J.B. Mehta, J.
1. This petition under Article 227 of the Constitution is directed against the order of the Gujarat Revenue Tribunal, hereinafter referred to as 'the Tribunal', passed on 5th June 1962.
2. The short facts which have given rise to this petition are as under:
Respondents Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are the landlords, (hereinafter referred to as 'the landlords'), of certain pieces of lands in Dhandhuka Taluka. The landlords had in all three tenants, Amarshi, Daud Isa and the petitioner Suleman Jijibhai. The duration of tenancy of the said tenant Amarshi was the shortest in point of time as he was cultivating the land of the landlords since 12 years; while Daud Isa and the petitioner were cultivating the lands of the landlords since 15 years and 25 years respectively. The landlords did not terminate the tenancy of the said tenant Amarshi and under Section 31(2) of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948, hereinafter referred to as 'the Act' a notice had been given and an application for possession was made as required under the said section in respect of only the two tenants Daud Isa and the petitioner. The Tenancy Aval Karkun, Dhandhuka, by the order, dated 25th August 1957, dismissed these applications on the ground that Amarshi's tenancy was of the shortest duration and the same having not been terminated, the landlords were not competent to terminate any of the other two tenancies in view of Sub-clause (e) of Section 31 A. He had also held that the estimated income from the lands of which the landlords were entitled to take possession was not the principal source of income for their maintenance and so condition (c) of 31A was also not fulfilled. In appeal, the Assistant Collector, Dholka Prant, by the order, dated 17th January 1958, remanded the matter for retrial on the ground that the Tenancy Aval-Karkun should not have decided both these cases by a common judgment. After remand, the Tenancy Aval-Karkun by the order, dated 12th September 1958, Ex. 1, dismissed the landlords' application as against the petitioner on a preliminary ground that condition (c) regarding the principal source of income was not satisfied. In appeal, the said Deputy Collector, Ahmedabad, by the order, dated 25th February 1959, agreed to the said finding of fact and dismissed the appeal also on another ground that the widow and the minors were not entitled to terminate the tenancy under Section 31. In revision the Tribunal had by the order, dated 10th December 1959, remanded the matter for a fresh decision as in its view the said Deputy Collector had erred in holding that the tenancy could not be terminated under Section 31 and as he had not considered the evidence regarded before the Assistant Collector's order of the first remand. After this remand by the Tribunal, the District Deputy Collector by the order, dated 30th September 1961, Ex. 2, held that as Amarshi's tenancy which was shortest in point of time had not been terminated, the landlords were not competent to terminate the petitioner's tenancy. He also held that condition (c) as regards the principal source of income was not fulfilled. On these two grounds, the landlords' application was dismissed. The landlords filed a revision application before the Tribunal. The Tribunal set aside the said order on the ground that the District Deputy Collector had grossly erred in his finding as regards the principal source of income. the Tribunal held that condition (c) of Section 31 A was fulfilled. The Tribunal had held that condition (e) of Section 31 A as regards the termination of the shortest tenancy did not apply to the facts of the present case as the said clause in the Tribunal's view, applied to cases where the landlord could not terminate all the tenancies created by him in favour of different tenants but could terminate only some of them by reason of the ceiling limit. The Tribunal, therefore, allowed both the revision applications and awarded possession to the landlords as mentioned therein. The petitioner has challenged the aforesaid order, Ex. 3, of the Tribunal in the present petition. No affidavit in reply has been filed by respondents Nos. 1, 2 and 3.
3. Mr. Gandhi made the following submissions at the time of hearing:
(1) That the interpretation of Clause (e) of Section 31 A by the Tribunal was patently erroneous;
(2) That the Tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction in interfering with a pure finding of fact on the question of principal source of income;
(3) That the Tribunal acted without jurisdiction in so far as it had invoked power under the amended Section 76 which could have no retrospective operation to a pending proceeding;
(4) That the finding of the Tribunal that the notice of termination was valid was patently erroneous;
(5) That the finding on the question of bona fide requirement being based on wholly irrelevant considerations was perverse; and
(6) The order was patently erroneous for want of precision and certitude.
