Skip to content


Sri Navaneethaswaraswami Devasthanam, Represented by Its Executive Officer Vs. P.Swaminatha Pillai - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported inAIR1958Mad502; (1958)2MLJ281
AppellantSri Navaneethaswaraswami Devasthanam, Represented by Its Executive Officer
RespondentP.Swaminatha Pillai
Cases ReferredMavaneetheswaraswaml Devasthanam v. Ganapati
Excerpt:
.....if the contract admitting a tenant into possession is saved under section 8(5), it is difficult to see how that contract itself is exhausted or superseded merely by the twleve years' period prescribed for entering into contract expiring......estates land act?(b) if such a lease for 99 years, etc., entered into between them within the 12 years' period, is held to be valid, as conferring on the lessee a right to continue for the term mentioned, can the landholder claim rents in respect of the holding after 1st. november, 1948, as per the lease, if the rents stipulated are higher than those claimable under section 25 of the estates land act, in spite of the lands continuing to be ryoti lands?(2) if a landholder, within the 12 years' period, admits any person to the possession of such, ryoti lands, on such terms as may be agreed upon between them, but the lease extends beyond 1st november, 1948, can the lessee continuing in possession on 1st november, 1948, claim a permanent right of occupancy in the holding, under section.....
Judgment:

Balakrishna Ayyar, J.

1. The village of Sellur belongs to the Navaneethaswaraswami Devasthanam, Sikkil, as Ekabngam Mirasdar or sole proprietor. The village was not an estate within the meaning of Madras Act I of 1908 as that Act originally-stood, but became one by virtue of Madras Act XVIII of 1936. The lands which form the subject-matter of this litigation are not private lands. On 29th November 1917, this Court decided in A.S. Nos. 146, 228 and 230 of 1916 that the village was not an estate, from which it follows that no ryots had any permanent rights of occupancy in the lands. By a lease deed dated 31st July, 1946, the Executive Officer of the Devasthanam leased some of the lands situated in the village to Srinivasa Naidu for a period of three years. Similarly, by another lease deed dated 29th July, 1946, the Devasthanam leased some other lands to one Swaminatha Pillai, also for a period of three years. After 31st December, 1948, the lessees refused to pay rent at the contract rate. They also refused to surrender possession. They claimed that they had acquired permanent rights of occupancy in the lands and that they were liable to pay only at rates to be ascertained in the manner provided by the Madras Estates Land Act. The District Judge, East Tanjore, upheld the claim of the lessees. Thereupon the Devasthanam came to this Court in Appeal Nos. 558 and 559 of 1950.

2. In Navaneetheswaraswami Devasthanam v. Ganapathi (1955) 2 M.L.J. 112, a Bench of this Court consisting of the Chief Justice and Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., held in circumstances similar to those present here, but in respect of other lands in the village, that the ryots were not entitled to permanent rights of occupancy, and, that they were bound by the terms of the lease. A different view, however was expressed by Subba Rao and Panchapakesa Ayyar, JJ., in Seshayya v. Naraslmhacharyulu (1955) 1 M.L.J. 439 : I.L.R. (1955) Mad. 1151. In view of this conflict of opinion, Panchapakesa Ayyar, J., before whom Appeal Nos. 558 and 559 of 1950 came up for decision, referred the following question to a Full Bench.

(1)(a) Under Section 8(5) of the Estates Land Act has a landholder admitting any person in the possession of ryoti lands on such terms as may be agreed upon between them for the period of 12 years from the commencement of the Estates Land Act (Third Amendment) Act, 1936, as specifically mentioned in Section 8(5) the right within the period of those 12 years to lease out the lands to any person for 99 years, or any other long period, on such terms as may be agreed between them, or will such lease operate only till 1st November, 1948, regarding its terms, and then be automatically replaced by the Estates Land Act?

