Skip to content


Arunachalam and ors. Vs. the Estates Abolition Tribunal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1972)2MLJ594
AppellantArunachalam and ors.
RespondentThe Estates Abolition Tribunal and ors.
Cases ReferredNarasimhachar v. Settlement Officer
Excerpt:
- .....a landholder can get a patta only if the lands are demonstrably held or proved to be home-farm or domain land. in this view, it is stated that the ratio of the decision of our high court in periannan v. a.s. amman koil : air1952mad323 , has been impliedly overruled by the supreme court in chidambaram v. santanaramaswami : [1968]2scr754 . it is stated that in all cases of lands in a zamindari and said to be owned by mittadars, they are not entitled to patta of such lands on the ground that they are private lands unless they can be pigeonholed into the category of domain lands or home-farm lands. on the other hand, it is submitted for the landholder that the ratio in the full bench decision popularly known as the periania's case : air1952mad323 , is still good law and the observations.....
Judgment:
ORDER

T. Ramaprasada Rao, J.

1. In these writ petitions, a common question which in turn depends upon acceptance and proof of facts arises. The petitioners are ryots. Their case is they are entitled to a ryotwari patta to items 1 to 12 and 24 in the petition filed before the Assistant Settlement Officer, Salem, in R.P. No. 21 of 1965, Dharmapuri, whereas the respondents as landholders equally claim that they are entitled to such a patta under Section 12(a)(i) of the Estates Abolition Act (XXVI of ig48), as such lands are their private lands. It is common ground that evidence was let in both before the Assistant Settlement Officer and the Estates Abolition Tribunal, Salem who is the statutory appellate authority constituted under Section 15(2) of Act XXVI of 1948 to consider questions arising under Section 12(a)(1) as well as other incidental questions relating to the grant of patta in respect of lands which were admittedly Zamindari lands but since abolished under the above Act and taken over by the Government. Such evidence and material was scrutinised by both the Assistant Settlement Officer and the Estates Abolition Tribunal. The sole point which both the statutory authorities considered was whether the respondents were entitled to a patta in respect of items 1 to 12 and 24 of the petition filed by them before the Assistant Settlement Officer on the ground that they were pannai lands. The evidence let in was both oral and documentary. The Abolition Tribunal while referring to the oral evidence let in before the Assistant Settlement Officer and accepting the finding rendered by him, was of the view that the predecessor-in-interest of the lands in question one Inayathullah was cultivating the lands in question as a shareholder and after his demise, his successors-in-interest, Azeezullah who secured the other share in the estate as well was the land-holder of the lands in question and he was personally cultivating the lands, and in any event, was leasing out the same for one term or another to cultivators and ultimately the Tribunal has accepted the evidence of the Udhari of the land-holder that the items of lands in question had been in the personal cultivation of the land-holder. Even the Settlement Officer who was examined as a Court witness deposed that the lands were private lands of the land-holders that they were cultivating by themselves or by leasing them out for several years and that the lands were considered and treated as private lands of the Zamindar. On such oral and other documentary evidence both the appellate authority and the original authority under Act XXVI of 1948 came to the conclusion that the respondents and their predecessors were the Mittadars in possession of the lands in question having both melwaram and kudiwaram rights in them and that those lands were their pannai lands and they were cultivating those lands themselves or lessing them out to whomsoever they pleased and they were changing leases also from time to time. Incidentally the Tribunal also reached the conclusion that the items of lands in dispute were Pathukattu lands meaning thereby that they were absolute private lands of the landholders for a considerable time in the past. It is as against the order of the Estates Abolition Tribunal as the appellate authority, that the present writ petition has been filed.

