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Sri Vyricherla Chandramani Pattamahadevi Zamindarini of Chemudu Estate Vs. the Municipal Council Represented by Its Commissioner - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectMunicipal tax
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported in(1945)2MLJ315
AppellantSri Vyricherla Chandramani Pattamahadevi Zamindarini of Chemudu Estate
RespondentThe Municipal Council Represented by Its Commissioner
Cases ReferredBharathi Swamigal v. Duraiswami Naidu
Excerpt:
- - the remaining five acres were covered by casuarina trees and, rejecting the appellant's claim to their assessment as agricultural land, were assessed under section 81(3). an appeal was carried without success to the municipal council, and eventually a suit was filed in the district munsiff's court. the plaintiff was unsuccessful in the suit and also in the lower appellate court......117 of the transfer of property act. the transfer of property act contains no definition of the word 'agriculture,' and the learned judges held that it connoted not only tilling the soil for raising food products but included the cultivation of the soil for any useful purpose. the second of these decisions related to the word ' agriculture ' as used in the madras estates land act, and it was held in that case-that growing casuarina trees, that is trees for fuel, is not an agricultural purpose so as to make a person who holds the land for that purpose a ryot within the meaning of the madras estates land act. in the madras estates land act, the word ' agriculture' is thus defined:4. 'agriculture' with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions shall include horticulture' and.....
Judgment:

Byers, J.

1. The question which arises in this second appeal is whether land covered by a casuarina plantation is agricultural land for purposes of assessment to property tax under Section 81, Clauses (3) and (4) of the Madras District Municipalities Act.

2. The facts so far as they are necessary are that the appellant is the owner of a field measuring 11 acres within the Vizagapatam municipal limits. During the relevant period six acres were used as pasture and were assessed accordingly under Section 81(4)(a) of the Act; the remaining five acres were covered by casuarina trees and, rejecting the appellant's claim to their assessment as agricultural land, were assessed under Section 81(3). An appeal was carried without success to the municipal council, and eventually a suit was filed in the District Munsiff's Court. The plaintiff was unsuccessful in the suit and also in the lower appellate Court. As already stated, the only point taken is that for purposes of Section 81 of the District Municipalities Act the word ' agriculture ' must be construed in its widest sense so as to include not only the cultivation of food crops but also the cultivation of garden crops, trees, bushes and flowers.

3. The two decisions of this Court which first require notice are Pavadai Pathan v. Ramaswami Chetty : AIR1922Mad351 and Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swamigal v. Duraiswami Naidu : AIR1931Mad659 . In the first of these cases it was held that a lease of land for growing casuarina trees was a lease for an agricultural purpose within the meaning of Section 117 of the Transfer of Property Act. The Transfer of Property Act contains no definition of the word 'agriculture,' and the learned Judges held that it connoted not only tilling the soil for raising food products but included the cultivation of the soil for any useful purpose. The second of these decisions related to the word ' agriculture ' as used in the Madras Estates Land Act, and it was held in that case-that growing casuarina trees, that is trees for fuel, is not an agricultural purpose so as to make a person who holds the land for that purpose a ryot within the meaning of the Madras Estates Land Act. In the Madras Estates Land Act, the word ' agriculture' is thus defined:

4. 'Agriculture' with its grammatical variations and cognate expressions shall include horticulture' and Ananthakrishna Aiyar, J., applying the legal maxim expressio unius est exclusio alterius, thought that this was of peculiar significance. Both the learned Judges examined various provisions of the Act in discussing the precise meaning of the word ' agriculture ' in relation to the Madras Estates Land Act before holding that it did not include the cultivation of a casuarina tope.

5. In Sarojini Devi v. Sri Krishna Anjaneya Subramaniam (1944) 1 M.L.J. 361, the meaning of the words ' agricultural land ' was discussed at some length in relation to the provisions of the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937. Patanjali Sastri, J., before examining the various decisions made this observation:

It is somewhat remarkable that a word in such common use as ' agriculture ' should have given rise to a great divergence of judicial opinion in regard to its interpretation.

