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Union of India (Uoi), Reptd. by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Pondicherry Vs. Thiru Thangavelu Pillai (Died) Alias Kangu Pillai and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1986)1MLJ329
AppellantUnion of India (Uoi), Reptd. by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Pondicherry
RespondentThiru Thangavelu Pillai (Died) Alias Kangu Pillai and ors.
Cases Referred and P. Somasundaram v. K. Rajammal A.I.R.
Excerpt:
- - the second contention urged before this court on behalf of the first respondent was that the number of members in the family of the first respondents had not been correctly decided and that would make a difference in the matter of reckoning the ceiling area as well as the surplus land. 5. though the learned counsel for the respondents attempted to urge that a limited owner like the deceased first respondent and his holding may not be subjected to the provisions of the act and that consequent to his death, the remainder-men will get certain rights in the holding and relied upon the decisions in radhaswami charitable society v......to the government of pondicherry, is directed against the order dated 21.3.1981 passed by the land tribunal, karaikal, in l.t.c.m.a.no. 14 of 1976. the first respondent held 13.45.32 hectares equivalent to 10.59.77 standard hectares of dry and wet lands at nallathur and kottucherry villages. though under the provisions of the act, ordinarily, he should have filed a return of his holding under section 7(1) of the act, he did not do so, which necessitated the issue of a notice requesting him to file a return on or before 7.11.1975. there was no response on the part of the first respondent, with the result that another notice was sent to him to make representations, if any, and to appear before the authorised officer on 26.11.1975. on 24.11.1975, the first respondent filed a return.....
Judgment:
ORDER

V. Ratnam, J.

1. This Civil Revision Petition under Section 50 of the Pondicherry Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Act, 1973 (hereinafter referred to as 'The Act') at the instance of the Union of India, represented by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Pondicherry, is directed against the order dated 21.3.1981 passed by the Land Tribunal, Karaikal, in L.T.C.M.A.No. 14 of 1976. The first respondent held 13.45.32 hectares equivalent to 10.59.77 standard hectares of dry and wet lands at Nallathur and Kottucherry villages. Though under the provisions of the Act, ordinarily, he should have filed a return of his holding under Section 7(1) of the Act, he did not do so, which necessitated the issue of a notice requesting him to file a return on or before 7.11.1975. There was no response on the part of the first respondent, with the result that another notice was sent to him to make representations, if any, and to appear before the Authorised Officer on 26.11.1975. On 24.11.1975, the first respondent filed a return disclosing a holding of 13.42.43 ordinary hectares and appeared for the enquiry on 26.11.1975 and was granted time for production of certain documents. Ultimately, after several adjournments, he produced a document to show that he was holding the lands as a limited owner and claimed that such holding should be excluded from computation of the ceiling area. Though further time was granted to the first respondent at his request for production of certain other particulars relating to the holding, he did not make available details and, therefore, taking into account the family of the first respondent which was stated to consist of himself his four minor sons and one unmarried daughter, namely, 6 members, the ceiling was computed at 7.20.00 standard hectares and an extent of 3.39.77 standard hectares was declared as surplus holding in excess of the ceiling on the appointed date. Aggrieved by this, the first respondent preferred an appeal before the Land Tribunal (Subordinate judge), Karaikal, in L.T.C.M.A. No. 14 of 1976, principally contending that hit right over the holding was only under the terms of a Will and that right was also one of enjoyment of the properties during his lifetime without powers of alienation and as such he was the limited owner of the properties and, therefore, the properties held by him should not be reckoned for the computation of the ceiling area. This contention was rejected by the Land Tribunal on the strength of some of the provisions of the Act and the Land Tribunal upheld the conclusion of the Authorised Officer to the effect that the family of the first respondent was entitled to hold only 7.20.00 standard hectares leaving a surplus of 3.39.77 standard hectares on the appointed date and dismissed the appeal. Against that, the first respondent preferred C.R.P. No. 2954 of 1976 before this Court. Two contentions were urged by the first respondent. The first was that a limited owner ought to be dealt with differently from a full owner under the provisions of the Act. By judgment dated 26.9.1979, this contention was rejected by Ramaprasada Rao, C.J. who observed as follows:

I am unable to agree with the legal contention of the petitioner that the Legislature intended to treat the full owner differently from a limited owner, for under Section 2(20) of the Pondicherry Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Act, 1973, a limited owner has been expressly defined as a person entitled to a life estate in any land and includes persons deriving rights through him...it is not disputed by learned Counsel for the petitioner that there is any difference in substance in the provisions of the Act so as to treat a limited owner.

