Decided on April 15,1982



- (1.) In these writ petitions, the petitioners who were holders of posts of part-time village officers in the State of Tamil Nadu or associations of such persons have questioned the constitutional validity of the Tamil Nadu Abolition of Posts of Part-time Village Officers Ordinance, 1980 (Tamil Nadu Ordinance No. 10 of 1980) (hereinafter referred to as 'the Ordinance') and the Tamil Nadu Abolition of Posts of Part-time Village Officers Act, 1981 (Tamil Nadu Act No. 3 of 1981) (hereinafter referred to as "the Act') which replaced the Ordinance. The total number of posts abolished by the Act is 23,010.
(2.) In Tamil Nadu, as in other parts of India, the village has been the basic unit of revenue administration from the earliest times of which we have any record. The administration was being carried on at the lowest level by a chain of officers in regular gradation one above the other at the commencement of the Christian era. The same system has been in vogue up-till now. It was generally known as the barabaluti system ordinarily consisting of twelve functionaries. In Tamil Nadu, these functionaries were known as (1) headman, (2) karnam or accountant, (3) Shroff or notazar, (4) nirganti, (5) toty or taliary, (6) potter, (7) smith, (8) jeweller, (9) carpenter, (10) barber, (11) washerman and (12) astrologer. Of them, the first five only rendered service to Government.
(3.) The headman who goes by various names such as monigar, potail, naidoo, reddy, peddakapu etc. is an important officer. He represented the Government in the village, collected the revenue and had also magisterial and judicial powers of some minor nature. As a magistrate he could punish persons for petty offences and as a Judge could try suits for sums of money or other personal property up to Rs. 10/- in value, there being no appeal against his decision. With the consent of the parties, he could adjudicate civil claims up to Rs. 100/- in value. The headman has been generally one of the largest landholders in the village having considerable influence over its inhabitants. The karnam or the village accountant maintained all the village accounts, inspected all fields in the village for purposes of gathering agricultural statistics, fixation of assessment and prevention and penalisation of encroachments, irregular use of water and verification of tenancy and enjoyment. The nirgantis guarded the irrigation sources and regulated the use of water. The toty or taliary assisted the village accountant in his work. By the end of the nineteenth century, two Acts were brought into force in the Presidency of Madras for the purpose of regulating the work of some of the village officers. The Madras Proprietary Estates' Village Service Act, 1894 (Madras Act No. II of 1894) dealt with three classes of village officers viz. village accountants. village headman and village watchmen or police officers in permanently settled estates, in unsettled palaiyams and in inam villages. It provided for their appointment and remuneration and for the prevention and summary punishment of misconduct or neglect of duty on their part and generally for securing their efficiency. The Madras Hereditary Village Offices Act, 1895 (Madras Act No. III of 1895) regulated the succession to certain other hereditary village offices in the Presidency of Madras; for the hearing and disposal of claims to such officers or the emoluments annexed thereto; for the appointment of persons to hold such offices and the control of the holders thereof. The village officers dealt with by this Act were (i) village munsifs, (ii) potels, monigars and peddakapus, (iii) karnams, (iv) nirgantis, (v) vettis. totis and tar dalgars and (vi) talayaris in ryotwari villages or inam villages, which for the purpose of village administration, were grouped with rvotwari villages.;

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