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Sengodan and ors. Vs. C.P. Srinivasa Pillai - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTenancy
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1980)1MLJ323
AppellantSengodan and ors.
RespondentC.P. Srinivasa Pillai
Cases ReferredVeerappa Chettiar v. Sivagami Achi
Excerpt:
- orders. nainar sundaram, j.1. the petitioners in this revision are the legal representatives of one late sellakumara gounder, a cultivating tenant within the meaning of the tamil nadu cultivating tenants' protection act (xxv of 1955), hereinafter referred to as the tenants protection act. the respondent herein is the landlord within the meaning of the tenants protection act. proceedings for eviction were initiated by the landlord in o.p. no. 12 of 1954 on the file of the revenue court on the ground of arrears of rent for four years, 1960-1961, 1961-1962, and 1963-1964. the revenue court directed the payment of arrears and in default, ordered eviction, by order dated 15th february, 1965. this order was taken up in revision to this court in c.r.p. no. 398 of 1965 and ramanujam, j., by order.....
Judgment:
ORDER

S. Nainar Sundaram, J.

1. The petitioners in this revision are the legal representatives of one late Sellakumara Gounder, a cultivating tenant within the meaning of the Tamil Nadu Cultivating Tenants' Protection Act (XXV of 1955), hereinafter referred to as the tenants Protection Act. The respondent herein is the landlord within the meaning of the Tenants Protection Act. Proceedings for eviction were initiated by the landlord in O.P. No. 12 of 1954 on the file of the Revenue Court on the ground of arrears of rent for four years, 1960-1961, 1961-1962, and 1963-1964. The Revenue Court directed the payment of arrears and in default, ordered eviction, by order dated 15th February, 1965. This order was taken up in revision to this Court in C.R.P. NO. 398 of 1965 and Ramanujam, J., by order dated 14th September 1970 determined the arrears at Rs. 1,260 and directed to pay the same within 20th April, 1971 and in default of such payment, the tenant was directed to be vacated from the lands in question. A dispute arose as to whether the arrears were paid within time pursuant to the above order of this Court and the matter came up for consideration by this Court in C.M.P No. (sic) of 1971 in C.R.P. No. 398 of 1965. Ramanujam, J., directed the Authorised Officer, before whom the application for execution was pending, to consider the tenant's case as to whether there were payments in compliance with the orders of this Court in the civil revision petition referred to above and to pass the appropriate orders. This order in C.M.P. No. 10250 of 1971 in C.R.P. No. 398 of 1965 had come to be passed on 4th November, 1971. Before this controversy was adjudicated and an effective order of eviction could be passed, the Tamil Nadu Cultivating Tenants Arrears of Rent (Relief) Act, XXI of 1972, hereinafter referred to as the Rent Relief Act, came to be enacted and the Act was published on 11th August, 1972. Taking advantage of this beneficial legislation, the cultivating tenant filed a petition under Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act, praying for appropriate reliefs on the ground that he has paid the current rent within the meaning of the said Act. That petition is numbered as O.P. No. 65 of 1973 and is stated to be pending before the Authorised Officer (Land Reforms), Erode. The Authorised Officer, before whom the order of eviction was sought to be enforced in O.P. NO. 1 of 1972, considered the question as to the compliance or otherwise of the directions of this Court, passed in the earlier revision, C.R.P. No. 398 of 1965 as well as the order in C.M.P. No. 10250 of 1971 and he came to the conclusion that the cultivating tenant did not comply with the directions of this Court with regard to the clearance of arrears. It must be pointed out, by this time the cultivating tenant passed away and his legal representatives, the present petitioners, were brought on record. In this view, the Authorised Officer directed delivery of possession by order dated 18th January, 1977. This order was taken up in revision to this Court in C.R.P. No. 166 of 1977 and this revision had come to be disposed of by Ismail, J., by order dated 1st February, 1979. The learned Judge found no warrant for interference with the decision of the Authorised Officer and the revision was dismissed. Nothing remained to be done except to execute the order of eviction already passed. While the matter stood thus, the petitioners herein presented a petition on 6th February, 1979 before the Authorised Officer, bringing to his notice the pendency of O.P. No. 65 of 1973 for reliefs under the Rent Relief Act and about the provisions of another beneficial legislation, viz., Tamil Nadu Cultivating Tenants (Protection from Eviction) Act, XXXVI of 1976, hereinafter referred to as the Protection from Eviction Act, with the impact of all the amendments which came to be enacted thereon. However, the Authorised Officer, by order dated 24th February, 1979, directed the Special Deputy Tahsildar (Land Reforms), Erode, to evict the petitioners and hand over possession of the demised property to the respondent herein. The present revision is directed against the said orders of the Authorised Officer.