(b) If such a lease for 99 years, etc., entered into between them within the 12 years' period, is held to be valid, as conferring on the lessee a right to continue for the term mentioned, can the landholder claim rents in respect of the holding after 1st. November, 1948, as per the lease, if the rents stipulated are higher than those claimable under Section 25 of the Estates Land Act, in spite of the lands continuing to be ryoti lands?

(2) If a landholder, within the 12 years' period, admits any person to the possession of such, ryoti lands, on such terms as may be agreed upon between them, but the lease extends beyond 1st November, 1948, can the lessee continuing in possession on 1st November, 1948, claim a permanent right of occupancy in the holding, under Section 6(1) of the Estates Land Act, on the ground that he had been impliedly admitted into possession of ryoti lands situated in an estate, and he has continued to be a tenant under the landholder on 1st November, 1948, after the expiry of the 12 years' period mentioned in Section 8(5)?

3. The questions raised by Panchapakesa Ayyar, J., may perhaps be restated in a shorter form as follows:

Where before 31st October, 1946, a landholder has granted a lease of land situated in village, referred to in Section 8(5) of the Madras Estates Land Act, for a term which runs beyond 31st October, 1948, do the terms of the lease remain in force after 31st October, 1948, or, does the lease stand determined by reason of Section 8(5), and does the lessee become a ryot with permanent rights of occupancy in the land on and after 31st October, 1948, with the further consequence that he is bound to pay only the rent to be ascertained in the manner provided by Section 25?

4. The answer to these questions depends upon the true interpretation of Section 6(1) and Section 8(5) of the Act which runs as follows:

6. (1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, every ryot now in possession or who shall hereafter be admitted by a landholder to possession of ryoti land situated in the estate of such landholder shall have a permanent right of occupancy in his holding.

8. (5) If before the first day of November, 1933, the landholder has obtained in respect of any land in an estate within the meaning of Sub-clause (d) of Clause (2) of Section 3 a final decree or order of a competent civil Court establishing that the tenant has no occupancy right in such land, and no tenant has acquired any occupancy right in such land before the commencement of the Madras Estates Land (Third Amendment) Act, 1936, the landholder shall, if the land is not private land within the meaning of this Act, have the right, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, for a period of twelve years from the commencement of the Madras Estats Land (Third Amendment) Act, 1936, of admitting any person to the possession of such land on such terms as may be agreed upon between them:

Provided that nothing contained in this sub-section shall be deemed during the said period of twelve years or any part thereof to affect the validity of any agreement between the landholder and the tenant subsisting at the commencement of the Madras Estates Land (Third Amendment) Act, 1936.

5. Let us start with Section 8(5). When we break it up into its component parts we get this result. First, it applies only to lands situated inside an estate within the meaning of Sub-clause (d) of Clause (2) of Section 3. Secondly before 1st November, 1933, the landholder must have obtained a final adjudication from a competent civil Court in respect of any land in the estate that the tenant has no occupancy right in such land. Thirdly, no tenant must have acquired occupancy rights in the land before 31st October, 1936. Fourthly, the land must not be private land. Fifthly, and here arises the controversy, for a period of twelve years commencing from 31st October, 1936, the landholder gets the right to admit persons to possession of any land in the estate on such terms as may be agreed upon between them (Agreements entered into prior to 30th June, 1936, are not affected by this sub-section a separate proviso takes care of them). The question is, what is the extent and scope of the right that the landholder obtains.

6. According to the contention of the Devasthanam what the landholder gets is the 'right' to enter into agreement in relation to the land so long as the agreement itself is entered into within twelve years, it does not matter what the period is during which the agreement is to remain in force. According to Mr. Vedantachari, the learned advocate for the lessees, the terms of the agreement cannot remain in force for more than twelve years. If we read the section again and try to interpret it according to the ordinary rules of grammar and syntax, it will be found that the phrase 'for a period of twelve years' can apply only to the word 'right' and not to the words 'on such terms as may be agreed upon' by the parties. The Act says that the landholder shall have something. What is that something? The object of the verb 'have' is 'right'. How long is this right to last? That is specified by the words which follow, viz., 'for a period of twelve years'. As the words stand the sub-section only requires that the agreements must have been entered into during the period of twelve years commencing from 31st October, 1936. The words are not sufficient to support or convey the notion, that the agreement works itself out within that period of twelve years. If the intention of the legislature had been that the period of twelve years should qualify not the 'right' conferred on the landholder by the sub-section but the terms of the agreement entered into between the landholder and the lessee, then the phrase 'for a period of twelve years' would be clearly wrongly placed in the sub-section. To get the result contended for by Mr. Vedantachari, there must be a proviso at the end of the sub-section to this effect:

Provided that the terms of such agreement shall stand determined and cease to have effect on the expiration of twelve years from the commencement of the Madras Estates Land (Third Amendment) Act, 1936.

Alternatively, the expression 'to be in force for a period not exceeding twelve years' must follow the word 'terms'. Therefore as we said before, purely as a matter of syntax and grammatical construction, the view expressed in Navaneethaswaraswami Devasthanam v. Ganapathi (1955) 2 M.L.J. 112, must prevail.

7. Some arguments were based on the proviso to Sub-section (5). It was said that there is no discernible reason for treating agreements in force on 31st October, 1936 differently from agreements entered into after that date, and that since the legislature has expressly stated that the former class of agreements shall be in force only for twelve years, it could not have intended to lay down a different rule in respect of the latter class of agreements. There are at least two answers to this. One is that no common principle appears to govern the various provisions made in respect of ryoti lands which have vested in a landholder. For example Section 8(4) deals with cases of vesting by inheritance after 1936. It will be difficult to say that vesting by inheritance is analogous to cases provided for in Sub-section (5) of Section 8. But the language used in Sub-section (4) in relation to the questions we have to answer is practically identical with the language used in Sub-section (5). Sub-section (1) of Section 8 deals with all forms of vesting including inheritance. But, vesting by inheritance prior to 1936 which is comprehended in Sub-section (1) is treated differently from vesting by inheritance subsequent to 31st October, 1936.

8. Next it is possible to say in respect of the proviso and that with a fair measure of persuasiveness that since in respect of lands covered by agreements in force on 31st October, 1936, the legislature has made express provision that the terms of such agreements shall be in force for twelve years, but has made no such provision in respect of agreements subsequent to 31st October, 1936, its intention was to treat the two classes of agreement differently.

9. Mr. Vedantachari then said that a key to the problem is to be found in Sub-section (4) of Section 8 as it stood before it was amended in 1936. That sub-section then ran as follows:

In cases where the interest of the ryot in the holding has passed to the landholder by transfer for valuable consideration before the passing of this Act otherwise than at a sale for arrears of rent, or has passed by inheritance, the landholder shall have the right for a period of tweve years from the passing of this Act of admitting any person to the possession of such land on such terms as may be agreed upon between them and the person so admitted shall not be entitled during such period to the benefit of the provisions of Section 46. In cases where such interest passes to the landholder by inhertiance after the passing of this Act, the landholder shall have the same right for a period of twelve years from the date of succession.

Exception. - Notwithstanding anything contained in this section where before or after the commencement of this Act, the Kudivaram interest in any land comprised in an estate falling within Clause (d) of Sub-section (2) of Section 3 has been or is acquired by the inamdar such land shall cease to be part of the estate.

10. Mr. Vedantachari's argument was this the old sub-section first provided that where the Kudivaram interest had vested in the landholder by purchase, otherwise than at a sale for arrears of rent, or by inheritance the landholder was to have the right for a period of twelve years of admitting any person to the possession of the land on such terms as might be agreed upon, and then it went on to add very specifically that a person so admitted would not have the right during such period to apply to the Collector under Section 46 of the Act. This implied that on the expiration of the twelve years he could so apply, notwithstanding whatever covenants may have been incorporated in the agreement he entered into with the landholder. This is clear evidence, said Mr. Vedantachari, that the legislature intended that in the case also of the leases provided for by Section 8(5) the terms or covenants contained in the lease or agreement between the parties should remain in force only for twelve years.

