Decided on October 26,1970

Nilambur Kovilagam, by Receiver-Cum-Commissioner Sri T R Balakrishna Iyer and Ors Appellant
State Of Tamil Nadu By The Secretary To Government, Revenue Department Respondents


- (1.) If the lands of the petitioners are held to be janmam lands and constitute janmam estate as defined in the Gudalur Janmam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1969, the provisions of the Act will apply to the lands, and as janmam lands, they will be an estate within the inclusive definition of the term in Article 31-A(2) and the Act will also receive the protection of Article 31-A(1) of the Constitution. But, if, on the other hand, as alleged by the petitioners what were janmam lands became in course of time ryotwari lands, the said Act (to be referred to hereafter as Janmam Estates Abolition Act) will have no application to them. As the petitions raise a common question, we shall refer to the facts in W.P. No. 117 of 1970, since they are typical of those in the others. The petitioner in that case is O'Valley Estates Ltd., which is a company engaged in plantation industry and is cultivating and manufacturing tea and other plantations products in O'Valley Village of Gudalur Taluk, Nilgiris District. It is having an estate of an extent of 20,000 acres or thereabouts which had in about the 19th century been taken on lease from Nilambur Kovilagam, who were the owners thereof. The Wynaads comprised the taluk of Gudalur in the Nilgiris District and the taluk of Wynaad in the Malabar District. The whole area was originally included in Malabar District but the portion comprised in Gudalur Taluk was transferred to the Nilgiris District in the year 1877. Gudalur Taluk contains 12 desams. It is not in controversy that originally land owners in Malabar were janmis and considered to be absolute propa proprietors of the lands. Settlement was introduced in the Gudalur Taluk between 1886 and 1889 and re-survey and re-settlement, in or about 1928. The lands in the taluk have beeit classified as ryotwari or as inam as the case may be in the resurvey and resettlement registers. So far there is no dispute, but the parties differ as to the effect of the settlement and re-settlment upon the tenure of the land. The petitioners assert that as a result of them, the lands ceased to be janmam lands and are now governed by the ryotwari tenure. The State denies that that is the effect, and contends that notwithstanding the settlement and re-settlement, the lands; continue to have the character of janmam lands and that they have not actually been held under ryotwari pattas with reference to the rate of assessment, classification of soils, etc. It is pointed out that a sizable extent of janmam land is assessed at the rate of Rs. 0.0.6 per acre as against the ordinary taram rate of Rs. 2 for such lands. For example, for survey No. 33/1-A of Gudalur village, the petitioner in W.P. No. 64 of 1970 pay an assessment at the rate of Rs. 0.0.6 for 944 acres which is equal to Rs. 29-8-0-while the rate for survey Nos. 33/1-B and 33/AC is Rs. 2 per acre. Similarly for survey No. 46/1 the petitioner in W.P. No. 117 of 1970 in O'Valley village pays an assessment of Rs. 437 at Rs. 0.0.6 for an extent of 13,985 acres. It is further stated that only for administrative purposes the lands have been grouped under different classifications such as ryotwari tenure, inam tenure etc. The State would say that mere existence of old survey, settlement and re-settlement registers cannot be the basis to conclude that those areas have been converted into ryotwari, based on the principles applicable to the ryotwari system and that even in the settlement and resettlement registers relating to Gudalur taluk, there is no reference to soil classification, irrigation. sources, determination of money rates to be applied to different classes and sorts of soils in the various groups of villages which form part and parcel of the requirements to effect ryotwari settlement. So the crux of the matter is to find whether jenmam lands, as they were originally have lost their character as such and have become ryotwari lands as the result of the settlement and resettlement.
(2.) The Janmam Estates Abolition Act, which received the assent of the President on 6th December, 1969, and published on 17th December, of the same year, is intended to provide for acquisition of the rights of the janmis in janmam estates in the Gudalur taluk of the Nilgiris District and the introduction of ryotwari settlement in such estates. The statement of objects and reasons in the Act refers to the fact that in pursuance of the policy of abolition of all intermediaries between the Government and the actual cultivators, the zamindari, under-tenure and inam estates and all minor inams, leaseholds, etc., had been abolished under the various legislative measures and all these lands had been converted into ryotwari lands by the grant of patta to the persons entitled thereto. But all the same, the special system of land holding known as the janmi system was still in vogue in the Gudalur taluk of the Nilgiris District. According to the definition of 'estate' in, Article 31-A(2)(a) of the Constitution, any janmam right in the States of Tamil Nadu and Kerala also constitutes an estate. In the circumstances, the statement goes on to say, the Government decided to abolish the system of janmam tenure on payment of compensation to the janmis at the rate of twenty times the average net annual income derived by them from the janmam estate and that the jenmi and the verumpattamdar would be entitled to ryotwari patta for any land on proof of personal cultivation for three agricultural years and that if no janmi or verumpattamdar was entitled to patta, any other person who had cultivated the land for three agricultural years would be entitled to such patta. The Act is exactly on the pattern of the Act relating to the abolition of Zamindaris and inams. By Section 3 every janmam estate, on and from the notified date, shall stand transferred to the Government and vest in them free of all incumbrances. The following other provisions provide for grant of ryotwari pattas, survey and settlement of janmam estates, determination and payment of compensation and miscellaneous matters. 'Appointed day' means the date appointed by the Government under Section 1(4) which says that the Act shall come into force on such date as the Government may, by notification, appoint. The expression 'jenmi' is defined by Section 2(7) to mean a person entitled to the absolute proprietorship of land and includes a trustee in respect thereof and the previous clause defines a 'janmam estate' as any parcel or parcels of land included in the holding of a jenmi.
(3.) In the Glossary to the Fifth Report 'janmam' is said to imply birth, birth, right, hereditary or proprietary right in the soil. We find from the Madras District Gazetteers relating to Malabar that the origin of Janmam has been, stated thus at page 305: Parasurama created Malayam, the Keralabhumi, and gave it as a gift to the Brahmins of the 64 gramams. The gift of flower and water given to the sixty-four gramams together for their enjoyment is called janmam. On the basis of this and other texts, the Gazetteer adds: the Brahmins support their claim that they and they alone have always enjoyed the full janmam OF proprietary right in the land; and as Brahmins are expressly exempted by Manu from payment of taxes, the tradition is offered as a simple and satisfactory explanation of the absence of any general land revenue in Malabar at the time of the first Mysorean. invasion. The early British administration appears-to have generally accepted this tradition,, though it seems that they were more concerned with giving an accurate account of the land tenures as they found them. In 1793 one Mr. Farmer, one of the first Commissioners for inspecting the countries-ceded by Tippu Sultan, reported that the possessors of land were of two descriptions : (1) Jelmkaars or free holders-who held their lands either by purchase or by hereditary descent and (2) Kanoonkaars or mortgagees, to whom an actual delivery of the land appeared to be made, although the money taken upon it was not at all proportioned to the value of the land. In 1800 Dr. Buchanan referred to the Janmis before the conquest by Hyder as the actual lords of the whole soil Major Walker, who prepared in 1801 an elaborate treatise on the several forms, of conveyance and leases, stated that jenmakaran possessed the entire right to the soil and no earthly authority could justly deprive him of it, but his right was confined to the property and he possessed neither judicial nor political authority. Mr. Thackeray reporting on and tenure in 1807 has observed to the same effect and said that almost the whole of the land in Malabar, cultivated and uncultivated, was private property and held by janmam right, which conveyed full absolute property in the soil. According to one Mr. Warden, who was Collector of Malabar from 1804 to 1816, the jenm right of Malabar vested in the holder an absolute property in the soil.;

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