 & 104 & letters patent, 1865, clause 10: [dr. b.s. chauhan, cj, l. mohapatra & a.s. naidu, jj] letters patent appeal order of single judge of high court passed while deciding matters filed under order 43, rule1 of c.p.c., - held, after introduction of section 110a in the c.p.c., by 2002 amendment act, no letters patent appeal is maintainable against judgment/order/decree passed by a single judge of a high court. a right of appeal, even though a vested one, can be taken away by law. it is pertinent to note that section 100-a introduced by 2002 amendment of the code starts with a non obstante clause. the purpose of such clause is to give the enacting part of an overriding effect in the case of a conflict with laws mentioned with the.....d.s. lamba, j.1. these two letters patent appeals nos. 680 and 681 of 1974, which arise out of civil writ petitions nos. 1871 and 1799 of 1974 respectively, will be disposed of by this common judgment because a similar law point is involved in both these appeals.2. letters patent appeal no. 680 of 1974 has been filed by the secretary to government, punjab, revenue department and others, against the judgment of m. r. sharma, j., dated october 16, 1974, accepting civil writ petition no. 1871 of 1974 filed by jagar singh, nazar singh and banta singh, sons of sunder singh, residents of village mehraj, tahsil and district bhatinda, now respondents, and quashing the orders dated march 18, 1974, and april 11, 1974, (copies annxs. p-3 and p-4 respectively) passed by the collector agrarian,.....
Judgment:

D.S. Lamba, J.

1. These two Letters Patent Appeals Nos. 680 and 681 of 1974, which arise out of Civil Writ Petitions Nos. 1871 and 1799 of 1974 respectively, will be disposed of by this common judgment because a similar law point is involved in both these appeals.

2. Letters Patent Appeal No. 680 of 1974 has been filed by the Secretary to Government, Punjab, Revenue Department and others, against the judgment of M. R. Sharma, J., dated October 16, 1974, accepting Civil Writ Petition No. 1871 of 1974 filed by Jagar Singh, Nazar Singh and Banta Singh, sons of Sunder Singh, residents of village Mehraj, Tahsil and District Bhatinda, now respondents, and quashing the orders dated March 18, 1974, and April 11, 1974, (copies Annxs. P-3 and P-4 respectively) passed by the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda. Letters Patent Appeal No. 681 of 1974 has been filed by the Collector Agrarian, and Tehsildar, Bhatinda, against the orders of M. R. Sharma, J., of the same date, allowing Civil Writ Petn No. 1799 of 1974, filed by Harbans Singh, Harjit Kaur, and Hardipinder Singh, now respondents, quashing the orders of the Collector Agrarian. Bhatinda. dated April 8, 1974 (copy Annexure P-3).

