1. These are connected applications under Article 226 of the Constitution of India challenging the validity of the Rajasthan Agricultural Rents Control Act (No. XIX) of 1952.
2. The Act was passed on 14-5-1952, and was enforced in the Districts of Bharatpur and Alwar on 16-5-1952. The main contentions of the applicants are that the Act was void in view of Article 13 of the Constitution because (1) it offends Article 14, and (2) is not a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right conferred on the applicants by Article 19(1)(f), and cannot therefore be saved by Article 19(5) of the Constitution.
3. The applications have been opposed by the State, and it is contended that the Act is not hit by Article 14, and is saved by Article 19(5) as a reasonable restriction on the fundamental right conferred by Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution.
4. The main argument, however has been confined to Article 14 & is directed against section 1 (3) of the Act. It may be mentioned that the Act, as it stands, is a permanent measure, and by section 1, Sub-section (2) it extends to the whole of Rajasthan. Sub-section (3), however, reads as follows:
'It shall come into force on such date and in such areas of Rajasthan as the State Government may from time to time notify in the Rajasthan Gazette.'
5. It was under this power that the State Government notified on 16-5-1952, that the Act would apply to the districts of Bharatpur and Alwar. That notification reads as follows:
'in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section 3 of Section 1 of the Rajasthan Agricultural Rents Control Act, 1952, the Government of Rajasthan have been pleased to notify that the provisions of the said Act shall, come into force in the Districts of Alwar and Bharatpur on the 16th day of May, 1952.'
6. The argument on behalf of the applicants is that Section 1(3) confers a naked and arbitrary power to the State Government to enforce this Act where-ever it likes, and whenever it likes, without any guiding principle to control the action of the State Government, and as such is invalid as it is liable to lead to discrimination. It is also pointed out that in actual fact the State Government has only enforced this Act in two districts of Rajasthan, and the notification to that effect does not disclose any reason for singling out these districts, and the act has thus been applied arbitrarily.
7. The principles governing the application of Article 14 of the Constitution have been fully explained in three cases by the Supreme Court. These cases are. (1) -- 'The State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar', AIR 1952 SC 75 (A). (2) 'Kathi Raning Rawat v. State of Saurashtra', AIR 1952 SC 123 (B); (3) 'Kedar Nath Bajoria v. State of West Bengal', AIR 1953 SC 404 (C). The first case related to the West Bengal special Courts Act (No. X) of 1950, and the validity of Section 5 (1) of that Act came up for consideration. It was held by the majority of the judges that that section was ultra vires of the Constitution as it was in conflict with Article 14 of the Constitution. The basis of the decision in these cases was that that Act gave no indication of the principles on which the State Government would exercise the power conferred on it under Section 5 (1) of sending cases or classes of cases to special Courts, or providing for trial of offences or classes of offences by such Courts. For this reason it was held that Section 5 (1) offended against Article 14 of the Constitution as there was no basis for any classification in it.
8. Then followed -- 'Kathi Raning Rawat's case (B)' which dealt with a similar law passed by the State of Saurashtra. That law was upheld by the majority of the judges on the ground that it provided a basis for classification, and that tile classification was founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguished persons or things that were grouped together from others left out of the group, and that that differentia had a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the Act.
9. These cases were considered in -- 'Kedar Nath Bajoria's case (C)', and the following principles were laid down at page 406 by the majority:
'Now, it is well settled that the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution does not mean that all laws must be general in character and universal in application and that the State is no longer to have the power of distinguishing and classifying persons or things for the purposes of legislation. To put it simply all that is required in class or special legislation is that the legislative classification must not be arbitrary but should bebased on an intelligible principle having a reasonable relation to the object which the legislature seeks to attain. If the classification on which the legislation is founded fulfils this requirement, then the differentiation which the legislation makes between the class of persons or things towhich, it applies and other persons or things left outside the purview of the legislation cannot be regarded as a denial of the equal protection of the law, for, if the legislation were all-embracing in its scope, no question could arise of classification being based on intelligible differentia having a reasonable relation to the legislative purpose. The real issue, therefore, is whether having regard to the underlying purpose and policy of the Act as disclosed by its title, preamble and provisions........ classification....can be said to be unreasonable or arbitrary and therefore violative of the equal protectionclause.'
