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N. Periaswami and ors. Vs. Naduviduthi Muthiah Chettiar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1960)1MLJ194
AppellantN. Periaswami and ors.
RespondentNaduviduthi Muthiah Chettiar
Cases ReferredKishtappa Chettiar v. Lakshmi Ammal
Excerpt:
.....rent, the rent was payable in kind. 14. learned counsel for the respondent then contended that the revenue divisional officer acting under section 3(4)(b) of act xxv of 1955 could validly direct the deposit of grain rent in court as the words 'deposit' would include a case of storing up or keeping a moveable property like paddy. i am of opinion that in the context what is meant is only a sum of money, and not aggregate of the paddy rent as well as the costs decreed. it is well known that government accounts are kept on a cash basis. it would be no satisfaction or even justice to the landowner, be he rich or poor, to be told that he could not enjoy the produce of his own land at the whim and caprice of a tenant whom he let into possession. monies deposited by tenant as equivalent to grain..........as the court may allow. if the court adjudges that no further sum is due, or if the cultivating tenant deposits within the time allowed such further sum as is ordered by the court, the cultivating tenant shall be deemed to have paid the rent within the period specified in the last foregoing subsection. if, having to deposit a further sum, the cultivating tenant fails to do so within the time allowed by the court, the landlord may evict the cultivating tenant as provided in sub-section (4).(c) the expression 'court' in this sub-section means the court which passed the decree or order for eviction or, where there is no such decree or order, the revenue divisional officer.9. it is clear from the provisions of the sub-section that a tenant could deposit in court the market value of the.....
Judgment:

Ramachandra Iyer, J.

1. These Revision Petitions are filed by the various tenants of the respondent, and they raise a question under Section 3(4)(b) of the Madras Cultivating Tenants' Protection Act, XXV of 1955.

2. The petitioner in each of these Civil Revision Petitions took on lease certain lands for agricultural purposes from the respondent. The Revenue Court at Tirunelveli had fixed a fair rent in respect of Pishanam harvest of 1958. Under the order of the Revenue Court rent was payable in kind and not in cash. C.R.P. No. 1508 of 1958 may be taken as typical of the other Civil Revision Petitions.

3. In respect of the lands leased out to the petitioner in (C.R.P. No. 1508/58) the Revenue Court fixed on 5th March, 1958, for the Pishanam harvest, 1958 a rent of 12 kottahs, 4 marakkals and 2 padis of paddy, together with 18 bundles of hay. Under the terms of the lease deed executed by the tenant in favour of the landlord, the former undertook to inform the lessor as soon as the crops were ready for harvest and harvest the same after getting his orders. It was also agreed that the paddy agreed to be delivered as rent should be given to the lessor at the thrashing floor. Alleging that the tenants harvested the crops without informing the landlord, and that the rent were in arrears, the latter filed the applications out of which the above Civil Revision Petitions arise before the Revenue Divisional Officer, Tirunelveli, for eviction of the tenants under Section 3(4) of Act XXV of 1955.

4. The tenants contested the applications, stating that they had informed the landlord of the impending harvest a few days prior thereto, and that as they had yet time to pay the rent, the applications for eviction were premature. They also pleaded that they had deposited the proceeds of the rent in Court under Section 3(3) of the Act, and offered to pay any further sums that may be found due from them. The applications for eviction were filed on 3rd April, 1958. Oh 22nd April, 1958, the tenants deposited certain sums of money representing the rent payable by them, purporting to do the same under Section 3(3) of the Act. For instance the petitioner in C.R.P. No. 1508 of 1958 deposited a sum of Rs. 433.83 nP. as representing the price of paddy of 12 kottahs, 4 marakkals and 2 padis and 18 bundles of hay. Applications were also filed under the aforesaid section for receiving the deposits. Both sets of applications, namely, the application for eviction at the instance of the lessor, and the applications for deposits under Section 3(3) of the Act, were heard, together and disposed of by the Revenue Divisional Officer. In the applications, for eviction, the Revenue Divisional Officer held that the tenants had failed to prove that they had intimated the landlord about the harvest, and also failed to make out that the applications for eviction were premature. The finding on this aspect of this case by the Revenue Divisional Officer is not, however, very clear. He also held that the tenants were in arrears, and directed each of the tenants to pay the: landlord rent in kind as fixed by the Rent Court in respect of the lands demised to the respective tenants within two months from the date of the order, failing which an order for eviction was to follow. In the proceedings, out of which C.R.P. No. 1508 arises, he directed the petitioner herein to pay the respondent-landlord the arrears in kind as per fair rent fixed, that is 12 kottahs, 4 marakkals and 2 padis,, within two months from the date of the order, failing which he was to be evicted.