3. The facts as they emerge from C. W. P. No. 1871 of 1974, are that Jagar Singh, Nazar Singh and Banta Singh (hereinafter called the writ petitioners) are the sons of Sunder Singh who was landowner in the revenue estate of village Mehraj, Tehsil and District Bhatinda, and owned agricultural land measuring 60.06 standard acres on April 18, 1953, that is, on the date of enforcement of the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955. It has been averred that Sunder Singh in his lifetime had partitioned the land in five equal shares in a family partition, which was duly entered in the Roznamcha of the Patwari and a mutation was also attested before 1953, between the three petitioners, their brother Bhaga Singh (since dead) and himself. The proceedings for the assessment of surplus area relating to the lend owned by Sunder Singh had been taken up by the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, who by his order, dated April 24, 1959, declared Sunder Singh to be owning 29.6 standard acres as surplus area, However, on appeal the aforesaid order was set aside by the Commissioner, Patiala Division, and the case was remanded for determining surplus area afresh. Thereafter the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, vide his order dated March 29, 1971, declared 30.06 standard acres as surplus with Sunder Singh. Against that order Sunder Singh went in appeal before the Commissioner, but without success. His revision before the Financial Commissioner also failed, vide orders, dated . December 21, 1971, and May 31, 1972, respectively. But after the decision of the appeal and the revision, no steps were taken by the Agrarian authorities to take possession of the surplus area or to settle tenants thereon, with the result that Sunder Singh continued to remain in possession of the land which was declared surplus. Sunder Singh died on May 2, 1974, and on his death the entire holding was inherited by the three writ-petitioners and their brother Bhaga Singh and thus they became owners of that land in equal shares. Bhaga Singh also died leaving behind three sons, namely, Karnail Singh, Jarnail Singh and Babu Singh. It was further asserted that in view of the death of Sunder Singh, the order declaring his land as surplus area cannot be executed since the estate of Sunder Singh deceased had vested in the writ petitioners and Bhaga Singh's sons in equal shares and, therefore, in view of the provisions of Section 32FF of the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act. 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the Pepsu Law), no surplus area was left with them for being utilized by the State Government. It is then stated that vide letter, dated March 13, 1974, the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, directed the Tahsildar Bhatinda, that the area declared surplus vide his order, dated March 29, 1971 (copy Annexure P-1) be taken into possession immediately and report be sent within a week's time and then another letter issued by the Collector, dated April 11, 1974, followed relating to the same matter. Copies of the aforesaid letters were attached as Annexures P-3 and P-4 with the writ petition. In pursuance of the aforesaid letters, it is alleged, the Patwari of the Circle made enquiries from the writ petitioners and asked them to deliver possession of the surplus land, and that when the matter was explained to the Patwari that since Sunder Singh had died, there was no question of taking possession of any land as surplus, the Patwari expressed his helplessness to do anything since he was bound by the orders of the Collector. Feeling aggrieved against the directions of the Collector, contained in Annexures p-3 and P-4, to take into possession the surplus area owned by Sunder Singh, their father, the writ petitioners approached this Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution to seek a writ in the nature of certiorari quashing the orders, copieg Annexures P-1, P-3 and P-4, and for the issuance of a writ of mandamus declaring that no surplus land was available with the writ petitioners and for restraining the Agrarian authorities from dispossessing the writ petitioners from the land declared surplus by the order, copy Annexure P-l. In the written statement filed on behalf of the respondents to this writ petition, Shri Amrao Singh, Under-Secretary to Government, Punjab, Revenue Department, stated in reply to paragraph 2 of the writ petition that Sunder Singh landowner owned agricultural land measuring 60.06 standard acres, but denied that the Pepsu Law was over enforced in village Mehraj of the writ petitioners, which village was cover-ed by the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act. 1953 (hereinafter called the pun-jab Law). The learned single Judge, as already stated, accepted the writ petition and quashed the impugned orders, copies Annexures P-3 and P-4, passed by the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda.