2. The ryots' case is that even though the lands are and always were deemed to be part of a Zamindari Estate, yet, in view of the decision of the Supreme Court in Chidambaram v. Santanaramaswami : [1968]2SCR754 it should be held that, notwithstanding the proof of personal cultivation or the intention to cultivate personally, though let out to tenants intermittently and in spite of there being evidence that they were treated, dealt with and continuously held, even by Public Officers, as private lands of the Mittadar, according to the ratio in Chidambaram v. Santanaramaswami : [1968]2SCR754 , the above tests may not be sufficient to enable the landholders to obtain patta under Section 12(a)(i) of the Act. It is urged that such a landholder can get a patta only if the lands are demonstrably held or proved to be home-farm or domain land. In this view, it is stated that the ratio of the decision of our High Court in Periannan v. A.S. Amman Koil : AIR1952Mad323 , has been impliedly overruled by the Supreme Court in Chidambaram v. Santanaramaswami : [1968]2SCR754 . It is stated that in all cases of lands in a zamindari and said to be owned by Mittadars, they are not entitled to patta of such lands on the ground that they are private lands unless they can be pigeonholed into the category of domain lands or home-farm lands. On the other hand, it is submitted for the landholder that the ratio in the Full Bench decision popularly known as the Periania's case : AIR1952Mad323 , is still good law and the observations made by the Supreme Court in Chidambaram v. Santanaramaswami : [1968]2SCR754 , hereinafter referred to as Chidambaram Chettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 have not in any way set at nought the well-known and accepted tests laid down by the Full Bench in Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 . As a matter of fact, it is urged with force that all such tests laid down in Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 are still applicable and it has been held to be so by the Supreme Court itself in Harihar Prasad v. Deonarain Prasad 1956 S.C.J. 279, and also by the Andhra Pradesh High Court which considered the scope of Chidambaram Chettiar's case : [1968]2SCR754 and ultimately came to the conclusion that Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 is still law. In this context it therefore follows, if I am able to understand Chidambaram Chettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 as not having, impliedly or otherwise, set at naught the well-accepted tests in Periannan's case, then that the petitioners should fail. The other incidental question whether Pathukattu land is private land is unnecessary for being discucsed further, because even if I accept the petitioner's case, that the word 'Pathukattu', as explained in Wilson's Glossary or Tamil Lexicon and the Salem District Manual, refers to a process of cultivation, the effect of it would not in any way dissuade the conclusion which this Court is bound to arrive at on a fair understanding of the principles in Chidambaram Chettiar's case in jurisposition to the age long rule in Periannani' case : AIR1952Mad323 . I am, therefore, not inclined to address myself on this part of the case, namely, whether the lands are Pathukattu lands, and whether the concurrent finding of the Assistant Settlement Officer and the Tribunal by itself is sufficient to hold that the petitioners are not entitled to relief.

3. Therefore, the only substantial question is whether in Chidambaram Chettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 , the rule or a test, different from that laid down in Periannan's case (1952) 1 M.L.J. 71 : I.L.R. (1952) Mad. 741 : A.I.R. 195 Mad. 323 has been thought of by the Supreme Court and its ratio is pronounced to that effect. In so far as Zamindari lands in the State of Madras are concerned, they were categorised under different heads and names. All such lands of the erstwhile Zamindars were either home-farm or domain lands or pannailands or otherwise known as Sir, private etc. All these lands belong to one genus. There were various species emanating from such a genus. Each species coming out of the genus had certain peculiar characteristic in them but nevertheless they were considered to be Zamindari lands and if they satisfied certain well-known tests and they were considered, dealt with, accepted and treated as private lands of the Zamindari, after the Abolition Act of 1948. The home-farm or domain lands is only one such species having certain specific features inhered in it. While considering such domain or home-farm lands certain observations were made by the Supreme Court in Chidambaram Chettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 . The Supreme Court referred to Terlagadda Mallikarjuna Prasad Nayudu v. Somyya (1919) I.L.R. 42 Mad. 400 (P.C.) : 46 I.A. 44 : 36 M.L.J. 257, and said:

In our opinion the correct test to ascertain whether a land is domain or home-farm is that accepted by the Judicial Committee in Tarlagadda Mallikarjuna Prasad Nayudu v. Somayya (1919) I.L.R. 42 Mad. 400 (P.C.) : 46 I.A. 44 : 36 M.L.J. 257, that is whether it is land which a Zaraindar has cultivated himself and intends to retain as resumable for cultivation by himself even if from time to time he demises for a season.

