1. For the limited purpose of this referring order, the facts are in a narrow compass. Four connected Civil Writ Petitions Nos. 2775, 693, 1284 and 1285 of 1966 came for decision before Tuli, J. As common questions of law arose, these were disposed of by a Single Judgment against which the present four Letters Patent Appeals are directed.
2. The first question of law considered was whether after the reorganisation of the State of Punjab, the landowner owning the land in the States of Punjab and Haryana could claim that they should be allowed the permissible area in both the States separately and the order declaring the area surplus prior to 1st November, 1966, which has not been utilised so far should be deemed to have no effect. The second question agitated in Civil Writ No. 2775 of 1966 was whether under Rule 6 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Rules, 1956, the transferees of the land are entitled to a notice and hearing in proceedings for determination of the surplus area. The learned Single Judge held that the petitioners were not entitled to claim their permissible area in each of the two States of Punjab and Haryana as they now exist. regarding the second point it was held that the transferees were not entitled to any hearing and notice.
3. On behalf of the appellants, as regards the second contention regarding the right of the transferees to notice and a hearing primary reliance is placed on sub-clauses (3),(5) and (6) of Rule 6 of the Rules. These are in the following terms :--
'6(3) The circle revenue officer shall, after holding such enquiry as he thinks fit and after giving the persons concerned, an opportunity of being heard, forward his report to the Collector.
(5) In the case of a landowner or tenant who has furnished his Forms to the Special Collector under Rules 3 and 4, the Special Collector shall after giving the landlord or tenant an opportunity of being heard and after such enquiry as he thinks fit, assess his surplus area. In doing so he shall hear any objections made by the landowner or tenant, and in a written order decide such objections. In case no objections are made, or the person affected does not appear, the fact shall be stated in the order.
(6) In the case of a landowner or tenant who has furnished his Forms to the Collector under Rules 3 and 4, the Collector shall, after giving the landlord or tenant an opportunity of being heard and after such enquiry as he thinks fit, assess his surplus area. In doing so he shall hear any objections made by the landowner or tenant, and in a written order decide such objections. In case no objections are made, or the person affected does not appear, the fact shall be stated in the order.'
Relying on the above-said provisions, it is first contended on the basis of authority that as many as four earlier decisions of this Court holding that the transferees were entitled to a notice and a hearing were not brought to the notice of the learned Single Judge and were, therefore, not considered by him in arriving at a decision on this point. Reference in this context is made to Ghamandi Lal v. The State of Punjab, 1965 Pun LJ 24 and Indraj Singh v. State of Punjab, 1965 Pun LJ 66 wherein Shamsher Bahadur, J., in construing Rule 6 above-said held that notice to the transferees was necessary. Two decisions of Narula, J., being Smt. Pari v. State of Punjab, 1966 Lah LT 176 and Bhool Chand v. State of Punjab, 1966 Lah LT 31 have similarly held in the clearest terms that the transferees of land are entitled to a notice and hearing in Rule 6 of the Rules. In Smt. Pari's case, Narula, J., interpreted Rule 6 in conjunction with the Form 'D' prepared thereunder and categorically observed as follows :--
'This rule further requires that in doing so, he is bound to hear the landowner or the tenant and has to decide those objections by a written order. A further safeguard is provided in the rule to the effect that even in a case where no objections are made or the person affected does not appear, this fact has to be stated in writing in the order. In view of the contents of Form D referred to above, it was necessary that a notice should have been issued to the tenants as well as to the transferees as it cannot be said that they were not persons interested in the matter.'
In Bhool Chand's case in fact it was noticed that the law on this point seemed to be settled and there was no pronouncement whatsoever at variance with the law laid down in the earlier three decisions referred to.
4. In repelling an argument that the transferees were entitled to notice, the learned Single Judge did not advert to the above-said authorities, which as already stated, were not brought to his notice. Reliance was, however, placed by him on Pritam Singh v. The State, ILR (1966)1Punj 707=(AIR 1967 Punj 198) for holding that the transferees were not entitled to any notice. It deserves mention that as noticed by the learned Single Judge, the above said decision related to another statute, namely, the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act 13 of 1955 and the Full Bench was considering the provisions of S. 32-FF which cannot be said to be in pari materia with the provisions which fall for construction in the present case. What, however, deserves notice is that in Bhool Chand's case, 1969 Lah LT 31 Narula, J., had expressly referred to this decision and distinguished the same in the following terms :--
'It has been pointed out that the Full Bench judgment of this Court in (1966)45 Lah LT 65=(AIR 1967 Punj 198)(FB) relates to the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act (13 of 1955) and not the Punjab Act, and that the distinction in the two Acts in this respect is apparent from the discussion of the relevant provisions of the Pepsu Act in paragraph 14 of the Full Bench Judgment in Pritam Singh's case. The main difference between the two Acts is that whereas the landowner is divested of his surplus area under the Pepsu Act, he remains the owner under the Punjab Act and merely his right to cultivate the said land himself or to settle his own tenants thereupon is taken away from the landowner.'