11. We are unable to accept this argument. The present Sub-section (5) of Section 8 was not in the Act either when it was passed in 1908 or even when Section 8 was amended in 1934. Section 8(5) was a wholly new provision to deal with a special class of estates, the inam villages that became estates after the amendment of 1936. Section 8(5) cannot therefore be construed in the light of Sub-section (4) as it stood in 1908. Section 46 itself to which the rights of the ryots secured by the old Section 8(4) were correlated, was repealed in 1934. Besides the language of the old Section 8 (4) was different from that of the new Section 8(5). We shall set out the relevant passages in the two sub-sections.

Section 8 (4): The landholder shall have the right for a period of twelve years...of admitting any person to possession...and the person so admitted shall not be entitled during such period to the benefit....

Section 8(5) runs: ...the landholder shall...have the right for a period of twelve years...of admitting any person to the possession of such land....

The argument of Mr. Vedantachari further assumes that the legislature intended to treat the cases that fell under Section 8(5) in the same way as all the different classes that were clubbed together in the old Section 8(4) an assumption for which we see no basis or justification. We are unable to see any unity of purpose or identity of objective among the several classes dealt with in Section 8 as it now stands.

12. The next argument of Mr. Vedantachari may be summarised in this form. Section 3(16) of the Act defines 'ryoti land' as including all cultivable land in an estate other than private land and certain other categories which are not relevant here. The agreements envisaged in Section 8(5) are leases of ryoti lands. By virtue of Section 6, every ryot admitted to possession of ryoti land would acquire permanent rights of occupancy. What Sub-section (5) of Section 8 does is to suspend for a period of twelve years the right of the person admitted to the possession of such ryoti lands to acquire permanent occupancy rights.

13. This theory, assuming for a moment that it has any foundation at all, runs at once into serious difficulties. During the period of twelve years between 1936 and 1948 more than one person may have been admitted to possession of the same ryoti land - one lessee being admitted on the termination of the lease of his predecessor - How are we to determine which person in the series of lessees is to have permanent rights of occupancy? Mr. Vedantachari suggested that it would be the last lessee who would acquire permanent rights of occupancy. The question at once arises, why should that be so? How is his claim superior to that of his predecessors? Why should not the rights be conferred on the first or any intermediary lessee instead of the last. It was suggested that one process by which it can be said that the earlier lessees acquired no occupancy rights would be to hold that during the time they were in occupation, the land was not ryoti land. But then this destroys the theory of Mr. Vedantachari, that the ryoti character of the land was only 'suspended' or held in abeyance. Besides, it necessarily implies that at the time the last tenant, that is to say, the tenant in occupation on 31st October, 1948, was inducted into the land it was not ryoti land. If that were so, Section 6(1) will not apply to him at all, and it is only under that sub-section that occupancy rights can. be claimed.

14. There was another line of argument, but it was equally unhelpful. Mr. Vedantachari urged that it was the tenant in possession on the date of the expiry of the twelve year period that acquired permanent rights of occupancy because, having been admitted, he alone held the land, while the others who had been admitted during the twelve year period had ceased to hold the land or holding. That ignores the fact that under Section 6(1) the admission itself secured the right to hold the land thereafter; if the right to hold the land remained 'suspended' and was not abrogated by any subsequent admission of another person, no claim of permanent rights of occupancy could be founded on the subsequent admission.

15. The next objection to this theory of 'suspension' is that it lacks any foundation whatever. Sub-section (5) of Section 8 is intended to apply to lands in respect of which a competent Court has finally found that no ryot had permanent rights of occupancy. When we start with that finding, where is the scope for any theory of suspension? The theory of suspension assumes that the right was previously there but was being held in abevance. When we start with the finding that there was no permanent right of occupancy at all the theory of suspension becomes wholly inapplicable.