2. Mr. K. Alagiriswami, learned Counsel for the petitioner, urges two grounds in favour of the petitioners and they are as follows:

(1) The first ground is that when the application for reliefs under Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act is pending in O.P. No. 65 of 1973, it would not be proper to execute the order of eviction which would do violence to the provisions of the Rent Relief Act.

(2) The second ground put forth by the learned Counsel for the petitioners is that the provisions of the Protection from Eviction Act debar the execution of the order of eviction during the continuance of the Protection from Eviction Act, which continues to be in force by virtue of the amendments enacted, upto 15th July, 1979.

(3) To appreciate and analyse the first contention of the learned Counsel for the petitioners we have to assess the provisions of the Rent Relief Act to some extent. The Rent Relief Act came to be enacted to provide relief to cultivating tenants in respect of certain arrears of rent and the preamble reads as follows:

Whereas it has been represented that cultivating tenants have borrowed or added to their debts during the years of drought and that they are not in a position to pay arrears of rent due to their indebtedness and poor economic conditions;

And whereas due to default in the payment of arrears of rent, landlords have taken action against cultivating tenants for eviction and for recovery of arrears of rent;

And whereas, in the interests of the general public cultivating tenants should, at the present time, be spared the distractions and expenditure involved in such action in order that the maximum possible advantage may result to the State in the matter of production of food crops;

And whereas it is considered necessary, as part of agrarian reform, to give relief to cultivating tenants from the burden of discharging arrears of rent, on condition of payment of the current rent to landlords

The provisions of the Rent Relief Act give relief to the cultivating tenants in respect of arrears of rent outstanding on 30th June, 1971, if the whole of the rent for the fasli year commencing on 1st July, 1971 and ending with 30th June, 1972 referred to as the current rent, has been paid by the cultivating tenant before the date of publication of the said Act; or is being paid or deposited in the manner specified in Section 3(1)(b) within six months from the date of publication of the said Act; or is deemed to have paid or deposited within the meaning of Section 4 of the said Act. Section 3 contemplates very many contingencies and the implications thereof will be better appreciated if the said section stands extracted as follows:

Relief in payment of arrears of rent. (1)(a) All arrears of rent payable by a cultivating tenant to the landlord and outstanding on the 30th June, 1971 hereafter referred to as arrears of rent shall be deemed to be discharged, whether or not a decree or order had been obtained therefor, if such cultivating tenant

(i) has before the date of the publication of this Act paid to the landlord or deposited in the Court or before the competent authority, to the account of the landlord; or

(ii) pays or deposits in the manner specified in Clause (b) within six months from the date of the publication of this act; or

(iii) is deemed to have paid or deposit under this Act. the whole of the rent due for the fasli year commencing on the 1st July, 1971 and ending with 30th June, 1972(hereinafter referred to as the current rent)

(b) A cultivating tenant may-

(i) pay to the landlord the current rent; or

(ii) deposit in the Court or before the competent authority, to the account of the landlord, the current rent of if the rent be payable in kind, its market value on the date of deposit.

