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Varada Iyengar Vs. Ramudu - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1983)2MLJ517
AppellantVarada Iyengar
RespondentRamudu
Cases ReferredWelverhampton New Waterworks Company v. Hawksford
Excerpt:
- .....there can be no rule of law which says that an identical issue cannot be the subject-matter of different proceedings before different tribunals. it is one thing to say that any sound system should seek to avoid multifarious proceedings. it is quite another for a court or tribunal to prevent parties from pursuing a remedy, which the law allows them, merely because on substantially the same issue there is another proceeding which is even then pending between the two parties in another court or tribunal. this must be the reason why an express provision has been enacted under section 10 of the code of civil procedure for stay of a suit where, in an earlier instituted suit, substantially the same issues between the same parties: are pending adjudication. the existence of a provision such.....
Judgment:
ORDER

V. Balasubrahmanyan, J.

1. This is a case in which one Ramudu applied for remission of rent arrears from one Varada Iyengar on the footing that by reason of his being a cultivating tenant in a flood-or drought-affected area, he is entitled to relief under Tamil Nadu Act XVI of 1980 (Tamil Nadu Cyclone and Flood Affected Areas Cultivating Tenants Arrears of Rent (Relief) Act, 1980).

2. Varada Iyengar opposed this claim for relief on the score that Ramudu was not his cultivating tenant.

3. It appears that there were earlier proceedings between the same parties under the Tamil Nadu Act X of 1959 (Tamil Nadu Agricultural Lands (Record of Tenancy Rights) Act, 1969), concerning the inclusion of Ramudu's name in the record of tenancy rights as a cultivating tenant. The proceedings under that Act were pending before the appellate authority, while Ramudu filed his subsequent proceedings before the Revenue Court for remission of rent under Act XVII of 1980. Varada Iyengar accordingly filed an application before the Revenue Court for stay of the latter proceedings. He invoked Sections 10 and 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, in that regard. The Revenue Court however rejected Varada Iyengar's application for stay on the store that there was no provision for stay under Act XVI of 1980 and the Revenue Court had no inherent power, either, in that regard.

4. In this revision brought by Varada Iyengar, the question is whether the Revenue Court functioning under Act XVI of 1980 has any power to grant stay of its own proceedings by reason of the fact that an earlier proceeding under Act X of 1969 was even then pending disposal on the question whether the relationship between the parties was that of landlord and cultivating tenant.

5. Before examining the point raised in this revision in detail, it may be observed that while under Act X of 1969, the Record Officer and the other authorities constituted under the Act have to decide whether a person is a tenant or a cultivating tenant for the purpose of preparing the record of tenancy rights in a village, under Act XVI of 1980 the subject-matter of inquiry before the Revenue Court is whether any arrears of rent is owed by a cultivating tenant and whether he is entitled to remission or relief from his landlord under the provisions of that Act. Having regard to the purposes of the two Acts, it might become unnecessary in proceedings under both the enactments for the appropriate authority or tribunal to consider whether there exists between the contesting parties the relationship of landlord and cultivating tenant.

6. Arguing the revision for Varada Iyengar, his learned Counsel Mr. R. Sundararajan admitted that since the two proceedings between the two parties in this case, one under Act X of 1969 and the other under Act XVI of 1980 were concerned with substantially the same issue, it was eminently a fit case for stay of the proceedings under Act XVI of 1980. Otherwise, learned Counsel feared, the same issue would be the subject-matter of inquiry in a duality of proceedings under different enactments at one and the same time, which it would be the policy of the law and the lower Courts and tribunals to avoid. Learned Counsel submitted that the Revenue Court functioning under Act XVI of 1980 would have inherent jurisdiction to bring about this desirable result in the interests of avoidance of multiplicity of proceedings.

