1. A Co-operative Society formed by members of middle class citizens of Baroda has been subjected to great injustice by an obvious mis-reading and misconstruction of Section 64-A of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 (Tenancy Act) as will be evident in a short-while. The society concerned thereupon has invoked the jurisdiction of this Court under Article 227 of the Constitution of India and has challenged the order passed by the Mamlatdar of Baroda at Annexure 'C' as confirmed by the Deputy Collector of Baroda as confirmed by the Gujarat Revenue Tribunal (GRT) at Annexure 'A'.
2. Land admeasuring 1 Acre 9 Gunthas comprised in Survey No. 265 of village Maneja was purchased by the petitioner Society-a society of middle-class citizens of Baroda, formed under the relevant provisions of the Bombay Cooperative Societies Act of 1925, for a consideration of Rs. 64,000/- by a registered document dated May 5, 1967, from respondents Nos. 2 and 3. Having purchased the land, the petitioner Society obtained a loan of Rs 2,18,000/- from the Gujarat Cooperative Housing Finance Society Ltd., Ahmedabad. With the amount so obtained by way of loan and with the savings effected by the members of the society, houses were constructed on the plots which were carved out from the aforesaid land. Some five years later, in 1972, the Mamlatdar of Baroda suddenly woke up and initiated a suo motu enquiry purporting to exercise powers under Section 84-C of the Tenancy Act and called upon the petitioner society to show cause why the transaction of purchase of the aforesaid land effected five years earlier in 1967 should not be held to be illegal and invalid by reason of the fact that permission for entering into the transaction was not obtained from the Collector of Baroda under Section 63 of the Tenancy Act. After affording an opportunity to the petitioner society to be heard, the Mamlatdar came to the conclusion that a permission under Section 63 of the Tenancy Act was a sine qua non for a valid purchase and that the transaction in question was illegal and invalid. This view has been confirmed by the Deputy Collector in appeal and the GRT in the revisional application preferred by the petitioner Society. It was argued before the GRT on behalf of the petitioner Society that Section 63 of the Tenancy Act was not at all applicable to a transaction entered into by a Co-operative Society constituted under the Bombay Cooperative Societies Act, 1925, in view of Section 64-A of the Tenancy Act which was on the statute book since 1951. Section 64-A on which reliance was placed is in the following terms: -
'64-A. Nothing in Sections 63 and 64 shall apply to sales effected by or in favour of a cooperative society under the Bombay Cooperative Societies Act, 1925.'
On a plain reading of Section 64-A, it is evident that Sections 63 and 64 of the Tenancy Act do not apply to sales effected either by a society which is constituted under the Bombay Cooperative Societies Act, 1925, or in respect of sales made in favour of such a society. The GRT, however, on an impossible reading of Section 64-A accepted a distorted, interpretation canvassed on behalf of the State and accepted the contention that what was exempted was a transaction of sale made under the Bombay Cooperative Societies Act, 1925.
3. Now, the Statement of Objects and Reasons to Bom. Act XII of 1951 whereby the aforesaid provision was introduced in the Tenancy Act reads as under:
'Object -- Statutory bodies like Cooperative Societies and Land Mortgage (Development) Banks have taken over work which was kitherto before done by Government. Unlike landlords, these bodies are not profit-making and consist of not one but several individuals most of whom are themselves agriculturists. It is therefore, desirable to exempt such bodies from the operation of Sections 63 and 64 of the Act-'
The aforesaid statement of Objects and Reasons leaves no room for doubt or debate. The sole purpose of introducing the provision was to exempt cooperative Societies from the operation of the provisions of Sections 63 and 64. The Legislature wanted to exempt a Cooperative Society, for, there was little likelihood of the agriculturists being exploited when a transaction was entered into with a Cooperative Society. In fact, the preamble to the Bombay Co-operative Societies Act, 1925, itself shows that the Act was enacted for facilitating the formation and working of co-operative societies for the promotion of thrift, self-help and mutual aid among agriculturists and other persons with common economic needs so as to bring about better living, better business and better methods of production as will be evident from the preamble which may be quoted in extenso:
'Whereas it is expedient further to facilitate the formation and working of co-operative societies for the promotion of thrift, self-help and mutual aid among agriculturists and other persons with common economic needs so as to bring about better living, better business and better methods of production and for that purpose to consolidate and amend the law relating to co-operative societies in the Presidency of Bombay; and whereas the previous sanction of the Governor-General required by sub-section (3) of Section 80-A of the Government of India Act has been obtained for the passing of this Act. it is hereby enacted as follows:'
It is, therefore, evident that the Legislature had incorporated Section 64-A with full awareness of the nature and character of a Co-operative Society formed under the Bombay Cooperative Societies Act, 1925, and there was a, valid purpose and a valid reason for exempting the Cooperative Societies from the operation of Sections 63 and 64. The whole purpose of Sections 63 and 64 was to prevent exploitation of agriculturists and having regard to the nature of a Co-operative Society formed for a purpose mentioned earlier, there was little or no likelihood of exploitation in a case where a Cooperative Society was purchasing or selling land. In any view of the matter, Section 64-A is incapable of being read in the manner which has found favour with the GRT. On a plain reading, it is provided that Sections 63 and 64 will not apply to transactions effected either by a Cooperative Society or in favour of a Cooperative Society constituted under the Co-operative Societies Act, .1925. It is not possible by any process of stretching or straining to read provision so as to apply the only to the sales effected 'under' the Cooperative Societies Act. In fact, there are no provisions in the Cooperative Societies Act for effecting sales of agricultural lands. The fact that Section 64-A refers to transactions by or in favour of a cooperative society makes it abundantly clear that the Legislature has accorded exemption to a Cooperative Society where the Cooperative Society happens to be a vendor or vendee in respect of agricultural lands. The view taken by the Mamlatdar, the Deputy Collector and the GRT manifests an error apparent on the record. The petition must, therefore, succeed. The impugned order at Annexure 'A', as confined by Annexure 'B' as confirmed by Annexure 'C', is quashed and set aside. It is held that the transaction in question does not infringe Sections 63 and 64 of the Tenancy Act and that it is a perfectly legal and valid transaction.
4. Petition is allowed, Rule is made absolute to the aforesaid extent. There will be no order regarding costs.
5. Petition allowed.