4. The first submission of Mr. Gandhi as to the interpretation of Section 31A(e) would go to the root of the whole matter for if we agree to this submission of Mr. Gandhi, the landlords having admittedly not terminated the shortest tenancy of Amarshi, would not be competent to terminate the tenancy of the petitioner if that clause was attracted to the facts of the case. In that event, it would not be necessary for us to go into the other questions raised by Mr. Gandhi.
5. Section 31A reads as under:
The right of a landlord to terminate a tenancy for cultivating the laud personally under Section 31 shall be subject to the following conditions:
(a) If the landlord at the date on which the notice is given or a date on which it expires has no other land of his own or has not been cultivating personally any other land, he shall be entitled to take possession of the land leased to the extent of a ceiling area.
(b) If the land cultivated by him personally is less than a ceiling area, the land lord shall be entitled to take possession of so much area of the land leased as will be sufficient to make up the area in his possession to the extent of a ceiling area.
(c) The income by the cultivation of the land of which he is entitled to take possession is the principal source of income for his maintenance.
(d) The land leased stands in the record of rights or in any public record of similar revenue record on the first day of January 1952 and thereafter during tit period between the said date and the appointed day in the name of the landlord himself, or of any of his ancestors but not of any other predecessor-in-title from whom title is derived, whether by assignment or Court sale or otherwise or if the landlord is a member of a joint family, in the name of a member of such family.
(e) If more tenancies than one are held under the same landlord then the landlord shall be competent to terminate only the tenancy or tenancies which are the shortest in point of duration.
This Section 31A imposes conditions or fetters on the right of the landlord to terminate the tenancy on the ground that he required land for cultivating personally under Section 31. Section 31(1) provides as under:
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in Sections 14 and 30 but subject to Sections 31A to 31D (both inclusive), a landlord may, after giving notice and making an application for possession as provided in Sub-section (2), terminate the tenancy of any land (except a permanent tenancy), if the landlord bona fide requires the land for any of the following purpose:
(a) for cultivating personally, or
(b) for non-agricultural purposes.
Section 31(1) thus starts with a non-obstante clause. In the earlier Section 14 an absolute bar has been provided that notwithstanding any law, agreement or usage, or the decree or order of a Court, the tenancy of any land shall not be terminated, except for the default of the tenant as provided therein. Section 31 thus relaxes the said bar in so far as it enables the landlord to terminate the tenancy of any land except a permanent tenant on the ground of a bona fide requirement for personal cultivation or for any non-agricultural purpose. The special right, however, which is conferred under Section 31(1) has been subjected to the various limitations which are mentioned in Sections 31A to 31D and is to be exercised only after a notice is given as required under Sub-section (2) on or before 31st December 1956 and an application for possession is made to the Mamlatdar under Section 29 on or before 31st March 1956. It is, therefore, clear that the limited relaxation which is made in favour of the landlord to enable him to terminate the tenancy of the land is subject to the limitations mentioned in Sections 31A to 31D. Section 31A contemplates five conditions which must be fulfilled before exercising the right of termination on the ground of personal cultivation as provided under Section 31. The first condition in Clause (a) shows that the landlord even though he may give a notice or make an application for possession, is not entitled to take possession of the land leased except to the extent of the ceiling area. If the landlord is already cultivating some agricultural land, under the second condition in Clause (b), even if he had terminated the tenancy of his tenant by giving notice and making an application for possession, he can get from the tenants only that area which would be necessary to make up deficit in the ceiling area. The third condition in Clause (c) is that the income from the land of which he is entitled to take possession on termination of tenancy is the principal source of income for his maintenance. The fourth condition is that the land leased should stand in the record of rights or in similar revenue records on the relevant dates mentioned therein in the name of the landlord himself or any of his ancestors. The last condition is the fifth condition mentioned in Clause (e) which is applicable to cases where more tenancies than one are held under the