1. In this case, a landlord and his agent were both proceeded against under Section 74A, Bengal Tenancy Act, and fined separately for realizing an illegal imposition from a tenant. The landlord was fined Rs. 50, that being the maximum amount of fine which may be imposed under this section, and the agent a sum of rupee one only. The agent did not prefer any appeal against the order, but the landlord did. The learned District Judge dismissed the appeal, and under Sub-section (2) of Section 74A, his order is final. The land-lord has, however, obtained the present rule on the ground that the order passed was without jurisdiction, and the main ground on which he relies is that the section does not contemplate a joint proceeding against both the landlord and his agent in respect of a single imposition. The question turns on the construction of the terms of Section 74A(1) which reads as follows:
If a landlord or his agent realises from a tenant any imposition declared under Sub-section (1) of Section 74 to be illegal, such landlord or agent, as the case may be, shall be liable to the same fine, to be imposed in the same manner as in Sub-section (3) of Section 58....
2. It is argued that the use of the word 'or' shows that either the landlord or the agent, but not both, may be made liable at the same time, and reliance is also placed on the words 'as the case may be' occurring later in the section in support of the same contention. I should be inclined to think, however, that the words used are intended to have just the opposite effect. In my opinion, the Legislature has specified the landlord and his agent separately in order to make it clear that one of them may not escape merely because the other is punished. Both are made equally liable. The section, in fact, expressly declares that the landlord or the agent, as the case may be, shall be liable to the same fine, which means that whoever may be concerned in realizing the illegal imposition will suffer the penalty provided therein. It is difficult to accept the argument that a landlord and his agent may not both be concerned in the realization of the same amount from a tenant. The present case itself illustrates how this may happen. The learned District Judge has definitely found that though the money was actually collected by the agent, this was done under the direct authority and order of the landlord. The mere fact that the hand which collected the money was that of the agent does not show that the landlord was not responsible for the realization as well. The agent entered the illegal imposition in the receipt which he granted to the tenant. The receipt was obviously granted on behalf of the landlord, and the landlord could not, therefore, throw the liability on the agent alone. It might have been different if the landlord could prove that this was an unauthorised imposition made by the agent himself on his own responsibility without any authority from his master.
3. It is to be observed that Section 74A is a new provision which was introduced by the amending Act of 1938, which, if it did not, strictly speaking, create a criminal offence, still created something very nearly akin to it. The civil remedy in respect of an illegal exaction by the landlord is provided for in Section 75, which contemplates a suit by the tenant against the landlord for recovery of the amount realized with an additional sum by way of penalty. But the new Section 74A deals with something wholly different in so far as it provides for the imposition of a fine by the Collector for the illegal act, without prejudice to the right of suit of the aggrieved party. This being so, I think it will be only reasonable to construe the section in a way compatible with the principles of criminal jurisprudence. A long and elaborate discussion of these principles will be found in the Full Bench decision of this Court in Amrita Lal v. Corporation of Calcutta ('17) 4 A.I.R. 1917 Cal. 348, particularly in the judgment of Mookerjee J. That case, no doubt, turned on the construction of a different statutory provision, but the general principles were clearly enunciated, and I see no reason why they may not be held to apply in the present case. I am accordingly of opinion that the view taken by the learned District Judge was right, and this rule is discharged. I make no order as to costs.