S.T. Desai, C.J.
1. This petition raise a question of considerable importance. Section 32 of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act rules that on the first day of April 1957 known as the tillers day every tenant shall subject to certain conditions and provisions of the Act be deemed to have purchased from his landlord free of all encumbrances the land held by him as tenant. The effect of that section is that as from the tillers day tenants are deemed to have purchased and become owners of land of which they were tenants. Section 32H relates to the purchase price and its maxima. Clause (ii)(a) of Sub-section (1) of Section 32H lays down that in the case of tenants other than permanent tenants the purchase price is to be the aggregate of such amount as the Tribunal may determine not being less than 20 times and not more than 200 times the assessment. That sub-section it will be noticed fixes a minima and maxima as to the quantum of the purchase price to be paid by the tenant to the landlord.
The controversy before us turns on the meaning and effect of Sub-section (2C) of Section 2. It will be convenient to refer also to Section 32H(2) which is as under:
(2) The State Government may by general or special order fix different minima and maxima for the purpose of Sub-clause (a) of Clause (ii) of Sub-section (1) in respect of any kind of land held by tenants in any backward area. In fixing such minima and maxima the State Government shall have regard to the rent payable for the land and the factors in specified Sub-section (3) of Section 63A.
3. Section 63A lays down certain rules to be applied in aid of fixation of reasonable price of land for the purpose of its sale and purchase. Sub-section (3) of Section 63A lays down certain criteria to applied when fixing the price of land for the purpose of its sale and purchase. Sub-section (2) of Section 32H which we have set out above is obviously intended to help tenants in backward areas by laying down that in their case the ordinary standard of minima and maxima fixed under Clause (ii)(a) of Section 32H(1) is not to apply and the minima and maxima may be fixed by the State Government in case of such tenants of course having regard to the rent payable for the lann and factors specified in Sub-section (3) of Section 73A.
4. The expression backward area has been defined in Section 2(2C) of the Act. The definition runs as under:
Backward area means any area declared by the State Government to be a backward area being an area in which in the opinion of the State Government socially economically and educationally backward classes of citizens predominate; and includes an area declared to be a Scheduled area under paragraph 6 of the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of India.
5. The State Government issued a notification dated 31st March 1957 under Clause (2C) of Section 2 of the Act and declared by that notification a number of villages to be backward areas. The enumeration there given includes the village of Vasna in Sankheda Taluka as a backward area. The notification recites:
The Government of Bombay is of opinion that the area..are area in which socially economically and educationally backward classes of citizens predominate.
6. On the same day the State Government promulgated another notification under Clause (ii)(a) of Section 32H(1) and fixed 80 multiples of assessment as the maximum purchase price in the specified areas. The enumeration of backward areas in that notification includes the village of Vasna.
7. In the petition the petitioner has challenged the vires of Section 32H(1)(ii)(a) and Section (2C). But Mr. B.K. Amin Learned Counsel for the petitioner has not challenged the vires of those sections before us. He has confined his arguments to the validity of the two notifications mentioned above in so far as they embrace the village of Vasna. The brief argument of counsel is that the State Government was patently in error in declaring the village of Vasna as backward area and the challenge is levelled on the ground that admittedly in the village of Vasna having a total population of 1750 persons the number of non-backward citizens is 1 100 and that of backward citizens only 650. Therefore so the argument has proceeded the State Government has committed an error of law apparent on the face of the record when it has declared the village of Vasna as a backward area for it cannot be said that the 650 backward citizens preponderate in the area. The argument has run that there must be a numerical majority and the number of citizens belonging to backward classes must be preponderately large. It is said that when the number of citizens belonging to backward classes socially economically and educationally is less than half the population the notification declaring that particular village as backward area would be ultra vires. In support of his contention Mr. Amin has strongly relied on a decision of the High Court of Bombay in Special Civil Application No. 829 of 1959 Chintaman Gajanan Kamat v. The State of a Bombay delivered on 15th December 195. We shall refer to that decision a little in our judgment.