7. In my judgment, there can be no rule of law which says that an identical issue cannot be the subject-matter of different proceedings before different Tribunals. It is one thing to say that any sound system should seek to avoid multifarious proceedings. It is quite another for a Court or Tribunal to prevent parties from pursuing a remedy, which the law allows them, merely because on substantially the same issue there is another proceeding which is even then pending between the two parties in another Court or Tribunal. This must be the reason why an express provision has been enacted under Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure for stay of a suit where, in an earlier instituted suit, substantially the same issues between the same parties: are pending adjudication. The existence of a provision such as Section 10 in the Code shows that a Court cannot frown against multiplicity of proceedings and grant stay in order to enable the parties to concentrate on the earlier proceedings between them to the entire exclusion of that which happens: to have been instituted subsequently.

8. In this case, the competition is between proceedings before two independent statutory Tribunals. The question is whether the mere existence of parallel proceedings in two forums can itself be a sufficient justification for stay of the subsequently instituted proceeding, What the revision petitioner, Varada Iyengar, desires is that the proceedings under Act XVI of 1980 ought to be stayed and the earlier proceedings under Act X of 1969 have got to be pursued. I do not find any express provision, like Section 10 of the Civil Procedure Code, in either of these Acts. As I earlier observed, this Court should not read a provision of that kind these special statutes purely on a priori considerations as to which of two proceedings in two different forums has the right of procedure and whether one should go on and the other stayed.

9. Mr. Sundararajan sought to urge the argument for stay in a slightly different fashion. He submitted that when the Revenue Court has been entrusted under Act XVI of 1980 with the task of administering relief by way of remission of rent arrears to cultivating tenants in drought and flood-affected areas, that Tribunal must be credited and attributed with the power of expediting the hearing or of postponing it as occasion demands. According; to Mr. Sundararajan all that has been sought for by the petitioner, Varada Iyengar, before the Revenue Court was that the inquiry into the claim for remission of rent arrears may be postponed till after a final decision is reached in the earlier proceedings under Act X of 1969. I do not accept, as valid, the basic assumption behind this argument. An application for stay of a proceeding and an application for adjournment of a proceeding are two different things in point of quality and of formally. Where-as an adjournment can be granted for any valid reason, stay can only be granted on the score that the proceedings sought to be stayed raise substantially the same points between the parties as those which are pending adjudication in the subsequent proceedings. Besides while an adjournment postpones a hearing to the adjourned date, a stay puts a stop to the proceedings for duration of the other proceedings in the other forum. There is, therefore, no question of the stay petition which had been moved by Varada Iyengar being regarded as no more than an application for adjournment.

10. Learned Counsel, then urged that the power to grant, stay must be regarded as an attribute of the inherent powers of any authority vested with decision-making under any statute. Learned Counsel said that the Revenue Court functioning under Act XVI of 1980 can be no exception to this general principle. This argument too, in my view, is untenable. The conception of inherent powers is opposed to statute-created jurisdictions. In this respect, Courts of law are a different brand altogether Every legal system recognises the existence of inherent powers in the common law Courts. If Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, saves the inherent powers of Court, that is because inherent powers pre-existed the Code. The petition, however of the Tribunals appointed under statutes is quite different. They may well possess some or even all the trappings of Courts of justice, but they are creatures of statute in the sense that they owe their existence as well as the definition of their powers to the statute. It is the statute which confers and defines: the powers of the tribunals. In every case it is a matter of construction of the statute, as to how and in what manner the tribunal's powers have got to be exercised, and also as to the nature and extent of those powers. Depending upon the words of the particular statute concerned, it might, in a given case, be open to a Court of construction to read certain incidental, or ancillary or implied, powers in the statutory tribunals, over and above that which is expressly conferred by the statute on such tribunals as. their jurisdiction. But the doctrine of implied powers is quite different from imputing to the tribunals any inherent powers.

