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Pritam Singh Chahil Vs. State of Punjab and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty;Constitution
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Judge
Reported inAIR1967SC930; (1967)69PLR405; [1967]2SCR536
ActsConstitution of India - Article 32; Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955 - Sections 32-A, 32-D, 32-E, 32-FF and 32-G; Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Amendment) Act, 1956; Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Rules, 1958 - Rule 28; Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950
AppellantPritam Singh Chahil
RespondentState of Punjab and ors.
Cases ReferredThe State of Bihar v. Maharajadhiraja Sir Kameshwar Singh of Darbhanga
Excerpt:
.....tenancy and agricultural lands (amendment) act, 1956, rule 28 of pepsu tenancy and agricultural lands rules, 1958 and bihar land reforms act, 1950 - petitioner transferred land to his wife before passage of 1956 amendment act - remaining land in hands of petitioner was below prescribed ceiling - amending act contemplated acquisition of land even after it was transferred if it fell in excess of specified ceiling limit - writ under article 32 - whether provisions of act illegal and ultra virus - section 32-ff added retrospectively through amendment to negate specified transfer made in order to surpass provisions of act - facts shows transfer was made to bring land below ceiling limit so as to avoid acquisition by state - transfer fell within scope of section 32-ff - transfer by..........and for a declaration that the provisions of rule 28 of the pepsu tenancy and agricultural lands rules, 1958, hereinafter called the rules, are illegal and void, and for restraining the respondents from dispossessing the petitioner from his land under the provisions thereof. 2. the facts may be briefly stated : the petitioner owned land measuring about 284 bighas situated in village narinderpura. in the year 1956 he transferred one half of the said land in favour of his wife shrimati charanjeet kaur. excluding the land so transferred, the land remaining in the hands of the petitioner is admittedly below the ceiling prescribed under the act. on october 30, 1956, act xv of 1956 was passed by the legislature of the patiala and east punjab union. it amended the pepsu tenancy and.....
Judgment:

Subba Rao, C.J.

1. This is a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India for a declaration that the provisions of Sections 32-A, 32-D, 32-E, 32-FF and 32-G of the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955, as amended by Act XV of 1956, hereinafter called the Act, are illegal, ultra vires and unconstitutional and for a declaration that the provisions of Rule 28 of the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Rules, 1958, hereinafter called the Rules, are illegal and void, and for restraining the respondents from dispossessing the petitioner from his land under the provisions thereof.

2. The facts may be briefly stated : The petitioner owned land measuring about 284 bighas situated in village Narinderpura. In the year 1956 he transferred one half of the said land in favour of his wife Shrimati Charanjeet Kaur. Excluding the land so transferred, the land remaining in the hands of the petitioner is admittedly below the ceiling prescribed under the Act. On October 30, 1956, Act XV of 1956 was passed by the Legislature of the Patiala and East Punjab Union. It amended the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955. By the amendment Chapter 4-A was added to the earlier Act and also a ceiling was imposed on land under personal cultivation. The petitioner is admittedly in personal cultivation of his land, which, excluding that sold to his wife, is below the ceiling prescribed under the Act. On January 14, 1959, the Punjab Legislature passed Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Land (Amendment) Act, 1959, (Act III of 1959). Under the said amending Act, no transfer or other disposition of land effected after August 21, 1956, except in favour of persons mentioned thereunder, shall affect the right of the State Government under the Act to the surplus area to which it would be entitled but for such transfer or disposition. Relying upon that section and including in the total area held by the petitioner the land transferred by him in favour of his wife, the Special Collector, Chandigarh, on May 31, 1962, served a draft statement on the petitioner holding that certain extent of land was surplus area. The petitioner, questioning the order of the Collector on various grounds, filed this petition for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.

3. The learned Counsel for the petitioner raised before us the following three points : (1) The provisions of sections 32-A, 32-D, 32-E, 32-FF, 32-G and 32-P of the Act are inconsistent with the second proviso to Article 31-A of the Constitution; (2) the provisions of section 32-Ff, read with the rule 23-A of the Rules, amount to delegation of legislative power; and (3) the provisions of rule 28 of the Rules are inconsistent with the provisions of section 32-G of the Act and therefore Article 31-A is not a bar against the enforcement of the petitioner's fundamental right under Articles 19, 13(2) and 14 of the Constitution.