5. C.R.P. Nos. 1508 to 1519 of 1958 have been filed by the various tenants against the orders aforesaid. The Revenue Divisional Officer also passed an order rejecting the applications under Section 3(3) of the Act in view of his findings in the applications for eviction. He directed the respondents-tenants to pay the lessor the arrears of rent in kind as per the fair rent fixed and also gave a direction that the amount deposited by the respective tenants would be refunded to them on application. C.R.P. Nos. 1682 to 1693 of 1958 have been filed by the tenants against the orders under Section 3(3)(a) of the Act.

6. Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam, the learned advocate for the petitioners, contends that the orders of the lower Court are without jurisdiction and are otherwise unjust. He reiterated a contention urged in the lower Court on behalf of the tenants,, namely, that they had given notice of the impending harvest in accordance with the terms of the lease deed, and that it was entirely due to the default of the latter that the paddy could not be delivered over in kind on the thrashing floor, as required, by the provisions of the Fair Rent Act (XXIV of 1956).

7. The learned advocate then contended that the deposits were validly made under Section 3(3) of the Act within the time contemplated under that provision of law, and that in any event the Revenue Court had no jurisdiction to call upon the tenants to pay the rent in kind under Section 3(4) of the Act.

8. It is admitted that both under the terms of the lease deed, as well as the order of the Rent Court fixing the fair rent, the rent was payable in kind. Section 5(1) of The Madras Cultivating Tenants (Payment of Fair Rent) Act (XXIV of 1956), states:

The fair rent in respect of any land may be paid either in cash or in kind or partly in cash and partly in kind, in accordance with the terms of the contract between the landowner and the cultivating tenant; in the absence of such a contract, the fair rent may be paid at the option of the cultivating tenant in any one of the above ways.

The third proviso to the section states thus:

Provided further that where the crop raised is paddy, the landowner shall have the right to insist that the rent shall be paid in kind.

Under Section 9, either party to a lease can apply to the Rent Court for the fixing of a fair rent or for deciding any dispute arising under the Act, and the decision of the Rent Court, subject to any appeal or revision, shall be final. It is not now contested that under the order of the Rent Court the obligation of the tenant is to pay the rent in kind, and that he could not discharge his liability thereunder by payment in cash. Unfortunately, however, neither the Fair Rent Act, Act XXIV of 1956, nor Act XXV of 1955, provide a machinery for enforcing that obligation of the tenant. It is contended by Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam that even though the tenant may commit a default in the payment of rent in kind, he has got a right under the provisions of Act XXIV of 1956 to deposit its cash equivalent. He referred in this connection to the provisions of Section 3(3) of Act XXV of 1955. Section 3(3) of the Act runs thus:

(a) A cultivating tenant may deposit in Court the rent or, if the rent be payable in kind, its market value on the date of deposit, to the account of the landlord-

(i) in the case of rent accrued due subsequent to the 31st March, 1954, within a month after the commencement of this Act:

(ii) in the case of rent accrued due after the commencement of this Act, within a month after the date on which the rent accrued due.

(b) The Court shall cause notice of the deposit to be issued to the landlord and determine, after a summary enquiry, whether the amount deposited represents the correct amount of rent due from the cultivating tenant. If the Court finds that any further sum is due, it shall allow the cultivating tenant such time as it may consider just and reasonable having regard to the relative circumstances of the landlord and the cultivating tenant for depositing such further sum inclusive of such costs as the Court may allow. If the Court adjudges that no further sum is due, or if the cultivating tenant deposits within the time allowed such further sum as is ordered by the Court, the cultivating tenant shall be deemed to have paid the rent within the period specified in the last foregoing subsection. If, having to deposit a further sum, the cultivating tenant fails to do so within the time allowed by the Court, the landlord may evict the cultivating tenant as provided in Sub-section (4).