11. If we look at Act XVI of 1980, the Revenue Court has undoubted power to inquire into and decide an application for relief filed by a cultivating tenant in respect of rent arrears for lands in an area affected by cyclone and flood. The Revenue Court would have power to decide whether the applicant is entitled to remission of rent. But there is nothing in the Act from out of which a power of stay can be spelled out as part of the statutory powers. The Revenue Court functioning within the four corners of the enabling statute might be a master of its own proceedings, subject to any provision in the Act or the Rules made thereunder; the Revenue Court might even, in appropriate cases, adjourn or postpone the hearings in the usual course of exercise of its statutory jurisdiction and in furtherance of the statutory objectives. Even so, the power to stay its. own proceedings would seem to be quite alien the central purpose of its erection under the statute. In any case, I cannot spell out the existence of any implied or ancillary power, let alone any inherent power in the Revenue Court to stay its proceedings out of respect for the pendency of earlier proceedings before another tribunal under a different statute. In short, the principle of Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, cannot be read into any of the powers of the Revenue Court under Act XVI of 1980, by implication.

12. Mr. R. Srinivasan, learned Counsel, who appeared as amicus curiae for the respondent Ramudu, brought to my notice a judgment of a Division Bench of this Court on the question whether any inherent powers can be imputed to a statutory Tribunal Myilsami Gounder v. Ramamcorthi : (1970)1MLJ606 . In that case, the question was whether there was any power given to any tribunal constituted under the Tamil Nadu Act XXV of 1955, to order restitution to one of the parties. It was urged before the learned Judges that restitution can be ordered by that authority in exercise of its inherent powers, although such a power has not been expressly conferred on it by the statute. This contention, however was repelled. It was observed that unlike Courts of law which possess inherent powers, the position of statutory bodies entrusted with defined powers was entirely different. The powers of such bodies are severely circumscribed and controlled by the, statute which confers them. They cannot act outside the limits of the statute which creases them. The learned Judges drew a distinction between inherent power, on the one hand, which is a rule of substance, and ancillary or implied power, on the other, which is derived from rules of statutory construction.

13. This decision entirely supports my view of the scope of the powers of the Revenue Court under Act XVI of 1980. Mr. Sundararajan expressed concern at the thought that should the revenue Court in proceedings under Act XVI of 1980 and the appellate authority functioning under Act X of 1969, were to be allowed to pursue parallel proceedings on practically the same issue, namely, whether the jural relationship between the parties is that of landlord and cultivating tenant we cannot rule out the emergence of diametrically opposite findings being recorded by the respective competent authorities under both the proceedings . Learned Counsel said that far from seeing any end to the controversy, the labours of the competing tribunals would only keep the issue alive, without bringing them to a conclusion .

14. There is some truth in the apprehension voiced by learned Counsel. It may even be regarded as a home truth. If the situation is looked at from a broad point of view by these interested in the administration of justice In general, it would be a sheer waste allowing an identical issue between the same parties, to be the subject of parallel proceedings between two different tribunals. So far as the contesting parties themselves, are concerned, I do not think the existence of different proceedings before different tribunals on an identical question should at all embarass the parties in pursuing the trial or enquiry before either tribunal. The reason is not far to seek. The one and the only matter which could be dealt with by the record officer under Act X of 1969, is the preparation off a record of tenancy rights in villages. There are provisions in that Act, which lay down the finality of the record of tenancy rights and the entries contained therein. It would, in my judgment, be proper to consider these provisions relating to finality as pertaining only to the object of the legislation, namely, the preparation of a record of tenancy rights. There are other provisions too in Act X of 1969, to show that it is a complete Code in itself, and it has overriding effect over any other consideration either under law, or under statute, or under contract. As might be expected, there are similar exclusory provisions under Act XVI of 1980. Given the declared objectives; of pieces of legislation of this kind, such provisions, are only to be expected in every special statute creating special rights and special obligations and constituting special tribunals for their enforcement. The proliferation of special tribunals with special jurisdictions as a phenomenon of modern legislation however should not lend us to, the impression that the legislature intended that the tribunals constituted under different enactments should cross, each other's paths. The truth is, and this will be evident from the very schemes1 and structures of the different enactments, that each tribunal must function and move in its own orbit to fulfil the particular! statutory purpose for which it is created. There might be an overlap in the matter of inquiry or even in the matter of decision-making as, between tribunals constituted under different Acts. But merely because of this overlap; it cannot be held that the decision of one tribunal overrides or ought to override that of the other completely and in every respect. It may have an overriding effect only to the extent to which the enacment permits. There can be no overriding effect in matters which are extraneous to the avowed purpose of the Act. I am not therefore, satisfied that merely because the record officer or the appellate authority functioning under Act X of 1969 has to go into any matter touching the relationship between the two parties, the revenue Court having seisin of proceedings under Act XVI of 1980 should desist from exercising its jurisdiction with a view to abide by the decision of the other Tribunal. To do so would be to abandon and relinquish its statutory jurisdiction not under any statutory compulsion, but under voluntary self-abrogation.