same landlord and in which event, the Legislature mikes a landlord competent to terminate only the tenancy or tenancies which had been shortest in point of duration A plain reading of Section 31A makes it clear that all these five conditions are limitations on the right of the landlord for terminating the tenancies on the ground of personal cultivation under Section 31(1)(a). The landlord, therefore, does not acquire the right to terminate the tenancy unless those five conditions are fulfilled. The first two conditions are to some extent interrelated because they set a limit that the landlord in no event can get possession of more than the ceiling area. Clause (a) contemplates a case where a landlord is in possession of no other land While Clause (b) deals with the case where a landlord is in possession of some land in which case he is entitled to get possession only of the portion sufficient to make up the ceiling limit. Even if these two conditions are satisfied the landlord is still required to satisfy the other conditions mentioned in Clauses (c), (d) and (e) These conditions are cumulative conditions. Concentrating our attention on Clause (e), it is clear that the only contingency which the Legislature has contemplated for its application is that more than one tenancies must be held under the same landlord. The relevant expression, 'if more tenancies than one are held under the same landlord', is not qualified by imposing any other condition. The expression 'tenancy' is defined in Section 2(17) to mean the relationship of a landlord and tenant. Sub-sec, (e), therefore, is clearly applicable on its plain literal construction to a case where such landlord and tenant relationship exists under the same landlord in respect of more tenancies than one. The restriction which is put by the Legislature is that in such an event, it shall be competent for the landlord to terminate only the tenancy or tenancies which had been shortest in point of duration. We have, therefore, to consider the point of commencement of the tenancies in question all of which are held under the same landlord. The Legislature thus contemplates only one situation for the application of this Sub-clause (c), viz., that there must be more than one tenancies held under the same landlord. In such an event the question of choice necessarily arises If there was only one tenancy, there would be no question of choice to be exercised by the landlord as that would be the only tenancy which would have to be terminated. When, however, more than one tenancies are held under the same landlord, there is always the question of choice. In Order to prevent the landlord's discrimination between one tenant and the other tenant, and in order to avoid his picking and choosing the tenant, the Legislature has provided this statutory choice for the landlord by enacting this restriction that in such a situation of more tenancies than one under the same lord, the landlord shall only terminate the shortest tenancy first, and until he terminated that tenancy, he could not terminate tenancy of longer duration. It should be kept in mind that this condition in Section 31A has been enacted as an independent condition by the Legislature and it does not mention anything as regards the limit of the ceiling area. If the intention of the legislature was that Clause (e) should apply only in cases where the landlord had to exercise his choice for terminating the tenancies when the ceiling limit had been reached, the Legislature would have used proper expression for putting a further condition. If that was the intention of the Legislature, the Legislature could have also achieved this object by incorporating Clause (e) by way of a proviso to Clauses (a) and (b). When this condition has been put up as an independent condition, the import of the expression 'if more tenancies than one are held under the same landlord', cannot be cut down by trying to correlate the same with the conditions (a) and (b) where fetter is put on the landlord that he shall not be entitled to take possession of the land beyond the ceiling area. Even if the landlord seeks to terminate the tenancy so that he gets possession of lands only upto the extent of the ceiling area and fulfils thereby the conditions (a) and (b) and even if requirements of conditions (c) and (d) are also fulfilled, this fifth condition sets an additional bar which the landlord must satisfy by showing that he was terminating only the shortest tenancy in cases where more than one tenancies had been held under the same landlord. Even in the setting of the entire Section 31A and in the context of the other sections that we examined, there is no absurdity or inconsistency revealed which would require us to depart from the plain, literal construction of this expression 'if more tenancies than one are held under the same tenant' by adding a further limitation. As we have already stated Section 31 only relaxes the absolute bar which was created under Section 14 and enables the landlord to terminate