1. The question raised in this Civil Revision Petition centres on the proper interpretation of the Madras Cultivating Tenants' (Payment of Fair Rent) Act, 1956. The petition was heard by our learned brother, Kunhamed Kutti, J., in the first instance who has referred the matter to a Division Bench in the view that there is a conflict of judicial pronouncements in the two decisions, the first in Muthukumara Padayachi v. Sambandam Pillai : (1960)1MLJ20 , and the next in the unreported decision in C.R.P. No. 928 of 1960.
2. The facts giving rise to this petition are quite simple. The petitioner is a tenant holding agricultural lands of an extent of 19.68 acres comprised in S. Nos. 46, 47, 55, 56 and 57 of Puliyampatti village, Pollachi taluk under the respondent, who is admittedly the owner. The respondent purchased the properties from one Palaniappa Chettiar. The petitioner was a tenant even under the vendor of the respondent. He has been holding these lands on lease all these years on a fixed cash rent of Rs. 625. The respondent filed an application before the Rent Court of Pollachi on 8th August, 1957 praying for the fixation of fair rent of this holding by the petitioner. The petitioner raised various untenable contentions, and managed to have these proceedings pending for a long time until the Rent Court fixed the rent by its order dated 8th June, 1961. The Presiding Officer of the Rent Court personally inspected the lands, recorded evidence, oral and documentary, and reached the conclusion that the total normal gross yield from the lands would be Rs. 7,015, per year, and that the fair rent payable would be 331/3 per cent. of Rs. 7,015 namely, Rs. 2,338. The Rent Court further held that this fixation of fair rent of Rs. 2,338 would take effect from the date of the filing of the application for fixation of fair rent, namely, 8th August, 1957.
3. Both the petitioner and the respondent preferred appeals against the aforesaid decision of the Rent Court to the Rent Tribunal of Udumalpet. It may be mentioned that the District Munsif of Udumalpet constitutes the Rent Tribunal. The petitioner's contention was that the fair rent fixed was excessive and the respondent pleaded that the rent fixed was not adequate and proper. Both the appeals were heard together and the Rent Tribunal, on a review of the entire evidence on record and on a personal inspection of the lands by the Presiding Officer took the view that the proper fair rent would be the sum of Rs. 3,100 per year. Of course this fair rent fixed by the Rent Tribunal was to take effect from the date of the filing of the petition.
4. In this Civil Revision Petition, which has been preferred by the tenant, the landlord being apparently content with what has already been awarded to him, the main contention urged on his behalf by his learned Counsel, Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam is that a fixation of fair rent under the Act can take effect only from the actual date on which the order of fixation is pronounced, and that any fixation cannot have, as it were, a retrospective effect commencing from the date on which the application itself was preferred. It is the soundness of this contention which we have now to examine by referring to the relevant provisions of the Act, and to the two decisions cited above, which are said to be in conflict with each other.
5. Section 3 of the Madras Cultivating Tenants' (Payment of Fair Rent) Act, 1956, which we shall refer to as the Act in this judgment, provides that with effect from the first day of October, 1956, every cultivating tenant shall be bound to pay to the landowner and every landowner shall be entitled to collect from the cultivating tenant fair rent payable under the Act. What is fair rent is prescribed by Section 4. In this case it is common ground that the demised lands fall under Section 4(3) and that the fair rent would be 33I per cent. of the normal gross produce or its value in money. ' Normal gross produce ' is defined under Section 2(g) as follows:
Normal gross produce in respect of any land means the produce which would be obtained, if the rainfall and the seasons were of a normal character, from lands of the same class as the land in question, similarly situated and possessing similar advantages.
Rule 10 of the Rules framed tinder the Act prescribes the matters to be taken into account in determining the gross normal produce. The Court or the Tribunal has to ascertain the quantity of the produce which would be obtained if such crop were grown in a year in which the rainfall and the seasons are of a normal character, on a land of the same class as the land in question similarly situated and possessing similar advantages. The Court or the Tribunal may take into consideration the soil classification of the land the normal or standard outturn of paddy in the case of wet land and the standard dry or irrigated crop in the case of dry unirrigated or irrigated land. The Court or Tribunal may also take into consideration the Government records containing season and crop reports and rainfall accounts and the accounts of landowners or cultivating tenants whichever is available for similar lands enjoying similar advantages. In short the scope of the enquiry is to determine the outturn of yield or crop from lands of the same soil classification and with the same amenities and advantages as the land in question in a normal year having the accustomed and the usual average rainfall. Section 6 is indeed the crucial section and it is the interpretation of this provision which has been debated before us by learned Counsels on both sides. It reads:
Where in respect of any land fair rent has been determined under this Act, it shall continue in force for five years:
Provided that the Rent Court may, on an application made by the cultivating tenant, reduce the fair rent if it is satisfied that on account of deterioration of the land by floods or other causes beyond the control of the cultivating tenant, the land has been wholly or partially rendered unfit for the purposes of cultivation:
Provided further that the Rent Court may, on an application made by the landowner, enhance the fair rent if it is satisfied that on account of any improvement made in the land by or at the expense of the landowner, the produce of the land has increased.
What do the words 'has been determined' mean? According to the learned Counsel for the petitioner it can only mean and refer to the actual date on which the determination is made. But learned Counsel for the respondent contends that once an order of fixation of fair rent is passed it necessarily and automatically relates back to the date of the filing of the application and that therefore the crucial date is the date of the application. That there should be a definite point of time from which the five-year period mentioned in Section 6 should start can admit of no doubt. The language of the section renders either view plausible. We have therefore necessarily to have regard to the object of the legislation, the whole scheme and tenor of the Act and the general principles of legal jurisprudence which are not inconsistent with the express provisions of the statute.
6. We would like to refer to one argument of Mr. Kumaramangalam based upon the prescribed form of the application, before dealing with the question in issue. The form is Form No. 1 and has the heading ' Application under Section 9 of the Madras Cultivating Tenants' (Payment of Fair Rent) Act, 1956.' What is pointed out by the learned Counsel is that this form is silent about the period for which fixation of fair rent is sought. Serial No. 7 of the form merely provides for the party to set out the relief claimed. We do not see how the contents of the application form, which does not of course provide for the period of fixation of the fair rent, can at all help the construction of the provisions of Section 6 of the Act. The period of operation is fixed by the Act as one of five years and the only question is when does the five year period start or commence. We are therefore again thrown back on the question as to what is the proper interpretation of Section 6.
7. The object of the Act is that the parties to a tenancy transaction comprising agricultural lands should pay and receive only the fair rent as prescribed under the Act, and not the contractual rent that may have been agreed upon. After the 1st day of October, 1956 (except as regards Shencottah Taluk in Tinnevelly District) the landowner is entitled to collect and the cultivating tenant is liable to pay the statutory fair rent. The benefit of fair rent is made available to the landowner and the cultivating tenant, notwithstanding any tenancy agreement between them stipulating a particular rent or notwithstanding a decree or order of Court. Either party may apply to the Rent Court for fixation of fair rent. (Section 9 of the Act.) Any order of the Rent Court is appealable to the Rent Tribunal. The Rent Court is presided over by an Officer not below the rank of a Tahsildar and the Rent Tribunal by an Officer not below the rank of a District Munsif. The scheme of the Act makes the intention of the Legislature plain; and that is there should be no demand or payment of rent in excess of fair rent and that the dispute relating to the quantum of fair rent should be adjudicated upon speedily.
8. When an applicant seeks the remedy of fixation of fair rent, it means that according to him or her the prevailing rent, contractual or otherwise, is not the fair rent, and that the fair rent should be something more or less than the subsisting rent. If the applicant happens to be the landowner, he would ask for more and if the applicant were the cultivating tenant he would plead for less. Anyhow there is a dispute over the fair rent on the date of the application and the machinery of the Act is availed of to resolve that dispute. The decision of the Special Tribunal fixing the fair rent must have reference and must be in relation to the dispute as it existed on the date when it was made cognisant to the Rent Court by the presentation of the application and as it continued to exist till fixation. The view that the fixation would take effect from the pronouncement of the order necessarily implies that the relief which a party is entitled to under the Act is negatived during the period of pendency of the proceeding. A construction of the statute leading to such inequity has to be avoided unless the words are plain as to compel such construction. Duration of proceedings depends upon various factors, and '' law's delays ' make a good contribution towards it. That a suitor or a suppliant should suffer and be deprived of his rights for the period for which claim was sub judice is neither a sound principle of jurisprudence nor a good canon of justice, equity and good conscience.