15. Mr. Sundararajan, referred to Section 16-A of Act X of 1969. From this provision he sought to derive the principle that a decision given by the Record Officer or the appellate authority in a particular case that the parties before them bear the character of landlord and cultivating tenant would act as a bar to another tribunal going into the same question under any other alleged enactment. It is easy to reject this argument out of hand by saying that Section 16-A only refers to the jurisdiction of Courts being barred and says nothing about the jurisdiction of tribunals functioning under other statutes. There is, however, more to it then the mere absence of a reference to tribunals in Section 16-A. From early times, the question of bar of jurisdiction is always a matter for forensic discussion, but the discussion is almost always conducted in the context of whether and to what extent the civil Court's jurisdiction is taken away by reason of the establishment of the special tribunals. The well-known decision in Welverhampton New Waterworks Company v. Hawksford 31 L.J. C.P. 184 : 6 L.T. 618, lays down in what manner and under what circumstances the bar of jurisdiction of common law Courts can be implied in the conditions created by new rights and obligations arising from: any newly enacted statute Modern trends and developments and trends in legislation-making show that the legislature draftsmen seldom allows bar of jurisdiction to be a matter of implication merely. On the contrary, present day statutes invariably lay down bar of jurisdiction in express terms and without mining words. Be that as it may, whether the bar is express or implied, the statute concerned always directs the bar against the common law Courts so as to allow free play to statute-created jurisdiction if administrative and quasi-judicial tribunals. It would seen as though the statutory draftsmen have always addressed themselves to the question as to how far the jurisdiction of new Tribunals should gnaw at the pre-existing jurisdiction of Courts, Legislation has scarcely looked at the problem from the point of view of whether and to what extent the jurisdiction of an existing quasi-judicial tribunal should be taken away either expressly or impliedly by the creation of another new tribunal under a later day legislation. In may judgment, the very existence of sharply-defined jurisdictions of different tribunals under different statutory enactments forbid the introduction of a rule of construction of any implied bar being applied to one or other of the statutory tribunals functioning under different enactments. Act XVI of 1980, no doubt, confers on the revenue Court the power to grant relief by way of remission of rent to a cultivating tenant in flood or cyclone affected areas. For entering its finding, the revenue Court has necessarily to' raise an issue whether the tenant is or is not a cultivating tenant, if the parties happen to contest it. On this account and for the reason that Act XVI of 1980. is a later enactment, it cannot be said that it overrides the provisions of Act X of 1969. In the same way, any jurisdiction conferred on the Record Officer or other authority functioning under Act X of 1969 cannot be regarded as a bar to the Revenue Court functioning under Act of XVI of 1980. The proper way to give full force and meaning to different statutes and to allow the tribunals constituted under each of them to fulfil, the purpose for which each is created, is to regard each as turning on its own, individual axis. The decision of each tribunal is valid and final for the limited purpose for which that decision has to be made under the particular enactment. One tribunal does not and cannot in this sense cross the path of another.

16. The result of this discussion is that the present revision must be dismissed, and the order of the Revenue Court must be upheld. I order accordingly. It goes without saying that it is purely within the discretion of the Revenue Court to get on with the proceedings before it irrespective of the stage of the proceedings between the same parties under Act X of 1969.

17. I must, before parting with this case, express my thanks to Mr. R. Srinivasan, who acted as amicus curiae for the ex parte respondents. There will be no order as to costs.


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