(c) The expression 'Court' in this Sub-section means the Court which passed the decree or order for eviction or, where there is no such decree or order, the Revenue Divisional Officer.

9. It is clear from the provisions of the Sub-section that a tenant could deposit in Court the market value of the rent payable in kind calculated according to the value on the date of the deposit. Rules have been framed under Section 7(1) of the Act. They are consistent only with the contention advanced on behalf of the petitioners, namely, that the deposit contemplated by the section is a deposit in cash.

10. It is contended on behalf of the respondent-landowner that although a tenant may deposit the value of the rent in cash in an application under Section 3(3)(a) of the Act, the Revenue Divisional Officer has power to insist upon the rent being paid in kind if he thinks it proper in any given case. Reference was made in this connection to the provisions of Section 13 of the Fair Rent Act (Act XXIV of 1956), for the contention that all provisions in any other enactment contrary to the provisions of the Fair Rent Act were invalid, and that therefore the provisions of the Fair Rent Act should be strictly complied with. I am unable to agree with the contention that Section 13 could have the effect of nullifying the provisions of Section 3 of Act XXV of 1955, especially when there is no provision in the Fair Rent Act for enforcing the orders thereunder. Default in the payment of the fair rent fixed could only be treated as a default by the tenant and the provisions of Act XXV of 1955 would apply.

11. Mr. R. Gopalaswamy Iyengar, the learned advocate for the respondent, then contended that Section 3(4)(b) of the Act is consistent with a power existing in the Revenue Divisional Officer to direct the payment of the rent in kind. Section 3(4)(b) of the Act runs thus:

On receipt of such application, the Revenue Divisional Officer shall, after giving a reasonable opportunity to the landlord and the cultivating tenant to make their representations, hold a summary enquiry into the matter and pass an order either allowing the application or dismissing it and in a case falling under Clause (a) of Sub-section (2) in which the tenant had not availed of the provisions contained in Sub-section (3), the Revenue Divisional Officer may allow the cultivating tenant such time as he considers just and reasonable having regard to the relative circumstances of the landlord and the cultivating tenant for depositing the arrears of rent payable under this Act inclusive of such costs as he may direct. If the cultivating tenant deposits the sum as directed, he shall be deemed to have paid the rent under Sub-section (3)(b). If the cultivating tenant fails to deposit the sum as directed, the Revenue Divisional Officer shall pass an order for eviction.

12. It is stated that although the section contemplates only a deposit of a sum, the word sum should be interpreted to mean a deposit of paddy rent as such, as that interpretation would have the merit of giving full effect to the contract between the parties and the provisions of the Fair Rent Act of 1956.

13. In the present case the Revenue Divisional Officer has directed the tenant to pay rent in kind to the landowner within two months of the date of the order. In Lakshmanan v. Sambandam Pillai : (1958)1MLJ26 , Subramanyam, J., held that the word 'deposit' in Section 3(4)(b) of the Act does not contemplate a payment of rent to the landowner directly by the tenant, but that the deposit should be made only in the Court. The learned Judge has held that the Legislature deliberately used the word 'deposit' in preference to the expression 'pay to the landlord or tender to the landlord' so as to avoid any further enquiries as to the alleged tenders or payments. It is, therefore, clear that what is contemplated under Section 3(4)(b) is the deposit of the rent in Court and the direction to pay the rent to the landowner would not be valid.

