P.V. Rajamannar, C.J.
1. These appeals from the judgments of Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., involve a substantial question of law whose decision depends on the construction of the provisions of the Tanjore Tenants and Pannaiyal Protection (No. 2) Ordinance (Madras Ordinance No. VI of 1952) and the Tanjore Tenants and Pannaiyal Protection Act (XIV of 1952) which replaced that Ordinance. They arise out of applications made by certain tenants for restoration of possession of lands which they were in possession of on 1st December, 1951, under Section 6(1) of the Ordinance. The applications were first disposed of by the Conciliation Officer and there were appeals to the Revenue Court which allowed all the applications and directed the tenants to be restored to possession. Against the orders of the Revenue Court the landowners concerned filed petitions to this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to have the said orders quashed. The petitions were dismissed by Rajagopala Ayyangar, J. Hence these appeals by the landowners.
2. The ground on which the tenants' applications were resisted was that the Ordinance (and the Act) had no application because of the exemption contained in Section 3(b) of the Ordinance (and the Act). Section 3(b) of the Ordinance runs thus:
3. The Provisions of this Ordinance
(b) shall not apply in respect of land held by a landowner in any village if the land held by him in such village does not exceed one veli (6-2/3 acres) which is either wet land or dry land irrigated from any Government source, or three velis (twenty acres) of dry land not irrigated from any Government source.
In each of the cases before us the original landowner under whom the tenants held the lands was a joint family represented by the manager. It was alleged that before the passing of the Ordinance there was a partition among the members of the family by reason of which each of the coparceners became entitled to land which was below the extents mentioned in Section 3(b). The tenants contended that though the deeds of partition relied on ex facie purported to be executed before the date of the coming into force of the Ordinance, they were all ante-dated and brought into existence to circumvent the provisions of the Ordinance. The Revenue Court found that the partition deeds relied on were all ante-dated and that they were really executed after the Ordinance had come into force. This finding of fact was accepted by Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., and was not challenged before us. These partition deeds were, however, subsequently registered, some of them before the date of the application for restoration of possession, and in other cases, after that date. Whether the fact that some of the partition deeds were registered before the date of the application for restoration of possession would have any bearing on the rights of parties will also be a matter for consideration.
3. It is now necessary to refer to the relevant provisions of the Ordinance. Madras Ordinance IV of 1952, which was the first Ordinance on the subject, was published in the Fort St. George Gazette on 23rd August, 1952, and came into force at once in the whole of the district of Tanjore. Section 1(2) provided that the Ordinance may be applied to other areas in the adjoining districts of the State on such date as the Government may, by notification, appoint. One peculiar feature of the Ordinance, which is also found in the subsequent Act, is the provision that the Government may, by notification, direct that the Ordinance shall cease to apply to any specified area in the district of Tanjore or elsewhere from specified date. Section 2 contains the definitions of the terms used in the Ordinance of which it is sufficient to refer to the following:
2. (c) : 'Cultivating tenant' or 'tenant' means a person who contributes his own personal labour or that of his family in the cultivation of any land belonging to another, under a tenancy agreement, express or implied, and includes the heirs of such person;
(e) ' landowner' means the owner or other person deriving rights under him, who lets land for cultivation by a tenant, and includes the assignees, heirs or other legal representatives of such owner or person deriving rights under him;
(g) 'pannaiyal' means any farm labourer engaged by the landowner or by the cultivating tenant to do work on land, whenever called upon during the whole of any agricultural year, but does not include casually engaged labour.
Section 6(1) of the Ordinance is the provision under which the applications were made. It runs thus:
Every cultivating tenant who was in possession of any land on the 1st day of December, 1951, shall be entitled to be in possession thereof as such tenant, subject to the provisions of this Ordinance, until the expiry of a period of five years from the commencement of the agricultural year 1952-53; and if such tenant was not in possession of the land at the commencement of this Ordinance, he shall be entitled to apply to the Conciliation Officer to be restored to such possession, any other person who was admitted to possession as tenant after the 1st day of December, 1951, being evicted from the land.