4. Now the facts as narrated in Civil Writ Petition No. 1799 of 1974 are that Harraj Singh had three sons. Har-bans Singh petitioner No. 1, Gurbans Singh and Rajbir Singh (since deceased). Harjit Kaur petitioner No. 2 is the widow of Rajbir Singh, while Hardipinder Singh minor petitioner No. 3 is his son. It is staled that the matter of determining the surplus area relating to the land of Har-bans Singh writ petitioner and his brother Gurbans Singh came up for consideration before the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, who, vide his order, dated June 2. 1964, copy Exhibit P-l, declared the land of all the brothers, measuring approximately 33 standard acres, as surplus. Later on in the year 1965-66 all the brothers agreed to partition their holding and according to the said partition almost all the surplus land fell to the share of Rajbir Singh deceased. It is asserted that the land which was declared surplus by the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, vide his order, copy Annexure P-1, was never utilised by the State and the same continued to remain in the possession of the writ petitioners. On the death of Rajbir Singh, which occurred on October 24, 1969, inheritance opened and his place has been taken by his widow and minor son, and consequently, it was asserted, no area remained surplus. Since the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, vide his letter, dated April 8, 1974, copy Annexure P-3, directed the Tehsildar to immediately take into possession the aforesaid surplus land of the writ petitioners, the Patwari Halqa was contemplating to take possession of the same. The writ petitioners, therefore, feeling aggrieved against the order of the Collector, copy Annexure P-1. approached this Court under Articles 220 and 227 of the Constitution, in which it was prayed that the impugned orders, copieg Annex-ures P-l and P-3, be quashed and the Collector Agrarian and the Tehsildar, Bhatinda, be directed not to dispossess them till the decision of the writ petition. In the written statement filed by Shri Surinder Singh Giani, Collec-tor Agrarian, Bhatinda, in reply to paragraph No. 7 of the writ petition it was stated that there were three separate surplus area files pertaining to Harbans Singh writ-petitioner No. 1 and his brothers Gurbans Singh and Rajbir Singh, that vide order, dated June 2, 1964, the then Collector Agrarian declared land measuring 126 Kanals and 13 Marias (33.03 S. A.) as surplus with all the three aforesaid landowners as their Khewat was joint; in other words 11.01 standard acres of land was declared surplus in the hands of each of the aforesaid three landowners and according to their choice, and that so far as the heirs of Rajbir Singh deceased were concerned, they could not claim any relief in the area declared surplus of Harbans Singh writ petitioner No. 1, which had been taken into possession by the Patwari on May 8, 1974, in pursuance of the letter sent by the Collector Agrarian. The learned single Judge, as already stated, also accepted this writ petition and quashed the impugned orders.

5. The learned single Judge while accepting the two writ petitions, held, relying on a single Bench judgment of this Court in Karam Singh v. State of Punjab, 1967-69 Pun LR 643, that since the surplus area, after the death of the original owner, came to be inherited by his heirs and remained unutilised, it has to be determined afresh in the hands of the heirs of the deceased landholder, and that Section 11 (7) of the Punjab Land Reforms Act, 1973, would only apply if surplus area is determined under this very Act (hereinafter referred to as the 1973 Act).

6. Before examining the ratio of Karam Singh's case (1967) 69 Pun LR 643 (supra) from which the learned single Judge derived support for deciding the aforesaid writ petitions, we first advert to certain relevant provisions of the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law and the 1973 Act. For the purposes of utilization of the surplus area, in consonance with the scheme of the Punjab Law, it was provided in Clause (a) of Section 10-A that the State Government or any officer empowered by it in this behalf, shall be competent to utilize any surplus area for the resettlement of tenants ejected, or to be ejected, under Clause (i) of Sub-section (1) of Section 9; and then in Clause (b) of that section it was further provided, as a safeguard against circumventing the provisions of the Punjab Law, that 'notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, (and save in the case of the land acquired by the State Government under any law for the time being in force or by an heir by inheritance) no transfer or other disposition of land which is comprised in a surplus area at the commencement of this Act, shall affect the utilization thereof in Clause (a).' The words within brackets were inserted by the Punjab Security of Land Tenures (Amendment) Act. 1959, with a view to provide exemption from the operation of Clause (a) of Section 10-A. Thereafter Section 10-B was inserted in the Punjab Law by the Punjab Security of Land Tenures (Amendment and Validation) Act. 1962. This section provided that 'where succession has opened after the surplus area or any part thereof has been utilized under Clause (a) of Section 10-A, the saving specified in favour of an heir by inheritance under Clause (b) of that section shall not apply in respect of the area so utilized'. From the aforesaid provisions in the Punjab Law, it is clear that if the landowner in whose hands the land which was comprised in a surplus area at the commencement of the Punjab Law died and his land was inherited before its utilisation by the State, his heirs would take advantage of the exception in Clause (b) of Section 10-A; in other words, under Section 10-A (b), for utilizing the surplus area, the land in the hands of the heirs of the deceased, as received by them by inheritance, before its utilisation by the State, and not as it was in hands of the deceased, was to be exempted from utilization if the area in the hands of each of the heirs did not exceed his permissible limit, while under Section 10-B, if succession had opened after the surplus area or any part thereof had been utilized tinder Section 10-A (a), this utilization was not to be saved under Section 10-A (b). For authorities on the point reference may be made to Kehar Singh v. Financial Commr., Punjab, 1969 Rev LR 612 (Punj), Kanshi v. Financial Commr., Har-yana, 1969 Rev LR 635 (Punj). Financial Commr., Haryana V. Smt. Kala Devi, 1969-71 Punj LR 917, and Kul Bhushan v. Faquira, 1976-78 Punj LR 537 = (AIR 1976 Punj 341) the last authority being the latest in point of time. In Kul Bhu-shan's case, a Division Bench of this Court, to which I was a party, observed thus:

'..... the plaintiffs were not big landowners and the land which each one of them had acquired by inheritance was within the permissible ceiling and none of them had, therefore, any surplus area. Things would have been different if the surplus area in the hands of Bihari Lal had been utilised before his death. By operation of Section 10-B, the saving specified in favour of the heirs by inheritance under Clause (b) of Section 10-A would not then have applied to the case. In this case, however, it is the admitted fact that the order of utilization and possession in favour of the allottees-tenants was made, passed and implemented after the death of Bihari Lal. Section 10-B of the Act has, therefore, no application to the case which is fully covered by Section 10-A (b). That being the case, it appears to us that the proceeding or order which is sought by the respondents to be made un-vulnerable under Section 25 of the Act was not taken or made 'under the Act'.'

In the Pepsu Law, Section 32-FF provided as under:--

'Save in the case of land acquired by the State Government under any law for the time being in force or by an heir by inheritance or up to 30th July, 1958, by a landless person, or a small landowner, not being a relation as prescribed of the person making the transfer or disposition of land, for consideration, upto an area which with or without the area owned or held by him does not in the aggregate exceed the permissible limit, no transfer or other disposition of land effected after 21st August, 1956, shall affect the right of the State Government under this Act to the surplus area to which it would be entitled but for such transfer or disposition.

Provided that any person who has received any advantage under such transfer or disposition of land shall be bound to restore it, or to make compensation for it, to the persons from whom he received it.'

Then Section 32-E of the Pepsu Law provided for the vesting of surplus area in the State Government.

7. In the year 1973 the policy makers decided to go ahead with a more progressive legislation in the matter of land tenures and, with the following objects and reasons in view, the 1973 Act was passed:--

'Now in the State of Punjab two enactments, i.e., The Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, and the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955 are in force. The Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, applies only to those parts of the State which were comprised in the State of Punjab before 1st of November, 1956. The Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955, applies to those territories of the erstwhile State of Pepsu which now form part of the State of Punjab. It has become essential that the law relating to ceiling on agricultural land contained in the afore-said two Acts and which applies to certain parts of the State of Punjab should be unified and there should be only one Act on the agricultural land for the whole of the State of Punjab.

Secondly the Central Committee on land reforms appointed by the Government of India evolved a policy which sought to make available additional land to be distributed among landless persons to guarantee equitable distribution of land. To achieve this object it has been decided that permissible area be reduced, that the surplus area should vest in the State Government and a family is to be treated as a unit for determining the permissible area. It has also been decided that certain exemptions which were allowed under the two existing enactments should be withdrawn.

Thirdly the surplus land is to be acquired by the State Government for allotment to the landless persons and further proprietary rights are to be conferred on them.'

Section 8 of the 1973 Act, dealing with the vesting of unutilized surplus area in the State Government, reads thus:--

'Notwithstanding anything contained in any law, custom or usage for the time being in force, but subject to the provisions of Section 15, the surplus area, declared as such under the Punjab Law or the Pepsu Law, which has not been utilized till the commencement of this Act, and the surplus area declared as such under this Act shall, on the date on which possession thereof is taken by or on behalf of the State Government, vest in the State Government free from all encumbrances and in the case of surplus area of a tenant, which is included within the permissible area of the landowner, the right and interest of the tenant in such area shall stand terminated on the aforesaid date:

Provided that where any land falling within the surplus area is mortgaged with possession only the mortgagee rights shall vest in the State Government.'

