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Kumar Shri Bhojrajsinhji K. Zala Vs. the State of Bombay and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtGujarat High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1960)1GLR173
AppellantKumar Shri Bhojrajsinhji K. Zala
RespondentThe State of Bombay and ors.
Cases ReferredAnil Kumar Bhattacharya v. Corporation of Calcutta
Excerpt:
.....of improvement works and would add to the value of the lands served by them and that afforded a reliable test. we fail to see any substance in this argument. this aid to statutory interpretation is the well established principle of ejusdem generis, the fixation of the meaning of such final general words presents little difficulty when they follow a series of specific words and restrictive effect is given to them limiting their operation to the company in which they find place. 15. for all these reasons we are of the opinion that the petition must fail and must be dismissed......constitute a class and that the class is not exhausted by the enumeration. considering the words reclamation bund or other structure on the land contextually structurally and in their collocation we are led to the conclusion that they must be accorded a wider coverage. in our judgment an irrigation embankment or an irrigation bund is within the ambit and scope of the language of clause (b)(vii) of section 7(i) of the act. in the course of his argument we put a question to mr. hathi if he could point out any structure or any property which bearing in mind the scope and object of the estates acquisition act could be said to be outside the scope of section 7. mr. hathi was unable to point out any such provision and all that he could urge was that section 14 deals with rights in land.....
Judgment:

S.T. Desai, C.J.

1. The petitioner was given certain Giras lands in appenage including the ownership of an irrigation lake in the village of Dhedhuki by the former State of Sayla and he owns a half share in that lake and has been enjoying the recurring income arising from supply of water from that lake for irrigation of neighbouring lands. The other half of the property was held by Mulgirasdars of the village and the petitioner being the representative of the principal Bhagdar looked after the management of the lands and the irrigation lake and upon acquisition of the same adopted proceedings for compensation in that capacity. The Saurashtra Estates Acquisition Act 1952 became applicable to various properties including the irrigation lake owned by the petitioner and the Mulgirasdars. The Act as we had occasion to observe in another case was enacted to acquire certain estates of Girasdars and Barkhalidars of Saurashtra and to regulate certain matters affecting the acquisitions of such estates. According to the petitioner the property in the irrigation lake consisted of constructions for storing water and-canals for distribution and supply of the water of the lake for irrigation purposes and there was a recurring income from the same. It was his case that the value of the constructions at the time of the acquisition was Rs. 920 and the annual recurring income for water supplied during Samvat Years 2001 to 2009 varies from Rs. 1800/- to about Rs. 1100/-. The lake was acquired by the Government under a Notification dated 6th May 1953 and the petitioner and the Mulgirasdars applied to the Collector for determination of compensation payable to them in respect of the property. The Deputy Collector visited the site and made necessary inquiry about the quantum of compensation. He assessed the original cost of construction of the embankment of the lake at Rs. 23 500 and after deducting the amount of depreciation he fixed the amount of compensation payable to the petitioner and the Mulgirasdars at Rs. 1880/- on the basis laid down in Section 7(1)(vii) of the Act read with Rule 5 of the Saurashtra Estates Acquisition Rules. Against that award an appeal was preferred to the Revenue Tribunal.

2. Two contentions were pressed on behalf of the appellant before the Revenue Tribunal: (1) that the case was governed by Section 14 and not by Section 7 of the Estates Acquisition Act and (2) the compensation payable in respect of the irrigation bund should be determined on the basis of the present cost of construction and not the actual cost of construction when the embankment was constructed about 26 years ago. The Tribunal has stated in its judgment that there is no dispute about the facts that the bund in question is an embankment constructed for the purposes of irrigation. It was strongly urged before the Tribunal that the case was not covered by any of the Clauses of Section 7 and it was Section 14 of the Act which was applicable. In order to appreciate that argument it is necessary to set out the relevant and material part of Section 7 and 14 of the Act.

7. Compensation payable to Girasdars and Barkhalidars for extinguishment of their rights:

(i) Every Girasdar of Barkhalidar having any right in any property which vests in and becomes the property of the State under Section 4 shall be entitled to compensation in the manner provided in the following paragraphs namely:

* * * *(c) The Collector shall hold a formal inquiry in the manner provided in the Code and if the Collector is satisfied that the applicant had any rights in the land and that such rights have been extinguished under Section 4 shall make an award in the manner prescribed in Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 as adapted subject to the following conditions namely:

(vii) If there is any reclamation bund or other structure on the land the amount of compensation shall be the cost of construction making deductions for the depreciation.

14. Method of compensation for the extinguishment or modification of any other rights.

(1) If any person is aggrieved by any of the provisions of this Act as extinguishing or modifying any of his right in any land other than those in respect of which provision for the payment of compensation has been made under Section 7 and if such person proves that such extinguishment or modification amounts to the transference to public ownership of such land or any right in or over such land such person may apply to the Collector for compensation within a period of twelve months from the date on which such rights are extinguished or modified.