8. It has been argued on the other hand by the learned Advocate General who appears for the State and the Agricultural Lands Tribunal that the notification are valid and effective and they rightly include the village of Vasna in the list of backward areas for the purposes of the relevant sections of the Act. It is said that division of citizens in a village only between backward classes and nonbackward classes would not be accurate or in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act. An area is to be declared as backward area when in the opinion of the State Government the number of citizens belonging to classes socially economically and educationally backward can be said to predominate but says the Advocate General predominate in the present context does not connote numerical majority. The number of citizens belonging to Backward classes is not to be compared with the rest of the citizens in the village or area. Counsel relies on the dictionary meaning of the expression 'predominate' which according to Webster means; to have ascendancy influence or authority (over others) be superior hold sway, it also means to be dominant over all others prevail or preponderate. It is also urged that in a given area persons may belong to classes which are backward socially economically and also educationally. There may be persons belonging to classes which may be only socially or only economically or only educationally backward. There may also be for instance persons belonging to classes which may be socially and educationally backward but economically not so.
9. It is a firmly established principle of construction than expressions appearing in an enactment of the nature before us must be interpreted contextually and also in a manner which supports and accords with the object of the enactment. It is an equally well established principle that in case of a broad general expression of the nature under consideration the Court bears in mind the spirit and reason of the law for that is closely connected with the intention of the law-maker. The object of the enactment in so far as it relates to citizens belonging to backward classes is to lay down the rule that the amount of compensation payable by them when they become owners on the tillersday should not be beyond their means and should be less than that payable by other citizens. The test of numerical majority seems to us to be unsound in interpreting the expression predominate. There would have been some substance in the contention pressed on behalf of the petitioner if the citizens in a village or area could logically be divided only into persons belonging to backward classes i.e. those who are backward socially economically and educationally and the rest. But that dichotomy in our opinion would be an arbitrary classification. The citizens may readily fall under more than two categories and certainly in at least three categories. The categories may consist of those of whom it may legitimately be said that they belong to backward classes those who may be said to belong to advanced classes i. e. persons who have progressed socially economically and educationally and in between must always remain a third class of persons whom we may describe as an intermediate class. In this intermediate class may very well fall persons who cannot be regarded as falling under the head of backward classes nor under the head of advanced classes. Therefore the test of numerical majority cannot be permitted to dominate the construction of the relevant sections. The expression in our judgment must be read in a comparative sence and a relative sense relatively with more than one class and comparatively with more than one class.
10. But says Mr. Amin the matter is not res integra and this Court as held in a Full Bench decision Anand Municipality v. The Union of India 1960 (1) GLR 82 is bound by decisions of the Bombay High Court. He relies on an unreported decision of the Bombay High Court in Special Civil Application No. 829 of 1959. In that case question similar to that before us did arise in respect of a declaration relating to the village of Povale in Alibag Taluka as a backward area. The contention that was urged on behalf of the State Government in that case was that the majority of the persons residing in that village were backward. The major part of the judgment deals with an examination of that argument which was negatived by the Court. There is an observation in the judgment in that case as follows:
Under Clause (2C) Government can declare a village 10 be a backward area only if a large majority of the citizens belong to backward classes. All that has been shown in this case by the affidavit filed on behalf of the Stale Government is that the majority of persons residing in Povale village are backward. It is not shown that in the opinion of Government they belong to backward classes. On the other hand the publication issued by Government to which 1 have referred above as well as the letter received by the petitioner from the Director of Social Welfare Poona show that the majority of the citizens in this village do not belong to backward classes.
11. These observations must be read in the context of the argument advanced before the court and so reading these observation we do not think we would be justified in agreeing with Mr. Amin that the ratio decedendi of that case is that the word predominate must mean that there must be a numerical majority of citizens belonging to backward classes. There is neither principle nor authority for confining the connotation of the expression predominate in the definition of backward area to a numerical majority. As we have already observed an a point of the nature under consideration it is legitimate for the court to bear in mind and indeed incumbent on it to have regard to the object of the enactment. Some arbitrary rule had to be laid down for the guidance of the State Government and also some criteria had to be furnished. The declaration obviously would affect a number of villages and areas. The legislature very well knew that ordinarily in an area or village there would be a fairly large number of persons who would be earning their livelihood as tenant and also knew that there would be a number of persons in any village or area who would have nothing to do with agricultural lands or tenancy rights. We mention this only to illustrate one of the reasons which could well have weighed with the law-maker. Considered in the light of what we have already stated it seems to us that what is envisaged by the expression predominate in the definition of backward area is nothing more than a comparative predominance or a relative predominance and not a numerical predominance nor an absolute predominance. In the result the petition fails and will be dismissed. The rule will be discharged with costs.