9. We think that the well-accepted rule is that any judicial order, while it is certainly effective from its date, operates back to the commencement of the proceedings in the forum, to the extent necessary to give relief to the aggrieved party. We take this to be the general principle which should govern a lis in any Tribunal or Court and which should prevail unless it is overridden by statute or by rules and regulations having equal force. Any action is the mode of pursuing a right to judgment.
It implies the existence of parties, of an alleged right, of an alleged infringement thereof (either actual or threatened) and of a Court having power to enforce such a right.' Halsbury's Law of England), Vol. I, 3rd Edition, page 2.
The final decision of a Court or Tribunal is the vindication of the right put in issue and over which the contending parties were at variance. When judgment has been given in an action the cause of action in respect of which judgment is given is merged in the judgment, transit in rem judicatum--(it passes into or becomes res judicata) and its place is taken by the rights created by the judgment. The acceptance of the view that the order of fixation will stand unrelated to the period of pendency of proceedings would amount to a departure from first principles of law which are basic in character and would, of course, be discordant to and in disharmony with ordinary notions of justice and fair play.
10. The decision in Muthukumara Padayachi v. Sambandam Pillai : (1960)1MLJ20 , is not in point in the present context. The contention urged in that case was that the fair rent fixed should operate retrospectively so as to cover the fasli years prior to the date of the application for fixation of fair rent. This was repelled by Ramachandra Iyer, J., as he then was, observing thus at page 20:
No provision of law has been referred to me, making the determination of fair rent retrospective. A determination of fair rent will hold good for five years after such determination. But, there is no provision in the Act to make it retrospective. The determination of fair rent in 1958 will be operative only thereafter, and it will not avail the petitioner in regard to the rent payable by him for faslis 1366 and 1367.
The question whether the fixation of fair rent would or would not govern the period during which the proceedings were pending did not arise for consideration in that case.
11. The decision of Ganapatia Pillai, J., in C.R.P. No. 928 of 1960 supports the contention that fair rent fixation would cover the interval between the commencement and termination of the proceedings. We respectfully agree with the following observation of the learned Judge in that case:..where rights are claimed with reference to existence of certain facts on a particular date as disclosed in a plaint or pleading, the order relates back to the date of the plaint or pleading. I am unable to find any provision in the Act of 1956 which compels me to the conclusion that the order fixing the fair rent should not take effect from the date when the application was made for that purpose to the appropriate authority.
In our opinion the subordinate Tribunals are right in holding that the fixation of fair rent would take effect from the date of the petition, 8th August, 1957 (F.R.P. No. 5 of 1957) on the file of the Rent Court, Pollachi.
12. Mr. Mohan Kumaramangalam urged that the order of the Rent Tribunal is vitiated by error of law as the Presiding Officer, the District Munsif of Udumaipet, based his conclusions only on the knowledge gained by him on a personal inspection of the property and failed to follow the procedure prescribed by the Act and the Rules. There is hardly any substance in this contention. It is true that the Presiding Officer had a personal inspection of the demised lands and noted the water level in the well. But a perusal of the judgment shows that he took into account the entire evidence on record and fixed the rent only in accordance with the statutory provisions
13. Mr. Kumaramangalam next urged that out of the total extent of 19.68 acres of lands, a portion was a coconut thope consisting of 81 trees and that the area of the coconut thope ought not to have been included in calculating the outturn of two crops on the entire holding. This submission is based on the assumption that the coconut thope as such remained uncultivated. But we do not see that there is any foundation for this argument. It was not raised in either of the Courts below. Out of the total extent of 19.68 acres, 1.68 acres was left out for pathways, bunds, etc. The parties proceeded on the footing that the balance of 18 acres was cultivable area and that the tenant grew groundnut, as the first crop, and cambodia cotton, cholam and other cereals as the second crop. There is absolutely not a scintilla of evidence adduced by the tenant to show that the area comprised in the coconut thope was not in fact cultivated or not cultivable. This point has not even been raised in the memorandum of the grounds of the Civil Revision Petition. The extent of the cultivated or cultivable area is a pure question of fact and unless there is a proper plea and sufficient evidence on record, we cannot allow the point to be raised here for the first time in a Civil Revision Petition.
14. The Civil Revision Petition fails and is dismissed with costs.