6. Reference was made to the decision of the Privy Council in Kesho Prasad Singh v. Sheo Pargash Ojha : AIR1922Mad351 , in which it was held that land granted by a zamindar ' for the purpose of planting a grove the grantee agreeing to deliver one half of the fruit to the zamindar ' was not ' land held for agricultural purposes ' within the meaning of the Agra Tenancy Act. The learned Judge pointed out that the earlier decisions in that province were based on the peculiar status of grove-holders who had no rights in the land after the trees were cut, and he went on to observe that in the judgment of the Privy Council there was no discussion of the meaning of the term 'agriculture '' and no test of any general application was laid down. The District Municipalities Act contains no definition of the word ' agriculture ' and it is therefore necessary to interpret it in the light of various relevant provisions of the Act and with particular reference to the purpose for which the word has been used. Section 81(1) commences with these words:

If the council by a resolution determines that a property tax shall be levied, such tax shall be levied on all buildings and lands within municipal limits save those exempted by or under this Act or any other law.

7. Clause (2) is in these words:

Save as otherwise provided in this Act, those taxes shall be levied at such percentages of the annual value of lands or buildings or both as may be fixed by the municipal council, subject to the provisions of Section 78.

8. Clause (3) runs thus:

The municipal council may, in the case of lands which are not used exclusively for agricultural purposes and are not occupied by, or adjacent and appurtenant to, buildings, levy those taxes at such percentages of the capital value of such lands or at such rates with reference to the extent of such lands as it may fix.

9. Clause 4(a), under which the plaintiff (appellant) claims to be assessed, is in these words:

The municipal council may, in the case of lands used exclusively for agricultural purposes, levy those taxes at such proportion as it may fix of the annual value of such lands as calculated in accordance with the provisions of Section 79 of the Madras Local Boards Act, 1920,

10. Section 82(1) reads thus;

Every building shall be assessed together with its site and other adjacent premises occupied as an appurtenance thereto unless the owner of the building is a different person from the owner of such site or premises.

11. If these Sections and their clauses are considered together, it seems clear that one of their main purposes is to distinguish between the various classes of land assessable to property-tax. There are sites occupied by buildings and their adjacent premises, assessable together with buildings standing upon them under Section 82(1) of the Act; under Section 81(4) there is land used exclusively for agricultural purposes, apparently irrespective of its situation in relation to buildings; and Section 81(3) contemplates the assessment of land which is not used exclusively for agricultural purposes and is not occupied by buildings or appurtenant to buildings, that is to say, house-sites, backyards, compounds, etc. Thus it appears that the use of the word ' agriculture ' in Section 81(3) of the Act is not to denote ' agriculture ' in the narrowest sense of the word but to distinguish land which is cultivated or used for an agricultural purpose from land which is not so used or covered with any crop. In discussing the meaning of the word 'agriculture' in relation to the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, Patanjali Sastri, J., after referring to the Legislative Lists in the Government of India Act, 1935, uses these words:

In such context it seems to us that the expression ' agricultural land ' must receive the widest meaning, for it would be somewhat grotesque to suppose that Parliament intended that lands devoted to the production of one kind of crop should devolve according to laws passed by Provincial Legislatures, while those used for growing another kind should pass according to laws made by the Central Legislature, or that 'the circumstances in which the cultivation is carried on' (per Reilly, J., in Chandrq-sekhara Bharathi Swamigal v. Duraiswami Naidu : AIR1931Mad659 ), should determine the law which governs the devolution of the land. Nor could it have been intended that succession to such lands should depend on the degree of tillage or preparation of the soil or of the skill and labour expended in rearing and mainr taining the plants. We are of opinion that for the purposes of the relevant entries in Lists II and III. of Schedule VII, the expression ' agricultural lands' must be taken to include lands which are used or are capable of being used for raising any valuable plants or trees or for any other purpose of husbandry. It follows that the mango grove in question is agricultural land in respect of which the Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, 1937, does not operate to regulate succession.

12. In the same way it would be absurd to hold that for purposes of taxation under the District Municipalities Act land occupied by a betel grove or a mango tope is agricultural land and that land covered by a casuarina tope is not agricultural land. Having regard to the purpose with which the word ' agriculture ' has been used in the relevant Sections of the Act, my view is that it includes the cultivation of a casuarina tope.

13. In the result the appeal is allowed, the decisions of both the lower Courts are set aside, and the plaintiff's suit is decreed with costs throughout.

14. Leave to appeal is refused.


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