(2) The Collector shall after holding a formal inquiry in the manner provided in the code make an award deciding such amount of compensation as he deems reasonable and adequate. In deciding the amount of compensation the Collector shall be guided by the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 23 and Section 24 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 as adapted.

4. The Principal contention stressed before the tribunal was that Clause (b) vii) of Sub-section (1) of Section 7 related only to a reclamation bund and the words following or other structure on the land should be read ejusdem generis. The Tribunal acceded to the latter part of the contention namely that the words other structure on the land were used ejusdem generis. The Tribunal however decided the point of construction of Clause (b)(vii) against the petitioner relying on an earlier Full Bench decision of the Tribunal where it was held:

Section 7(i)(b)(vii) of the said Act refers to reclamation bunds and similar structures. The words similar structures will take their colour from the words reclama tion bunds. They will mean bunds or embankment of a similar nature. The bund in the present case is said to be an irrigation bund or embankment used for the storage of water. It is admitted that it would fall under Section 7(i)(b)(vii) of the said Act. The object of a reclamation bund would be to reclaim lands which are liable to floods whereas the object of an irrigation bund would be to supply water to lands. In either case it would be in the nature of an improvement work and would add to the value of lands served by it.

5. In the result the Tribunal negatived the contention of the petitioner founded on construction of Section 7(i)(b)(vii). It also negatived the contention of the petition relating to the mode of assessing the compensation. The Tribunal dismissed the appeal and the petitioner has come to this Court on this petition.

6. It has been argued before us by Mr. V.G. Hathi learned Advocate for the petitioner that the Tribunal was in error in assuming that there was no dispute about the fact that the Bund in question was an embankment constructed for the purpose of irrigation. That contention however could not be persisted in having regard to the record of this case.

7. The next contention urged before us by Mr. Hathi is that the Tribunal though right in holding the words 'or other structure on the land' should be read ejusdem generis was in error in holding that a reclamation bund and an irrigation bund stood on the same footing and were both covered by Sub-clause (b)(vii) of Section 7(i). Now the reason which weighed with the Tribunal when it determined this point against the petitioner was that both reclamation bund and an irrigation bund would be in the nature of improvement works and would add to the value of the lands served by them and that afforded a reliable test. It is difficult to see how this could be regarded as a test for construction of the sub-clause under consideration and in our opinion there is no force in the argument urged before us on behalf of the State that an embankment constructed for irrigation can be regarded as a reclamation bund. The concept of reclamation is that it is a construction executed for the purpose of rendering land suitable for cultivation or habitation or other similar use. Damming of water or enclosing of water by piling up an embankment cannot without straining language be regarded as a reclamation in the present context. There is no dispute about the fact that there was an irrigation bund put up solely for the purpose of irrigating neighbouring lands. There was no question whatever of reclaiming any land. In support of his present argument Mr. Hathi has also emphasized the aspect of the case that this irrigation embankment put up by the petitioner resulted in recurring income to his client whereas in case of reclamation bund there can be no such recurring income. We are not impressed with this part of the argument. It is the nature of the construction that would be the guiding factor in determining whether the construction was an embankment bund or an irrigation bund. The resulting income or profit to the owner is no index and cannot affect the nature of the construction. Mr. Hathi has also drawn our attention to certain dictionary meanings but in the view we take of the matter and having regard to the arguments advanced by the learned Advocate General on the other side it is not necessary to examine the lexicon meanings of the expressions 'reclamation bund and embankment in any detail. It will suffice to observe that reclamation connotes any construction for rendering lands suitable for cultivation habitation or other similar purpose. A Bund connotes an embankment a causeway or a quay. Construction of an embankment connotes the putting up of a wall or piling up of a structure of the nature of a wall for the purpose of preventing on-rush of water or damming and storing water.

8. It has been argued by the learned Advocate General that the Tribunal was in error in holding that the words or other structure on the land should be read ejusdem generis. Inverted it is stated that the embankment constructed by the petitioner for the purpose of irrigation is within the purview of Clause (b)(ii) of Section 7(1) as it is covered by the words 'or other structure on the land'. He has fairly stated before us that the reason which found favour with the Tribunal namely that relating to income and the similarity between a reclamation bund and an irrigation embankment is not supportable. Succinctly stated the argument is that ordinarily the rule of ejusdem generis would apply when general words follow a specific or particular expression of wide category and it is only where any such general words follow any wide genus that the application of the doctrine is invited. He has relied on two decision of Court in England. In Roe v. Hemmings (1951) 1 K.B. 676 the provision of law which came up for consideration imposed penalties on the exporter or his agent of 'any goods brought to any quay or 'other place' for the purpose of being exported' in contravention of an order made under the Act of 1939. The Magistrate dismissed the information on the ground that the words or other place in the section must be construed as ejusdem generis with quay. That decision was reversed by the Division Bench holding that the words under consideration were not to be construed as ejusdem generis. In taking that view the Court followed a decision of the House of Lords in Attorney-General for Palestine v. Fakhry Ayyas (1947) A.C. 332 This latter decision also is relied on by the learned Advocate General. The phrase which was under consideration by the House of Lords also was any 'quay' or other place for the purpose Of being exported. The meaning of or other place it was decided was not limited by reference to quay. It is also said that there is no room for the application of the ejusdem generis rule unless there is a genus or category. Our attention has also been drawn to passage from Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, page 338 where it is stated:

In a modern Privy Council case it has been said that there must be more than one species mentioned to constitute a genus. The mention of a single species for example water rates does not constitute a genus. But possibly this would not apply if a single species were wide enough to comprehend a large number of varieties, e.g. 'domestic animal.'

9. In the alternative it has been argued that even if the words 'or other structure on the land be read as ejusdem generis the genus would not be reclamation bund but 'Bund of every kind. Our attention has been drawn to the scheme of the Act and particularly to the scheme and object of Section 7 It is not necessary however to burden this judgment with an examination of the scheme of the Act.

10. On the other hand it has been argued by Mr. Hathi that the words 'or other structure on the land' must be read as ejusdem generis so as to exclude an irritation bund which produces recurring income. It is said that there cannot arise any question of recurring income in case of the other properties mentioned in Sub-clauses (i) to (vi) of Section 7(i) and that Section (7)(1)(b)(vi) speak only of buildings and structures which do not yield any recurring income where as such is not the position in the case of an irrigation embankment. We put it to Mr. Hathi that Sub-clause (i) of Clause (b) speaks of Bid lands which would yield recurring income to the owner. The answer was that in case of Bid lands the compensation is eight-times the assessment whereas in case of a reclamation bund or other structure on the land the amount of compensation is the cost of the construction after making deduction for depreciation. We fail to see any substance in this argument. Nor do we see any sound reason to support the argument that the words 'or other structure on the land' cannot include an irrigation bund. Mr. Hathi has also drawn our attention to certain observations of Mr. justice Costello and Mr. Justice Panckridge in Anil Kumar Bhattacharya v. Corporation of Calcutta : AIR1937Cal603 where after referring to a decision reported in (1866) I.C.P. 69 it was observed:

The argument was that Section 559(52) must be interpreted and construed in the light of ejusdem generis rule for it makes no difference that there is merely one place specifically mentioned and not a number of places. In other words the ejusdem generis rule not only applies where there is more than one thing mentioned and then an expression of general import and intent added to the end but also where there is only one.

11. There is nothing in these observations which goes contrary to the proposition relied on by Advocate General.

12. One salutory rule of statutory interpretation founded on the principle of assumed intention of the law maker is that general words though when they stand by themselves are to be accorded their full and ordinary meaning they must when they follow particular and specific words be confined to embrace things of the same kind as those before enumerated. This aid to statutory interpretation is the well established principle of ejusdem generis, the fixation of the meaning of such final general words presents little difficulty when they follow a series of specific words and restrictive effect is given to them limiting their operation to the company in which they find place.

13. Difficulty however arises at times when the general words follow a single word or expression e.g. in the case before us where we have the expression reclamation bund followed by general words 'or other structure on the land'. Is the meaning of these general words to be fixed by reference to the meaning associated with the expression reclamation bund or by according to them their normal and natural connotation which obviously is one of width and amptitude. The conflict between the specific and general words cannot in our judgment be resolved by sheer adherence to any doctrine. There are cases which call for some limitative meaning being placed on general words and there are cases where the final general words must receive their full and natural meaning. Confining the inquiry to the case before us we find it rather difficult to accede to the suggestion that the later words should take their colour solely From the expression 'Reclamation Bund'.

14. Valid only by virtue of form the doctrine of ejusdem generis is a dubious yard stick. It has therefore to be applied with restraint and having regard to the fitness of the matter. It must not be pushed too far for after all it is one of numerous rules of construction. Its operation is presumptive and not peremptory. The context of the statute must never be lost sight of for to ignore the context wound make the intention of the Legislature subordinate to the doctrine. Before inviting its application care must be taken to see that the members of the enumeration constitute a class and that the class is not exhausted by the enumeration. Considering the words reclamation bund or other structure on the land contextually structurally and in their collocation we are led to the conclusion that they must be accorded a wider coverage. In our judgment an irrigation embankment or an irrigation bund is within the ambit and scope of the language of Clause (b)(vii) of Section 7(i) of the Act. In the course of his argument we put a question to Mr. Hathi if he could point out any structure or any property which bearing in mind the scope and object of the Estates Acquisition Act could be said to be outside the scope of Section 7. Mr. Hathi was unable to point out any such provision and all that he could urge was that Section 14 deals with rights in land other than those in respect of which provision for the payment of compensation has been made under Section 7. We mention this only incidentally and do not intend to rest our judgment simply on this aspect of the matter.

15. For all these reasons we are of the opinion that the petition must fail and must be dismissed. The rule be discharged Mr. Hathi is right when he says that the line of argument advanced before us by the learned Advocate General is not the same as that adopted on behalf of the State before the Tribunal and therefore the petitioner should not be ordered to pay the costs of this petition. There will be no order for costs.


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