1. The plaintiff in L.A.R. No. 48 of 1957 or the District Court of Quilon is the petitioner before us. The award concerned was made on 14-2-1953.
2. The reference was dismissed by the District Judge on the ground that it was made after the expiry of the period of two months prescribed by proviso (b) to Sub-section (2) of Section 18 of the Travancore Land Acquisition Act, 1089. The question for determination is whether he had the jurisdiction to do so.
3. The period prescribed in proviso (b) to Sub-section (2) of Section 18 of the (Indian) Land Acquisition Act, 1894, is six weeks, and not two months as provided in proviso (b) to Sub-section (2) of Section 18 of the Travancore Land Acquisition Act, 1089. There are some other differences also in the wording of the two sections; but as far as the question of jurisdiction arising before us is concerned, they can be considered as identical.
4. The petition for reference itself discloses, quite clearly, that it was filed beyond the period prescribed. It states that the notice was received by the petitioner on 15-4-1953. The petition for reference is dated 13-7-1953 and was filed on the next day, on 14-7-1953.
5. The petition appears to have been submitted to the Collector only over four years after the date of its presentation. The office note is dated 25-7-1957 and reads as follows:
'The applicant is the defendant in this case. The application is in time. The case may be forwarded to the concerned court for reference. For orders.'
The Collector ordered on the same date: 'Yes'. The office note and the order thereon are inexplicable except on the basis of carelessness or corruption.
6. Section 18 of the (Indian) Land Acquisition Act, 1894, reads as follows:--
'(1) Any person Interested who has not accepted the award may, by written application to the Collector, require that the matter be referred by the Collector for the determination of the Court, whether his objection be to the measurement of the land, the amount of the compensation, the person to whom it is payable, or the apportionment of the compensation among the persons Interested.
'(2) The application shall state the grounds on which objection to the award is taken:
Provided that every such application shall be made:--
(a) If the person making it was present or represented before the Collector at the time when he made his award, within six weeks from the date of the Collector's award;
(b) in other cases, within six weeks of the receipt of the notice from the Collector under Section 12, Sub-section (2), or within six months from the date of the Collector's award whichever period shall first expire.'
In In re, Government and Nanu N. Kothare ILR 30 Bom 275 Chandavarkar, J., held that the conditions prescribed by Section 18 of the Act are the conditions to which the power of the Collector to make a reference is subject, and that those conditions must be fulfilled before tha court can have jurisdiction to entertain a reference. The same view was expressed by Beaumont, C. J. in Mahadev Krishna v. Mamiatdar of Alibag, AIR 1944 Bom 200:
'The Collector has power to make a reference on certain specified conditions. The first condition is that there shall be a written application by a person interested who has not accepted the award, the second condition is as to the nature of the objections which may be taken, and the third condition is as to the time within which the application shall be made. It seems to me that the Court is bound to satisfy itself that the reference mado by the Collector complies with the specified conditions, so as to give the Court jurisdiction to hear the reference. It Is not a question of the Court sitting in appeal or revision on the decision of the Collector; It is a question of the Court satisfying Itself that the reference made under the Act is one which it is required to hear, if the reference does not comply with the terms of the Act, then the Court cannot entertain it.'
7. The current view of the Madras High Court Is the same. In Narayanappa Naidu v. Revenue Divisional Officer, Sivakasi, ILR 1955 Mad 1062: ((S) AIR 1955 Mad 23) Govinda Menon, J., after a review of the divergence of opinioa expressed in judicial decisions, said:
'On principle, apart from authority, it is difficult to accept the line of reasoning contained in the cases laying down, that, whatever might be the defects and imperfections in the reference made, when once it is before the Court, tho Tribunal is debarred from tinding out whether a valid reference has been made.';
'It would be the height of technicality to say that, even when a scrap of paper styled as a reference is forwarded by the Collector and that is before the Court, it is bound to go into the merits of the dispute. No court can be compelled to adjudicate upon matters which do not come before it in strict conformity with the requirements of the law and it is within the inherent power of the Court to find out whether the matter that comes before it is in the proper form and in accordance with the requirements of particular statutes. A passive attitude which the Court is compelled to adopt in case. It is ashed to adjudicate upon invalid references cannot be founded on law or reason.'
8. The view adopted in the cases mentioned above and in Ramanathan Pillai v. Cochin Sirkar, 30 Cochin 65 and State v. Narayani Pillai Kuttiparu Amma, 1958 Ker LT 791: (AIR 1959 Ker 136); is the view that appeals to us. The contrary view Is indicated in Secy, of State v. Bhagwan Prasad, AIR 1929 All 769; Bhajanl Lal v. Secy, of State, AIR 1932 AM 568; Secy, of State v. Bhagwan Prasad, AIR 1932 All 597; Attar Singh v. Secy, of state, AIR 1940 Pesh 35; and Hari Krishna v. State of Pepsu, AIR 1958 Pun] 490.
9. Two reasons are advanced In support of tho. view adopted In these decisions:
(1) That the Collector in making a reference acts at the agent of the Government in an administrative matter and the Government is, therefore, not entitled to challenge the correctness of his action;
(2) that even If it be held that the Collector makes a reference in a judicial capacity, it does not follow that he Is a court, and even assuming that he is a court, there is no appellate, revisional or other jurisdiction conferred on the District Court which empowers it to go behind his decision in making a reference.
10. The reasons do not appear to be valid. As pointed out by the Privy Council in Nusserwanjee Pestonjee v. Meer Mynoodeen Khan, 6 Moo Ind App 134 (PC) wherever Jurisdiction is given to a court by an Act, and such Jurisdiction is only given upon certain specified terms contained in the Act itself, 'it is a universal principle that these terms must be complied with, in order to create and raise the jurisdiction, for if they be not complied with tne Jurisdiction does not arise.'
11. In deciding the question of jurisdiction in a case like this the District Court is certainly not acting as a court of appeal or revision; it is only discharging the elementary duty of satisfying itself that a reference which it Is called upon to hear and decide is a valid and proper reference according to the provisions of the Act wider which it is made. That is a basic and preliminary duty which no tribunal can possibly avoid.
12. In the light of what is stated above the C.R. P. has to be dismissed, and we do so. No costs.