An application to a Conciliation Officer under Sub-section (1) had to be made within thirty days from the commencement of the Ordinance (section 6(3)). Against any order passed by the Conciliation Officer under Sub-section (3), an appeal lay to the Revenue Court. Section 7 lays down the terms on which every cultivating tenant was entitled to hold the land; Section 8 provides for the rent payable by the tenant and Section 9 for the execution of leases. Section 10 relates to eviction of cultivating tenants. Under that section it is only in certain contingencies that a cultivating tenant could be evicted. Sections 11 and 12 confer certain rights on pannaiyals, Section 11 in respect of wages and Section 12 in respect of dismissals. Section 16 confers powers on the Government to make rules. This Ordinance was amended by Madras Ordinance V of 1952. Doubts however arose regarding the validity of the two Ordinances; and to remove such doubts another Ordinance, Madras Ordinance VI of 1952, was promulgated after obtaining instructions of the President in pursuance of the proviso to Article 213, Clause (1) of the Constitution. This Ordinance merely re-enacted the provisions of the previous Ordinances. Section 1(2) of this Ordinance provided that it shall be deemed to have come into force in the whole of the district of Tanjore on the 23rd August, 1952, i.e., the date on which Madras Ordinance IV of 1952 was first published. This Ordinance was replaced by an Act of the State Legislature, namely, Madras Act XIV of 1952 which received the assent of the President on 21st December, 1952 and was published in the Fort St. George Gazette on 24th December, 1952. Section 1, Sub-section (2) of the Act also provided that it shall be deemed to have come into force in the whole of the District of Tanjore on the 23rd August, 1952. Otherwise, the Act is substantially a reproduction of the earlier Ordinances which were repealed. Any rules made, notifications issued, orders, decisions or awards passed, action taken, or thing done in the exercise of any power conferred by or under the earlier Ordinances shall, under Section 17 of the Act, be deemed to have been made, issued, passed, taken or done in the exercise of the powers conferred by or under the Act.
4. Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., held that the material date for the application of the provisions of Section 3(b) of the Act is the date on which the Ordinance came into force, namely, 23rd August, 1952, which is also the date on which the Act is deemed to have come into force, and if on that date the landowner was not entitled to exemption under that clause, the tenant would be entitled to obtain relief under Section 6(1) of the Ordinance (and the Act).
5. We have had the benefit of able arguments of counsel, Mr. K.V. Venkatasubramania Ayyar for the landowners, Mr. K.S. Naidu for the tenants and of the learned Advocate-General who appeared for the State. On a consideration of all the aspects presented to us by learned Counsel we have come to the same conclusion as Rajagopala Ayyangar, J.
6. Mr. Venkatasubramania Ayyar's entire argument was founded on the use of the present indefinite tense in Section 3(b) of the Ordinance and the Act. The extreme limit of his contention was that by reason of the use of the present tense, the application of the Act would depend on the state of affairs at the moment when a final order falls to be made under any of the provisions of the Act. He realised that the logical result of accepting his contention would be a possible fluctuation of the rights of parties consequent on the happening of events subsequent to the passing of the Ordinance (or the Act) To give concrete instances, according to the learned Counsel, a landowner may not be entitled to the exemption under Section 3(b) on the date of an application, say under Section 6(1) of the Act, but if on account of subsequent events, like alienation or partition, he satisfies the requirements of Section 3(b) by the time the application is finally disposed of, he would be entitled to the benefit of the exemption. Conversely, if a particular landowner was entitled to the exemption on the date of the commencement of the Ordinance (or the Act), he would nevertheless lose that benefit if by the date of the application under Section 6(1) he acquires other land, which, added to the land already held by him, would exceed the extent specified in Section 3(b). He laid stress on the fact that even in the Act the present tense is used though the Act is deemed to have come into force long prior to the passing of the Act, i.e., 23rd August, 1952. He relied on the ruling in In re School Board Election for Parish of Pulborough: Bourke v. Mutt L.R. (1894) 1 Q.B. 725, and the decision of the Full Bench of this Court in Palaniswami Goundar v. Devanai Ammal Since reported in : (1956)1MLJ366 , as to the effect of the use of the present tense. Apart from the obvious inconvenience and uncertainty which would result from such a construction, we are of opinion that a proper construction of Section 3(b) does not lead to such a result. In the cases before us the applications for restoration of possession were all made under the Ordinance, before the Act came into force. Now Ordinance IV of 1952 provided that it shall come into force immediately, i.e., 23rd August, 1952, when it was published in the Fort St. George Gazette. It is reasonable to read the words ' held by him ' and ' does not exceed ' as referring to the date on which the Ordinance came into force. The Ordinance was conferring certain rights on tenants and pannaiyals. As the very name of the Ordinance indicates, it was designed to protect the tenants and the pannaiyals. The moment the Ordinance was passed, tenants and pannaiyals who fell within the definitions in Section 2 of the Ordinance would become entitled to the rights conferred on them by the Ordinance. Section 3(b) is an exemption provision. It exempts certain holdings from the provisions of the Act, i.e., in respect of such holdings the tenants and panniayals would not have the rights conferred on them by the Ordinance. It is quite reasonable to hold that the material date for ascertaining such holdings to which the Ordinance would not apply is the date on which the Ordinance came into force. One advantage of this construction is that the rights and liabilities of the tenants, pannaiyals and landowners would be definitely fixed as on a particular date, and in the absence of any special provision in the Ordinance to the contrary, such rights and liabilities would not alter by reason of anything which happens subsequently.
7. Neither the decision in In re School Board Election for Parish of Pulborough: Bourke v. Nutt L.R. (1894) 1 Q.B. 725, nor the ruling of our Full Bench in Palaniswami Goundar v. Devanai Ammal Since reported in : (1956)1MLJ366 furnishes us with any principle which can be of assistance in construing Section 3(b) of the Ordinance. In the former case a section of the English Bankruptcy Act, 1883, provided that where a debtor is adjudged bankrupt, he shall be subject to certain disqualifications. It was held by the Court of Appeal that the disqualifications did not attach to a person made a bankrupt before the passing of the Act. In the latter case the statute provided that a Hindu married women would be entitled to separate maintenance and residence if the husband marries again and it was held that ' marriage ' refers to a marriage after the Act. In both these cases, on the happening of an event, certain consequences follow. Neither provision is in the nature of an exemption provision taking away certain persons from the operation of an Act if a certain condition is fulfilled. In the case of both the enactments which had to be construed in those two decisions, there is scope for repeated application of the provision in question. In the case before us, however, the scope of Section 6(1) of the Ordinance is extremely limited. Indeed the section either applies or does not apply once. If a cultivating tenant who was in possession of any land on the 1st December, 1951, is also in possession on the date of the coming into force of the Act, i.e., on 23rd August, 1952, he shall be entitled to be in possession thereof until the expiry of a period of five years from the commencement of the agricultural year 1952-53. Under the second part of Section 6(1) a tenant who was in possession on the 1st December, 1951, but is not in possession of the land at the commencement of the Act, shall be entitled to be restored to such possession. Now this right to be restored to possession accrues once and for all on the date of the commencement of the Act. Of course