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The State of Tamil Nadu, Rep. by Its Commr. and Secy., Revenue Dept. and anr. Vs. Administratix to the Estate of Late Dr. P. Venkataramana Rao and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty;Civil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1984)2MLJ273
AppellantThe State of Tamil Nadu, Rep. by Its Commr. and Secy., Revenue Dept. and anr.
RespondentAdministratix to the Estate of Late Dr. P. Venkataramana Rao and anr.
Excerpt:
- .....that the petitioner, even though she was only an administratrix, could be characterised as a person holding land within the meaning of the act. we must point out that the submissions made by the learned additional government pleader have proceeded only on the basis that the petitioner could be characterised as a person holding the lands within the meaning of the act. to a question put by us as to whether any proceedings have been initiated already or are in contemplation against the petitioner in her personal capacity, the learned additional government pleader frankly conceded that such is not the factual position. if this is so, then it is unnecessary to consider whether the petitioner, even though she fulfils the character of the administratrix in whose favour letters of.....
Judgment:

Nainar Sundaram, J.

1. These two appeals are directed against the common order of Padmanabhan, J., in W.P. Nos. 1903 and 1904 of 1980. The appellants herein are the respondents in the Writ Petitions. For the sake of convenience, we shall refer to the parties as they stood arrayed in the writ petitions. The petitioner approached this Court by way of two writ petitions under the following circum stances. Late Dr. P. Venkataramana Rao died on 5-3-1973 leaving a will dated 4-6-1967. Under the terms of the will various legacies were left and the legatees, amongst others, were his son Dr. P.V. Rajamannar, his wife Smt. Ammani Ammal and his four granddaughters. One of the items of the properties covered by the will is a land of an extent of 78 cents in S. Nos. 638/1B2 and 638/1C1 in Ambattur Village, hereinafter referred to in this judgment as 'the lands'. The lands came within the Madras Urban agglomeration within the meaning of the Tamil Nadu Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1978(Act 24 of 1978), hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'. The testator left debts to the tune of Rs. 50,000/- to be discharged. Under the will be provided that the lands should be sold and the debts should be liquidated. It has been further provided that if the sale proceeds of the lands are not sufficient to discharge the debts, the executor has the right to sell the lands in Bannimantap in Mysore which also belonged to the testator and which under the terms of the will was bequeathed to his son Dr. P.V. Rajamannar. There is no dispute that the lands as such were not bequeathed to any person. The testator appointed his son Dr. P.V. Rajamannar, to be the executor and failing him, late Mr. N. Somasundaram. Neither of the executors mentioned in the will acted as such. On the death of the testator, the petitioner who is the granddaughter of the testator filed O.p. No. 188 of 1973 on the file of this Court for the grant of letters of administration with the will annexed. This Court, by order dated 9-11-1973, granted letters of administration with the will annexed to the petitioner. Subsequently, on 25-4-1975, the petitioner obtained an order from this Court in Application No.l284 of 1973 in O.P. No. 188 of 1973 permitting the petitioner to invite offers for sale of the lands. On the Tamil Nadu Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 coming into force, the petitioner was obliged to address a communication to the first respondent praying for exemption of the lands from the application of the provisions of the said Act. This request for exemption was obviously prosecuted further after the Act came to be enacted. On 13-12-1979 the first respondent declined to grant the request of the petitioner for exemption. This obliged the petitioner to approach this Court with W.P. No. 1903 of 1980 for a declaration that the provisions of the Act are not applicable to the lands and W.P. No.l904 of 1980 to quash the order of the first respondent dated 13-12-1979. Padmanabhan, J., after assessing the contentions put forth both on behalf of the petitioner and the respondents, countenanced the case of the petitioner and allowed both the writ petitions. As stated above, these two writ appeals are directed against the common order of the learned single Judge.

2. Mr. C. Chinnaswami, learned Additional Government Pleader, appearing for the respondents, was initially advancing submissions that the petitioner, even though she was only an administratrix, could be characterised as a person holding land within the meaning of the Act. We must point out that the submissions made by the learned Additional Government Pleader have proceeded only on the basis that the petitioner could be characterised as a person holding the lands within the meaning of the Act. To a question put by us as to whether any proceedings have been initiated already or are in contemplation against the petitioner in her personal capacity, the learned Additional Government Pleader frankly conceded that such is not the factual position. If this is so, then it is unnecessary to consider whether the petitioner, even though she fulfils the character of the administratrix in whose favour letters of administration with the will annexed have been granted, could personally come within the mischief of the Act. As on date, as conceded by the learned Additional Government Pleader, no proceedings have been taken or contemplated against any holding of the petitioner in her individual capacity. Hence, the question as to whether an executor appointed by the will or an administrator appointed by Court either with the will annexed or without can be said to be the owner of the lands or can be said to possess the lands as owner within the meaning of the Act does not directly arise for consideration.

