(1) This is a landlord's petition to revise an order of the Revenue Divisional Officer, Saidapet Dn, by which he accepted a preliminary objection from the respondent-tenant based on S. 4-A(5) of the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act 1955 and dismissed the landlord's petition for resumption of the holding. The Revenue Divisional Officer did so on the strength of Natesa Pillai v. Mahalinga Padayachi 1961 2 MLJ 246.
(2) So far as the principle of law is concerned, no exception could be taken to the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer. S. 4-A of the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act 1955 confers on the landlords a limited right to resume land for personal cultivation. Sub-sec. (4) qualifies his right which he can exercise only if he does not own in excess of 13-1/3 acres of wet land or has not been assessed to any sales tax, profession tax or income-tax under the laws relating to the levy of such taxes during 1954-55 or 1955-56. Sub-sec. (5) reads as follows:
'No person who is not entitled to resume possession under this section on the day the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection (Amendment) Act 1956 came into force shall be deemed to be so entitled by reason of any subsequent change in his circumstances'.
This provision in my view, plainly means this. If a landlord, when the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act came into force, owned land exceeding the limit mentioned in sub-sec. (4), he would be disentitled to resume possession under the provisions of the Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act 1955, and any subsequent change in his circumstances will make no difference to his position. A subsequent change may be in the form of a purchase or partition. The intention of the sub-section appears to be to fix not merely a ceiling in respect of the extent with reference to which right to resume for personal cultivation is given but also to draw a line on time so that any change subsequent thereto in the circumstances of the landlord is made ineffective to disturb the protection afforded to the cultivating tenant. The provision is conceived in the interest of the cultivating tenant and to prevent steps on the part of the landlord to defeat the tenant's right. The scope of this provision came up for consideration in 1961 2 MLJ 246 and the view was expressed that 'any subsequent change in his circumstances' in sub-sec. (5) was not confined to the disqualification specified in sub-sec. (4) of S. 4-A. With respect, I agree with this view. To the same effect is Rajadurai v. Kunjurusa Vanniar, 1961 2 MLJ 426 with this difference that there the subsequent change lay in a partition of the family properties. If, therefore, the vendor from whom the petitioner purchase on 20-2-1963, owned land exceeding 13-1/3 acres or was paying tax of the type specified by sub-sec. (4) of S. 4-A and had, therefore, no right to resume, the petitioner by reason of his subsequent purchase would be in no better position. Like his vendor, the petitioner too would have no right to resume the land.
(3) But what is argued for the petitioner is that the Revenue Divisional Officer failed to investigate the facts to see whether the vendor on the material date owned land exceeding the ceiling of 13-1/3 acres or was paying any of the taxes mentioned in sub-sec. (4) so that sub-sec. (5) would be attracted. Without finding the facts, the Revenue Divisional Officer has upheld the preliminary objection raised by the respondent. In doing so, he was in error.
(4) On that limited ground, this petition is allowed. The Revenue Divisional Officer will dispose of the petitioner's application afresh. No costs.
(5) Petition allowed.