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Murugesa Chetti Vs. Chinnathambi Goundan and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1901)ILR24Mad421
AppellantMurugesa Chetti
RespondentChinnathambi Goundan and ors.
Cases ReferredIn Ellis & Co. v. Hulse L.R.
Excerpt:
transfer of property act - act iv of 1882, sections 107, 117--lease for agricultural 'purposes--registration act--act iii of 1877, section 17, clause (d)--lease reserving annual rent--term exceeding five years. - - ' 2. the second ground is clearly untenable and the munsif has evidently overlooked the ruling of this court in virammal v. a reference to section 106 which deals with all leases of immoveable property and in which the same expression 'agricultural purpose 'occurs, would clearly show that the legislature could not have intended that the word 'agriculture' was to be understood as excluding a large class of leases of garden lands in this country some or many of which in england may perhaps be regarded as horticultural. even if it had been used solely or partly for the latter,..........as distinguished from horticulture, not only all field cultivation by tillage but also all garden cultivation for the purpose chiefly of procuring vegetables or fruits as food for man or beast and other products fit for human consumption by way of luxury, if not as an article of diet. in the definition of 'agriculturist' (deccan agriculturists' relief act, 1879) the legislature could not have intended to exclude from its beneficial operation persons who earned their livelihood by cultivating vegetable and fruit gardens and orchards. in venkayya v. ramasami i.l.r. 22 mad. 39 it was held that a tenant having a right of occupancy in nunja lands cultivated with paddy and ragi did not change the character of the holding by converting it into a cocoanut tope. it was held that instead.....
Judgment:

Bhashyam Ayyangar, J.

1. This suit is brought for the recovery of rent due under an unregistered instrument of lease of a betel garden, dated 20th of December 1895, reserving an annual rent of Rs. 38, The District Munsif dismissed the suit on two grounds, viz.:

(1) that it was not a lease for agricultural purposes and therefore its registration was compulsory under Section 107 of the Transfer of Property Act;

(2) that, assuming it was an agricultural lease, its registration was compulsory under Section 17, Clause (d) of the Indian Registration Act, 1877, inasmuch as it was not a lease, 'for a period not exceeding five years.'

2. The second ground is clearly untenable and the Munsif has evidently overlooked the ruling of this Court in Virammal v. Runqayyangar I.L.R. 4 Mad. 381. The term of the lease may no doubt continue beyond five years in the event of neither party determining it in the meanwhile, but as either party may determine it before five years, it cannot be said to be a lease for 'a terra exceeding live years' and inasmuch as the annual rent is below Rs. 50, its registration is optional under Clause (c) of Section 18 of the Registration Act.

3. The Munsif is also, in my opinion, wrong in holding that a lease of land for betel cultivation is not an agricultural lease. The case cited by him Kunhayen Haji v. Mayan I.L.R. 17 Mad. 98 is not, as I understand it, a decision in point. In that case, it was held that the lease was of the coffee plants only and not of the land.

