1. Certain land situated in two villages and belonging to the impartible estate of the Rajah of Ramnad was acquired under the Land Acquisition Act for the purpose of making a road. The acquiring Officer (the Special Deputy Collector, Ramnad) deposited the compensation money in Court under Section 31 of the Act. The District Judge, holding in effect that the money should not have been deposited, ordered it to be paid to the Rajah. These are revision petitions filed by the Government against his order.
2. A preliminary objection was raised on behalf of the Rajah that as the Land Acquisition Act provided in Section 54 for an appeal, no revision petition could be heard. Realising that this contention would involve a lengthy argument of only academical interest, and realising also the importance of the point raised in the petitions, we converted the petitions into appeals and proceeded to hear them on their merits.
3. The learned District Judge in a brief order has given two reasons for his decision:
(i) that the very existence of acquisition proceedings which the Rajah could not resist is a necessity which would permit alienation under Section 4 of the Impartible Estates Act and
(ii) that the Rajah is not a person who can come within the phrase 'incompetent to alienate' in Section 31 or 'having no power to alienate' under Section 32 of the Act.
4. No attempt has been made at the hearing before us to support the first of these reasons, nor is any serious reliance placed upon the second. Even the learned District Judge himself refers to the Rajah's powers of alienation being 'limited by legislation as a matter of public policy'.
5. The learned Judges who decided the case reported in Mrinalini Dasi v. Abinash Chandra Dutt 14 C.W.N. 1024 say:
The legislature obviously intended to apply the section to cases of persons who have no power to alienate the property acquired as absolute owners' and with this view we are in entire agreement. In our opinion the Rajah can in no way be held to be absolute owner of his impartible estate, and Sections 31 and 32 of the Land Acquisition Act must prima facie apply to him. It is true that in Assistant Collector of Kaira v. Vithaldas I.L.R. (1915) 40 Bom. 254 a very subtle distinction is drawn between 'disability attaching to a person holding land' and 'disability attached to the land held ', but with respect we see no reason to follow this distinction. It seems to us obvious that if a person is entitled to land which by reason of some enactment he cannot alienate he is incompetent to alienate it.
6. The main argument of the learned advocate for the Rajah is a somewhat different one. The Rajah may perhaps be a person incompetent to alienate the land, but if the whole of Sections 31 and 32 is read it will be seen that the sections are unworkable if applied to his case, and can be applied only to cases in which the land acquired would eventually have come into the possession of an absolute owner. The provisions of Section 32 are these. If the Court finds that the land acquired belonged to a person who had no power to alienate it, it shall order the money to be invested in the purchase of other lands to be held under the like title and conditions of ownership. If such an immediate purchase cannot be made then the money must be invested and interest must be paid to the person who would have been entitled for the time being to the possession of the land and this must continue until either (i) land is purchased as contemplated above or (ii) any person becomes absolutely entitled to receive the money.
7. Now there is no authority directly covering the question before us - but the authority which comes nearest to it is Assistant Collector of Kaira v. Vithaldas I.L.R. (1915) 40 Bom. 254 to which incidental reference has already been made. In that case what was acquired was land the alienation of which was prohibited by the Bhagdari and Narvadari Act (Bom. Act V of 1862). It was held that Section 32 prima facie applied to the case, but could not apply on closer examination because (i) no other lands could be purchased to be held under the like title and conditions of ownership, and (ii) that there could never be any person more absolutely entitled to the land acquired or the compensation money than the owner of the land at the time of the acquisition. No perpetual investment of money is contemplated by Section 32 and therefore Section 32 can not apply.
8. The learned advocate for the Rajah relies very strongly on this ruling, but clearly the crux of the whole matter is whether in the present case the purchase of land under Section 32 is or is not possible. If it is possible the last remaining reason for not applying the section disappears. Now it is clear from Section 3 of the Bhagdari and Narvadari Act that the Act applies to shares in definite Bhagdari or Narvadari villages. If a few acres of land in one of these villages are acquired it will of course be impossible to purchase a similar small quantity of land elsewhere to be held under the same conditions of ownership a there must be a limited number of villages and each village must be limited in area. But the estate of the Rajah of Ramnad is not geographically restricted in this way, and there is no reason why it cannot be added to by the purchase of land to compensate for the loss sustained by the acquisition.
9. The result is then that Assistant Collector of Kaira v. Vithaldas I.L.R. (1915)40 Bom. 254 affords no real parallel to the present case, and that there is no reason why Section 32 should not be applied to it. In the ordinary sense of the words the Rajah was clearly incompetent to alienate the lands acquired and it is in accordance with the policy of the Impartible Estates Act that the compensation money should not be paid over to him but should be converted into other land to form part of the impartible estate which will not thus suffer from the acquisition. We hold therefore that the Special Deputy Collector was right in depositing the money under Section 31, and that the District Judge should now proceed to deal with the deposit under Section 32 and we allow these appeals with costs. (One set).