(c) The Court in which, or the competent authority before which, the deposit is made shall cause notice of the deposit to be issued to the landlord and determine, after a summary enquiry, whether the amount deposited represents the correct amount of the current rent due from the cultivating tenant. If the Court or competent authority finds that any further sum is due, it shall direct the cultivating tenant to deposit the further sum within the period specified in Clause (a)(ii). If the Court or competent authority adjudge that no further sum is due or if the cultivating tenant deposits within the time referred to above, such further sum as is ordered by the Court or competent authority, the cultivating tenant shall be deemed to have paid the current rent for the purposes of this Act. (2) In any suit or proceeding pending on the date of the publication of this Act for the recovery of any arrears of rent, or for the eviction of a cultivating tenant for non-payment of any arrears of rent, the Court or competent authority shall, if the cultivating tenant pays or deposits, or has paid or deposited, or is deemed to have paid or deposited under this Act, the whole of the current rent and on the application of the cultivating tenant, pass an order dismissing, without costs, the suit or proceeding in so far as such suit or proceeding relates to such recovery or eviction.

(3) If, before the publication of this Act, any decree or order has been passed in any suit or proceeding-

(i) for the recovery of any arrears of rent; or

(v) for the eviction of a cultivating tenant for non-payment of arrears of rent; the Court or the competent authority shall, if the cultivating tenant pays or deposits or has paid or d posited or is deemed to have paid or deposited, under this Act, the whole of the current rent and on the application of any person affected by such decree or order whether or not he was a party thereto, vacate the decree or order in so far as such decree or order relates to such recovery or eviction.' Section 5 lays down a bar of proceedings for eviction or recovery of arrears of rent for a period of six months from the date of publication of the Act. The entirety of the section is relevant in the on text and it runs as follows:

5. Bar of proceedings for eviction or recovery of arrears of rent -(1) Until the expiration of a period of six months from the date of the publication of this Act-(a) no application shall be made for the eviction of a cultivating tenant for non-paymentof any arrears of rent, and no suit shall be filed for the recovery of such arrears;

(b) no suit shall be filed for eviction of a cultivating verumpattamdar for non-payment of any arrears of rent; and

(c) subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 3, all applications for the eviction of a cultivating tenant for non-payment of any arrears of rent and all suits, proceedings in execution of decrees or orders and other proceedings, pending before a Court or competent authority for the recovery of any arrears of rent or for such eviction, shall stand stayed.

(2) All applications and all suits and proceedings stayed under this section, shall after the expiration of a period of six months from the date of the publication of this Act, be proceeded with against any cultivating tenant who has not paid or deposited, or who is not deemed to have paid or deposited under this Act the whole of the current rent within the said period subject to the provisions of any law which may be then in force, from the stage which had been reached when the application, suit or proceeding was stayed.

The question came up for consideration before this Court as to whether there could be a payment or deposit of amounts found to be deficient beyond the period of six months contemplated under Section 3(1)(a)(ii) of the Rent Relief Act. This Court has consistently held that the time taken by the Court to adjudicate upon the quantum of deposit under Section 3(1)(c) of the Rent Relief Act will have to be excluded in computing the period of six months referred to in Section 3(1)(a)(ii). (Vide the judgment of Kailasam, J., as he then was in S. Subramania Thevar v. Angammal (1973) T.L.N.J. 516 the judgment of Ramaprasada Rao, J. as he then was in C.R.P. No. 1668 of 1973 M. Ramaswami and Anr. v. Sennimalai Gounder (1974) T.L.N.J. 389 the judgment of V. Ramaswami, J., in Semmanna Gounder v. Mysore Mission : (1977)1MLJ38 as well as the judgment rendered by me in Ranganathan v. Ranganathan (1978) T.L.N.J. 171

4. Ramaprasada Rao, J., as he then was, gives the reasoning for a liberal interpretation of the provisions in M. Ramaswami and Anr. v. Sennimalai Gounder (1974) T.L.N.J. 389 as follows:.having regard to the intention of the Legislature in conferring certain benefits in the course of agrarian reforms, a strict interpretation would result in denial of such privileges and statutory benefits to which the tenant would be entitled.