5. Apart from the case law, learned counsel also based himself on the provisions of the statute, namely the definition of the 'landowner's S.2(1) of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act. It was contended with plausibility that the word 'landowner' as used in the Rules and Section 10-A of the Act has reference to the person in whom the legal title of the land vests at the time when the proceedings for the declaration of surplus area are initiated. It is hence contended that a transferee of the land, who is the owner at the time of the commencement of the proceedings, is in fact the 'landowner' concerned, and under that head also he is directly entitled by R. 6 to a hearing an a notice. It was argued with vehemence that 'landowner' in the context could not mean the landowner prior to the 15th of April, 1953, who had diverted himself and at the relevant time may have no concern whatsoever with the land and in the proceedings for the declaration of the surplus area.
6. The learned counsel for the appellant had also based himself on the language of Rule 6 where the words used are 'person concerned' or 'person affected'. It was contended with force that it could not possibly be said that a person whom at the relevant time the legal right of ownership and possession vests is a person either unconcerned or unaffected in the declaration of his land as surplus. Even accepting the fact that the transfers after 1953 are to be ignored it was argued that this fact per se cannot rob the transferee landowner of his cherished right of at least having an opportunity to be heard before he is expropriated by declaring his land as surplus under the Act.
7. Mr. J. N. Kaushal the learned Advocate-General for the State of Haryana strenuously controverted the contention raised on behalf of the appellant first on principle. No authority other than Pritam Singh's case, ILR (1966)1 Punj 707=(AIR 1967 Punj 198) noticed above, however, was relied upon on behalf of the respondents. Though the matter was agitated keenly on both the sides, the learned counsel did not bring to our notice in the course of the argument an authoritative pronouncement by the Division Bench directly on the point in issue. In Hardev Singh v. State of Punjab, ILR (1970)1 Punj 411, an identical point was considered by S. B. Capoor and R. S. Narula, JJ. narula, J., who wrote the judgment of the Division Bench, with which S. B. Capoor, J. concurred, after exhaustively dealing with the point on principle, referred to a string of authorities of this Court upholding the view that the transferees of land were persons interested who were entitled to notice under R. 6. The learned Judge reiterated hie earlier view in Bhool Chand's case, 1969 Lah LT 31 and further pointed out a number of factors which would distinguish Pitam SIngh's case, ILR (1966)1 Punj 707=(AIR 1967 Punj 198) which relates to Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act. In this context, it was also observed as follows :--
'So far as the Punjab Act is concerned, no judgment of this Court, and not even a decision of any Financial Commissioner has been cited to us wherein a view contrary to that canvassed by Mr. Gujral before us might have been taken. Even otherwise the requirement of service of notice on all persons interested under sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 of the 1956 Rules appears to us to be based on principles of natural justice requiring an opportunity being afforded to any person who is likely to be prejudicially affected by an order which might be passed in the relevant proceedings. The want of such a notice cannot be dispensed with or ignored on the mere ground that particular transferees or tenants who may otherwise be deemed to be the persons interested in the proceedings have really no good defence to the proposed order.' The above decision is binding on us and is in consonance with the consistent view held in this Court on the point. Even otherwise, I am wholly in agreement with the reasoning and ratio of the above decision. The L. P. A. No. 541 of 1968 is hence entitled to succeed on this point alone. However, on behalf of the appellant in this case, a larger right is also claimed on the second point and it is necessary to advert to the same and also that point is common to all the Letters Patent Appeals before us.
8. The second question is patently of far reaching significance. It is argued that after the re-organisation of the undivided State of Punjab into the present States of Punjab and Haryana, the landowners in each State are entitled to retain the permissible area under the statute in both the States separately. This, it is contended, is the inevitable effect of the creation of two separate States and the mere fact that the law applicable to them for the time being is the same, namely, the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act, would not affect their rights to hold the permissible area separately in each State. Learned counsel for the appellants placed reliance on A. S. S. Karanath v. Asstt. Commercial Tax Officer, Puttur S. Kanara AIR 1960 Mys. 275 and Mansa Roadways (P) Ltd. v. State of Haryana, ILR (1968) 1 Punj and Har 772. The cases cited on the point before the learned Single Judge were also relied upon. In this context, support was also sought from Munshi Singh v. Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Rewari, 1964-66 Pun LR 85 and other authorities in which it had been held that where the permissible area of a landowner is reduced due to consolidation but the surplus area declared earlier had not yet been utilised, he would be entitled to have an opportunity to be heard before making the selection and to retain his permissible area even out of the unutilised land upto that stage.
9. We are of the opinion that this point is of importance on principle and also likely to affect a large number of cases. In these circumstances, we would formulate the following question for determination by a larger Bench :--
'Whether after the re-organisation of the State of Punjab the landowners owning land in both the States of Punjab and Haryana can claim to retain the permissible area in each State separately after 1st November, 1966. If so, whether an order declaring the area to be surplus passed prior to the date above said but which order has not been implemented and the surplus land so declared has not in fact been utilised would continue to have effect after the said date ?'
10. Let the matter be placed before my Lord the Chief Justice for constituting the larger Bench.
D.K. Mahajan, J.
11. I agree.