I.S. Tiwana, J.
1. In these two Civil Writ Petitions Nos. 3172 and 3362 of 1982, the twin question raised relates to the vires of Section 8(2) of the Punjab Pre-emption Act, 1913 (for short, the Act) and the validity of the two notifications issued by the State Government in exercise of powers under that provision.
2. So far as the first part of the question, i. e., with regard to the vires of Section 8(2) of the Act is concerned, I had the occasion to directly deal with the same in Civil Writ Petn. No. 4961 of 1981 (Avinash Chander v. State of Haryana decided on August 23, 1982 (Reported in AIR 1983 NOC 118) and I upheld the vires of the same. The learned counsel appearing for the petitioners, however, point out that while expressing opinion in this regard in that case, I had placed primary reliance on the observations of a Full Bench of this Court in Ramji Lal Ram Lal v. State of Punjab, AIR 1966 Punj 374, and according to them, their Lordships of the Full Bench had actually refrained from expressing themselves on the vires of Section 8(2). Though I see no writ in this submission of the learned counsel in the light of the following observation made by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in para 5 of the judgment in the State of Punjab v. Ramji Lal, AIR 1971 SC 1228 on appeal against that Full Bench judgment:--
'The High Court also held that S. 8(2) of Punjab Act 1 of 1913 did not offend Art. 14 of the Constitution.....'
Yet I find that the learned counsel have advanced no plausible argument to assail the vires of Section 8(2) of the Act or dislodge the earlier conclusion of mine. As a matter of fact, the learned Judges of the Full Bench on an analysis of the various provisions of the Act, accepted the submission of the learned Advocate General that the said provision did not confer any arbitrary, unguided and uncanalised power on the State Government to take away the right of pre-emption with the observation that 'there is force in the contention by the learned Advocate General'. Besides this the learned counsel for the private respondents have been able to bring to my notice two more judgments--(i) Bakkar Singh v. Baggu Singh, ILR (1966) 2 Punj 926 and (ii) Bakshi Ram v. Durga Dass, (1970) 72 Pun LR (D) 180 wherein the question of vires of Section 8(2) of the Act has directly been considered and after an exhaustive discussion of the matter, the said provision has been held to be intra vires. The burden of argument of petitioners' learned counsel is that the power vested in the State by Section 8(2) is liable to he used arbitrarily meaning thereby, for any reason or no reason at all.
By now it is well laid down by this Court as well as the final Court that the likelihood of misuse of a power can by itself be no ground to annul the statutory provision under which the power is exercised. It may be noticed here that the vires of Section 3 of the East Punjab Urban Rent Restriction Act, 1949, which is in somewhat similar terms as the impugned provision is and entitles the State Government to exempt any particular building or rented land or any class of buildings or rented lands from the provisions of that Act, have been upheld by a Division Bench of this Court in Sadhu Singh S. Mulla Singh v. District Board Gurdaspur, AIR 1962 Punj 204, in the light of the two earlier Supreme Court judgments with the observations that a particular provision conferring wide power on the State Government to grant an exemption from the provisions of an Act cannot by itself be a ground to strike down that provision. It is only when the said provision is abused that the action taken the authority concerned be quashed. Since the learned counsel for the petitioners are not in a position to refer to any judgment to the contrary dealing with the question of vires of Section 8(2) of the Act I do not feel the necessity of burdening this judgment by making a detailed reference to the reasoning adopted in these judgments and am clearly of the opinion that Section 8(2) of the Act does not suffer from the vice of arbitrariness and is not violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution.
3. Now coming to the second part of the question, it is not a matter of dispute before us that while repealing the Punjab Pre-emption Act of 1905 and replacing the same by the present Act, the present sub-section (2) was introduced mainly to protect from pre-emption, land required for commercial and industrial purposes and the Legislature in its wisdom conferred on the State Government the power to do away or at least to soften the rigour of the right of pre-emption when the land or immoveable property has been purchased or acquired for the common good of the society. This is so very clear from a bare reading of the Statement of Objects and Reasons recorded for enacting this provision. It is in exercise of this power that in these cases the State Government has respectively issued the two impugned notifications dated May 18, 1982 and May 5, 1982, exempting or declaring that 'no right of pre-emption shall exist with respect to' the specific sales made in favour of the vendees, i. e., the private respondents. The reason that weighed with the State authorities to exempt the sales from pre-emption is that in both the cases the respondent-vendees had purchased the land in question 'for purposes of setting up an industrial unit,' i. e., rice shellers, and it was in public interest to save these sales.