16. Mr. T.S. Kuppuswami Ayyar, who intervened at one stage when Mr. Vedantachari was developing his theory of 'suspension', suggested that the true theory would be not one of suspension but of postponement; according to him, the proper way of looking at the matter would be to say that the date on which the occupancy rights could be acquired in the lands referred to in Sub-section (5) would be only deferred. This modification of Mr. Vedantachari's theory does not take any one out of the wood because the question still arises, 'deferred' till when? And that auestion takes us back to the actual words of Section 8(5).

17. Finally, if all that the legislature intended to say was - and that is the substance of the theory of both Mr. Vedantachari and Mr. Kuppuswami Ayyar - that in respect of the lands referred to in Sub-section (5) of Section 8 permanent rights of occupancy could not be acquired till 1st November, 1948, why did it not use a simpler set of words? It would have been quite sufficient for the legislature to have said that in those lands no permanent right of occupancy could be acquired till 1st November, 1948.

18. Mr. Vedantachari next addressed to us a very interesting and elaborate argument based on the history of the legislation and remarked that the legislature showed a constat desire to enlarge and extend the interest of the ryots in the land and to curtail those of the landholder; it was always extremely reluctant to permit a landholder to enlarged his rights in relation to ryoti land; therefore, one would be justified in construing the words used in the sub-section in a manner which would enlarge the interests of the cultivator. On this reasoning two observations may be made. In Narayanaraju v. Suryanarayudu (1939) 2 M.L.J. 901 : L.R. 66 IndAp 278 : I.L.R. (1940) Mad. 1 (P.C.), the Privy Council had to deal with a case under the Estates Land Act. The report of that case indicates that an argument similar to the one urged before us was advanced before the Privy Council, and on that their Lordships observed:

They discard all argument from the presumed general intention of the Act as treacherous and inconclusive.

The other observation is that the history of the legislation as narrated even by Mr. Vedantachari, shows that at various points the legislature merely enacted a compromise between the conflicting interests of the landholder and the ryot. Adjustments of competing and conflicting and interests are not always based on inflexible principles or abstract logic. There is a giving in at one point and a taking in at another. To ascertain what the final result reached was we must taking in at another. To ascertain what the final result reached was we must examine the actual language emplayed in recording the compromise. That is to say, we must go back to the words of the statute and read them again.

19. It is no doubt true that in Seshayya v. Narasimhacharyulu (1955) 1 M.L.J. 439 : I.L.R. (1955) Mad. 1151, Subba Rao and Panchapakesa Ayyar, JJ., expressed the view, for which Mr. Vedantachari contended. But, an examination of the case shows that the question did not really arise for determination. The facts there were as follows: The village containing the suit lands became an 'estate' by virtue of Madras Act XVIII of 1936, and the suit lands became ryoti lands therein. The plaintiffs had obtained decreed against the tenants before 1933 to the effect that the tenants had occupancy rights in the lands. The landholders leased the properties to the tenant for five years to terminate in 1946 After the expiry of that lease, they granted a fresh lease another year. That lease expired in March, 1947. Thereafter, the tenants held over without any lease in their favour and did not surrender the lands in spite of noticed to quite. Hence the landholders filed suits for ejectment and arrears of rent and for mesne profits. The suits were filed before 31st October, 1948, and on 27th October, 1948 that is to say, before the expiration of the twelve years specified in Section 8(5), the tenants themselves were appointed receivers of the properties. It is, therefore, clear that on 31st October, 1948 the 'tenants' were not as such in possession of the properties. So, the quest on did not really arise for determination, 31st October, 1943 would have acquired permanent rights of occupancy in the land. The observations in that case, were therefore, obiter.

20. The decision in Ramachandrayya v. Ranganayakamma (1957) 2 An. W.R. 114, which was cited before us, does not advance the argument of Mr. Vedantachari any further. The learned Judges here merely followed Seshayya v. Narasimhackaryulu (1955) 1 M.L.J. 439 : I.L.R. (1955) Mad. 1151, observing that they were bound by it. But, as we have explained above, the observations in that case were really obiter.

