1. This rule is directed against an order, dated 10th November 1945, passed by the learned District Judge of Dacca whereby he allowed an application in revision made to him under the proviso to Section 10, Bengal Alienation of Agricultural Land (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1914, and dismissed an application made by the petitioner under Section 4 of the said Act.
2. We have already had occasion to hold in civil Revision case No. 2156 of 1945, decided on 16th April last, that this Court has no jurisdiction to interfere in any matter which the Collector is empowered to dispose of under the Bengal Alienation of Agricultural Land (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1944. It is unnecessary that the reasons in our judgment in that case should be repeated here. It will be sufficient to deal with the arguments which learned advocate for the petitioner advanced in the present case.
3. The material facts are the following : The petitioner made an application on 1st February 1945, before the Sub-Divisional Officer at Narayanganj, praying for restoration to her of two plots of agricultural land which, she alleged, she had sold to the opposite party on 25th January 1943 for a sum of its. 200. In support of her application, she stated that she could not have maintained herself and her family except by making the alienation which she now sought to have set aside. The learned Sub-Divisional Officer took evidence in the case and ultimately allowed the application. The opposite party then moved the learned District Judge under the proviso to Section 10 of the Act who took the contrary view and dismissed the application on the finding that the alienation had not been made for purposes of maintenance. It is against this latter order that the present Rule was obtained.
4. It is perfectly clear from what has been stated above that the matter in dispute in the present case was 'a matter which the Collector is empowered to dispose of under this Act.' All that the portion which I have quoted above from Section 10 of the Act requires is that the matter should be one within the purview of the Collector's powers under the Act. There is no reference to the rightness or wrongness of the Collector's decision. It may be added here that under the definition given in the Act, 'Collector' means the Collector of a District or any other officer appointed by the Provincial Government to discharge the functions of the Collector under the Act. The Sub-Divisional Officer in the present case was a Collector within the meaning of the Act, having been empowered as required.
5. The question of the jurisdiction of this Court falls to be decided by the provisions contained in Section 10 of the Act which reads as follows:
10. Neither the High Court nor any Civil Court shall have jurisdiction in any matter which the Collector is empowered to dispose of under this Act:Provided that any person who is dissatisfied with any order of the Collector made under Section 4 or Sub-Section (1) of Section 8 may within 30 days from the date of such order apply in the prescribed manner to the District Judge for the revision of such order and the decision of the District Judge thereon shall be final.
6. It would appear from the language of the section that if the matter in dispute be one which the Collector is empowered to dispose of under the Act, then the jurisdiction of the High Court and indeed of all civil Courts is altogether barred. The proviso simply gives some relief to the parties in the shape of an application to the District Judge, but in our opinion the only way in which this proviso can be reconciled with the absolute exclusion of the jurisdiction of all civil Courts by the main provision is that the District Judge in the proviso is named as a persons designate, and not as the presiding officer of the Court of the District Judge. It is not as if the section is at first excluding the jurisdiction of all civil Courts and then saving the jurisdiction of the Court of the District Judge with respect to application in revision that might be made to that Court. So read, the main provisions would practically be nullified.
7. It was, however, contended by Mr. Majumdar, who appeared on behalf of the petitioner, that the effect of the main provision of Section 10 was not to exclude altogether the jurisdiction of the High Court and the civil Courts, but merely to bar their original jurisdiction. In other words, the effect of the section was merely to enact that proceedings under the Act would have to be initiated in the first instance before the Collector and could not be initiated before the High Court on its Original Side or in a civil Court. With regard to this contention, it is quite enough to say that the section makes no distinction between the appellate and original jurisdictions of either the High Court or any civil Court. Neither does it speak of jurisdiction with respect to initiation of proceedings or entertainment of proceedings at their inception. The words of the section, viz. 'Neither the High Court nor any civil Court shall have jurisdiction' cannot, in our opinion, be read as leaving any room for any jurisdiction of any kind.
8. It was, however, contended further that although the language used in the main provision of Section 10 might be of a general character, yet there were sufficient indications in the section to suggest that the general language was to be read in a restricted sense. Such indications were said to be furnished by the proviso where an application in revision to the District Judge had been provided for. We are unable to accede to this contention, although the principle that in interpreting a statute general language may in Cases have to be read in a limited sense, may be conceded. The scheme of the section, as we have already explained, seems to us to be that the jurisdiction of all Courts as Courts is excluded, and the only jurisdiction conferred is that on the Collector in the first instance, and in the second place on the District Judge as a persona designata. That reading of the section is, to our mind, the only one possible which would enable the main section and its proviso to stand together and, accordingly, the proviso in the present case furnishes no ground for holding that the bar contained in the substantive part of the section, although expressed in an absolute form, is intended only to exclude the exercise of original jurisdiction.