The learned judges pointed out that applying these principles -- 'Anwar Ali Sarkar's case (A)' was on one side of the line, while -- 'Kathi Raning Rawat's case (B)' was on the other side. Further at page 409 the following principle was laid down for judging whether an impugned legislation violates Article 14:
'If the impugned legislation indicates the policywhich inspired it and the object, which it seeks to attain, the mere fact that the legislation does not itself make a complete and preciseclassification of the persons or things to which it is to be applied, but leaves the selective application of the law to be made by the executive authority in accordance with the standard Indicated or the underlying policy and object disclosed is not a sufficient ground for condemning it as arbitrary and, therefore, obnoxious to Article 14. In the case of such statute it could make no difference in principle whether the direction which is entrusted to the executive Government is to make a selection of individual cases or of offences, classes ofoffences or classes of cases. For, in either case, the discretion to make the selection is a guided and controlled discretion and not an absolute or unfettered one and is equally liable to be abused, but as has been pointed out, if it be shown in any given case that the discretion has been exercised in disregard of the standard or contrary to the declared policy and object of the legislation, such exercise could be challenged and annulled under Article 14 which includes within its purview both executive and legislative acts.'
10. The contention on behalf of the applicants is that reading the impugned Act from the beginning to the end there is no principle indicated in it anywhere either in its title or in the preamble or in its provisions to serve as a guide to control the discretion of the State Government regarding the application of the Act to any particular areas. It is also contended that there is nothing in the Act to indicate the policy which inspired it and the object which it seeks to attain, except perhaps that the object is to prescribe the maximum extent of cash rents recoverable on account of agricultural lands in Rajasthan. It is admitted by the learned Advocate General that this criticism is correct, and in fact a reading of the impugned Act from the beginning to the end clearly shows that there is no guiding principle anywhere in the Act controlling' the discretion of the State Government as to the application of the Act to particular areas in Rajasthan, and the discretion, which is vested by Section 1 (3) in the State Government is absolute and unfettered. Obviously therefore this Act falls on that side of the line in which the case of -- 'Anwar Ali Sarkar (A)' falls, and is ultra vires as it violates Article 14 of the Constitution.
11. It is urged by the learned Advocate General that though there is nothing in the Act to indicate how the discretion vested in the State Government by Section 1 (3) is to be exercised, we should travel beyond the title, preamble and the provisions of the Act to discover the basis of classification, and in this connection he relies on certain observations in -- 'Kedar Nath Bajoria's case (G)'. In that case, the learned judges considered the background of the legislation also in determining whether there was basis for reasonable classification. The background, however, of which the learned judges apparently took judicial notice, consisted of certain circumstances arising during the post-war period, and it was held that it was well-known that during the post-war period a large number of undertakings had to be wound up, and this gave special opportunities to unscrupulous persons in public services, placed in charge of such undertakings, to enrich themselves by corrupt practices and anti-social acts.
It was against this back-ground that the West Bengal legislation was viewed in -- 'Kedar Nath Bajoria's case (C)'. But when dealing with the question of classification the learned judges only referred to the title, the preamble and the provisions of the Act, and not to the statement of objects and reasons at which the learned Advocate General wants us to look. It seems to us therefore that though we may look at the background if we can take judicial notice of it, it is not permissible thus to look into the statements of objects and reasons in order to discover a reasonable basis for classification.
Reliance is also placed on certain observations in -- 'Charanjit Lal Chowdhury v. Union of India', AIR, 1951 SC 41 (D), where Fazal Ali J. referred to the Parliamentary proceedings in order to find out the back-ground of facts which led to the enactment of legislation relating to the Sholapur Mill. There also, however, the learned Judges looked at the background of facts and not at the statement of objects and reasons. It is well-settled that parliamentary proceedings cannot be looked into for construing a statute vide -- 'State of Travancore-Cochin v. Bombay. Co. Ltd., Alleppey', AIR 1952 SC 366 (E). It has also been held by the Supreme Court in --'Aswini Kumar v. Arabinda Bose', AIR 1952 SC 369 (F) that the statement of objects and reasons cannot be looked into for the construction of a statute. The learned Advocate General, however, contends that -- 'Aswini Kumar Ghose's case (F)' prohibits the Court from looking into the statement of objects and reasons for the interpretation of statutes; but it does not go so far as to say that the statement of objects and reasons cannot be looked into in order to determine a basis for permissible classification. The reasons, which require that the Courts should not look into the statement of objects and reasons in interpreting statutes, are given at page 378 in these words:
'As regards the propriety of the reference to the statement of objects and reasons, it must be remembered that it seeks only to explain what reasons induced the mover to introduce the Bill in the House and what objects he sought to achieve. But these objects and reasons may or may not correspond to the objective which the majority of members had in view when they passed it into law. The Bill may have undergone radical changes during its passage through the House or Houses, and there is no guarantee that the reasons which led to its introduction and the objects thereby sought to be achieved have remained the same throughout, till the Bill emerges from the House as an act of the Legislature, for they do not form part of the Bill and are not voted upon by the members.'
These reasons, in our opinion, apply with full force in cases where a basis for permissible classification is sought for, and it is not, in our opinion, proper to look to the statement of objects and reasons for purposes of determining the basis for, classification.
12. We are enforced in this opinion by what actually happened in this case. The statement of objects and reasons, which was published along with the bill, stated that Government had reason to believe that rackrenting was going on considerably in many parts of Rajasthan, and it v/as high time that ,such rack-renting be stopped forthwith. There was a preamble in the bill in these terms:
'Whereas, with a view to protecting tenants from rack-renting on the part of land-holders, it is expedient to prescribe the maximum extent of cash rents recoverable on account of agricultural lands in Rajasthan.'
When, however, the bill emerged from the legislature as an Act, the preamble, which was in the bill and which embodied what was said in the statement of objects and reasons, was dropped. It is easy therefore from this to infer that the majority of the legislature did not think it necessary that the Act should be controlled by the preamble and should only be used in these areas where it was believed that there was rack-renting. The legislature obviously intended that that guiding principle should not remain in the Act, and therefore apparently dropped the preamble. The Act thus gives completely uncontrolled and unfettered power to the State Government to apply or not to apply it anywhere in Rajasthan under Section 1 (3), and the title guide which the preamble to the bill provided was also removed from the Act. In these circumstances, even if it were permissible for us to look into the statement of objects and reasons, we find that that statement of objects and reasons cannot be held to provide a guiding principle for the use of the power given in Section 1 (3), as the preamble to the bill, which contained that guiding principles has been dropped from the Act. We have, therefore, no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that this Act falls on the same side of the line as -- 'Anwar Ali Sarkar's case (A)', and as there is no guiding principle anywhere to control the application of the Act to particular areas and Section 1 (3) gives unfettered and arbitrary power to the State Government to apply it where it likes and not to apply it where it does not like, the whole Act falls.
13. It is remarkable that even in the notification, which was issued on the 16th May, there is no mention of any reason why this Act was applied only to two districts of Bharatpur and Alwar. An affidavit was filed before us after we had heard arguments for the applicants to the effect that the reason why the Act was applied to Bharatpur and Alwar districts was that there was rack-renting prevalent there. We are not prepared to accept this belated affidavit, specially when we find that there is nothing in the reply of the State Government to suggest any reason for the application of the Act to Bharatpur and Alwar districts only. This affidavit was apparently filed when it was felt that there was nothing by which the naked power conferred by Section 1 (3) could be controlled.
14. As Section 1 (3) falls, and as that is the only section which provides for the enforcement of the Act, the whole Act, in our opinion, falls. It is unnecessary under the circumstances to consider the argument based on Article 19.
15. We, therefore, allow these applications, and.declaring that the Rajasthan Agricultural RentsControl Act (No. XIX) of 1952 violates Article 14of the Constitution direct that all actions underit against' the applicants be cancelled, and theState Government be prohibited from enforcingthe Act against them. Each applicant will getRs. 50/- as costs from the State Government.