Then Section 9 gives power to the Collector to take possession of surplus area, and it reads as follows:--

'9. (1) The Collector may, by an order in writing after an area has become surplus under the Punjab Law or the Pepsu Law or becomes surplus under this Act, direct the landowner or tenant or any other person in possession of such area to deliver possession thereof, within ten days of the service of the order on him, to such person as may be specified in the order.

(2) If the landowner or tenant or any other person in possession of such area refuses or fails without reasonable cause to comply with the order made under Sub- Section (1), she Collector may take possession of that are and may, for that purpose, use such force as may be necessary.' Section 10 of this Act relates to the determination of the amount payable for the surplus area. Then comes S. 11, the Interpretation of which is involved in the present appeals, which reads as under :--

'11. Disposal of surplus area:--

(1) The surplus area, which has vest-(Contd. on Col. 2)

The Punjab Laws

10-A. (b) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, and save in the case of land acquired by the State Government under any law for the time being in force or by an heir by inheritance no transfer or other disposition of land which is comprised in a surplus area at the commencement of this Act, shall affect the utilization thereof in Clause (a).

10-B. Where succession has opened after the surplus area or any part thereof has been utilized under Clause (a) of Section 10-A, the saving specified in favour of an heir by inheritance under Clause (b) of that section shall not apply in respect of the area so utilizeded in the State Government under Section 8, shall be at the disposal of the State Government.

(2) The State Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, frame scheme for utilizing the surplus area under the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law or this Act by-

(a) .....(b) ..... (3) .....(4) ..... (5) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force and save in the case of land acquired by the State Government under any law for the time being in force or by an heir by inheritance, no transfer or other disposition of land which is comprised in the surplus area under the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law or this Act, shall affect the vesting thereof in the State Govt. or its utilization under this Act.

(6) ..... (7) Where succession has opened after the surplus area or any part thereof has been determined by the Collector, the saving specified in favour of an heir by inheritance under Sub-section (5) shall not apply in respect of the area so determined.'

From a comparative study of the provisions given below it will be seen that the language employed in Section 10-A (b) of the Punjab Law is almost the same as employed in Sub-section (5) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act. Similarly the language of Section 10-B of the Punjab law is almost identical with that employed in Sub-section (7) of S. 11 of the 1973 Act :--

The 1973 Act:

11. (5) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force and save in the case of land acquired by the State Government under any law for the time being in force or by an heir by inheritance, no transfer or other disposition of land which is comprised in the surplus area under the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law or this Act, shall affect the vesting thereof in the State Government or its utilization under this Act.

11.7. Where succession has opened after the surplus area or any part thereof has been determined by the Collector, the saving specified in favour of an heir by inheritance under Sub-section (5) shall not apply in respect of the area so determined, Sec, 8 of the 1973 Act talks about the surplus area declared as such under the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law, and also under the 1973 Act. The surplus area declared under the first two enactments which had not been utilised till the commencement of the 1973 Act and the surplus area declared as such under the 1973 Act, according to this section, shall vest in the State Government free from all encumbrances on the date on which its possession is taken by the State Government or by an authority on behalf of the State Government.

