1. The scope of Section 9 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and and Reforms Act, 1950 (U.P. Act 1 of 1951) (to be here-inafter referred to as the Act) comes up for decision in this appeal by certificate.
2. The facts relevant for deciding this appeal are no more in dispute. The respondents were Ryots under the appellants in village Nagli Abdulla, a hemlet of village Machhra. The site of the building in dispute in this appeal had been taken by the father of the respondents from the appellant's ancestors over 60 years ago and thereafter the respondents put up some buildings on that site for their residential purposes. During the communal disturbances in 1947 they left the village temporarily as a measure of safety and took shelter with some of their relations in some other village at a distant place. They came back to their village in the year 1949 when the conditions improved. At that time they found the appellants occupying that site after putting up a cow-shed on the site in which their residential buildings stood. Those residential buildings had been demolished and the site in question included as a part of the house of the appellants. As the appellants refused to deliver possession of the suit property, the respondents instituted a suit for possession of the same on January 9, 1951.
3. On January 26, 1951, the Act came into force. Section 4 of the Act provided for the vesting of the Estates in the State. It prescribes that as soon as may be after the commencement of the Act, the State Government may, by notification, declare that, as from a date to be specified, all Estates situate in Uttar Pradesh shall vest in the State and as from the beginning of the date so specified, all such Estates shall stand transferred to and vest, except as otherwise provided in the Act, in the State free from all encumbrances. Section 6 of the Act enumerates the consequences of the vesting of an Estate in the State. Section 9 deals with the buildings in the abadi. Reading Sections 4, 6 and. 9 together, it follows that all Estates notified under Section 4 vest in the State free from all encumbrances. The quondam proprietors or tenure-holders of those Estates lose all interests in those Estates. As proprietors or tenure holders they retain no interest in respect of them whatsoever. But in respect of the land or buildings enumerated in Section 6 and Section 9, the State settled on the person who held them certain rights. Though in fact the vesting of the Estates and the deemed settlement of some rights in respect of certain classes of land or buildings included in the Estate took place simultaneously, in law the two must be treated as different transactions; first there was a vesting of the Estates in the State absolutely and free of all encumbrances. Then followed the deemed settlement by the State of some rights with the ersons mentioned in Sections 6 and 9. Therefore in law it would not be correct to say that what vested in the State are only those interests not coming within Sections 6 or 9; see-Rana Sheo Ambar Singh v. Allahabad Bank Ltd. Allahabad : 2SCR441 . In this connection reference may also usefully be made to the decision of this Court in Shivashankar Prasad Shah and Ors. v. Vaikunth Nath Singh and Ors. Civil Appeal No. 368/66 decided on 3-7-1969, a decision rendered under the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950, the relevant provisions of which are similar to the provisions of the Act. In this case notification under Section 4 of the Act was issued on July 1, 1952. Hence the vesting contemplated under Section 4 took place on that date.
4. Section 9 of the Act, the section with which we are concerned in this case, reads thus:
All wells, trees in abadi, and all buildings situated within the limits of an estate, belonging to or held by an intermediary or tenant or other persons, whether residing in the village or not, shall continue to belong to or be held by such intermediary or tenant or person as the case may be, and the site of the wells or the buildings within the area appurtenant thereto shall be deemed to be settled with him by the State Government on such terms and conditions as may be prescribed.
In view of that provision all buildings situate within the limits of an Estate held by an intermediary or tenant or other person, whether residing in the village or not continues to be held by him and the site of the buildings within the area appurtenant thereto should be deemed to have been settled with him by the State Government on such terms and conditions as may be prescribed.
5. As seen earlier till about 1947, the respondents were lawfully holding the buildings and the site with which we are concerned in this case as Ryots. They never gave up their possession of the buildings voluntarily. The fact that they vacated those A buildings and took shelter with their relations during the time of the communal disturbances cannot be considered as abandonment of the buildings. In law they continued to be in possession of the buildings. Hence the appellant's entry into the suit site was an unlawful act. In the eye of law they were trespassers. In demolishing the buildings put up by the respondents, they committed the offence of mischief. The fact they had put up new structures cannot under the Transfer of Property Act, enhance their rights to the property. We have no material before us from which we can find out the value of the buildings demolished by them and the value of the buildings put up by them unlawfully. From the description of the buildings given in evidence, it appears that the newly put up building is only cattle-shed. We are not satisfied that the newly put up building is worth more than the buildings that had been demolished by the appellants. In the circumstances of the case all that can be said is that the old buildings have been substituted by the new building. Therefore the owners of the old buildings continue to be the owners of the new building. In that view of the matter it is not necessary to consider whether if a stranger builds a building on the land of another, the true owner of the land is entitled to recover the land with the building on it. Equitable considerations persuade us to hold that when the respondents came back to their village in 1949, they were entitled to recover not only the site but also the building constructed on it by the appellants. Hence it should be . held that on the date of vesting, the respondents were the owners of the building in question. In law they were holding the same.
6. The controversy between the parties in this appeal is as to the meaning to be attached to the word 'held' in Section 9 of the Act. Is the holding contemplated therein 'lawful holding or a mere holding lawful or otherwise. It is contended on behalf of the appellants that the dictionary meaning of the word 'held' merely means 'to have a possession of; Section 9 merely contemplates physical possession and nothing more; on the date of the vesting they were in physical possession of the site as well as the building; therefore the building must be deemed to have been settled with them. On the other hand it is contended on behalf of the respondent that the word 'held' in Section 9 of the Act means 'lawfully held' and that section does not confer any benefit on a trespasser.
7. The meaning of the word 'held' in Section 9 came up for consideration before a Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court consisting of Agarwal and Chaturvedi, JJ. in Pheku Chamar and Ors. v. Harish Chandra and Ors. : AIR1953All406 . In that case the learned judges held that the legislature has deliberately used the word 'held' and that word connotes the existence of a right or title in the holder. They further opined that Section 9 does not confer a right on the persons having no title to the land. The settlement contemplated by the section is confined in its application to the case where the building is lawfully held by the person in possession. The learned judges also observed that in enacting Section 9, the legislature never meant to deprive the citizens of their lawful rights over the lands merely because a trespasser has succeeded in making some construction on it. Section 9 does not mean that if a person has made some construction whatsoever over any land lying within the limits of an estate, however wrongful or recent the possession might be, that construction must be deemed to have been settled with him by the State Government. The meaning of the word 'held' in Section 9 again came up before another Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court consisting of Desai and Takru, JJ. in Bharat and Anr. v. Ch. Khazan Singh and Anr. : AIR1958All332 . The learned judges declined to follow the decision in Pheku Chamar's case A.I.R.1953 All. 4They came to the conclusion that the legislature used a wide language in Section 9 and it covers the case of buildings belonging to persons who constructed them lawfully or unlawfully. It is unfortunate that the latter. Division Bench should have thought it proper to sit in judgment over the correctness of a decision rendered by a Bench of co-ordinate jurisdiction. Judicial propriety requires that if a bench of High Court is unable to agree with the decision already rendered by an other co-ordinate bench of the same High Court, the question should be referred to a larger bench. Otherwise the decisions of High Courts will not only lose respect in the eyes of the public, it will also make the task of the sub-ordinate courts difficult.
8. The question of law referred to hereinbefore again arose for decision in this case. When this case came up in the second appeal before Sahai, J. he referred it to a Full Bench in view of the conflict of opinion noticed earlier. The Full Bench was presided over by Dasai, C.J. who was a party to the decision in Bharat's case : AIR1958All332 : AIR1958All332 . The other members of the bench were Mukerji and Dwivedi, JJ. Mukerji and Dwivedi, JJ. agreed with the view taken in Pheku Chamar's case A.I.R.1953 All.4 Desai, C.J. in his dissenting judgment did not deal with the meaning of the word 'held' in Section 9 but on the other hand opined that the suit should have been dismissed because of the fact that the buildings put up by the respondents were not there on the date of vesting and hence the respondents were not entitled to the benefit of Section 9.
9. Before considering the meaning of the word 'held' in Section 9, it is necessary to mention that it is proper to assume that the lawmakers who are the representatives of the people enact laws which the society considers as honest, fair and equitable. The object of every legislation is to advance public welfare. In other words as observed by Crawford in his book on Statutory Constructions the entire legislative process is influenced by considerations of justice and reason. Justice and reason constitute the great general legislative intent in every piece of legislation. Consequently where the suggested construction operates harshly, ridiculously or in any other manner contrary to prevailing conceptions of justice and reason, in most instances, it would seem that the apparent or suggested meaning of the statute, was not the one intended by the law-makers. In the absence of some other indication that the harsh or ridiculous effect was actually intended by the legislature, there is little reason to believe that it represents the legislative intent.
10. We are unable to persuade ourselves to believe that the legislature intended to ignore the rights of persons having legal title to possession and wanted to make a gift of any building to a trespasser howsoever recent the trespass might have been if only he happened to be in physical possession of the building on the date of vesting. We are also unable to discern any legislative policy in support of that construction. It was urged before us by the learned Counsel for the appellants that the legislature with a view to put a stop to any controversy as to any rights in or over any building directed that whoever was in physical possession of a building on the date of vesting shall be deemed to be the settled of that building. He further urged that it would have been a hard and laborious task for the State to investigate into disputed questions relating to title or possession before making the settlement contemplated by Section 9 and therefore the legislature cut the Gordian Knot by conferring title on the person who was in possession of the building. We see no merit in this argument. The settlement contemplated by Section 9 is a deemed settlement. That settlement took place immediately the vesting took place. No inquiry was contemplated before that settlement. If there is any dispute as to who is the settled, the same has to be decided by the civil courts. The State is not concerned with the same. Section 9 merely settles the building on the person who was holding it on the date of vesting.
11. It is true that according to the dictionary meaning the word 'held' can mean either a lawful holding or even a holding without any semblance of a right such as holding by a trespasser. But the real question is as to what is the legislative intent? Did the legislature intend to settle the concerned building with a person who was lawfully holding or with any person holding lawfully or otherwise? Mr. Misra contended that there is no justifi-cation for us to read into the section the word 'lawfully' before the word 'held'. According to him, if the legislature intended that the holding should be a lawful one, it would have said 'lawfully held'. He wanted us to interpret the section as it stands.
12. It is true that the legislature could have used the word 'lawfully held' in place of the word 'held' in Section 9 but as mentioned earlier one of the dictionary meanings given to the word 'held' is 'lawfully held'. In Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary (Second Edition), it is stated that in legal parlance the word 'held' means to possess by 'legal title'. In other words the word 'held' is technically understood to mean to possess by legal title. Therefore by interpreting the word 'held' as 'lawfully held', we are not adding any word to the section. We are merely spelling out the meaning of that word. It may further be seen that the section speaks of all buildings...within the limits of an Estate, belonging to or held by an intermediary or tenant or other person'.... The word 'belonging' undoubtedly refers to legal title. The words 'held by an intermediary' also refer to a possession by legal title. The words 'held by tenant' also refer to holding by legal title. In the sequence mentioned above it is proper to construe the word 'held' in Section 9 when used in relation to the words 'other person' as meaning 'lawfully held' by that person. That interpretation flows from the context in which the word 'held' has been used. We have earlier mentioned that the said interpretation accords with justice.
13. The expression 'held' has been used in the Act in various other sections-see Sections 2(1)(c), 13, 17, 18, 21, 144, 204, 240A, 298, 304, and 314 to connote possession by legal title. Mr. Misra, learned Counsel for the appellants does not deny that the expression'held' in those sections means held lawfully. But according to him that is because of the context in which the word is used. Mr. Misra is right in saying so but he overlooks the context in which that expression is used in Section 9. We have already made reference to that context. He failed to point out to us any section in the Act, leaving aside Section 9 for the time being where the word 'held' has been used as meaning mere holding, lawful or otherwise. In K. K. Handique v. The Member, Board of Agricultural Income Tax, Assam : 60ITR216(SC) this Court was called upon to consider the meaning of the word 'holds' in Sections 12 and 13 of the Assam Agricultural Income Tax Act. Subba Rao, J. (as he then was) speaking for the Court observed that the expression 'holds' includes a two-fold idea of the actual possession of a thing and also of being invested with a legal title though some times it is used only to mean actual possession. After reading Sections 12 and 13 together he observed that the word 'holds' in those sections means holding by legal title. In Eramma v. Verrupanna and Ors. : 2SCR626 . this Court considered the meaning of the word'possessed' in Section 14(1) of the Hindu Succession Act which laid down that 'any property possessed by a female Hindu whether acquired before or after the commencement of this Act shall be held by her as full owner thereof and not as a limited owner'. It held that the property possessed by a female widow, as contemplated in the section, is clearly a property to which she has acquired some kind of title whether before or after the commencement of the Act. It is true that in arriving at that conclusion the Court took into consideration the language of the provision as a whole and also the explanation to the section. The scheme of the Act is to abolish all Estates and vest the concerned property in the State but at the same time certain rights were conferred on persons in possession of lands or buildings. It is reasonable to think that the persons who were within the contemplation of the Act are those who were in possession of lands or buildings on the basis of some legal title. Bearing in mind the purpose with which the legislation was enacted, the scheme of the Act and the language used in Section 9, we are of opinion that the word 'held' in Section 9 means 'lawfully held'. In other words we accept the correctness of the view taken by Mukerji and Dwivedi, JJ. For the reasons already mentioned we are unable to agree with Desai, C.J. that the fact that the appellants had demolished the buildings put up by the respondents and put up some other building in their place had conferred any rights on them under Section 9.
14. In the result the appeal is dismissed with costs.