Adjudication in the present petition, O.P. No. 65 of 1973 on the file of the Authorised Officer, Erode, may result in the discharge of the arrears of rent outstanding on 30th June, 1971. This adjudication can be said to be one both under Section 3(1)(c) or 3(2) of the Rent Relief Act. If the Authorised Officer finds that the cultivating tenant has paid or deposited or is deemed to have paid or deposited under the said Act the whole of the current rent, he will have to pass an order dismissing the proceeding for eviction. There are provisions in the Rent Relief Act which enable the cultivating tenant to get reliefs if he pays or deposits or has paid or deposited or is deemed to have paid or deposited the whole of the current rent. Section 3(3) of the Rent Relief Act directs that in the case of a decree or order passed before the date of the publication of the said Act, the Court or the competent authority as the case may be, shall vacate the decree or order if there is compliance by the cultivating tenant as aforesaid. Section 7 of the Rent Relief Act speaks about restoration of possession of land in the case of eviction on or after 1st March, 1972, and before the date of the publication of the said Act. The only provision which has taken into account pending proceedings is to be found in Sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act. That is why Section 5(1)(e) refers to Sub-section (2) of Section 3 and states that subject to the said provisions, the stay shall operate for a period of six months. It would be iniquitous and completely defeating the very object of the beneficial Legislation if it is to be held that the order of eviction could be executed after a period of six months even though an application under Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act is pending adjudication as to the payment or deposit of the current rent which, if rendered in favour of the cultivating tenant, would tantamount to wiping out of all the arrears of rent outstanding on 30th June, 1971, in respect of which the concerned eviction order is passed. The time taken for adjudication under Section 3 by the Court is likely to exceed the period of six months. Section 3(2) of the Rent Relief Act is the only provision which contemplates and provides for reliefs in the case of pending proceedings on the date of the publication of the said Act. If this provision is to be worked out and relief is to be accorded to the cultivating tenant, if there is a warrant for it, then to say that the eviction order could be executed after the lapse of six months period even though adjudication under Section 3 of the said Act is pending, would tantamount to rendering the very provision futile and nugatory. This could not have been the intention of the Legislature. The principle with regard to exclusion of the time taken by the Court, has already been recognised as referred to above. Sub-section (2) of Section 5 also contemplates that all applications and all suits and proceedings stayed under the section shall, after the period of six months from the date of the publication of the said Act, be proceeded with against any cultivating tenant, who has not paid or deposited or who is not deemed to have paid or deposited under the said Act the whole of the current rent within the period, subject to the provisions of any law which may be then in force, from the stage which had been reached when the application, suit or proceeding was stayed. The revival of the suits or proceedings stayed cannot be said to be not depending upon an adjudication as to whether the cultivating tenant has paid or deposited or deemed to have paid or deposited the whole of the current rent as above. Only if the cultivating tenant has not paid or deposited or is not deemed to have paid or deposited the whole of the current rent as above, the suit or proceeding shall be proceeded with. Hence it will be reasonable to construe the provision so as to spell out the principle that when proceedings are pending under Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act with regard to adjudication on the question of payment or deposit of the whole of the current rent, the suit or proceeding for recovery of arrears or for eviction shall await such adjudication so as to take a course of either dismissal as contemplated under Section 3(2) of the Rent Relief Act or further prosecution as contemplated under Section 5(2) of the said Act. In my view, this alone should be the appropriate construction of the provisions of the Rent Relief Act. This principle has got the backing of the maxim actus curiae neminem gravabit (act of Court shall prejudice no man). This maxim is founded upon justice and good sense and affords a safe and certain guide for administration of the law. One is obliged to fall back upon the legal fictions so as to extend the benefits of the legislation when they are urged in respect of the things and purposes for which they were invented. It will be relevant to extract the following passage in Broom's Legal Maxims, Tenth Edition at page 73:

In virtue of it, where a case stands over for argument on account of the multiplicity of business in the Court, or for judgment from the intricacy of the question, the party ought not to be prejudiced by that delay, but should be allowed to enter up his judgment retrospectively to meet the justice of the case; and, therefore, if one party to an action die during curia advisari vunt, judgment may be entered nunc pro tunc, for the delay is the act of Court, for which neither party should suffer.

