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Peria Maria Gounden Vs. P.K. Ramaswami Goundar - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1962)1MLJ106
AppellantPeria Maria Gounden
RespondentP.K. Ramaswami Goundar
Cases ReferredIn Santhannarama Iyer v. Somasundara Vanniar
Excerpt:
.....to remain. that legislation was not conceived in the interest of the tenant alone, as the words fair rent implies that rent should be a just one judged from the point of view of the landlord as well as the tenant. section 14(1), if interpreted as excluding from the purview of the act all cases where the tenant is in occupation of more than 6| acres, would sometimes lead to the anamoly of benefitting an affluent tenant at the expense of a poor landowner. 1188, it was held that it would not be open to the court to speculate what the legislature might better have done, but what the intention of the legislature was in the words of the enactment itself. nothing, in short, which is founded on what the legislature might better have done, nor simply even what the legislature intended; if the..........question whether a landlord would be entitled to take advantage of the provisions of the madras fair rent act (xxiv of 1956) (which will be hereinafter referred to as the act), and institute proceedings for fixation of a fair rent against a cultivating tenant who owns or enjoys as a tenant lands exceeding 6| acres. the petitioner obtained a lease for a period of three years from the year 1953, of an extent of 1968 acres of lands which were partly garden lands and partly dry lands with coconut trees from the owner, one palani chettiar. the rent reserved under the lease was rs. 625 per annum.although the period of the lease had expired, the petitioner continued in possession of the properties, claiming to be a cultivating tenant entitled to protection under the madras cultivating.....
Judgment:

Ramachandra Iyer, J.

1. This Revision Petition raises the question whether a landlord would be entitled to take advantage of the provisions of the Madras Fair Rent Act (XXIV of 1956) (which will be hereinafter referred to as the Act), and institute proceedings for fixation of a fair rent against a cultivating tenant who owns or enjoys as a tenant lands exceeding 6| acres. The petitioner obtained a lease for a period of three years from the year 1953, of an extent of 1968 acres of lands which were partly garden lands and partly dry lands with coconut trees from the owner, one Palani Chettiar. The rent reserved under the lease was Rs. 625 per annum.

Although the period of the lease had expired, the petitioner continued in possession of the properties, claiming to be a cultivating tenant entitled to protection under the Madras Cultivating Tenants' Protection Act, 1955. Palani Chettiar sold the lands to the respondent for a sum of Rs. 16,000. Soon after the purchase, the respondent filed a petition before the Rent Court (Tahsildar) at Pollachi under Sections 3 and 9 of the Fair Rent Act for fixing a fair rent which, according to him, would be Rs. 3,416 per year. The tenant resisted the application on several grounds. One of the grounds taken, preliminary in nature, related to the objection of the tenant that the Rent Court had no jurisdiction to fix a fair rent, as the tenant was expressly excluded from the ambit of the Fair Rent Act by Section 14 thereof. The Rent Court rejected the plea. On appeal, the Rent Tribunal (District Munsif), Udumalpet, upheld that view. The appellate authority also held that the appeal before it was incompetent, as a determination of the Rent Court on a preliminary issue would not amount to a decision, which alone would be subject to an appeal. The correctness of the decision is challenged in revision.

2. The question whether, notwithstanding the fact that a cultivating tenant either owns or cultivates as tenant or owner or both, a greater extent of land than 6 2/3 acres, can be proceeded against at the instance of a landowner for fixation of a fair rent under the provisions of the Act, depends on the construction of Section 14. That section runs:

14. (1) The provisions of this Act shall not apply to any cultivating tenant who owns, or who cultivates either as tenant or owner or as both, an extent of land in excess of one veli (6 2/3 acres) of wet land.

(2) Any cultivating tenant who owns, or who cultivates either as tenant or as owner or as both, an extent of land exceeding that specified in Sub-section (1) but not exceeding 10 acres of wet land may, by notice in writing addressed to the landowner, relinquish at the end of the agricultural year ending in 1957 the tenancy, in respect of such portion of the land aforesaid, as may be necessary to entitle him to all the benefits of a cultivating tenant under this Act. Such cultivating tenant shall be entitled to all the benefits of this Act till the end of the agricultural year ending in 1957 and shall thereafter be entitled to all the rights of a cultivating tenant under this Act only on such relinquishment.

(3) (Omitted as unnecessary).