the tenancy after giving notice and making an application within the prescribed period as required under sub Section (2) Of Section 31, provided all the restrictions placed by the Legislature in Sections 31A to 31D are fulfilled. The intention of the Legislature is thus to fetter even the limited right of the landlord which had been created under Section 31(1), and to that extent, it creates a benefit in favour of the tenant. The whole object underlying Clause (e) is to give benefit to the tenants of longer duration by providing a fetter to the effect that in such cases of more than one tenancies, only shortest in time shall be first terminated. The object underlying this section is, therefore, in the context of the choice which the landlord can exercise whenever there are more tenancies than one which could be terminated by him is to provide a statutory rule of proceeding on the basis that the last comes should first go. The importance of this provision should be viewed from Section 32(1) which provides that on the tillers' day, i. e. 1st April 1957, every tenant shall be deemed to have purchased his land, subject to the conditions mentioned therein. In the said section the case excluded from its operation is one when the landlord has given notice of the termination of the tenancy under Section 31 prior to 31st December 1956 and has made an application also prior to 31st March 1957 for obtaining possession of the land, in which event, the date of the tillers' day is postponed till the day when such application is finally rejected. Thus, in the context of setting of these sections in this Chapter III which confers special rights and privileges to a tenant and at the same time provides for distribution of land for personal cultivation, it is clear that if the landlord does not choose to exercise this right, or is not competent to exercise this right of terminating a tenancy under Section 31, the tenant would become a deemed purchaser on the tillers' day. A very important and valuable right is thus conferred on the tenant and the Legislature has at that time seen that if the tenancy of such a tenant is sought to be terminated before the tillers' day, the landlord must terminate only the shortest tenancy first, so that the tenants of longer duration could avail of their statutory right of becoming deemed purchasers. In the light of this object underlying this section which is of preventing any choice being exercised by the landlord when there are more than one tenancies under the same landlord, it would not be open to us to import any other limitation which would cut down the wide import of this expression by making it inapplicable to cases, where the landlord would be exercising his choice and would be picking up a tenant, on some assumed or supposed legislative intent that this sub-section was intended to apply only when the landlord could not terminate all the tenancies but was competent to terminate only some of them because of the condition about ceiling limit, to which extent alone he would be entitled to possession on account of the conditions (a) and (b) of Section 31 A. Condition (a), in any case, is completely independent of conditions (a) and (b) and its wide import could not be cut down by reference to the earlier conditions (a) and (b) by treating it as a sort of proviso to any of those conditions.
6. What the Tribunal has done in the present case is that it has started interpreting Clause (e) on the supposed intention of the Legislature. The Tribunal in terms observed:
In my view, Clause (e) applies to those cases where the situation is that the landlord could not terminate all the tenancies created by him in favour of different tenants but can terminate only some. It is only in such cases where he could only. terminate only some of the tenancies that the shortest in point of duration can be terminated by the landlord. Such a contingency would happen in those cases where by reason of ceiling limit the landlord would not be competent to terminate all the tenancies in favour of different tenants. As an illustration, let us assume that the ceiling in a particular case is 48 acres. The landlord has 24 acres in personal cultivation. The landlord has, however, lands with different tenants totalling to 48 acres or more. Now, in such a case, the landlord can terminate the tenancies upto the limit that his total holding would come to the ceiling area. In other words, the landlord in the given illustration would be entitled to terminate tenancies upto 24 acres. Now, in such a case, in my view, the effect of Clause (e) is that it is not open to the landlord to pick and choose the tenants whose tenancies he can terminate. But the Legislature has said that he would be competent to terminate the tenancies which are shortest in point of duration. In other words, the choice in such a case has been made by the statute for the landlord, and it is not left to the arbitrary choice of the landlord. It is only in such a case to my mind that Clause (e) comes into operation.
In the present case, admittedly, there was no question of ceiling coming into operation as the landlords had no lands in their personal holding and the lands which they were entitled to take into their possession could not come upto the ceiling area. Therefore, the Tribunal held that Clause (e) did not apply. The learned Tribunal thus proceeds on an erroneous assumption that Clause (e) applies only in cases where the landlord could not terminate all the tenancies because of the ceiling limit put in Clauses (a) and (b). This view of the learned Tribunal ignores the fact that the question of choice arises not only in this particular contingency, but in a 1 cases where more than one tenancies under the same landlord have to be terminated. As we have stated earlier, putting such a construction would be rewriting Clause (e) of Section 31A and would be adding a further limitation to the relevant expression, 'if more tenancies than one are held under the same landlord'. This construction is not borne out by the plain, literal, grammatical construction of the section. The section by itself does not show any ambiguity so as to be capable of more than one meaning. The Tribunal thus proceeds on an assumed intention of the Legislature, even though the language is clear and unambiguous. This construction which has been put by the learned Tribunal on Section 31A(e) is contrary to the settled principles of statutory construction. As pointed out by their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Mahadeolal v. Administrator General of West Bengal : 3SCR578 , the rule of interpretation is that the intention of the Legislature has always to be gathered from the words used by it, giving to the words their plain, normal, grammatical meaning. Another rule is that if in any legislation, the general object of which was to benefit a particular class of persons, any provision was ambiguous so that it was capable of two meanings, one which would preserve the benefit and another which would take it away, the meaning which preserved it should be adopted. One further rule is that if the strict grammatical interpretation gave rise to an absurdity or inconsistency, such interpretation should be discarded and an interpretation which would give effect to the purpose the Legislature might reasonably be considered to have had would be put on the words, if necessary even by modification of the language used. Therefore, if the language is clear and unambiguous, it would not be legitimate for the Court to add any word thereto and evolve therefrom some sense which might be said to carry out the supposed intention of the Legislature. It is only in case of ambiguity that the Court would be entitled to ascertain the intention of the Legislature. So also, when a purely literal grammatical construction would lead to an obvious absurdity or inconsistency in the entire context and setting which the Legislature could not be supposed to have intended that the Court in interpreting the section would introduce the words giving effect to what it conceived to be the true intention of the Legislature. Thus, even this power is not to rewrite or recast the section. It is only when the particular meaning can be possibly spelt out of the words actually used that the Court could go to this length sometimes to modify the grammatical; literal sense of the words, if by doing so some manifest absurdity, inconsistency or repugnancy could be avoided. As we have already shown if any such narrow interpretation were to be put on this condition in Clause (e), it would defeat the very object of this condition, which is clearly to prevent a landlord from exercising the choice in cases where more tenancies than one are held under the same landlord, as the landlord would be entitled to discriminate between the tenants which would lead to a lot of heartburning and which would further prevent a tenant of a longer duration from acquiring his statutory right under Section 32 only because his landlord chose not to terminate first the shortest tenancy in point of time. The interpretation, therefore, which is put by the Tribunal is contrary to the settled principles of interpretation and it discloses a patent error for if the Tribunal bad properly understood the relevant enactment, it could not have come to the conclusion that Clause (e) had been complied with in the present case, where, admittedly, the tenancy shortest in point of time had not been terminated. This patent error of the learned Tribunal goes to the root of the entire decision, as once it is held that the condition in Clause (e) had not been fulfilled, the landlords were not competent to terminate the longer tenancy of the petitioner. The decision of the learned Tribunal must therefore be set aside as it would have no jurisdiction to order possession unless the landlords were competent even to terminate the tenancy of the petitioner.
7. Mr. Patel, however, drew our attention to the decision of the Division Bench of the Maharashtra High Court, consisting of Tambe J. (as he than was) and Kantawala J. in Special Civil Application No 1051 of 1961, decided on 1st March 1962, That was a case where the landlords had extensive agricultural lands admeasuring more than 433 acres, which were leased to the tenants. It was also an admitted case that the landlords had terminated all the tenancies. The point which had arisen for the interpretation of the learned Judges was because of the view of the Revenue Tribunal that if the landlord had terminated by notice the tenancies of all his tenants, it was therefore his choice to proceed against such tenants from whom he desired to obtain possession of the land. The learned Judges disagreed with the said view and held that there was no such liberty left to the landlord by reason of the provision of Clause (e) of Section 31 A, which placed restriction on the power of the landlord to terminate a tenancy of his tenants under Section 31, and so in a case of that kind, the competency of the landlord to terminate the tenancy was only in respect of tenancy or tenancies which were shortest in point of duration. Mr. Patel, however, pointed out that in the earlier paragraph it had been observed:
As already stated, Section 31A places a restriction on the exercise of this right, and the restrictions are contained in Clauses (a) to (e), which on the plain reading of the section, are not mutually exclusive.