In this con text, it would not be redundant to refer to the following passage from Maxwell on the Interpretation of Statutes, Twelfth Edition by P. St. J. Langan:

In determining either the general object of the legislature, or the meaning of its language in any particular passage, it is obvious that the intention which appears to be most in accord with convenience, reason, justice and legal principles should, in all cases of doubtful significance, be presumed to be the true one. An intention to produce an unreasonable result is not to be imputed to a statute if there is some other construction available'. Where to apply words literally would 'defeat the obvious intention of the legislation and produce a wholly unreasonable result' we must 'do some violence to the words' and so achieve that obvious intention and produce a rational construction. The question of inconvenience or unreasonableness must be looked at in the light of the state of affairs at the date of the passing of the statute, not in the light of subsequent events.

If the Court is to avoid a statutory result that flouts common sense and justice it must do so not by disregarding the statute or overriding it, but by interpreting it in accordance with the judicially presumed parliamentary concern for common sense and justice. But the possibility of injustice which leads the Court to adopt a particular construction must be a real one: if the injustice suggested in argument is purely hypothetical, and may never or only rarely occur in practice, the Court will remain unmoved.

Where the language of a statute, in its ordinary meaning and grammatical construction, leads to a manifest contradiction of the apparent purpose of the enactment, or to some inconvenience or absurdity which can hardly have been intended, a construction may be put upon it which modifies the meaning of the words and even the structure of the sentence. This may be done by departing from the rules of grammar, by giving an unusual meaning to particular words, or by rejecting them altogether, on the ground that the legislature could not possibly have intended what its words signify, and that the modifications made are mere corrections of careless language and really give the true meaning. Where the main object and intention of a statute are clear, it must not be reduced to a nullity by the draftsman's unskilfulness or ignorance of the law, except in a case of necessity, or the absolute intractability of the language used.' 'What is, then, being discussed here are instances in which the Courts will departfrom the literal rule. Such instances are, however, exceptional, and it is impossible to lay down any categories of cases in which ordinary grammatical interpretation will inevitably be abandoned; the Courts are very reluctant to substitute words in a statute or to add words to it, and it has been said that they will only do so where there is a repugnancy or some thing which is opposed to good sense.

5. Keeping the above principles in mind, I find that there is a duty cast upon the Authorised Officer not to execute the order of eviction under the Protection from Eviction Act before he renders a decision or adjudicates upon the petition under Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act. By legal fiction, the period of stay under Section 5 of the Rent Relief Act will stand extended until an adjudication is rendered in the application under Section 3 of the said Act. This alone would serve the ends of justice and carry out the intendment of the beneficial legislation.

6. The second ground urged by the learned Counsel for the petitioners is also well-founded. Sections 3 and 4 of the Protection from Eviction Act read thus:

3. Cultivating tenant not to be evicted on the ground that he is in arrear. - During the continuance of this Act,

(i) no application under the Tenants Protection Act or under Chapter III of the Public Trusts Act shall be made by or at the instance of a landlord or a public trust for the eviction of a cultivating tenant from his holding or any part thereof on the ground that the cultivating tenant is in arrear with respect to the rent payable to the landlord or to the public trust, as the case may be;

(ii) no cultivating tenant shall be evicted from his holding or any pan thereof by or at the instance of the landlord or the public trust, concerned, whether in execution of a decree or order of a Court or otherwise on the ground that the cultivating tenant is in arrear with respect to the rent payable to the landlord or to the public trust, as the case may be.

Stay of applications and suits for eviction of a cultivating tenant.- (a) All applications under the Tenants Protection Act or under Chapter III of the Public Trusts Act; and

(b) all suits, proceedings, in execution of decrees or orders and other proceedings, for the eviction of a cultivating tenant, on the ground that he is in arrear with respect to the rent payable to the landlord or to the public trust, as the case may be, and pending before a Revenue Divisional Officer, an Authorised Officer, a Court or other authority as the case may be, shall stand stayed.

There is no dispute that by subsequent amendments, the Act continues to remain in force upto and inclusive of 15th day of July, 1979. If this is so, the order of eviction passed in O.P. No. 1 of 1972 on 18th January, 1977, cannot be executed during the continuance of Protection from Eviction Act.

