1. This revision petition was initially heard by Nainar Sundaram J. but as the learned Judge did not agree with the view expressed by Mohan J. in C. R. P. 904 of 1974, which was relied on by the respondent, he referred the matter for an authoritative ruling of a Division Bench.
2. The Authorised Officer (Land Reforms), Mayuram, initiated proceedings for the fixation of the ceiling area of the petitioners herein who are husband and wife under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Act (Act 58 of 1961) (hereinafter referred to as the Act) as amended by the Tamil Nadu Land Reforms (Reduction of Ceiling on Land) Act, Act 17 of 1970. The holdings held by each of the petitioners on the relevant date were as follows :
Ordinary Acres Standard Acres
V. Govindasami (husband) 12.79 1/2 7.13
G. Gnanambal (wife) 26.48 1/2 15.02
In the draft statement issues under S. 10 (1) of the Act, it was proposed to declare an extent of 8. 03 ordinary acres equivalent to 5.02 standard acres as surplus from the above holdings. The first petitioner filed his objections to the draft statement contending (1) that his family consists of 9 members, namely, himself, his wife, five sons and two unmarried daughters and as such, his family is entitled to hold 30 standard acres and (2) that in pursuance of an agreement of sale entered into on 2-1-1970 with one Ghouse Maracair, he had parted with possession of 8.43 1/2 ordinary acres and hence the said extent should be excluded from the holding of the family. The Authorised Officer repelled these objections and declared an extent of 5.03 standard acres as surplus as proposed in the draft statement.
3. Aggrieved by the decision of the Authorised Officer, the petitioners preferred an appeal, C. M. A. 12 of 1973 to the Land Tribunal (Subordinate Judge) of Mayuram. That appeal having been dismissed, the petitioners have preferred this revision petition.
4. The second of the objections taken by the petitioners before the Authorised Officer and before the Land Tribunal has not been pressed before us and we are left only with the first contention.
5. As regards the first contention, it is submitted by Mr. V. Sridevan, learned counsel for the petitioners that the Authorised Officer has erroneously treated 5.02 standard acres out of the lands owned by the second petitioner as surplus, overlooking the fact that the second petitioner being the wife of the first petitioner will have to be taken as a member of his family, that lands held by both of them have to be treated as one unit for purpose of determining the ceiling area of the family, and that if the lands owned by both the petitioners are taken as forming one unit, then the family of the petitioners consisting of nine members is entitled to hold 30 standards acres as per the provisions of the said Act.
6. To appreciate the said contention of the petitioners, it is necessary to refer to the material provisions of the Act.
"Person" has been defined by Section 3(34) of the Act as follows-
"'Person' includes any company, family, firm, society or association of individuals whether incorporated or not; or any private trust or public trust."
Since 'person' has been defined as including a family, we have to see the definition of family. Family has been defined in S. 3(14) as follows-
'family' in relation to a person means the person, the wife or husband, as the case may be, of such person and his or her (i) minor sons and unmarried daughters, and (ii) minor grand-daughters in the male line, whose father and mother are dead."
Sec. 3(12) defines 'stridhana land' as follows-
"'stridhana land' means any land held on the date of the commencement of the Act by any female member of a family in her own name."
Sec. 5(1) (a) and (b) which fixes the ceiling area of every person are extracted below-
"5. Ceiling area: (1) (a) Subject to the provisions of sub-ss. (3-A) and (3-C) and of Chap. VIII, the ceiling area in the case of every person (other than the institutions referred to in Cls. (c) and (d) and subject to the provisions of sub-secs. (3-A), (3-B), (3-C), (4) and (5) and of Chap. VIII, the ceiling area in the case of every family consisting of not more than five members shall be 15 standard acres;
(b) The ceiling area in the case of ever family consisting of more than five members shall, subject to the provisions of sub-ss. (3-A), (3-B), (3-C), (4) and (5) and Chap. VIII, be 15 standard acres together with an additional five standard acres for every member of the family in excess of five."
Sec. 5(2) which is quite relevant for the purpose of the present discussion is extracted below-
"(2) For the purpose of this section, all the lands held individually by the members of a family or jointly by some or all of the members of such family shall be deemed to be held by the family."
Sec. 5(4) so as far as it is relevant is as follows-
"(4)(a) Subject to the provision of sub-sec. (5), where the stridhana land held by any female member of a family together with the other land held by all the members of that family is in excess of 15 standard acres, the female member concerned may hold, in addition to the extent of land which the family is entitled to hold under sub-sec. (1), stridhana land not exceeding ten standard acres :
Provided that where any extent of stridhana land held by a female member is included in the extent of land which the family is entitled to hold under sub-sec. (1) and in case where the extent so included is-
(i) 10 or more than 10 standard acres, she shall not be entitled to hold any stridhana land in addition to the extent so included; or
(ii) less than ten standard acres, she may hold in addition to the extent so included an extent of stridhana land which together with the extent so included, shall not exceed ten standard acres.