9. It was contended in the third place that there was no justification for regarding the District Judge as named in the section as a persona designata and that it ought to be held that the proviso contemplated him as the presiding officer of the Court of the District Judge. From that premise, it was argued further that if the jurisdiction which the District Judge exercised was a jurisdiction exercised as a civil Court, and was the ordinary civil jurisdiction, then the further course of the proceedings must be regulated by the Civil Procedure Code which involved that the revisional jurisdiction of this Court would be attracted. To put the argument briefly which is not unfamiliar in cases of this type--what the learned Advocate for the petitioner contended was that although a matter might start in a special tribunal, if it somehow got into a civil Court, then from that stage the further proceedings would be controlled by the general law relating to civil procedure and jurisdiction of Courts.
10. This argument involves, as is clear, an assumption and the assumption is that the District Judge, as named in the proviso, is the presiding officer of the Court of the District Judge. We have already given our reasons for thinking that we are not of that opinion. It is to be noticed that the authority over whom the District Judge has been given this revisional jurisdiction is not a Court subordinate to the District Judge, but the Collector who is a Revenue Officer. There could not, therefore, be a provision for the exercise by the District Judge of the ordinary civil jurisdiction over the Collector. That circumstance, to our mind, points with sufficient clarity to the real meaning of the proviso which is to give a special remedy in the shape of an application to a persona designata.
11. Mr. Majumdar finally contended that although the proviso provided that the decision of the District Judge 'shall be final' that language by itself would not be conclusive against the jurisdiction of this Court to entertain an application in revision. He referred to what might be called parallel provisions in certain other statutes where too a similar finality had been conferred on the decision of the District Judge and yet this Court had held that in spite of a provision of that character, the jurisdiction of the High Court was not altogether excluded. The effect of the clause that 'the decision of the District Judge thereon shall be final' might have to be gone into with some care, if the proviso had stood alone. The other statutes to which Mr. Majumdar referred do not contain any provision corresponding to the main provision of Section 10 of the present Act, Here, the Legislature not only says that the decision of the District Judge shall be final, but says further, in language which admits of no ambiguity that the High Court shall have no jurisdiction. We are, therefore of opinion that Mr. Majumdar can derive no assistance from the analogy of other statutes where the relevant provision is only something in the nature of the proviso in the present case and nothing more. The existence of the main provision of Section 10 places the present statute altogether apart.
12. As regards the principal contention of Mr. Majumdar that the main provision of Section 10 is limited to the original jurisdiction of the Courts there mentioned, it is only necessary to point out that there could not possibly be an application under this Act to the Original Side of this Court. The interpretation suggested by Mr. Majumdar therefore, breaks down, if one applies the section to facts or applies to it practical tests.
13. We may add that while it may be proper to hold in favour of jurisdiction whenever possible, where rights of the subject are involved, the Court must, when its task is to ascertain the meaning of a statute, pay regard to all circumstances which point to the true meaning. It is clear to us that the present Act is an illustration, in a small way, of the modern legislative practice of vesting judicial or semi-judicial powers in administrative authorities and excluding the jurisdiction of civil Courts. That practice, which is of recent growth, is not confined to this country alone. There may be valid grounds of objection to legislation of this kind, but those objections must be urged elsewhere. A Court must take a statute as it is and its understanding of what the Legislature really intended to enact by it will be aided if it takes note of the legislative ideals and objectives which have come into favour and of which the statute concerned is an expression. This consideration strengthens our view, which is consonant with the language of the Act, that the jurisdiction of civil Courts and of this Court is wholly excluded.
14. For the reasons given above, we adhere to the view we expressed in civil Revision case No. 2156 of 1945 and hold that the High Court has no jurisdiction to revise a decision of the District Judge given under the proviso to Section 10, Bengal Alienation of Agricultural Land (Temporary Provisions) Act, at least where the matter is one which the Collector was empowered to dispose of under this Act. It was not even suggested to us that the matter involved in the present case as not such a matter. The rule is, accordingly, discharged, but we make no order as to costs.