The Supreme Court continued and said:

The Legislature did not use the words 'domain' or 'home-farm' land without attaching to them a meaning; and it is reasonable to suppose that the Legislature would attach to these words the meaning which would be given to them in ordinary English.

In that context the Supreme Court said that lands appurtenant to the landholder's residence and kept for his enjoyment and use would be home-farm or domain lands. After having dealt with the specific features of home-form or domain lands, in my view, the Supreme Court began to deal with the other species of lands which also form part of the same genus of Zamindari lands and the other observations made by the Supreme Court which I shall presently refer to cannot be circumscribed and attributed as exclusively referable to domain or home-farm lands but to all private lands of the Zamindars. I have understood Chidambaram Chettiar's case1, in this light. The Supreme Court said:

It seems to us that the definition read as a whole (referring to the definition in Section 3(10) of the Act XXVI of 1948 indicates clearly that the ordinary test for 'private land' is the test of retention by the landholder for his personal use and cultivation by him or under his personal supervision. No doubt such lands may be let on short leases for the convenience of the land-holders without losing their distinctive character; but it is not the intention or the scheme of the Act to treat as private those lands with reference to which the only peculiarity is the fact that the landlord owns both the warams in the lands and has been letting them out on short tern leases. There must, in our opinion, be something in the evidence either by way of proof of direct cultivation or by some clear indication of an intent to regard these lands as retained for the personal use of the land-holder and his establishment in order to place those lands in the special category of private lands in which a tenant under the Act cannot acquire occupancy rights.

4. The above statement of law of the Supreme Court which is so specific and categoric undoubtedly refers to private lands and not to domain lands or home-farm lands. There is no reference here at all to domain lands. The reference to domain lands in the earlier part of the paragraph has one purpose to serve, but the later tests laid down by the Supreme Court in the very sare paragraph are general in connotation and apply to the genus, as I referred to, of private lands of which one such species is domain or home-farm land. I understand the Chidambaram Chettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 , as practically repeating and accepting the well-known tests laid down in Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 , wherein the learned eminent Judges of our Court have indicated the formula which has to be applied to ascertain whether lands in a Zamindari are private lands of a land holder or otherwise. I shall immediately refer to such tests or the formulae which our Full Bench laid in Periannan v. A.S. Amman Kovil : AIR1952Mad323 . After summarising the law and considering the nature of the subject-matter before them, Satyanarayana Rao, J., laid down the following propositions which, according to him are established from the discussion he had in the course of the judgment.

1. If the land is known to be ryoti at its inception the only mode by which it could be converted into private land is by proof of continuance of cultivation for a period of 12 years prior to the commencement of the Estates Land Act;

2. Even if the nature of the land is not known, continuous cultivation for the required period of 12 years before the commencement of the Act would conclusively establish that the land is private land;

3. If there is no proof of cultivation for a continuous period of 12 years before the commencement of the Act, the land may be proved to be private lands by other methods, provided the land was not shown to be once ryoti;

4. Cultivation of the lands or leasing of the lands under short terms may be one mode of proof;

5. An intention to cultivate or resume for cultivation, is also a test to decide that the land is private land and such intention may be established by any other means, not necessarily by cultivation and by cultivation alone;

6. The essence of private land is continuous course of conduct on the part of the landholder asserting and acting on the footing that he is the absolute owner thereof and recognition and acceptance by the tenants that the landholder has absolute right in the land.

7. Mere proof that the landholder is the owner of both the warams is not sufficient to prove that the land is private land.

These propositions are practically reiterated in Chidambaram Chettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 , excepting for the fact that some of the indicia contained in the propositions in Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 , have not been elaborately repeated in Chidambaram Chettiat's case : (1968)2MLJ83 . My understanding of Chidambaram Ckettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 , is that the material propositions required to establish whether a particular land is private or not have been reiterated by the Supreme Court in Chidambaram Ckettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 , and in this sense Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 , is still good law. Inter alia, the proposition? in Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 , say that,

(a) Cultivation of the lands or leasing of the lands under short term leases may be one mode of proof.