8. Sub-section (5) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act exempts from the operation of Section 8 those lands which were acquired by the State Government under any law for the time being in force or by an heir by inheritance and, except in the case of these two exemptions, no transfer or other disposition of land which was comprised in the surplus area under the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law or the 1973 Act shall affect the vesting thereof in the State Government or its utilization under the 1973 Act. Thus the effect of this subsection is that where a landowner dies before the vesting or the utilization of his surplus area under the aforesaid three enactments, any transfer of disposition of land by his heirs, comprised in the surplus area, shall not be ignored. Take for instance, 'A' owned 27 standard acres of land on April 15, 1953 (the date of the commencement of the Punjab Law) and was therefore, a small landowner. On the death of A's father 'B' in 1954, he inherited 27 standard acres of land, making his total holding 54 standard acres, thus making him a big landowner. A then sold 27 acres of land to 'C' in 1958, but before the excess area with him could be determined as surplus under the Punjab Law, i.e., the land which he had received by inheritance from his father. Till that time A was a small landowner under the Punjab Law, but if he had sold the surplus area with him after it had been declared as such by the competent authority, in that case the said transfer shall be ignored under the Punjab Law. In Sampuran Singh v. State of Punjab, 1963 LLT 92 (Revenue Rulings), it was held that when a person has acquired land by inheritance after the date of commencement of the Act (the Punjab Law), and his holding becomes in excess of the permissible area and before proceeding to act under Sections 5-A and 5-B of the Act, if he happens to transfer part of the land with him to bring his holding within the permissible area, his transfer is not to be ignored for the purposes of finding out whether the land with him is the permissible area or whether in addition to permissible area he has also surplus area. Thus any transfer or disposition of land comprised in the surplus area, acquired by an heir by inheritance, shall not be ignored and in that case that area shall neither vest in the State Government nor can the same be utilized by it, in terms of Sub-section (5) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act.

9. A combined reading of Sub-sections (5) and (7) of Section 11 of the, 1973 Act gives us an idea of two stages firstly, of transfer or disposition of land comprised in the surplus areas acquired by an heir by inheritance and not declared as stK'b by the Collector till its transfer or disposition, such a transfer is saved under Sub-section (5), while the second stage is the detemination of surplus area by the Collector in the hands of the heirs be-fore its transfer. Sub-section (7) withdraws the benefit of the saving as provided in Sub-section (5) in case succession has opened after the determination of surplus area, In this respect we also get support from the language employed in Section 8 of the 1973 Act where that section speaks about the vesting of surplus area, declared as such, under the aforesaid three enactments. The words 'declared as such' are, however, missing from Sub-section (5) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act,

10. Under the Punjab Law. there could be another situation as well. Suppose 'A' on the commencement of the Punjab Law owned 60 standard acres of land and 30 standard acres out of this land was declared as surplus. A died leaving behind three sons in 1953 and till that time the surplus area left by A had not been utilised. Thus after the inheritance, the three sons became small landowners having 20 standard acres of land each, and they will take advantage of the saving provision in Section 10-A (b) of the Punjab Law. But if the succession had opened after the coming into force of the 1973 Act, the surplus area, which had not been utilized, could not be saved from vesting under Sub-section (7) of Section 11, and the heirs would not take advantage of becoming small landowners.

11. We will now examine this argument from another angle. The 1973 Act will take precedence in the event of inconsistency of any of its provisions with the provisions contained in the Punjab Law and the Pepsu Law. The provisions of the aforesaid two enactments stand repealed by Section 28 of the 1973 Act. which reads thus:--

'28. Repeal and Saving:

(I) The Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, 1953, and the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Land Act, 1955, in so far as these are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed.

(2} The repeal of the enactments mentioned in Sub-section (1), hereinafter referred to as the said enactments, shall not affect:--

(i) The proceedings for the determination of the surplus area pending immediately before the commencement of this Act, under either of the said enactments, which shall be continued and disposed of as if this Act had not been passed, and the surplus area so determined shall vest in, and be utilised by the State Government in accordance with the provisions of this Act;

Provided that such proceedings shall, as far as may be continued and disposed of, from the stage these were immediately before the commencement of this Act, in accordance with the procedure specified by or under this Act.....

Provided further that nothing in this section shall affect the determination and utilisaton of the surplus area, other than the surplus area referred to above, in accordance with the provisions of this Act......'