3. The provisions of the section are a little obscure : it is not clear from Sub-section (1) whether the Legislature intended that a tenant owning or cultivating more than 6 1/2 acres of land was outside the Act altogether or what was intended was merely that he could not take advantage of the Act; that is to say, whether Section 14(1) prevented both the landlord and tenant from applying for fixation of a fair rent in a case where the latter owned or cultivated land in excess of 6| acres, or whether it had the effect of preventing only the tenant from so doing, the landlord's right being unfettered in that respect. If the former view were to be accepted, it would undoubtedly, lead to inconvenient or unjust results.

4. The Act is in pari materia with the Madras Cultivating Tenants' Protection Act, 1955- It is part of a scheme of legislation for bettering the conditions of cultivating tenants. The Madras Cultivating Tenants' Protection Act which would apply to all cultivating tenants defined thereunder, regardless of the question whether such a tenant was in occupation of a small extent of land or a large extent of land, prevents the landowner from evicting the tenant even after the expiry of lease except under the provisions of the Act. This enables a continuance of the original tenancy, so long as the cultivating tenant has not been evicted from his holding under the provisions of the Act. The landlord being thus prevented from exercising his right to get the property on the expiry of the lease and lease it at competitive rates to the other people, the common sense and justice would require that there should be a provision for enabling the landlord to obtain a fair rent. The present case furnishes a good example of the injustice that might be done to the landowner in case the provisions of the Madras Cultivating Tenants' Protection Act alone were to remain. The rent for the lands in the instant case was fixed at Rs. 625 in the year 1953. Since then, prices of the cash crops grown on the land and of coconuts yielded by the trees have increased considerably. There is no justifiable reason why the landlord should not get his legitimate share of the value of the produce-according to the changed circumstances, and why the tenant should alone be entitled1 to profit by it, holding the land at the original rent which was fixed in the context of the prices then prevailing. The injustice will be more apparent, when we take the case of a comparatively poor landowner leasing his properties on cash rent basis to a rich person who happens to satisfy the definition of the term 'cultivating tenant.' The tenant will profit by the increase in price, while the unfortunate landlord will have to be content with the original rent. The Fair Rent Act provides for the payment of a Fair Rent. That Legislation was not conceived in the interest of the tenant alone, as the words Fair Rent implies that rent should be a just one judged from the point of view of the landlord as well as the tenant. Section 14(1), if interpreted as excluding from the purview of the Act all cases where the tenant is in occupation of more than 6| acres, would sometimes lead to the anamoly of benefitting an affluent tenant at the expense of a poor landowner. It is therefore, necessary to ascertain what the intention of the Legislature was, when it enacted Section 14(1), as expressed in the statute itself.

5. Sub-section (2) to the Section 14 enables the cultivating tenant to obtain the benefit of the Act by surrendering any land that he holds in excess of 6 2/3 acres. The provisions of Sub-section (2) which, in my opinion, has to be read with Sub-section (1), throw light on the question as to the category of cases to which Section 14 is intended to apply. If Sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 14 are read together it would be apparent that they relate only to cases where the tenant wants to take, advantage of the provisions 'of the Act, and not to cases where the landowner wants to have a fair rent fixed. Section 14 contemplates a benefit claimed by the tenant and imposes limitation on the class of tenaants who would be entitled to claim such benefits. Sub-section (1) excludes the tenant owning more than 6| acres from such benefit. Sub-section (2) gives him an option to renounce the excess land in-order to claim the benefit. No reference is made in Section 14 to the landowner-The landowner cannot, for instance, say that he would be content to have a fair rent fixed for 6 acres alone out of the larger extent leased out to the tenant. He cannot obviously compel the tenant to renounce the excess land. Prima facie therefore, Section 14 would relate only to the tenants who seek relief under the Act. The other provisions of the Act also support this view. The Short Title to the Act shows that it was passed to provide for the payment of a fair rent by cultivating tenants. The definition of the term 'cultivating tenant' in Section 2(b) is not restricted to those tenants who cultivate or own less than 6 2/3 acres. A tenant who-is in occupation of more than that extent, but who satisfies the definition of the term, will still come under it. Section 3 states that the cultivating tenant would be bound to pay to the landowner a fair rent, and the landowner, on his part, would be entitled to collect such fair rent from the cultivating tenant. Section 3 read in the light of the definition, would mean that the landowner would have a right to collect fair rent from a cultivating tenant, regardless of the question whether such a tenant has only 6| acres or more. Section 4 prescribes what a fair rent is, and how it has to be ascertained. Section 9 provides that, notwithstanding any agreement between the parties, or even a decree that might govern their relationship, the landowner and cultivating tenant may apply to the Rent Court for fixation of fair rent. This section creates a right in the landowner to apply for fixation of fair rent. It also creates a similar right in the tenant. I cannot agree with the contention that Section 9 is merely a procedural one.