The second contention urged before this Court on behalf of the first respondent was that the number of members in the family of the first respondents had not been correctly decided and that would make a difference in the matter of reckoning the ceiling area as well as the surplus land. With reference to this, this court observed as follows:it appears to me that in the interests of justice the matter should be remitted back to the Land Tribunal to find out the number of members in the family of the petitioner - landholder. If the number of members is found to be not more than five, then the order has to be sustained. If, however, the number of members, apart from the petitioner is found to be more than five, a correct reckoning of the excess land to be taken over has to be determined. With these observations, the civil revision petition is partly allowed.

Subsequently, when the matter went back to the land tribunal, the Tribunal directed the Authorised Officer to conduct an enquiry to ascertain the actual numerical strength of the family of the first respondent after giving due notice to him and to submit a report. Pursuant to this, a notice was given to the first respondent to appear before the Authorised Officer for an enquiry on 8.12.1980 and finally on 15.12.1980. The first respondent filed a petition to the effect that as on the notified date, namely, 1.3.1975, his family consisted of nine members and, therefore, further proceedings under the Act have to be dropped. Though the first respondent did not indicate the dates of birth of his sons and daughter, the Authorised Officer examined him and his examination revealed that on 24.1.1971, the appointed date under the Act, he had one unmarried daughter, who was subsequently married on 3.9.1972 and that he had seven sons, namely (1) Thiruvengadam (born on 7.4.1946), (2) Raghavan (born on 24.9.1951), (3) Soma-sundaram (born on 13.12.1952), (4) Mahalingam (born on 12.4.1955), (5) Padrinathan (born on 28.9.1959), (6) Barathan (born on 13.9.1962) and (7) Paranjothi (born on 10.1.1967). The Authorised Officer was of the view that on the relevant notified date, namely, 24.1.1971, the family of the first respondent consisted of four minor sons and one unmarried daughter, besides himself and the three other sons were majors and, therefore, the ceiling of the family of the first respondent will be 7.20.00 standard hectares under the provisions of the Act. On receipt of this report from the Authorised Officer, the Land Tribunal proceeded to deal with the ascertainment of the size of the family of the first respondent as directed by the order of this court in C.R.P.No. 2954 of 1976 referred to earlier. The Tribunal took the view that on the appointed date, namely, 24.1.1971, the provisions of the Indian Majority Act were not extended to the Pondicherry territory and, therefore, the provisions of the Code Civil would apply and the family of the first respondent consisted of Raghavan, Somasundaram, Mahalingam, Padrinathan, Barathan and Paranjothi and himself (7 in all). Proceeding to apply the provisions relating to the computation of ceiling area, the Land Tribunal concluded that as the family of the first respondent consisted of more than five members, namely, seven the ceiling area should be fixed at 6 standard hectares together with additional 1.20 standard hectares for every member of the family in excess of five. On this basis, the ceiling was computed as 8.40.00 standard hectares and it was also held that as the holding was within that limit, there is no question of any surplus. In this view, the appeal was allowed. It is the correctness of this order that is challenged in this Civil Revision Petition, the first respondent died and respondents 2 to 11 have been brought on record as his legal representatives by order of Court dated 27.8.1984 in C.M.P.No. 3919 of 1984.

2. Though in the course of the hearing of this Civil Revision Petition an attempt was made by the learned Counsel for the respondents to contend that the first respondent was only a limited owner and his death would also have some impact upon the reckoning of the ceiling and the declaration of surplus, it is not possible to enlarge the scope of this revision filed at the instance of the Union of India, especially after the remit order passed by this court and referred to earlier had attained finality. After the decision of the court in C.R.P.No. 2954 of 1976, the only question which was left open for consideration was the size of the family of the first respondent for purposes of ceiling and declaration of the surplus and no other question could be debated. In view of this, no other question excepting that of the size of the family of the first respondent can be gone into at this stage.

3. Thus, the principal question that arises for consideration is, whether the Tribunal was right in holding that there was no surplus at all in this case. What is urged by the learned Government Pleader is that the Tribunal had erroneously proceeded on the basis that the age of attainment of majority should be under the French Code Civil overlooking that the provisions of the Indian Majority Act had been extended to Pondicherry with effect from 18.12.1968 by a notification under Section 3(2) of the Pondicherry (Extension of Laws) Act, 1968. According to him, if the provisions of the Indian Majority Act should apply, then three of the sons, namely, Thiruvengadam, Raghavan and Somasundaram could not be included as members of the family, as they had attained majority long prior to the appointed date and if at all Mahalingam, Padrinathan, Barathan and Paranjothi could be included as they were all minor sons on the appointed date, namely, 24.1.1971. On the other hand, the learned Counsel for the respondents strenuously contended that the approach of the Land Tribunal in applying the French Code Civil and ascertaining the size of the family is in order and that no case for interference with the conclusion of the Tribunal is made out.