he has to make an application to obtain the relief, and a short period of limitation is prescribed under Sub-section (3) of Section 6, namely, thirty days from the commencement of the Act. Within such period (which may be extended if the applicant satisfies the Conciliation Officer that he had sufficient cause for not making the application within the period) an application can be made. But there is no possibility of a continuous application of Section 6(1) thereafter. If the right of the tenant gets fixed as it were on 23rd August, 1952, the date on which the Ordinance came into force, though such right may have to be enforced within a prescribed period, it follows that the operation of any other provision in the Act which may affect such, right must relate to the same time. In other words, the provision in Section 3(b) of the Ordinance should also relate to the same date, i.e., 23rd August, 1952. If on that date the land in respect of which the tenant claims rights under Section 6(1) is land which falls within Section 3(b) then the tenant will not be entitled to any right under Section 6(1). It surely cannot be contended that a tenant who has made an application to the Conciliation Officer under Section 6(1) for restoration of possession of land which did not fall within Section 3(b) and has been restored to possession will lose such possession if subsequently the land happens to be held by a landowner whose total falls below the extent mentioned in that section. Once he is restored to possession, the tenant is entitled to continue for a period of five years from 1952-53 subject to the provisions of the Act which prescribe the grounds on which he may be evicted earlier. Any subsequent event will not deprive him of that right. The land may change hands and the transferee or legal representative may be a person who holds land which does not exceed the extent mentioned in Section 3(b). But that would not make a difference if his transferor or predecessor was not entitled to the exemption under Section 3(b) and the tenant had become entitled therefore to possession under Section 6(1). The tenant's right to possession would continue also against the transferee or legal representative because ' landowner ' as defined includes a person deriving rights under him, and includes the assignees, heirs or other legal representatives of such owner or person deriving rights under him.
8. Mr. Venkatasubramania Ayyar relied upon the provisions of Section 12 by way of analogy in support of his contention that the ' landowner ' mentioned in the several sections of the Ordinance (and the Act) refers to the landowner ad hoc who is actually concerned in the dispute which may have to be decided by the Conciliation Officer or the Revenue Court. Section 12(1) says that ' whenever a landowner dismisses a pannaiyal, he shall within a week from the date of such dismissal, make a report thereof to the Conciliation Officer having jurisdiction over the area.' The argument was that the material date for an application of this provision would be the date of dismissal, and if on the date of dismissal a landowner fell within the exemption provision in Section 3(b), then Section 12(1) would have no application, though on the date of the commencement of the Act the landowner was not entitled to the exemption. It is not necessary to finally pronounce on this question. We are inclined to agree with the learned Advocate-General that the landowner in this provision Section 12(1) is the landowner to whom the Act applied on the date of the commencement of the Act and his assignees, heirs or other legal representatives. Otherwise the definition of landowner becomes meaningless. If the landowner is to be determined ad hoc whenever there is a dispute, there would be no occasion to apply the definition at all.
9. Mr. Venkatasubramania Ayyar urged upon us that the policy underlying Section 3(b) was to give relief to poor landowners of limited means. This is not apparent because Section 3(b) refers to the holding of land of a certain extent in any one village. Section 3(b) does not take into account the total extent of land held by a particular landowner. A landowner may possess fifty acres of wet land in all; but if it is so distributed in several villages that the extent in each village does not exceed 6&frac29; acres, he would be entitled to the benefit of the exemption, though the landowner who has seven acres only in all, but unfortunately that extent happens to be in one village, will not be entitled to the exemption. Again the same landowner may be entitled to exemption in respect of the land held by him in one village but not in respect of land held in another village, depending upon the extent in each village. We think it is unsafe to speculate on the policy of the Legislature underlying the exemption provision. It may possibly relate to the agricultural economy of a particular village taken as a unit.
10. We agree with Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., that the material date for the determination of the rights of the tenant and the landowner under Section 6(1) of the Act is the date on which Madras Ordinance IV of 1952 came into force, i.e., 23rd August, 1952, i.e., the same date on which the subsequent Act is deemed to have come into force. In this view it is not necessary to deal with the question which was also raised, namely, whether the material date was the date of the application or the date on which a final order had to be passed on a dispute between the parties. The appeals are dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 50 in each appeal.