6. The question to be considered is whether Section 14(1) would apply to both the cases stated above, or only to that of the tenant alone. Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam, who appears for the petitioner, contends that Section 3 of the Act, on its terms, imposes a duty or obligation on the tenant to pay fair rent, that, when Section 14(1) proceeds to state that the provisions of the Act shall not apply to a cultivating tenant having more than 6 2/3 acres of land, it must be taken that the right and obligation created under Section 3 are curtailed by the later provision, and that all cases, where a tenant happens to cultivate more than the extent Specified in Sub-section (1) should be excluded altogether from the operation of the Act.

7. It is contended that, where the terms of the statute are clear and explicit, the duty of the Court is to give effect to those terms, whatever the consequences may be; even when the giving effect to the literal meaning of the words leads to unjust or even absurd results. Learned Counsel contends that the terms of Section 14(1) being clear and unambiguous, and if construed in the ordinary sense, would render the Act inapplicable, wherever the tenant happens to possess more than the specified extent of land it would not be open to a Court under the guise of construing the section to exclude a particular category of persons. Reliance is placed on the following passage in Article 225 at page 205 in American Jurisprudence, Vol. 50:

Where the language of a statute is plain and unambiguous and conveys a clear and definite meaning, there is no occasion for resorting to the rules of statutory interpretation, and the Court has no right to look for or impose another meaning. In the case of such unambiguity, it is the established policy of the Courts to regard the statute as meaning what it says and to avoid giving it any other construction than that which its words demand. The plain and obvious meaning of the language used is not only the safest guide to follow in construing it, but it has been presumed conclusively that the clear and explicit terms of a statute expresses the legislative intention, so that such plain and obvious provisions must control.

8. This is only a statement of general rule, which is a part of more fundamental rule that, in the interpretation of a statute, the ascertainment of the intention of the Legislature is paramount. Certain rules have now been firmly established as to how that intention is to be ascertained. One of the rules is that which is stated above. But that rule is subject to the qualification, namely, that the language in the statute has to be read in the light of the other provisions in the statute and the context in which it was made: that is to say with reference to the then existing law and the mischief which the statute intended to cure. That however does not mean that a Court could indirectly legislate and as Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam apply pointed out, the observations of the Judicial Committee in Crawford v. Spooner (1846) 6 Moore P.C. 1, would negative any such power. The Privy Council observed:

We cannot aid the Legislature's defective phrasing of an Act, we cannot add and mend, and by construction, make up deficiencies which are left there.

9. The rule stated above cannot apply to cases where the language of a statute in its ordinary meaning leads to a contradiction of the purpose of the enactment or to inconvenience or absurdity or hardship or injustice. (See page 229 in Maxwell on Interpretation of Statutes, 10th Edn.). In Lord Howard De Walden v. I.R.C. (1948) 2 A.E.R. 825, Lord Uthawart observed at page 830:

I agree with the Court of Appeal to the extent that the introduction of new words into an existing section may alter the meaning of words already there. But no such alteration can result unless (1) the requirements of the English language demand it, or (2) those requirements permit it and the sense of the section demands it.

10. Those observation imply a power in Court to supply an omission in a statute so as to bring out the real intention behind it. First thing to be done therefore is to ascertain the sense of the section after a consideration of the other relevant provisions of the Act. If after considering those matters it is found that there is manifest absurdity if the literal meaning were given to it, it would be open to the Court to give a restricted meaning to the section so as to apply it only to that case which must have been intended by the Legislature. But in so doing the Court must be guided by the language of the Act and not by any speculative theories. In Gwynne v. Burnell (1940) 7 C.L. & Fin 572 : 7 E.R. 1188, it was held that it would not be open to the Court to speculate what the Legislature might better have done, but what the intention of the Legislature was in the words of the enactment itself. In that case Coleridge, J., observed:

The principle, then, on which I rely will not let in the consideration of particular circumstances in each case, or a regard to a greater or less degree of convenience, a more or less complete effect to be given to the presumed intent of the Legislature. Nothing, in short, which is founded on what the Legislature might better have done, nor simply even what the Legislature intended; the sole-legitimate inquiry is, I conceive, what intention is to be found in the words of the Act, expressed or-implied : unless, by words written or words necessarily implied and therefore virtually written, the-intention has been declared, we cannot give effect to it.