12. A comparative study of Sections 10-A and 10-B of the Punjab Law makes it clear that both these sections speak of utilisation of surplus area, whereas Sub-section (7) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act makes a wide departure in so far as the right of the State remains no longer contingent upon the utilisation of surplus land. It speaks of only determination of surplus area by the Collector. Moreover, Section 8 of the 1973 Act, as we have observed above, talks of the surplus area declared as such under the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law and under the 1973 Act. Under this section, the surplus area, declared as such, in accordance with the above two enactments, which had not been utilized till the commencement of the 1973 Act, and the surplus area declared as such under the provisions of the aforesaid Act shall vest in the State Government free from all encumbrances on a date on which the possession thereof is taken by the State Government. The provisions of Sub-section (7) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act are, therefore, obviously inconsistent in material and relevant respects with those of Punjab Law and the Pepsu Law, and will apply for the purposes of the 1973 Act. Thus the following observations of the learned single Judge--'The learned Advocate-Genera] submits that under Section 11, Sub-section (7) of the Punjab Land Reforms Act, 1973, where succession opens after the determination of the surplus area, the saving specified in favour of an heir by inheritance under Sub-section (5) shall not apply in respect of the area so determined. There is an obvious fallacy in this argument because Section 11 (7) would only apply if surplus area is determined under the Punjab Land Reforms Act (No. 10 of 1973). This section would not be attracted to those cases in which surplus area is determined either under the Punjab Law or under the Pepsu Law.' with due respect, do not fit in the scheme of the 1973 Act. If the Legislature had any intention to make the provisions of Sub-section (7) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act applicable to the surplus area determined under this Act, it could have clearly stated so in this section, and in that case the language of this sub-section would have been 'where succession has opened after the surplus area or any part thereof has been determined by the Collector under this Act, the saving specified in favour of an heir by inheritance under Sub-section (5) shall not apply in respect of the area so determined'. The words underlined, however, do not find mention in Sub-section (7). Moreover, the wording of Sub-section (5) of Section 11 to the effect that 'no transfer or other disposition of land which is comprised in the surplus area under the Punjab Law, the Pepsu Law or this Act, shall affect the vesting thereof in the State Government or its utilization under this Act' makes the intention of the Legislature all the more clear. The Legislature while enacting these provisions had clearly in view the surplus area determined under the aforesaid three enactments. It is well settled that in interpreting a statute, it is not competent for a Court to add words to a statute nor to subtract any word from it. The Court must place due meaning upon every word thereof without straining the language in any way. The plain duty of the Court is to gather the intention of the Legislature from the words used in the statute. The Courts can depart from this rule only in rare and exceptional cases where the plain meaning of the words used would lead to absurd conclusions or would be destructive of the very purpose for which the Legislation sought to be interpreted happens to be enacted. Keeping in view the scheme of the 1973 Act, and following the well-established principles of interpreting the statutes, it must be held that subsection (7) of Section 11 of the 1973 Act is an express limitation on the saving provided in Sub-section (5) of that section.

13, Now is the stage to examine the ratio of Karam Singh's case (1967) 69 Pun LR 643 (supra). The facts in that case were that one Megh Raj Malhotra was allotted 63 standard acres and 5 units of land in village Bhalar, Tehsil Thanosar, District Karnal. On the date of the coming into force of the Punjab Law (April 15, 1953), Megh Raj Malhotra held this area and he was called upon to reserve his area. In the case of a displaced person the permissible limit under the Punjab Law was 50 standard acres and the surplus area with Megh Raj Malhotra was thus 13 standard acres and 5 units. On December 20, 1956, Megh Raj Malhotra sold one-third of this holding to hig son Baldev Raj and another one-third to his other son Janak Raj, and the remaining one-third he retained with himself. On June 4, 1957, Megh Raj Malhotra and his sons Baldev Raj and Janak Raj sold their holdings in favour of the petitioners in that case. Therefore, on June 4, 1957, out of the area owned by Megh Raj Mal-motra, not an inch of land was left with him or with his sons. The Department proceeded to declare 13 standard acres and 5 units as surplus in the hands of the vendees. Admittedly the area purchased by the Vendees from each of the vendors was within the permissible limit and had the transfer been made before the Punjab Law came into force, no area could be declared as surplus. The area was declared surplus on the basis that it was held by Megh Raj Malhotra, transfers being ignored. The vendees in that case filed a writ petition challenging the declaration of 13 standard acres and 5 units as surplus in the hands of Megh Raj Malhotra. The argument in that case was that Megh Raj Malhotra having died on March 1, 1960, before the utilization of surplus area, the authorities were in error in declaring the area as surplus in his hands, because according to the provisions of Section 10-A (b) of the Punjab Law, if the land is inherited by the heirs and in their hands it is within the permissible limit, the land even though surplus in the hands of the last-holder will cease to be surplus. While dismissing the writ petition, it was held by Mahajan, J., on the facts of that case, that the exception in Section 10-A (b) of the Punjab Law only operated in case of land acquired by an heir by inheritance and that 'the exception will only apply if there is acquisition by the sons by inheritance, and, if there is no acquisition, the very basis on which the exception is sought to be applied not being there, no benefit of the same can be taken.' The facts of the aforesaid case speak for themselves and are nowhere near the facts of the case in hand.