Further proceeding it had been observed by the Division Bench:
Now, when the landlord owns not more than the ceiling area, no difficulty would arise or arises. But, in case of landlords where the land owned by them exceeds the ceiling area, and they have leased out these lands, it is obvious that it would not be competent for the landlord to terminate the tenancy and obtain possession of the land from all the tenants, because, in that event, there would be contravention of Clause (a) of Section 31 A. The Legislature, therefore, ha5 enacted clause e) to provide for such a contingency, and it provides that in such a case, the landlord can terminate only the tenancy or tenancies which are shortest in paint of duration.
8. From these observations Mr. Patel tried to urge that the contingency which was contemplated for the application of Section 31A Clause (e) was when the landlords owned land exceeding the ceiling area and there were more tenancies than one. It should be kept in mind that the problem before the Division Bench was one arising from a case where the land was exceeding the ceiling area and all the tenancies had been actually terminated, but while proceeding further the landlord was seeking to exercise his choice to proceed only against a few tenants from whom he desired to obtain possession. The observations which have been made should be read in the context of the facts of that case. If it is sought to be contended that the view of the Division Bench in the said case was that the section contemplated a further contingency that such more than one tenancies must be in case of land owned by the same landlord exceeding the ceiling area, with great respect, we cannot subscribe to that view that the wide import of this relevant expression to ought to be curtailed by adding any such words of limitation and that condition (e) is not an entirely independent condition. This decision could not, therefore, help Mr. Patel.
9. Finally, Mr. Patel requested us to remand the matter to the Tribunal on the ground that the Tribunal had not mentioned anything about Amarshi in its judgment and as the alleged admission which had been relied upon by the District Deputy Collector in the order, dated 30th September 1961, Ex. 2, was of a lady who did not understand the import of the admission. It should be kept in mind that the learned Tribunal had delivered a consolidated judgment in both the revision application Nos. 54 and 55 of 1962 in respect of the petitioner and the tenant Daud Isa. The learned Tribunal had in the narration of facts in terms stated that both these tenancies had been terminated. While discussing the contention of Mr. Gandhi, who also appeared before the Tribunal, even though the Tribunal mentioned that the tenancy of Daud was shorter and that was the only tenancy which could be terminated, out of the two tenancies in question, these observations clearly refer to Amarshi. There was no dispute before the Tribunal that so far as Daud Isa was concerned, his tenancy was terminated. The contention of Mr. Gandhi was that the shortest tenancy was of Amarshi which had not been terminated and it was this contention which had to be disposed of by the Tribunal by properly construing Section 31A(e). In so far as the order of the District Deputy Collector is concerned, he has in terms mentioned that the appellants before him, that is, the present respondents 1 to 3 had admitted that out of the three tenants, tenancy of Amarshi was shortest in duration and which they had not terminated before the tenancies of the respondents in those appeals viz., the petitioner and Daud were sought to be terminated. In view of this categorical admission which has not been challenged either before the Tribunal or before this Court by filing affidavit-in-reply, it should not be open to Mr. Patel to challenge the said admission and ask for a fresh remand to get an opportunity to lead evidence to show that Amarshi was not a 'tenant' within the meaning of the Act. This is entirely a new ground for which no remand could be permitted at this stage. In the result, the first submission of Mr. Gandhi must be upheld that the Tribunal had patently erred in holding that even though shortest tenancy of Amarshi had not been terminated, it was open to respondents Nos. 1 to 3 to terminate the tenancy of the petitioner which was longest in duration. In that view of the matter, the order of the Tribunal must be set aside and the order of the District Deputy Collector, Dhandhuka, dated 30th September 1961, dismissing the landlord's appeal, in so far as the petitioner is concerned, must be restored.
10. In the result, we issue a writ of certiorari to quash the impugned order of the Tribunal in so far as the Revision Application No. TEN. 54/62 relating to the petitioner is concerned and we restore the order of the District Deputy Collector, Dhandhuka, dated 30th September 1961, dismissing the landlord's Tenancy Appeal No. 121 in so far as the petitioner is concerned. Rule accordingly made absolute with no order as to costs in the circumstances of the case.