4. By the remit order in C.R.P.No. 2954 of 1976 the Land Tribunal was directed to find out the number of members in the family of the first respondent. A further direction was also given that if the number of members is found to be not more than five, then the order has to be sustained, but if it was in excess of five, a correct reckoning of the excess land to be taken over has to be decided. The ascertainment of the number of members in the family of the first respondent would be dependent upon the minor sons and the unmarried daughters of the first respondent. With reference to the attainment of the age of majority, the Tribunal took the view that the provisions of the Indian Majority Act are inapplicable, as on the appointed date, namely, 24.1.1971, the provisions of the Indian Majority Act were not extended to Pondicherry. This approach of the Land Tribunal is erroneous, for, it is seen from Section 3(1) of the Pondicherry (Extension of Laws) Act, 1968, that the Acts specified in Part I of the Schedule thereof had been extended to Pondicherry, subject to the modifications, if any, specified in the Schedule. The Indian Majority Act, 1875 is one of the enactments specified in Part I of the Schedule. Section 3(1) of the Pondicherry (Extension of Laws) Act, 1968, further provided that such extension shall be subject to the modifications, if any, specified in the Schedule and it is seen from the Schedule that nothing in the Indian Majority Act shall apply to the Renoncants of the Union Territory of Pondicherry. It was not the case of the first respondent that as Renoncants, the provisions of the. Indian Majority Act extended were inapplicable. Section 4(1) of the Pondicherry (Extension of Laws) Act, 1968 repealed other laws in force in Pondicherry as and from the coming into force of the Act specified in Part I of the Schedule in Pondicherry. The saving under Section 4(2) of the Pondicherry (Extension of Laws) Act, 1968, provided that any right, privilege, obligation or liability acquired, accrued or incurred under any law so repealed shall not be affected. There is no question of acquisition or accrual of any right or privilege with reference to the attainment of the age of majority. Under these circumstances, the provisions of the Indian Majority Act extended to Pondicherry territory should have been applied by the Land Tribunal instead of the French Code Civil. There is no dispute that the completion of 18 years would be the attainment of majority under the provisions of the Indian Majority Act. So considered Thiruvengadam, Raghavan and Somasundaram, who were born on 7.4.1946, 24.9.1951 and 13.12.1952 respectively, even according to the evidence of the first respondent, attained majority on 7.4.1964, 24.9.1969 and 13.12.1970 respectively, long prior to the appointed and notified dates. Mahalingam, on the appointed date, even according to the evidence of the first respondent, was a minor son. Similarly, Padrinathan, Barathan and Paranjothi were also minor sons. There was also an unmarried daughter of the name of Usha in the family on the appointed date and she got married only subsequent to the appointed date. Necessarily, therefore, the family of the first respondent consisted of four minor sons and one married daughter on the appointed date. The prohibition against a person holding land in excess of the ceiling area contained in Section 6 of the Act is only on and from the appointed date, namely, 24.1.1971. Under Section 2(26) of the Act, the word, 'person' includes a family and, therefore, if on the appointed date the family of the first respondent consisted of four minor sons and one unmarried daughter, including the first respondent, the number of members of that family was six. That would mean, the family was entitled to hold 7.20.00 standard hectares. Consequently, there was a surplus holding of 3.39.77 standard hectares and in terms of the remit order passed by this court in C.R.P.No. 2954 of 1976, the number of members of the family of the first respondent is fixed at six (consisting of four minor sons, one unmarried daughter and the first respondent himself) as on the appointed date and the family was entitled to hold 7.20.00 standard hectares only and the balance of the holding has to be treated as surplus.

5. Though the learned Counsel for the respondents attempted to urge that a limited owner like the deceased first respondent and his holding may not be subjected to the provisions of the Act and that consequent to his death, the remainder-men will get certain rights in the holding and relied upon the decisions in Radhaswami Charitable Society v. Authorised Officer : (1971)2MLJ35 and P. Somasundaram v. K. Rajammal A.I.R.1976 Mad. 295, it is unnecessary to consider those aspects as they do not arise having regard to the limited scope of the remitted proceedings. The order of the Land Tribunal cannot be sustained. Consequently, it is set aside and the other of the Authorised Officer dated 16.2.1976 is restored. The Civil Revision Petition is allowed. There will be, however, no order as costs.


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