3. Realising this position, Mr. C. Chinnaswami, learned Additional Government Pleader, would project a stand that the lands belonged to the estate of Dr. P. Venkataramana Rao and the estate holds the lands and since the petitioner is the administratrix of the said estate, there could be proceedings under the Act against the estate as represented by the petitioner. This submission put forth on behalf of the respondents is being counteracted by Mr. A. Ramanathan, learned Counsel for the petitioner, by pointing out that the Act contemplates only a person coming within the mischief of the Act and on the date of the commencement of the Act, the testator Dr. P. Venkataramana Rao was dead and the lands had not devolved on any person so that the inhibition of holding land in excess of the ceiling limit under the Act could be invoked and the further process under the Act could be prosecuted. The question of a person holding land is a matter of definition under the very provisions of the Act. Section 3(j) defines a person in the following terms:

'Person' includes an individual, a family, a firm, a company, or an association or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not;

Section 3(1) defines 'to hold' in the following terms:

'to hold' with its grammatical variations, in relation to any vacant land,-means-

(i) to own such land; or

(ii) to possess such land as owner or as tenant or as mortgagee or under an irrevocable power-of-attorney or under a hire-purchase agreement or partly in one of the said capacities and partly in any other of the said capacity or capacities.

Explanation I: For the purpose of this clause., 'tenant' means any person who has paid or has agreed to pay rent or other consideration for his being allowed by another to enjoy the land of the latter under a tenancy agreement, express or implied, and includes-

(i) any such person who continues in possession of the land after the determination of the tenancy agreement;

(ii) the heirs, assignees, legal representative of such person, or persons deriving rights through such person.

Explanation II: Where the same vacant land is held by one person in one capacity and by another person in another capacity, then, for the purposes of this Act, such land shall be deemed to be held by both such persons;

Section 4 states as follows:

Except as otherwise provided in this Act, on and from the commencement of this Act, no person shall be entitled to hold any vacant land in excess of the ceiling limit.

4. These are the salient provisions under the Act which require advertence for the purpose of assessing the contentions now put forth by the learned Additional Government Pleader to sustain the application of the Act to the lands now being administered by the petitioner. As we pointed out earlier, proceedings are not being prosecuted against the petitioner in her individual capacity treating her as a person holding the lands. As we understood the submissions made by the learned Additional Government Pleader, he is putting forth the stand that the estate of late Dr. P. Venkataramana Rao itself could fall within the definition of person holding the land.

5. Section 4 of the Act inhibits a person from holding any vacant land in excess of the ceiling limit. 'Person' has been defined under Section 3(j) of the Act. 'To hold' has been defined under Section 3(1) of the Act. Hence, to attract the inhibition under Section 4 of the Act, there must be a person holding vacant land on and from the commencement of the Act in excess of the ceiling limit. The definition of a 'person' under Section 3(j) of the Act sets forth an inclusive definition. It is well settled that the words 'includes' or 'shall be deemed to include' are very generally used in interpretation clause in order to enlarge the meaning of words or phrases occurring in the body of the statute, or where it is intended that while the term 'defined' should retain its ordinary meaning its scope should be widened by specific enumeration of certain matters which its ordinary meaning may or may not comprise so as to make the definition enumerative and not exhaustive, and when it is so used, these words or phrases must be considered as comprehending not only such things as they signify according to their natural import, but also those things which the interpretation clause declares that they shall include. Hence, we have to first find out, what is the ordinary or the natural meaning of the expression 'person' since the first and the most elementary rule of construction is that the words and phrases, must first be attributed their ordinary meaning unless it could be stated that they have acquired some other technical meaning. The ordinary and the natural meaning that could be annexed to the expression a 'person' as per the well accepted dictionaries is 'individual human being', or 'a man, woman or child', or 'the living body of a human being'. Artificially, the expression would acquire the meaning of a body corporate. These artificial meanings have, in fact, been brought in by the inclusive definitions found in Section 3(j) of the Act. The General Clauses Act defines a 'person' as including any company or association of individuals, whether incorporated or not. If these are the meanings to be annexed to the expression 'person', there is no scope for conceiving in the abstract an 'estate' coming within the definition of a 'person' under Section 3(j) of the Act. On the date of the commencement of the Act, namely, 3-8-1976, the testator was dead. As per his testament, devolution of his properties' had taken place. So far as the lands are concerned, they have come to vest in the administratrix for a specified purpose, namely, discharge of the debts of the testator. As stated above, the lands have not been bequeathed to any person, so that it could be stated that by virtue of such devolution, such person holds the lands within the meaning of the Act. It has already been made clear that the proceedings are not being prosecuted or in contemplation against the administratrix in her individual and personal capacity. If at all she holds the lands, she holds them in trust for the creditors for the specified purpose of discharging the dues. Hence, on facts, we have to hold that on the relevant date, namely, on the date of the commencement of the Act, there was no person holding any vacant land so far as the lands are concerned to attract the mischief of the Act. If the lands have gone by devolution to some person or persons under the terms of the testament, then it is possible to bring the matter within the purview of the Act. Such a devolution had not taken place in favour of any person. The petitioner has only the role of an administratrix and as such, the vesting of the lands in her could only be as such administratrix and nothing more. Construing the provisions referred to above, upon which alone reliance was placed by the learned Additional Government Pleader, it is not possible to spell out a theory that on the date of the commencement of the act, an 'estate' in the abstract, held the lands as a 'person' within the meaning of the Act. The Act is a statute which encroaches upon the rights of individuals and expropriatory in nature and its provisions are subject to strict construction and it is not possible to give an extended meaning to the expression 'person', so as to include an 'estate' in the abstract.

6. Mr. C. Chinnaswami, learned Additional Government Pleader, draws our attention to the set of expressions 'unless the context otherwise requires', occurring in the very first portion of Section 3 of the Act and would urge that the context requires an extended definition. For this proposition, he places reliance on the judgment of the Supreme Court in V.F. & G. Insurance Co. v. M/s. Fraser & Ross : [1960]3SCR857 , We are afraid, this reliance is not strictly in order and no support could be derived from the said judgment for the proposition now advanced before us. There, action was taken against the Insurance Company under Section 33 of the Insurance Act 1938 and the Insurance Company, relying on the definition of an 'insurer' found in Section 2(9), contended that an 'insurer' could only be a person carrying on the business of insurance and since the Insurance Company has closed down its business, action under Section 33 was incompetent. Section 20 laid down that every insurer shall be subject to all the provisions of that Act, so long as his liabilities remain unsatisfied and not otherwise provided for. Construing all the relevant provisions of the Insurance Act 1938 and after adverting to the expressions 'unless there is anything repugnant in the subject or context', occurring in the beginning of Section 2, the Supreme Court held that the word 'insurer' would include not only a person who is carrying on the business of insurance but also who has closed it down and hence, Section 33 which provides for investigation would apply to an 'insurer' who has closed down his business. Our attention, has not been drawn to any such provision in the Act which would enable us to construe the expression 'person' defined under Section 3(j) of the Act as including an 'estate' in the abstract.

7. At the risk of repetition, we must state that the petitioner, as the administratrix does not hold the lands in her individual or personal capacity and the estate which she represents cannot be deemed to be a person holding such lands within the meaning of the Act. Devolution having already taken place under the testament, it will be a process not fitting with the provisions of the Act if the lands are to be brought within the mischief of the Act, even though no person holds it within the meaning of the Act. The Act does not contemplate fixing of a ceiling limit of the holding of a dead man. On death, the properties of the individual deceased devolve by succession, intestate or testate. Thereafter, the holdings could have meaning only with reference to the person upon whom the properties have devolved. The lands have not devolved upon anybody. They have been allocated for a particular purpose and the administratrix discharges and fulfils the said purpose and nothing more.

8. In the said circumstances, we are unable to uphold the submissions made by the learned Additional Government Pleader to bring the lands within the mischief of the Act. Hence, the petitioner is definitely entitled to a declaration as prayed for in W.P. No. 1903 of 1980. If the lands do not come within the mischief of the Act, as pointed out by Padmanabhan, J., there was no necessity to obtain specific exemption under the Act. Hence, the order impugned in W.P. No. 1904 of 1980 requires deletion by means of quashing the same. This is exactly what has been done by the learned single Judge. This obliges us to dismiss the writ appeals and accordingly, they are dismissed with costs. Counsel's fee Rs. 500/ (one set).

The Order of the Court was made by

Nainar Sundaram, J.

9. On the pronouncement of this Judgment, Mr. C. Chinnaswami, learned Additional Government Pleader seeks leave of us to appeal to the Supreme Court. We have only annexed the plain and literal meaning to the expressions found in the Act, and, in our view, there is no substantial question of law of general importance which needs to be decided by the Supreme Court. Hence leave is refused.


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