(b) where the extent of stridhana land held under clause (a) by any female member of a family consisting of more than five members-
(i) is 5 or more than 5 standard acres, she shall not be deemed to be a member of that family for the purpose of cl. (b) of sub-sec. (1) ; or
(ii) is less than 5 standard acres, the additional extent of 5 standard acres allowed under clause (b) of sub-sec. (1) shall be reduced by the same extent as the extent of stridhana land so held."
Sec. 5(5) lays down the maximum extent that could be held by a family and that provision is as follows :
"Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-sec. (1) and in sub-sec.(4) and in Chapter VIII the total extent of the land held or deemed to be held by any family shall in no case exceed 30 standard acres."
7. A conjoint reading of the above provisions of the Act clearly indicates that a family, which comes under the definition of a person referred to in Section. 5, which fixes the ceiling area, can hold a basic extent of the 15 standard acres plus five additional acres for every member of the family in excess of 5 subject to the ceiling of 30 standard acres fixing under Sec. 5(5). In this case, there is no dispute that the petitioners' family consists of 9 members. Therefore, their family would be entitled to hold the maximum extent of 30 standard acres. According to S. 5(2), for purpose of fixing the ceiling area of the family under that section., all the lands held individually by the members of the family shall be deemed to be held by the family. As per this provision, the lands held by each of the petitioners has to be clubbed together and treated as the holding of the family. Admittedly the total extent held by both the petitioners is only 22.15 standard acres and that is less than the maximum extent of 30 standard acres which their family can hold as per Section. 5(5). The Authorised Officer has however. treated the wife's holding as a separated unit and after deducting 10 standard acres which she is entitled to hold as stridhanam, the balance has been treated as surplus in her hands.
8. We do not see how the second petitioner who is admittedly a member of the family as per the definition of 'family' in Sec. 3(14) can be treated as separate unit for purpose of fixation of ceiling area under Sec. 5. Sec. 5(4) clearly provides that where the stridhana land held by any female member of the family together with the other land held by the other members of the family is in excess of 15 standard acres, the female member concerned may hold, in addition to the extent of the land which the family is entitled to hold under sub-sec. (1), stridhana land not exceeding ten standard acres. According to the proviso to Sec. 5(4)(a) where the stridhana land held by a female member is included in the extent of land which the family is entitled to hold under sub-sec. (1) and the extent of stridhana land so included is more than 10 standard acres, then the female member is not entitled to hold any stridhana land in addition to the extent to included. In view of this provision the second petitioner is not entitled to claim any additional extent over and above the maximum ceiling area of 30 standard acres which the family is entitled to hold under Sec. 5(1). But that does not mean that the second petitioner can be separated from the family and her ceiling area can be fixed separately apart from that of the family. In the light of the provisions set out above, it is not possible to say that the ceiling area of a female member should be fixed separately merely because she holds land apart from the lands held by the other members of the family and thereby exclude her from the fold of the family. Sec. 5(4) merely gives a concession to a female member of the family, and merely because a female member is entitled to that concession, she cannot be treated as being separate from the family for the purpose of fixing the ceiling area of the family, as otherwise, it will lead to the absurd result that whenever a stridhana land is held by a female member of a family whatever its extent may be, her holding will have to be treated independently without reference to the family and such a position is not tenable on a reading of the provisions of the Act.
9. Mr. K. Venkataswami, learned Additional Government Pleader, relied on the decision of Mohan J. in C. R. P. No. 904 of 1974, and contended that as per the said decision, the wife's holding can be clubbed with that of the husband only if she holds ten standards acres or less. In the case before the learned Judge the wife held 25 standard acres in her own name and that was not computed along with that of the husband. When such a separate treatment of the holding of the wife was questioned, Mohan J. observed as follows
"I think the view of the court below that the wife's holding cannot be computed for the purpose of ceiling of the holding of the petitioner is correct because, admittedly, she owns 25 standard acres in her name. Her holding can be computed along with that of the petitioner only if she holds ten standard acres or less. Therefore, I am unable to see merits in this revision petition which is hereby dismissed."
The above observation of the learned Judge seems to convey that the holding of the wife can be clubbed along with that of the husband only if she holds ten standard acres or less and not when she holds more than ten standard acres. We do not see any support for the view taken by the learned Judge from the provisions of the Act. On the other hand, the proviso to Sec.. 5(4) seems to suggest that even if the lands held by a female member exceeds ten standard acres, the same can be included in the holding of the family, but in that even the female member will not be entitled to hold any extra extent as stridhana lands in addition to the extent included in the family's holding. A female member of a family shall not be deemed to be a member of that family only in cases coming under clause (b) of Sec. 5(4), that is, only when the additional extent which the female member is entitled to hold as stridhan under Section. 5(4) exceeds five standard acres and not in other cases. We therefore disagree with the view taken by Mohan J. that the holding of a female member can be exempted along with that of the other members of the family only if she holds ten standard acres or less.
10. In this view, the order of the Land Tribunal is set aside and the petitioner's holding is declared to be within the ceiling area. We hold that there is no warrant for declaring any extent as surplus from their holding.
11. In the result the civil revision petition is allowed. No costs.
12. Revision allowed.