7. Mr. M.R. Narayanaswami, learned Counsel appearing for the respondent, would submit that the petitioners did not seek the reliefs under the Rent Relief Act when C.R.P. No. 166 of 1977 was disposed of by this Court on 1st February, 1979 and hence, they must stand to lose the benefits of the said Act. In support of this submission, the learned Counsel would draw my attention to the judgment of a Bench of this Court, consisting of Venkataramana Rao and Horwill, JJ. in Veerappa Chettiar v. Sivagami Achi : AIR1942Mad291 . In my view, the said decision stands on a different footing and have no application to the facts of the present case. In that case, a decree was passed on 18th September, 1935 by the Sub-Court of Devakottai and was confirmed by this Court on 28th February, 1939, and the application under Section 19 of the Madras Agriculturists' Relief Act (IV of 1938) was dismissed by the Sub-Court. When the matter came up to this Court, the order of dismissal was sought to be sustained on the ground that the application under Section 19 was incompetent and the Sub-Court had no jurisdiction to grant any relief because Section 19 of the Madras Act IV of 1938, would not apply to decrees passed after the commencement of the said Act, viz., 22nd March, 1938 and the appellate decree in the said case having been passed after the said date, viz., 28th February, 1939, the said decree has become final and if any relief under Madras Act IV of 1938 should be got, an application ought to have been made in the appellate Court before the decree was passed by that Court. In the said context, the Bench while holding that an application under Section 19 of the Act to the original Court is competent when the decree of such Court has been confirmed on appeal after the coming into force of the said Act, observed that the party runs the risk of losing the benefits under the Act if he does not urge before the appellate Court the plea which the new enactment gives him or if he has already obtained a decree in the first Court, he fails to bring it to its notice. In the instant case, on the enactment of the Rent Relief Act, the cultivating tenant has chosen to resort to proceedings for reliefs under the said Act in O.P. No. 65 of 1973. They are admittedly pending and the question that has come up for consideration in the present case is entirely different from the one which had come up for consideration before the Bench. Here we are concerned with the question as to whether the Authorised Officer shall withhold the execution of the order of eviction until an adjudication is rendered in the application under Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act, because if the adjudication is in favour of the cultivating tenant, the proceedings for execution of the order for eviction will have to be thrown out. The answer can only be in the affirmative for the reasons set out above.

8. Mr. M.R. Narayanaswami, learned Counsel for the respondent, would further submit that the pendency of the petition under the Rent Relief Act was brought to the notice of the Court while disposing of the earlier revision in C.R.P. No 166 of 1977 and this Court declined to grant the relief. This submission of the learned Counsel is not correct, because I find that Ismail, J., pertinently points out that the revision is only to revise the particular order of the Revenue Court and he is not concerned with any such petition in the present proceeding. It cannot be stated that this point cannot be raised at the time of the actual execution of the order of eviction, pointing out the pendency of an application under Section 3 of the Rent Relief Act. For all the above reasons, am inclined to interfere in revision and accordingly, this revision is allowed. The order of the Authorised Officer (Land Reforms), Erode, dated 24th February, 1979, directing delivery of possession of the concerned property to the respondent herein is set aside. There will be no orders as to costs in this revision.

9. This petition having been posted this day (23rd July, 1979) for being mentioned the Court made the following Order:

10. On the pronouncement of the order in the revision, Sri K.. Alagiriswami, learned Counsel for the petitioner, wants me to exercise the powers under Section 6-BB of the Tamil Nadu Act XXV of 1955. In my view this submission of the learned Counsel cannot be accepted for the simple reason that the order that has been set aside cannot be equated to an order under Sub-section (4) of Section 3 of the said Act. The orders of eviction have been already confirmed by this Court in earlier revisions and the present order that was impugned in this revision petition and now set aside by me, is only pursuant to the powers of enforcement of the order of eviction given to the Rent Court under Rule 10 of the Rules framed under the statute. In view of this, no further orders are necessary.


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