1. By an order passed on 1-2-1972 in proceedings under Section 22 read with Section 15 of Act I of 1964, the landlord was allowed to resume 50 cents of land from the tenant. The latter appealed, but did not succeed. When execution was taken out in E. P. No. 692/74, however, the tenant objected on the ground that Value of improvements was not deposited in time and that the resumption order had consequently become inoperative. The executing court over-ruled this objection, and hence the present revision by the tenant.
2. The operative portion of the resumption order was in these terms:--'..... That the petitioners do pay a sum of Rs. 598.75 being the value of improvements effected by the respondent, on resumption..... And the petitioner will be entitled to apply for actual delivery of the property reserved on deposit of the value of improvements.'
3. Since the petitioner's contention is mainly based on Sub-sections (2), (3) and (8) of Section 22 of the Act I shall extract them :--
'(2) The Land Tribunal shall duly enquire into the application and pass appropriate orders thereon. Where the order allows resumption, it shall specify the extent and location of the land allowed to be resumed, the rent payable in respect of the portion, if any, that would be left after resumption and such other particulars as may be prescribed and directing the landlord to make, within such time and in such manner as may be prescribed, payments to extinguish the rights of the cultivating tenant and Ihe intermediaries, if any, who would be affected by such resumption.
(3) The Land Tribunal may for sufficient reasons, extend the time prescribed under Sub-section (2) for making payments by the landlord.
(8) Where a landlord fails to deposit the amounts in accordance with the directions of the Land Tribunal, the order of resumption shall be treated as cancelled and the landlord shall have no further right for resumption.' Sub-section (2) lays down that the Tribunal's order shall contain directions aa to the time within which the landlord shall make payment. Sub-section (3) provides that the time so fixed can be extended by the Tribunal. And Sub-section (8) provides that the order for resumption will stand cancelled if the landlord fails to make the deposit as directed. The time to be initially fixed by the Tribunal in its order under Sub-section (2) is governed by Rule 11 of the Kerala Land Reforms (Tenancy) Rules, 1970 reading as follows :--
'11. Contents of order.-- (1) Besides the particulars mentioned in Sub-section (2) of Section 22, the order passed by the Land Tribunal shall specify the survey numbers and sub-division numbers, if any (or an adequate description), of the land allowed to be resumed, the extent of land that will be left after resumption, and the value of the improvements belonging to the cultivating tenant and the other persons, if any, interested in the land allowed to be resumed.
(2) The order referred to in Sub-rule (1) shall also specify the amounts to be paid by the landlord resuming the land, and the persons to whom the payments are to be made, and shall further direct that the amounts shall be deposited with the Land Tribunal within a period of thirty days from the date of the order; and on such depo.sil being made, the Land Tribunal shall pay the amounts to the parties and obtain receipt therefor.
(3) The order of the appellate authority against the order of the Land Tribunal under Sub-section (2) of Section 22 shall, so far as may be, specify the particulars mentioned in the said sub-section and also the particulars mentioned in Sub-rules (1) and (2).'
4. The argument is this. In view of Rule 11 (2), the maximum period of time a Tribunal can grant to a landlord for making payment, in the first instance, is thirty days. This statutory maximum can be exceeded by an extension under Sec-tion 22 (3); but where no extension is granted, or where payment is defaulted after the extended period also, the order of resumption is to be treated as cancelled under Section 22 (8). In the present case the order for deposit was made on 1-2-72. No payment was made within 30 days. There was also no extension of time, under Section 22 (3), before the deposit was made on 1-4-72. The order should be treated as cancelled on the expiry of 30 days from 1-2-72, notwithstanding the subsequent deposit; and therefore there was nothing to execute.
5. To my mind, the above approach is an over-simplification of the statutory scheme. In substance, the case is that because of the delay of 30 days in making the deposit, the tenant obtained immunity from resumption. Such a technical plea, destructive of a valid order passed by a competent authority after protracted adjudication, has to be supported by a strict construction of the relevant provisions, if it is to succeed.
6. As noticed, Section 22 (2) imposes an obligation on the Tribunal to fix the time within which the landlord should make the deposit. Rule 11 (2) does not go further, except to the extent of prescribing that not more than 30 days could be granted. But in the present case, the Tribunal had fixed no time at all in its order passed under Section 22 (2). Without such a fixation, there could have been no 'extension' under Sub-rule (3). It is a cardinal principle of administering justice that no party shall suffer because of a mistake of the court. Sub-section (8) is attracted only when the landlord fails to deposit the amount 'in accordance with the directions' of the Tribunal. When no direction fixing the time for payment is given by the Tribunal, it cannot be said that the landlord has failed to comply with it.
7. It is argued that the prescription of 30 days in Rule 11 should be read into the Tribunal's order under Section 22 (2), even if it is silent on the aspect, and that since the legislative intent is to grant only so much of time, that time-limit should be strictly enforced in the context of a statute designed to protect tenants and where Section 22 is only a minor deviation from this general policy. I am not sure that what is required to be expressly done by an order under Section 22 (2) can be supplied by implication. And as for legislative policy, it cannot be overlooked that the very legislature which seeks to protect the tenants, also thought it fit to provide for some resumption. When the legislature itself deviates from its policies, there is no justification for the court to straighten up matters by denying to the landlords what the Act has chosen to give them. The court's duty is to give effect to the language of Section 22 if it is clear and unambiguous. No fountain of justice can seek to be higher than the stream of law that feeds it. It is not as if the legislature has ordained that the landlord should get only 30 days to make the deposit in all cases. Sub-section (3) is a clear indication that the time can be extended in appropriate cases, and that the deadline in Rule 11 is not always the landlord's un-doing.
When the legislature itself is disposed to show such benign consideration, the court should be slow to deny it to the landlord by placing at his door its own mistake. After all, the resumption in this case is only to the extent of 50 cents and the delay is only 30 days; and going by Section 15, it is reasonable to infer that the landlord has no other place to put up residential building. Probably the tenant may be having much more land with him. The landlord here may be one of the weaker links of society, judged from the standpoint of agrarian economy and agrarian reforms, though with a bad label on his face; and that label, it appears to me, is no reason to drown his legitimate plea in a sea of slogans raised against landlordism in general. The landlord who resumes ceases to be a landlord of that bit of land; he no longer deserves condemnation or derision as a rent-receiver and parasite. Fervent appeals to the philosophy of the statute and the sympathy it shows to the tenants may also come from people out to protect entrenched interests more valuable than the landlords'. And it cannot also be forgotten that the Act itself makes a distinction between small holders and others, and also between tenants holding more than the ceiling area and other tenants, for the purposes of resumption.
8. Counsel attempted to derive some support from the Full Bench decision of this court in C. R. P. No. 721/71. That was a case where the tenant had applied for restoration under 13-B of Act 1 of 1964. The deposit made by him was found insufficient and the question was whether the court could give him time to make up the deficiency. The Full Bench held that there was no provision in Section 13B for extension of time. The absence of such a provision was contrasted with the provisions of Sections 13C and 13D specifically empowering the court to extend time in cases coming under them. The decision turned squarely on the absence of any provision for extension of time in Section 13B; but such is not the case under Section 22. And it is interesting to notice that the court was guided by the language of the section, and not by its sympathy to tenants seeking restoration.
9. In Vohannan v. Thomas, (1977 Ker LT 717) the Tribunal had passed an order for resumption on 30-6-71 directing the landlord to deposit certain amounts within two months. There was an appeal and a revision, and the amount was deposited only on 15-10-74, after the disposal of the revision. Bhaskaran J. rejected the landlord's contention that the two-month period had to be calculated from the date of the revisional court's order. The decisions of this court holding that a tenant under the Rent Control Act (Act 2 of 1965) could wait till the disposal of his revision to make the deposit ordered by the Rent Control Court, were distinguished. The facts here are entirely different. The Tribunal had not fixed any time. The Landlord had not waited till the disposal of the appeal. No question relating to the merger of the Tribunal's order in the decision of the superior Tribunal is also involved.
10. The decision of Balagangadharan Nair J. in C. R. P. No. 273/76 (partly reported in 1977 Ker LN 113) is also of not much assistance to the revision petitioner. One of the questions decided was whether the Tribunal could extend the time fixed by Rule 11, in exercise of its power under Rule 130. It was held that this rule was inapplicable to cases where time was fixed by the statute itself, and that in a case governed by Section 22 (2), extension could only be under Sub-section (3). It was further held that such extension had to be applied for before the expiry of the 30 days because, in the absence of such extension, Sub-section (8) would operate and cancel the resumption order altogether. That again was a case where the Tribunal had fixed a period of 30 days as per order passed under Section 22 (2) On 15-4-72. The application for extension was made only on 26-8-72. The question decided was about the consequence of not applying for extension, where time was fixed by the order under Section 22 (2). That principle cannot apply to a case where there has been no initial fixation at all.
11. An argument could probably have been advanced that the resumption order was itself defective for having failed to fix any time for payment, as required by Section 22 (2). How far such a failure would affect the validity of the order is not a matter to be gone into now, because no such contention is raised Probably the petitioner would also be precluded from raising it at the execution stage, by reason of his omission to raise it in the appeal filed against the order dated 1-2-72.
I dismiss the revision, but make no order as to costs.