(1.)IN this writ petition Mr. M. Ramanatha Pillai, learned counsel for the petitioner, seeks the issue of a writ of certiorari calling for the records which led to the issue of the notice Ex. P-1 and also to quash the sale of the petitioner's properties held on 9-1-1963. There is also a prayer for the issue of a writ of prohibition, restraining the respondents from taking any steps for taking possession of the properties sold or depriving the petitioner from his possession of the properties on the basis of the sale that is stated to have taken place on 9-1-1963.
(2.)THE circumstances, that have led to the filing of this writ petition, may be briefly narrated. THE petitioner appears to have defaulted in respect of payment of certain abkari dues. Though there is a slight controversy raised by the petitioner regarding the actual amounts due by him, I do not think it necessary to enter into that controversy. Under Ext. P-1, it is seen that a notice is issued on 20-11-1962 under the provisions of the Travancore-Cochin Revenue Recovery Act, 1951 (Act VII of 1951), stating that an extent of about 1 acre 24 cents of property in S. No. 1146/1a in the area mentioned therein has been attached and that the said property will be brought to sale on 9-1-1963. THE amount that is stated to be due from the petitioner is Rs. 2163-98 in Ex. P-1. Whatever may he the actual amount due, the proceedings that have been initiated under Ex. P-1, namely issue of notice, is really under the provisions of the Travancore-Cochin Revenue Recovery Act, 1951. That notice itself contains an endorsement by the Tahsildar to the effect that if there are no bidders on the date of the sale, the property will be purchased for a nominal price by the Government. Actually it is seen that on 9-1-1963 the property was bid by the tahsildar on behalf of the State Government for 5 np. as there were no bidders. THE petitioner filed an application on 8-2-1963 before the Revenue Divisional Officer, Muvattupuzha, for setting aside the sale. But the said Officer by his order Ex. P-2, dated 11-3-1963 , rejected the petitioner's application. That is why the petitioner has come up to this Court.
As I mentioned earlier, there is also a grievance made by the petitioner that the amount of Rs. 2163-98 referred to in Ex. P-1 was itself arrived at after calculating interest at 9% but that on the date of sale when the petitioner was prepared to pay the amount, the Tahsildar declined to receive the amount and demanded in turn a sum of Rs. 2414-60, calculating interest at 6%. No doubt, this stand taken by the petitioner regarding this aspect, is controverted by the State Government in these proceedings. And that is why I do not think it necessary to enter into a controversy regarding those aspects, as they are matters of detail.
The main attack that is levelled as against the sale proceedings initiated as against the petitioner and which have resulted in the sale of the petitioner's property, is the one based upon the recent decision of the supreme Court, reported in Ramrao v. State of Bombay [air. 1963 SC. 827]. According to Mr. Ramanatha Pillai, learned counsel for the petitioner, the provisions of the Travancore-Cochin Revenue Recovery Act, 1951, make it very clear that the sale of a defaulter's property is to be "in the manner provided under the statute"; and those provisions also make it very clear that the sale is to be in public auction. I will be referring immediately to the relevant-provisions of that statute. It is upon those provisions, and relying upon the decision of the Supreme Court referred to above, that Mr. Ramanatha Pillai has urged that when the defaulter's property can be sold only in public auction, in this case there has been no public auction, and the purchase by the Tahsildar on behalf of the State Government that a pre-determined price of 5 np. is absolutely illegal and void.
(3.)THIS stand taken by the learned counsel for the petitioner is no doubt controverted by the learned Government Pleader, by referring to the instructions contained in the Land Revenue Manual, Volume III [revised Edition], Part I, at page 252, and particularly what is contained in para. 29 thereof relating to collection of revenue. I will be referring to that provision also a little later. According to the learned Government Pleader, that provision really enables the Tahsildar or the Officer in charge of the conduct of the sale to bid on behalf of the Government at the price mentioned therein, in the absence of bidders; and it is really in accordance with those instructions or directions that the purchase of the property in question on behalf of the Government for 5 np. took place on 9-1-1963. The learned government Pleader also urged that under more or less similar circumstances an attack levelled as against sales conducted in the manner referred to above have been upheld by this Court, in the first instance by M. S. Menon, J. (as he then was] in the decision reported in Mathai v. The Tahsildar, Meenachil Taluk [1957 klt. 289) and later by the learned appellate judges on appeal, by Sankaran and raman Nayar, JJ. , reported in Mathai v. Tahsildar, Meenachil Taluk [1958 KLT. 1133].
Ordinarily, in view of the fact that there is a judgment of a learned Single Judge, reported in Mathai v. Tahsildar, Meenachil taluk [1957 KLT. 289] - which judgment has also been approved on appeal in the decision reported in Mathai v. Tahsildar, Meenachil Taluk [1958 KLT. 1133]- I should place this original petition for consideration at the hands of a division Bench at any rate. But, in my view, - as I will immediately show -after a reference to the provisions of the statute itself, the decision of the supreme Court reported in Ramrao v. State of Bombay (1963 SC. 827) makes all the difference in this matter. And, having due regard to the provisions of art. 141 of the Constitution, which categorically states that the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of india, in my opinion, it becomes unnecessary to refer this matter to a Division bench, and it can be disposed of by me on the basis of the decision of the supreme Court.