14. Learned Counsel for the respondent then contended that the Revenue Divisional Officer acting under Section 3(4)(b) of Act XXV of 1955 could validly direct the deposit of grain rent in Court as the words 'deposit' would include a case of storing up or keeping a moveable property like paddy. He referred to the decision in Kishtappa Chettiar v. Lakshmi Ammal : AIR1923Mad578 , for the view that where one man's property was handed by that man to another, the latter became a depository. If the provisions of the section used the word 'deposit' alone, it might be there is some force in the contention of the learned advocate for the respondent. But what the section says is that time may be allowed to the cultivating tenant for depositing the arrears of rent payable under this Act inclusive of such costs as he may direct, and if the cultivating tenant deposits the sum as directed he shall be deemed to have paid the rent as under Section 3(3)(b), and if the cultivating tenant fails to deposit the same as directed, the Revenue Divisional Officer shall pass an order for eviction. What is, therefore, contemplated is deposit of a sum. The word 'sum' has been defined in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary as 'a quantity or amount of money'. It is, however, contended that the word 'sum' may imply a sum total of the costs and the arrears of rent, and it would be taken as meaning a total amount or quantity aggregate or the whole. I am of opinion that in the context what is meant is only a sum of money, and not aggregate of the paddy rent as well as the costs decreed. Deposits in Courts, whether Civil of Revenue, are credited in the Government accounts. It is well known that Government accounts are kept on a cash basis. There is no provision for receiving goods as deposits. Indeed having regard to the number of applications that would be entertained by the Revenue Divisional Officer under Act XXV of 1955, there would be very little warehousing accommodation available in Courts for keeping large stocks of paddy and protecting them. From the provisions of Section 3(3)(b) which provided for a deposit of rent by the tenant before default occurred one can reasonably assume that the Legislature only intended in a case of payment after default under Section 3(4)(b) a deposit of money, and not of paddy. It is contended that while the rule-making authority has prescribed rules for deposits under Section 3(3)(b), there is no similar provisions for deposit under Section 3(4)(b), and that therefore, it was possible to insist upon the deposit of rent in kind in Court. I cannot agree with the contention. There was a necessity for the rule in the case of deposit under Section 3(3)(b) as there was no previous proceeding pending in a Court and the proceedings contemplated in that section have to be initiated only on such deposit. But in the case under Section 3(4)(b) the deposit is occasioned by the order of Court and there are provisions under the existing law as to how such deposits are to be made, and there is therefore no necessity for any rules being framed in that regard. I am, therefore, of opinion that a Revenue Divisional Officer acting under Section 3(4)(b) could only direct a deposit of the rent in terms of its money equivalent and not in kind. It may be that the tenant may in particular cases deposit less by saying that the market rate was less than what it actually was. Power is given to the Revene Divisional Officer under the section to adjudicate the sufficiency of the deposit. It is no doubt true that the effect of this interpretation of Section 3(4)(b) would not enable the carrying out the wholesome provisions of Section 5 of the Fair Rent Act of 1956. Even apart from that provision stiuplations for payment of rent in kind are of utmost value to the landowner. Produce thus received are generally utilised for consumption by the landowner's family. This would be more so in the case of owners of small holdings, who may not have means to purchase paddy at market rate. It would be no satisfaction or even justice to the landowner, be he rich or poor, to be told that he could not enjoy the produce of his own land at the whim and caprice of a tenant whom he let into possession. Monies deposited by tenant as equivalent to grain rent could not always be its substitute and in many cases it may hit the poor landowners hard if they were to take that money and purchase rice therefrom, perhaps at prices different from that at which they were paid or of quality different from that grown on their lands. In a case where the obligation of the tenant under his contract, or under the provisions of the Fair Rent Act, was to pay the rent in kind to the landowner, he, by his committing a default by not paying in kind, would get an advantage by resorting to the provisions of Sections 3(3) and 3(4)(b). These difficulties, however, cannot enable a Court to construe the provisions of the section as authorising a deposit of rent in kind. That is a matter for the Legislature to rectify. I am of opinion that Section 3(4)(b), as it stands, could not enable the Revenue Divisional Officer to direct the payment of rent in kind to the landlord.

15. But at the same time, I am of opinion that it would be open to the Revenue Divisional Officer to take the conduct of the tenant into consideration while exercising his discretion under Section 3(4)(b) of the Act to give him time for depositing the rent. Under Section 3(4)(b) the Revenue Divisional Officer has got a discretion to allow the cultivating tenants time to deposit the arrears of rent. This provision, in my opinion, would include a power to refuse to grant any time and pass an order for eviction without giving the defaulter an opportunity to deposit the arrears of rent. In a case where the Revenue Divisional Officer finds that the conduct of the tenant in refusing to pay the rent in kind is not bona fide, he could refuse to grant him time for deposit of the rent and direct an eviction. But if he decides to grant the tenant time to deposit the arrears of rent, such deposit could be only in terms of money.

16. I am, therefore, of opinion that the orders of the lower Court directing the payment of rent in kind cannot be supported. They are set aside. The applications are remanded to the lower Court for disposal as to whether the tenants are entitled to get any indulgence by way of being enabled to deposit the arrears of rent and costs. No order as to costs.


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