4. To appreciate the scope of the first question it is necessary to read the relevant provisions of the Acts and the Constitution. The second proviso to Article 31-A of the Constitution reads :

'Provided that where any law makes any provision for the acquisition by the State of any estate and where any land comprised therein is held by a person under his personal cultivation, it shall not be lawful for the State to acquire any portion of such land as is within the ceiling limit applicable to him under any law for the time being in force...... unless the law relating to the acquisition of such land...... provides for payment of compensation at a rate which shall not be less than the market value thereof.'

Section 3 of Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955 as amended by Act XV of 1956 provides :

'Permissible limit for the purpose of this Act is thirty standard acres of land and where such thirty standards acres on being converted into ordinary acres exceed eighty acres, such eighty acres :

Section 32-A provides :

'Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any law, custom, usage or agreement, no person shall be entitled to own or hold as landowner or tenant land under his personal cultivation within the State which exceeds in the aggregate the permissible limits.'

Section 32-E provides :

'Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in any law, custom or usage for the time being in force, and subject to the provisions of Chapter IV, after the date on which the final statement in respect of a landowner or tenant is published in the Official Gazette, then -

(a) in the case of the surplus area of the landowner...... which is not included within the permissible limits of the landowner, such area shall on the date on which possession thereof is taken by or on behalf of the State Government be deemed to have been acquired, by the State Government for a public purpose and all rights, title and interest, of all persons in such land shall be extinguished, and such rights, title and interest shall vest in the State Government free from encumbrances created by any person.'

Section 32-FF inserted by the Punjab Act III of 1955 reads as under :

'Save in the case of land acquired by the Stage Government under any law for the time being in force or by an heir by inheritance held by a small landowner not being a relation as prescribed of the person making the transfer or disposition of land, for consideration up to an area which with or without the area owned or held by him does not in 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.

Rule 23A of the Rules of Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Rules, 1958 reads as under :

'For the purposes of section 32-FF of the Act, the prescribed relations shall be the wife or husband, male or female descendants and the descendants of such female, father, mother, father's or mother's sister, brother and his descendants, mother's brother and his descendants wife's brother and sister's husband.'

5. The gist of the said provisions may be stated thus : No person shall be entitled to own or hold as landowner or tenant land under his personal cultivation exceeding the permissible limit, that is, thirty standard acres. Any land in excess of the permissible limit vests in the State. Under Act III of 1959, the Act was amended and for the purposes of ascertaining the surplus land, the land transferred after August 21, 1956, in favour of the persons mentioned in rule 23-A was added to his land and if the total thereof was above the permissible area, the surplus would vest in the State Government. To put it differently, the said transfer is ignored and the surplus area is ascertained. In the instant case if the transfer by the petitioner in favour of his wife is not ignored, the petitioner's land would be within the permissible area. But if ignored it would be above that area. Admittedly also under the provisions of the Act, compensation payable in respect of the surplus area is not its market value but that ascertained in the manner prescribed by the Act and the Rules made there under. Under the second proviso to Article 31-A of the Constitution, if the State acquires any portion of land which is within the ceiling limits, it shall pay compensation at a rate which shall not be less than the market value thereof.

6. Learned Counsel for the petitioner contends that section 32-FF, inserted by Punjab Act III of 1959, whereunder land validly transferred after August 21, 1956, is added to the transferor's land for the purposes of ascertaining the ceiling offends the second proviso to Article 31-A. It is argued that while under the said second proviso a person is entitled to market value in respect of the land below the ceiling acquired from him, section 32-FF by a fiction statutorily raises the ceiling. The answer to the question raised depends upon the constitutional validity of section 32-FF of the Act. It is not disputed that the Parliament can make an Act in respect of the matters within its purview either prospectively or retrospectively. It is a well known legislative device to put an earlier date in order to prevent the evasion of an impending statute. It appears that on August 13, 1956, the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Second Amendment Bill, 1956 was published in Pepsu Gazette Extraordinary fixing the permissible limits of a landholder and introducing some provisions against the eviction of tenant in possession of lands above the said limits. The Statement of objects and reasons reads thus :

'The necessity for introducing certain agrarian reforms particularly with a view to protecting the tenants against eviction and fixing for allottees a higher limit for reservation of land for personal cultivation was being felt for some time past. This Bill seeks to achieve the object by amending the Pepsu Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1955.'

7. The proposal to introduce the said Bill must have caused apprehension in the minds of the landowners that they would lose the lands above the permissible area and naturally they must have transferred their lands in favour of their relatives. Section 32-FF was added to frustrate such devices and to make the enforcement of the Act really effective. Under the said section such a transfer made after August 21, 1956, shall not affect the rights of the State Government under the Act to the surplus area to which it would be entitled but for such transfer. Between the transferor and the transferee the transfer would be good, but it would not be effective against the State Government. That is to say for ascertaining the surplus area the land transferred would be included in the transferor's land. Out of the total extent, the land above the ceiling, that is the permissible limit, would be the surplus land. The Legislature certainly is competent to make such a law. The validity of such a provision may perhaps be questioned under certain circumstances on the ground that it is an unreasonable restriction within the meaning of Article 19(2) of the Constitution. But that is not open to the petitioner as the Amending Act giving retrospective operation relates to an 'estate'. Therefore, Article 31-A operates as a bar against raising any such question. We, therefore, hold that section 32-FF is valid and as the land acquired is admittedly above the ceiling, the second proviso to Article 31-A has no application.

8. The second point also has no merits. Under section 32-FF of the Act, transfers in favour of relations prescribed have to be ignored. The contention is that the Legislature without enumerating the relations or indicating some principles for ascertaining the relations abdicated its legislative function and delegated it to the State Government to prescribe the relations and, therefore, the said section is void. From the mere fact that the enumeration of the relations is left to the State Government, we cannot say that the Legislature has abdicated its function. It has clearly laid down the policy and on the basis of that policy enumeration of the relations can easily be worked out. The expression 'relation' is comprehensive and has a local significance. The relatives must be such as those in whose favour benami transactions are usually entered into or those whose benefit is indirectly the benefit of the transferor himself. The fact that under rule 23-A comparatively distant relations are mentioned but the sister is omitted, is relied upon to prove the indefiniteness of the policy laid down in the Act. But a perusal of Rule 23-A shows that all relations are mentioned, but, by some mistake, sister is omitted. We, therefore, reject this contention.

9. The next argument covers a wider field. It may be put thus. The Act provided for acquisition after paying compensation in the manner prescribed. But the Rules prescribing the fixation of compensation are ultra vires the Act and, therefore, they are not valid rules in that regard. Fixation of compensation is an integral part of acquisition. There cannot be an acquisition under the Act without payment of compensation. With the result there is no valid law enabling the State to acquire the lands of the petitioner. The petitioner is not questioning the law of acquisition on the ground that it infringes the fundamental right under Article 19, 14 or 31, but complains that the State is infringing his fundamental right under Article 19 without any valid law to support its action. So stated there is considerable force in the argument. But the whole edifice would be brought down if the Rules prescribing the compensation are valid, for, in that event, the petitioner's fundamental rights are infringed under the law of acquisition and by reason of Article 31-A he cannot question the validity of the law on the ground that it infringes the three fundamental rights mentioned therein.

10. At this stage the argument advanced by learned Counsel for the respondents that the decision of this Court in The State of Bihar v. Maharajadhiraja Sir Kameshwar Singh of Darbhanga, : [1952]1SCR889 concludes the matter against the petitioner on the question raised by him may be noticed. In that case one of the contentions raised was that the Bihar Land Reforms Act, 1950 (XXX of 1950) and other Acts were ultra vires the Constitution for want of Legislative Competency, as law made under Entry 36 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution should provide for compensation and as the Acts did not provide for compensation, they were void. This argument was built upon the contention that under Entry 36 of List II of the Seventh Schedule only a law of acquisition could be made and that the existence of a public purpose and an obligation to pay compensation are the necessary concomitants of compulsory acquisition of private property, and that, therefore, the term 'acquisition' must be construed as importing, by necessary implication, the two conditions aforesaid. This Court held that the expression 'acquisition' in Entry 36 of List II did not take in the concept of compensation and, therefore, the Acts could not be said to be bad for want of legislative competence. Be that as it May, this judgment has no real bearing on the question raised before us. The point taken is quite a different one, namely, the Legislature made a law of acquisition providing for fixation of compensation in the manner prescribed and that the rules prescribing the said manner are ultra vires the statute, and therefore, the State is interfering with the petitioner's right unsupported by law.

11. To appreciate the argument it will be necessary to consider the relevant provisions of the Act and the Rules made thereunder. Under section 32-G of the Act, 'where any land is acquired under section 32-E, there shall be paid compensation which shall be determined by the Collector or any other officer in the manner and in accordance with the principles hereinafter set out.' One of the principles is that in respect of land other than banjar land for the first 25 standard acres of land the compensation payable is 12 times the fair rent. Under the proviso the compensation in no case can be less than 90 times the land revenue (including the rates and cesses) payable for the land or two hundred rupees per acre, whichever, is less. Under sub-section (2) of section 32-G, the Collector or the officer authorised by the State Government shall prepare a compensation statement in the form and manner prescribed. Under Rule 28 of the Rules the mode of determination of fair rent and classification of soils are given. The relevant provisions of the said rule on which much reliance is placed in support of the argument reads :

'Rule 28 : Determination of fair rent and classification of soils :-

(1) Fair rents shall be determined by the Commission for each assessment circle as recognised at the last Settlement.

(2) In determining fair rents, the Commission shall, -

(1) follow the principles laid down in Rules 1 to 12 of the Land Revenue Rules, 1929, which shall be applicable mutatis mutandis and subject to the amendment that the average yield per acre of any crop given in the last Settlement Report shall be adopted; and

(2) take into account such other factors, not being inconsistent with the provisions of the Act and these rules, as it may consider necessary.

(3) The Commission shall, as far as possible, adhere to the classification of soils as adopted at the last Settlement, and where it feels that owing to any circumstance which may have developed since the last Settlement, reclassification of soils in any area has become necessary, it shall, while reclassifying soils, keep in view the principle that classification should be as simple as possible and be based on broad differences of a fairly permanent character which affects in a marked degree the economic rental of the land.'

12. Under Rules 1 to 12 of the Land Revenue Assessment Rules, 1929, the following procedure is prescribed : An estimate of net assets shall be framed on the basis of rents in kind paid by tenants at will prevailing in the estate or group of estates under consideration. That estimate is made by taking into consideration the relevant factors mentioned in sub-rule (2) of rule 1, namely, (a) the average acreage of each crop on each class of land for which it is proposed to frame separate rates; (b) the average yield per acre of each crop so grown for which rent is taken by division of produce; (c) the average price obtainable by agriculturists for each of the crops referred to under clause (b); and (d) the actual share of the gross produce received by landowners in the case of crops which are divided and the rent payable on zabti crops. The land is classified under different categories depending upon whether they are cultivated or uncultivated lands. The prices to be adopted in the estimate shall be the average of the prices which are likely to be obtained for their crops by the agriculturists during the coming settlement and other relevant considerations. In estimating the average yield of different crops on different classes of land in an estate or a group of estates, the Revenue Officer shall be guided by the results of certain relevant factors mentioned in Rule 5 of the Land Revenue Assessment Rules. After the estimate is made of the annual gross product of an estate or group of estates, an estimate shall be made of the annual value of the produce of the land-owner or of his net assets. This method by which the estimate of the money value of the net assets of an estate or a group of estates shall be made is adopted for ascertaining the fair rent under the Act, subject to the modification that the average yield per acre of any crop given in the last settlement report shall be adopted. It is said that the last Settlement in Pepsu area took place 50 years ago; that is to say, the average yield per acre fixed by the said last Settlement Report shall be substituted for rule 5 of the Land Revenue Assessment Rules, 1929. It is argued that if the average yield of each crop is taken not as it is now but as it was 50 years ago it is not possible to arrive at the fair rent under the Act, as there may be phenomenal raise in the yield of each crop during this long period and, therefore, the rules providing for the estimate of fair rent on such artificial basis are ultra vires the statute. In estimating the net assets of an estate the aforesaid four factors will have to be taken into consideration, i.e., the class of land, the average acreage of each crop, the average yield per acre of each crop, the average price and the actual share of the land-owner. During these 50 years there may be changes in the fertility of the land, in the character of the land, in the average yield per acre and also in the price and in the actual share of the land-owner. So far as the price and the average acreage of each crop are concerned, the date of acquisition is the determining factor under the rules. In regard to the fertility of the soil, the Commission is authorized under the rules to reclassify the lands on the basis of broad differences of fairly permanent character which affect in a marked degree the economic rental of the lands that is to say, if in the last Settlement it was a barani land, the Commission may say, having regard to the changed circumstances, that it is a sailab land or abi land. If a land is differently classified, the yield taken for determining the fair rent will be that of the higher classified land. But as regards the yield from different categories of land, there is nothing on the record to show why the rules accepted the average yield per acre of any crop given in the last Settlement Report. Though it is theoretically possible that, improvement in seeds and the use of chemical fertilisers may have increased the yield of a particular crop per acre, there is nothing on record to show that in Pepsu there is any such abnormal increase in the yield per acre in respect of any particular crop. The fact that the average yield of the last Settlement Report is adopted prima facie indicates there has been no such increase in yield in respect of any particular crop. The petitioner does not say in his affidavit that there is any such increase. In sub-para (a) of para 18 of the petition he says :

'In order to determine the fair rent, the average yield of the land in question should be adopted as the basis. It is submitted that the yield of the land is recorded at the conclusion of every crop in the Khasra Girdawari by the Village Patwari and the same is checked by the Assistant Collector.'

In sub-para (b) thereof he adds :

'That the provisions of rule 28 of the Rules are inconsistent with the provisions of Section 32-G of the Act. The provisions of rule 28 provide that the Commission shall adhere to the classification of the soil as adopted at the last Settlement. It is submitted that the last Settlement took place in erstwhile Patiala State about 50 years back. The village Narinderpura was part of Patiala State at that time. The provisions of rule 28 accordingly run contrary to the letter and spirit of the provisions of section 32-G of the Act. The classification of the land should be taken on the date the land is acquired under the Act.'

13. It will be seen from the said two sub-paragraphs of para. 18 of the affidavit of the petitioner that his complaint is that the classification of the soil is that which obtained 50 years ago and that the yield can be ascertained from Khasra Girdawari. But there is no allegation that the yield of the land in respect of any crop per acre has so increased that it will be unreasonable to take the yield recorded in the last Settlement as the criterion for arriving at the fair rent. So far as the classification is concerned, as we have pointed out earlier, rule 3 of the Rules enjoins the Commission to reclassify the lands, if owing to supervening circumstances there is change in the category of the land. On the record, as placed before us, without an allegation that there is an increase in the yield per acre in regard to a particular crop, it is not possible for us to hold that the relevant rules are ultra vires the Act. It may be that in some other case where specific allegations are made in that regard and established, the validity of the Rules may have to be considered. We, therefore, hold that on the facts placed before us we cannot hold that the Rules are ultra vires the Act. If so, it follows that the petitioner's land is being acquired under law of acquisition and that the petitioner is precluded, by reason of Article 31-A of the Constitution, from questioning the validity of the Act or the Rules made thereunder on the ground that his fundamental right under Article 19, 14 or 31 of the Constitution is infringed.

14. In this view, no other question arises for consideration.

15. In the result, the petition is dismissed but, in the circumstances, without costs.

16. Petition dismissed.


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