11. In Queen v. Cleworth (1864) 4 E. & S. 927 : 122 E.R. 707, it was held that, where the Legislature knew at the time when, an Act was passed about the existence of a particular class of persons, and the Act omitted any reference to the class, it must be supposed that the omission was deliberate and intentional. It is contended on behalf of the petitioner on the strength of the cases cited above that the Legislature, (which was certainly aware of the existence of landowners) when it omitted to make any reference to them in Section 14, should be deemed to have intended that they were not to have any rights against the tenants who had more than the specified extent of lands. But before applying the principles stated above one has to see whether Section 14(1) is a provision for the application of the Fair Rent generally or merely one specifying the class of tenants who would be entitled to the benefits of the Act. If the section is held to apply to cases of landlords and' tenants, the absence of any provision in favour of the landowner like the one in Sub-section (2) would certainly attract the application of the principles of construction contended for. If, on the other hand, it is to be held that Section 14 is intended to apply only to the case of tenants, the rights of the landowner under Section 9 would remain unaffected. The term 'fair rent', as stated, earlier, implies a just rent from the point of view of the tenant as well as the landlord. The Legislature evidently thought that, in a case where the contract rent was above the fair rent, a comparatively poor tenant should be relieved of his obligations under the Act. Section 14(1), therefore, prescribed a class of tenants who would be entitled to the benefits of the Act. There is no reason to relieve a richer tenant from the obligations under the contract. Section 14, therefore, excludes him from the benefits of the Act. The same principle cannot apply to the case of a landowner. A landowner who is deprived of the right to recover possession by reason of the operation of the Madras Cultivating Tenants' Protection Act should be enabled to obtain at least a fair rent. A landowner may be a small proprietor. To say that he would not be entitled to fair rent because the tenant owns or enjoys more than 6 2/3 acres of land is so absurd, that it cannot be said that the Legislature intended it. The words of Section 14(1), though wide, are capable of a restricted interpretation, namely, that they apply only to the case of a tenant who claims benefits under the Act, and hot to the landlord, who wants to claim benefits thereunder. In Simms v. Registrar of Probates L.R. (1900) A.C. 323, Lord Hobhouse observed in the course of his speech:

Where there are two meanings, each adequately satisfying the meaning (of a statute), and great harshness is produced by one of them, that has a legitimate influence in inclining the mind to the other.... It is more probable that the Legislature should have intended to use the word 'evade' in that interpretation which least offends our sense of justice.

12. In my opinion, Section 14(1) should be held to apply only to the case of a tenant claiming relief under the Fair Rent Act. That section will have no application to the case of a landowner whose tenant owns or enjoys more than 61 acres of land. Section 9 gives an absolute right to the landowner to apply to the Court for fixation of fair rent, so long as the tenant is a cultivating tenant coming within the Act. There is nothing in the definition of the term 'cultivating tenant' to show that lie should have less than 6 2/3 acres of land. The result is that a landowner would have two rights, where his tenant, though a cultivating tenant, owns or enjoys more than 6 2/3 acres of land. (1) He would be entitled to recover the contractual rent, as Section 3 could not be invoked by the tenant by virtue of Section 14. This option to recover the contractual rent is not because that the Act does not apply to the landowner, but because of the rule that till fair rent is fixed the Court proceeds oh the basis that the contract rent, agreed to voluntarily by the tenant, is fair and reasonable one. (2) The landowner can also apply under the Fair Rent Act for fixation of fair rent. This is by virtue of Sections 3 and 9. The view taken by the-Rent Tribunal is, therefore, correct.

13. The other question relates to the maintainability of an appeal to the Rent Tribunal against the preliminary decision by the Rent Court. Section 9(2) states:

From every decision of a Rent Court, an appeal shall, within such time as may be prescribed, lie to the Rent Tribunal whose decision shall be final, subject to revision, if any, under Section 11.

14. The words 'every decision' can only mean a final decision. In Santhannarama Iyer v. Somasundara Vanniar : (1958)1MLJ414 , Somasundaram, J., held that the term 'decision' in Section 9(2) would not include interlocutory orders so as to confer a right of appeal therefrom. The same principle should apply to the case of the determination of a preliminary point by the Rent Court. The aggrieved party will have to wait till the application is finally disposed of, and can file an appeal only against the final! decision.

15. The Civil Revision Petition fails, and is dismissed with costs.


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