14. In the light of the foregoing discussion, we find that so fax as the facts in Letters Patent Appeal No. 680 of 1974, arising out of Civil Writ Petition No. 1871, of 1974, are concerned, the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, vide his order, dated March 29, 1971, declared 30.06 standard acres of land as surplus with Sunder Singh, father of the writ petitioners in that case. Sunder Singh died on May 2, 1974, that is, after the coming into force of the 1973 Act. The writ petitioners claimed that since after the death of Sunder Singh, his entire holding was inherited by them and their brother Bhaga Singh in equal shares, no surplus area was left with them under the provisions of Section 32-FF of the Pepsu Law, Since by the coming into force of the 1973 Act, with effect from March 24, 1973, by virtue of Section 28, the Punjab Law and the Pepsu Law, in so far as these are inconsistent with the provisions of the 1973 Act, stand repealed, no such benefit can be claimed by the writ petitioners, because the said surplus area shall vest in the State Government free from all encumbrances from the date on which possession thereof is taken by it or on its behalf under Section 8, and the said surplus area can be disposed of by the State Government under Section 11 (7). In this view of the matter L. P. A. No. 680 of 1974 stands accepted and the Civil Writ Petition No, 1871 of 1974 stands dismissed.

15. As regards the facts in L. P. A. No. 681 of 1974, arising out of Civil Writ Petition No. 1799 of 1974, the writ petitioners in that case claim that the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, vide his order, dated June 2, 1964, copy Exhibit P-1, declared the land of Harbans Singh petitioner No. 1 and his two brothers, namely, Gurbans Singh and Rajbir Singh, surplus to the extent of 33 standard acres. Later on in the year 1965-66 the three brothers partitioned their holding as a result of which the aforesaid surplus area fell to the share of Rajbir Singh, who died on October 24, 1969, and his share of land was inherited by his widow Harjit Kaur, petitioner No. 2, and his minor son, Hardipinder Singh, petitioner No. 3. Since the writ petitioners claimed that the aforesaid surplus area was never utilized by the State and the same continued to remain in their possession till the death of Rajbir Singh on October 24, 1969, inheritance having opened and the place of the deceased having been taken by his widow and minor son, petitioners Nos. 2 and 3, the surplus area in the hands of the heirs of the deceased ceased to be surplus, and the same cannot vest in the State. But once the Collector Agrarian, Bhatinda, declared 33 standard acres of land as surplus in the year 1964, the writ petitioners in this case cannot claim any benefit, at this stage, Firstly, by the coming into force of the 1973 Act, with effect from March 24, 1973, by virtue of Section 28 thereof, the Punjab Law and Pepsu Law stand repealed, and secondly, by virtue of Section 8 thereof, all the unutilized surplus area declared as such under the Punjab Law or the Pepsu Law shall vest in the State Government from the date on which possession thereof is taken by it or on its behalf, free from all encumbrances. So the L. P. Appeal No. 681 of 1974, also succeeds, and the Civil Writ Petition No. 1799 of 1974 stands dismissed.

16. In the circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs in either appeal.

R.S. Narula, C.J.

I agree.


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