4. The primary meaning of agriculture is the cultivation of the ground (''The Century Dictionary') and in its general sense, it is the cultivation of the ground for the purpose of procuring vegetables and fruits for the use of man and beast including gardening or horticulture and the raising or feeding of cattle and other stock (Anderson's 'Dictionary of Law'). Its less general and more ordinary signification is the cultivation with the plough and in large areas in order to raise food for man and beast (' The Century Dictionary ') or, in other words 'that species of cultivation 'which is intended to raise grain and other field crops for man and beast.' (Anderson's 'Dictionary of Law.') Horticulture, which denotes the cultivation of gardens or orchards, is a species of agriculture in its primary and more general sense, In Section 117 of the Transfer of Property Act the word 'agriculture' is, in my opinion, used in its more general sense as comprehending the raising of vegetables, fruits and other garden products as food for man and beast, though some of them may be regarded in England as products of horticulture as distinguished from agriculture. A reference to Section 106 which deals with all leases of immoveable property and in which the same expression 'agricultural purpose 'occurs, would clearly show that the Legislature could not have intended that the word 'agriculture' was to be understood as excluding a large class of leases of garden lands in this country some or many of which in England may perhaps be regarded as horticultural. That section provides that, in the absence of a contract to the contrary, a lease for agricultural purposes shall be presumed to be one from year to year, but that a lease for other purposes shall be presumed to be only from month to month. It could not have been the intention of the Legislature that in respect of leases of garden lands to be cultivated as vegetable or other garden the presumption, in the absence of a contract to the contrary, is to be that the lease is one from month to month. Section 117 of the Transfer of Property Act exempts from the operation of Chapter V of that Act, not merely agricultural leases bat all leases for agricultural purposes. A lease of land as a yard for ploughing-cattle, or as a habitation for agriculturists or as pasture for ploughing-cattle, or for the purposes of storing manure or growing plants to be used as manure for agriculture, will be a lease for agricultural purposes. Is it to be supposed that, if such a lease were given in connection wholly or partly with the cultivation of vegetable or fruit gardens and orchards, Section 117 is not to apply to it? The distinction between agriculture when it is used otherwise than in its primary and more general sense and horticulture is a fine one even in England and in India, especially, it will be impossible in the case of several products of the land to draw a line between agriculture and horticulture according to English notions. The only practical distinction which I can suggest and one which will give effect to the policy of the Legislature in exempting agricultural leases from the operation of Section 107, etc., of the Transfer of Property Act is to regard as agriculture, as distinguished from horticulture, not only all field cultivation by tillage but also all garden cultivation for the purpose chiefly of procuring vegetables or fruits as food for man or beast and other products fit for human consumption by way of luxury, if not as an article of diet. In the definition of 'agriculturist' (Deccan Agriculturists' Relief Act, 1879) the Legislature could not have intended to exclude from its beneficial operation persons who earned their livelihood by cultivating vegetable and fruit gardens and orchards. In Venkayya v. Ramasami I.L.R. 22 Mad. 39 it was held that a tenant having a right of occupancy in nunja lands cultivated with paddy and ragi did not change the character of the holding by converting it into a cocoanut tope. It was held that instead of raising one kind of crop (paddy or ragi) by tillage, he raised without tillage another kind of crop (cocoanut). That decision proceeds, in my opinion, on the principle that the holding is used as an agricultural holding whether the crop be a cereal one or a garden crop. The expression 'agricultural purpose' oocurs in Section 32 of the Highways and Lacomotives (Amendment) Act, 1878, (41 and 42 Vict., chap.). The concluding part of that section exempts locomotives used solely for agricultural purposes from the necessity of obtaining licenses. In Ellis & Co. v. Hulse L.R. 23 Q.B.D. 24 the question arose whether the owner of a locomotive who owned it for the purpose of making profit by letting it for hire solely for carrying manure to be used on farms was rightly convicted for not having obtained a license for such locomotive. The conviction was quashed as illegal. It does not appear from the report whether the manure was used solely for ordinary field cultivation, or also for the cultivation of gardens or orchards, if any, attached to the farm. Even if it had been used solely or partly for the latter, it could hardly have been contended that, under Section 32 of the said Statute, the conviction would be good in law. In that case Gave, J., observed as follows in regard to the policy of the exemption:-'The very object of 'this exemption is the well-known one of favouring agriculture- 'an old object of English Legislation in favour of a very important 'industry.' This observation of Mr. Justice Gave will apply with much greater force in this country where the agricultural industry is more important than in England and is one that is common to wet cultivation as to garden and dry cultivation, the object of all such cultivation being chiefly to procure food for men and cattle and other products of the soil which are usually consumed by the people as gentle stimulants or by way of luxury. Betel leaf is an article of daily consumption with all classes in this country as tobacco leaf is with most classes and betel vine is generally grown side by side with plantains, the products of which are among the chief articles of vegetable food. The lease in this case being one for the cultivation of betel is, according to the usage and custom of the country, an agricultural lease and. as such, falls under Section 117 of the Transfer of Property Act, and is not therefore governed by Section 107 of that Act and its registration is optional under the Indian Registration Act.

5. For these reasons the decree of the District Munsif should, in my opinion, be reversed, and the suit remanded for its disposal on the merits. Costs of this petition will abide and follow the result.

Shephard, J.

6. In ordinary parlance a man who planted fruit trees or bushes in an enclosed apace would be said to keep a garden. Neither he, nor still less one who planted and maintained trees for firewood or other such purposes, would be called an agriculturist. The term 'agriculture,' however, is capable of being applied to tillage of the soil in the widest sense and after considering the context in which the expression 'agricultural purposes' is used in the Transfer of Property Act, viz., in Sections 37, 106 and 108, I cannot say that it was intended to limit its denotation in any way. I think I was wrong in the opinion I expressed with regard to a coffee garden and that a lease of a betel garden is a lease for agricultural purposes within the meaning of the Act.

7. It follows that the plaintiff was not precluded by Section 107 of the Act from proving the letting of the betel garden by oral evidence or by proof of an unregistered document.

8. As to the other question there can be no doubt.

9. The document, which is a lease for the purpose of the Registration Act, clearly does not provide for a term which exceeds five years. It therefore does not require registration under that Act.

10. I agree in the order proposed by Mr. Justice Bhashyam Ayyangar.


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