21. In the order of reference which he made, Panchapakesa Ayyar, J., posed the question, whether a lessee continuing in possession on 1st November, 1948 could not claim permanent rights of occupancy on the ground that he had been impliedly admitted into possession of ryoti land. Now, when we say that one person has admitted another into possession of his property, we necessarily postulate a conscious and deliberate act. It may be that the person admitting another into possession does not visualise all the legal consequences that follow from his act, but the act itself is consciously and knowingly done. Section 6(1) speaks of 'every ryot now in possession or who shall hereafter be admitted by a landholder to possession of ryoti land'. The admission referred to in the section is a conscious and deliberate one and not something which was not intended. There is nothing in Explanation (3) to this sub-section which is inconsistent with this view. That Explanation provides for the case of persons who trespass into ryoti land and from whom the landholder receives or recovers payment under Section 163 of the Act, and enacts that in such cases the landholder shall be deemed to have admitted such persons into possession of such land. In other words, even to cover cases of what may be called ratification, the statute has made express provision by enacting that in such cases the landholder shall be considered on the basis of a conscious act of his to have admitted the ryot into possession.

22. That question was considered in Rajendramani Devi Garu v. Yellappa Ramu Naidu (1920) 39 M.L.J. 656, where it was observed:

That there is a distinction between admission of a ryot to possession and a ryot being in possession is not only clear from the ordinary meaning of the two phrases but the Legislature itself observes the distinction in various sections of the Act.... That explanation supports Mr. Narayanamurthi's suggestion that the phrase 'a person admitted to possession' does not ordinarily mean a person in possession.

23. A Bench of this Court went fully into this matter in Mavaneetheswaraswaml Devasthanam v. Ganapati (1955) 2 M.L.J. 112, and pointed out that there are only two modes by which statutory occupancy rights could be obtained. The Court observed:

It would also be noticed that the above construction accords with the principle and language of Section 6(1) also. Under this provision there are only two methods by which statutory occupancy rights are obtained: (1) Possession of ryoti land at the commencement of the Act which in the case of inams of the suit category is fixed as 30th June, 1934 (vide Explanation 2). (2) Admission to possession after the coming into force of the Act in the case of inams which became estates by virtue of Madras Act XVIII of 1936 this would be 31st October, 1936. Under Section 8 (5) the landlord is given a right for a period of twelve years from 31st October, 1936, i.e., till 31st October, 1948 to admit tenants to possession without the latter obtaining statutory occupancy rights. If there is any admission at a later date, it would not be protected by Section 8 (5) and would therefore fall within Section 6(1) and confer on the tenants so admitted statutory rights.

Earlier in the judgment they repelled the identical contention which Mr. Vedantachari pressed before us in these words:

This interpretation of the section appears to us to be forced and as not giving effect to the actual words of the provision in Section 8(5) which is clearly designed to save from the operation of Section 6(1) the terms of contracts entered into within a particular period, namely, between 31st October, 1936 and 31st October, 1948. If the contract admitting a tenant into possession is saved under Section 8(5), it is difficult to see how that contract itself is exhausted or superseded merely by the twleve years' period prescribed for entering into contract expiring. The learned District Judge appreciated this difficulty and that was why he thought that while all the other terms of the lease would be binding upon the tenant, the only term which ceased to be operative after 31st October, 1948 was the covenant to surrender possession. This reasoning itself shows the illegality of the construction adopted by the learned District Judge.

We are in respectful agreement with this reasoning.

24. The result, therefore, is this: Where before 31st October, 1946, the landholder has granted a lease of lands situate in a village referred to in Section 8(5) of the Madras Estates Land Act for a term which runs beyond 31st October, 1948, the terms of the lease remain in force even after 31st October, 1948, and the lease does not stand determined by reason of Section 8(5), and the lessee does not become a ryot and get occupancy rights.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //