1. The question in this petition under Art. 227 of the Constitution of India directed against an order passed by the Gujarat Revenue Tribunal (GRT) is-- as to whether the competent authority under the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act, 1960 (the Act) was right in declaring that the petitioner held land to the extent of 13 acres 21 1/2 Gunthas in excess of the ceiling area.
The Mamlatdar and Agricultural Lands Tribunal (ALT) of Savli decided by an order at annexure 'C' dated February 21, 1964 that the petitioner was in possession of 28 acres 4 gunthas of land in excess of the ceiling area. The petitioner preferred an appeal to the court of the Collector of Baroda. By an order at Annexure 'B' dated November 10, 1965, the Collector allowed the appeal in part and modified the declaration made by the ALT to the effect that the surplus land was to the extent of 13 acres-21 1/2 gunthas and not 28 acres-2 gunthas. Ultimately, therefore, it was held that the petitioner held land to the extent of 13 acres-21 1/2 gunthas in excess of the ceiling area, by the Collector. Against this order a revision was preferred to the GRT. The GRT by its order at Annexure 'A' dated January 5, 1972 confirmed the view taken by the Collector and rejected the revisional application. Thereupon, the petitioner has invoked the jurisdiction of this Court under Art. 227 of the Constitution of India and has contended that the GRT has committed an error apparent on the face of the record in holding that the petitioner was holding that the petitioner was holding land to the extent of 13 acres 21 1/2 gunthas in excess of the ceiling area.
2. The ceiling area has been computed after grouping together the holdings of land standing in the names of his two minor sons Kiritkumar and Bhupendra (14-acres-2 gunthas and 38 acres-1 guntha respectively). The grouping was made in pursuance of the provision contained in S. 6 of the Act as it then stood which was in the following terms: -
'6. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force or in any agreement, usage or decree or order of a court, with effect from the appointed day no person shall, subject to the provisions of sub-ss. (1) and (2) The entitled to hold whether as owner or tenant or partly as owner and partly as tenant land in excess of the ceiling area.
(2) Where an individual, who holds land, is a member of a family, not being a joint family, and land is also separately held by such individual's spouse or minor children, then the land held by the individual and the said members of the individual's family shall be grouped together for the purposes of this Act and the provisions of this Act shall apply to the total land so grouped together as if such land had been held by one person'.
It was argued before the GRT that grouping can be made only in the case of members of the joint family and that inasmuch as the lands were held by minor sons in their individual capacity, it was not permissible to group these lands along with the land standing in the name of the petitioner. The GRT repelled this contention which was contrary to the intendment and purpose and the plain reading of sub-s, (2) of S. 6 of the Act. The GRT took the view that sub-s. (2) of S. 6 in terms provided that in determining the surplus, the extent of holding of an individual had to be grouped together with the holding of such individual's spouse or minor children. In the present case, it is not the contention of the petitioner that he was a member of a joint family. Surplus was being determined on the basis that the petitioner was an individual. If the petitioner was a member of the joint family as defined by sub-s. (16) of S. 2. of the Act, that is to say, a member of an undivided Hindu family, the land standing in the names of all the members of the joint family would have to be grouped together by virtue of the very definition of sub-s. (16) of S. 2. That is why the petitioner does not contend that the land belongs to the joint family. His contention is that the land belongs to the petitioner in his individual capacity. In view of this circumstance, subs. (2) of S, 6 is attracted and in computing the surplus of the petitioner as an individual, the holding of his spouse or minor children has to be grouped together along with his own holding. The view taken by the GRT is, therefore, unassailable.
3. The learned counsel for the petitioner then argued that the Act had been amended in 1974 by the Amending Act 2 of 1974 and that under the circumstances, the matter should be remanded to the competent authority for re-determining the extent of the surplus. Now, what has been done by the amendment is to lower the ceiling. Before amendment, the ceiling area in respect of the holding of the petitioner was 72 acres. After the amendment, the ceiling area is 36 acres. These facts are not in dispute. Under the circumstances, no useful purpose will be served by remanding the matter to the ALT for re-determining the extent of the surplus. It was, however, argued by the learned counsel for the petitioner that S. 6 itself had been amended and that a remand was called for by reason of the fact that two minors had attained majority during the pendency of the proceedings in the High Court. There is no substance in this contention either S. 6 of the Act after amendment in so far as relevant reads as under: -
'6. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any law for the time being in force or in any agreement, usage or decree or order of a court, with effect from the appointed day no person shall, subject to the provisions of sub-ss. (2), (3), (3A) and (3B) be entitled to hold whether as owner or tenant or partly as owner and partly as tenant land in excess of the ceiling area.
(2) Where an individual who holds land, is a member of a family, not being a joint family which consists of the individual and his spouse (or more than one spouse) and their minor sons and minor unmarried daughters irrespective of whether the family also includes any, major son and land is also separately held by such individual's Spouse or minor children, then the land held by the individual and the said members of the individual's family excluding major sons, if any, shall be grouped together for the purposes of this Act and the provisions of this Act shall apply to the total land so grouped together as if such land had been held by one person.
X X x X x
x x x x x
(3C) Where a family or a joint family irrespective of the number of members includes a major son, then each major son shall be deemed to be a separate person for the purposes of sub-s. (1).'
Now, sub-s. (2) of S. 6 as amended also provides that in computing the extent of the surplus in respect of holding of an individual, holdings of his minor sons and unmarried daughters as also his spouse have to be grouped together. It is, therefore, futile to contend that the provisions as amended can benefit the petitioner. The fact that minor sons of the petitioner have attained majority meanwhile is a matter of no consequence. According to the learned counsel for the petitioner, their minority should be adjudged as in 1974. This argument is altogether untenable and difficult to comprehend. Sub-s. (1) of S. 6 of the Act as it stands after the amendment, in clear terms provides that no person shall hold land in excess of the ceiling area subsequent to the appointed day. The expression 'appointed day' of necessity must be construed in the context of the definition embodied in sub-s. (4) of S. 2 of the Act. And the parent Act came into force on September 1, 1961. Therefore, the appointed day in sub-s, (1) of S. 6 is referable to September 1, 1961. The expression 'minor children' embodied in subs. (2) of S. 6 must, therefore, be construed in the context of the appointed day within the meaning of sub-s. (1) of S. 6 read with sub-s. (4) of S. 6, that is to say, September 1, 1961. The learned counsel for the petitioner advanced a surprising argument that the appointed day in the Act as amended in 1974 must be construed with reference to the date of enforcement of the Amending Act viz. Gujarat Act No. 2 of 1974. Now Gujarat Act No. 2 of 1974 does not contain the definition of the expression 'appointed day' at all. When construing the parent Act as amended expression 'appointed day' must be construed with reference to the definition clause contained in the Act itself. There cannot be two appointed days in respect of sub-s. (2) of S. 6 notwithstanding the amendment of the parent Act in 1974. The amended provision has already been reproduced hereinabove and the amended provision refers to grouping of the land belonging to the individual along with the land belonging to the minor children. And this grouping has to be made in the context of subs. (1) of S. 6 which provides for surplus to be determined in the light of the holding as on the appointed day, that is to say, on the date of application of the parent Act viz., September 1, 1961. There is, therefore, no substance in the contention urged on behalf of the petitioner. The learned counsel for the petitioner has invited my attention to a decision rendered by B. K. Mehta, J. in Special Civil Application No. 2188 of 1971 decided on December 15, 1976 (Guj). However, there is nothing in the said decision which leads to a contrary conclusion.
4. The petition fails and is rejected. Rule is discharged. There will be no order regarding costs.
5. Petition dismissed.