4. The two notifications are impugned on the ground that the same are mala fide and have been issued in connivance with respondent No. 2/5 (Shri Sher Singh, Revenue Minister at the relevant time) for extraneous considerations with a view to help the vendee-respondents and to defeat the claim of the petitioner-pre-emptors who had already gone to Court to enforce their right of pre-emption. It is generally averred on behalf of the petitioners that the vendee-respondents were influential and rich people and since respondent No. 2/5 was in need of all sorts of help to win his election to the Haryana Legislative Assembly scheduled for May 19, 1982, he conspired with the vendee-respondents and ordered the issuance of the two notifications on May 18, 1982 and May 5, 1982. It is also maintained by the petitioners that no proper or worthwhile enquiry was got conducted by respondent No. 2/5 through the field staff prior to the issuance of these notifications. In para 8 of Civil Writ Petition No. 3172, it is averred that even Shri Puran Chand, Personal Assistant to respondent No. 2, approached the petitioner to withdraw his suit against the vendee-respondents and on his refusing to accede to this suggestion, the present notification was issued under the orders of respondent No. 2. Respondent No. 2/5 as well as other respondents to these petitions have specifically denied the above noted allegations made on behalf of the petitioners.
As has already been indicated, the allegations or charges levelled on behalf of the petitioners are of a general character and nothing specific has been alleged against respondent No. 2/5 or any of the officials who were concerned with the issuance of the impugned notifications. Not only that it is difficult to accept the charge or imputation of mala fides of the type alleged when it is well established on record that the vendees had made their respective applications for exempting the sales in their favour from the right of pre-emption on October 27, 1980 and July 29, 1980. The time lag between the dates of filing of these applications and the dates of the issuance of the two notifications is, to my mind, by itself enough of a ground to discard the allegations of mala fides levelled by the petitioners against respondent No. 2/5. It cannot possibly be imagined that respondent No. 2/5 and the vendee-respondents had conspired about nineteen months earlier to the issuance of the impugned notifications. Further it is not in dispute that respondent No. 2/5 contested the above noted election from the Mullana Reserved Constituency in Ambala District. Neither the vendee-respondents belong to that constituency nor the above noted industrial units have been established in the area of that constituency.
It is the conceded position that these two units have been set up in Tehsil Thanesar of Kurukshetra District. Respondent No. 2/5 has even denied the allegation of the petitioner that the two areas are adjoining to each other. Mr. Pawar, learned Assistant Advocate General appearing for the respondent authorities has produced before us the relevant record relating to the issuance of the impugned notifications and has established to our satisfaction that prior to the issuance of these notifications detailed enquiries were got conducted through the field staff, Deputy Commissioner, Kurukshetra and the Industries Department and it was only on receipt of reports/recommendations from the said authorities that the impugned notifications were issued keeping in view the public interest and the common good of the people of the area where the industries in question have been established. The various reports made in these files clearly disclose the genuineness of the claim of the respondent-vendees that they had set up their industrial units prior to the filing of the pre-emption suits against them by undergoing heavy investments.
Material is also available from these files as well as from the returns filed on behalf of the vendees that immediately on the purchase of the land in question the vendees had taken steps to construct and install their machinery and for this purpose they fulfilled the various formalities in getting the registration certificates from the District Industries Centre, Kurukshetra, as a small scale industrial unit and also from the Director of Food and Civil Supplies without whose permission the business of rice milling could not be carried on. It is also established on record that for the setting up of these industrial units, the respondent vendees had raised huge amounts of loans from the State financing institutions or nationalised banks. The very fact that the State agencies as well as the banks help in financing these units is indicative of the fact that setting up of these industries is in the general good or well being of the people and in the interest of the nation as a whole.
Thus in the light of these facts and circumstances we are satisfied that there are no factors or circumstances, much less anything concrete or substantial, in the light of which a conclusion can be arrived at that the respondent authorities, in any way, lacked bona fides in issuing the notifications. On the contrary, if at all there is any lack of bona fides, it appears to be on the part of the petitioners who kept on waiting to enforce their right of pre-emption till almost the last date of the expiry of the prescribed period of limitation of one year from the date of the sales in question.
5. For the reasons recorded above, these petitions fail and are dismissed but with no order as to costs.
P.C. Jain, Actg. C.J.
6. I agree.
7. Petition dismissed.