(b) Intention to cultivate or resume for cultivation is also a test to decide that the land is private land and such intention may be established by any other means, not necessarily by cultivation and cultivations alone.

(c) Essence of private land is continuous course of conduct on the part of the landholder ascerting and acting on the footing that he is the absolute owner thereof and recognition and acceptance by the tenants that the landholder has absolute right in the land.

(d) Mere proof that the landholder is the owner of both the warams is not sufficient to prove that the land is private land.

With great respect all the limbs and contents of these four propositions are repeated by the Supreme Court thus:

(a) The use of the expression iruwaramdar in the document is not decisive of of the question whether the Ian is private land or not;

(b) the definition indicates that if the land is retained by the landholder for his personal use and cultivation it would be private land;

(c) it does not matter if such lands are let out on short term leases for the convenience of the landholder;

(d) there rrust be direct evidence cf cultivation or some clear indication of the intention to regard this land as retained for the perronal use of the landholder.

On such a comparison of the material dicta of both the Supreme Court and the Full Bench of our Court, I am of the view that no different principle, other than that laid down in Periannan's case : AIR1952Mad323 , has been entertained in the Chidambaram Chettiar's case : (1968)2MLJ83 , before the Supreme Court.

5. The Andhra Pradesh High Court had a similar tangle to solve. There was a difference of opinion as between two learned Judges of that Court as to whether Chidambaram Ghsttiar's case : [1968]2SCR754 , in fact, overruled Periannans case : AIR1952Mad323 . When it was referred to a Division Bench, the latter in Narasimhachar v. Settlement Officer (1971) 2 A.L.T. 17, observed as follows:

In the first place the observations of their Lordships of the Supreme Court are in accord with the rule of Periannars case : AIR1952Mad323 . Secondly, even if some of the dicta in the judgment of their Lordships of the Supreme Court suggest a contrary principle the effect of the entire observations does not support the contention that Periannan's case1, had been impliedly overruled by the Supreme Court.

I respectfully agree with these observations.

6. The question, therefore, resolves into one of fact. Is there evidence in this case that there was an intention on the part of the landholder to cultivate or resume for cultivation the lands in question? Whether the continuous course of conduct of the landholder indicates as assertion on his part that he is the absolute owner thereof and the persons in occupation always recognised him as a person having an absolute right in the land? I have already referred to the concurrent findings of fact of both the Assistant Settlement Officer and the Tribunal. The findings are rot challenged before ire. To repeat, the Tribunal, accepting the finding of the Assistant Settlement Officer would say that the immediate predecessor-in-interest of the respondents was acknowledged as the landholder of the various items of lands in question and that he was leasing out intermittently these lands in exercise of such a personal right over such lands and that the tenants, namely, the petitioners did not prove that they ever secured rights of occupancy in the lands so as to prejudice the absolute right of the respondents over the lands as landholders or private owners there of as is legally understood, that though the lands were leased intermittently, there was always the reserved intention on the part of the Mittadars to resume cultivation themselves and the officer who was examined was categorical when he stated that the lands were private lands of the landholder and that though there were no lease deeds, the lands were in the personal occupation of the Mittadars for several years in the past. All these findings of fact which cannot lightly be interfered with in a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution bind me and I am unabk to hold otherwise either. It is now the accepted practice not to issve a Rule under Article 226 and interfere with findings of fact of a quasi-judicial tribunal unless such findings are rendered on no evidence or such findings are so perverse that no reasonable person would have come to such a conclusion and that, in any event the findings are not based on cogent or acceptable material placed and considered by the Tribunals. In the instant case, I cannot hold that the findings are perverse or unreasonable. As a matter of fact they were rendered after appreciating the material placed before them by both the contesting parties and therefore such findings of fact which cannot be lightly brushed aside have to be taken as correct and thus taken, no rule under Article 226 can issue to remove them or to quash the impugned order.

7. In this view, these writ petitions fail and they are dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //