SANTHANAKRISHNA ODAYAR Vs. VAITHILINGAM
HIGH COURT OF MADRAS
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Venkatarama Ayyar, J. -
(1.) The question that arises for decision in these petitions is the validity of the Tanjore Tenants and Pannaiyal (Protection) Ordinance 4 of 1952 which was modified by Ordinances 5 and 6 of 1952 and ultimately replaced by Act 14 of 1952. The petitioners are Mirasdars or land owners in the District of Tanjore and these are applications by them under Article 226 of the Constitution for writs of certiorari to quash various orders passed by the Revenue Divisional Officer acting under the provisions of the Ordinance and Act aforesaid. W. P. No. 859 of 1952 and 78 of 1953 are against orders passed under Section 6 of the Act directing the reinstatement of tenants; W. P. No. 875 of 1952 in against refusal to pass an order in ejectment under Section 10 of the Act; W. P. No. 788 of 1952 is against an order awarding compensation under Section 12(4) of the Act; and W. P. Nos. 880 of 1952 and 6 of 1953 are against orders adjudicating disputes between landlords and tenants under Section 13 of the Act. Apart from disputing the correctness of the orders on their merits, the petitioners raise the contention that some at least pf the provisions of the Act are repugnant to Articles 19(1)(f), 31(2) and 14 of the Constitution and therefore, void under Article 13. We heard in the first instance arguments of counsel on the constitutional issue relating to the validity of the legislation, reserving considerations of the other questions for a further hearing and we now proceed to express our opinion thereon.
(2.) For a proper understanding of the provisions of the Act it will be useful to state the facts which form the background for this legislation. The District of Tanjore forms part of the Cauveri delta and is the richest rice-producing region in the State of Madras, being popularly and aptly known as the "granary of South India". The area normally cultivated with paddy is 13,40,180 acres and the paddy produced is roughly 8,65,200 tons, being about an eighth of the entire paddy produced in the State. The usual modes of cultivation adopted in the district are, (1) lease lands by the owners to lessees who arrange for cultivation by tenants, (2) varam sharing and (3) personal cultivation with the aid of agricultural labourers called Pannaiyals. While in other districts, agricultural labourers form a floating population from which the land owners are free to employ whom they choose, in the District of Tanjore the Pannaiyals were as a matter of custom and usage attached from generation to generation to particular holdings so that when heirs succeeded to those holdings or transferees acquired them, they would engage only those Pannaiyals for carrying on the cultivation. Thus, they came to be regarded as in the nature of appurtenances to the land. It further appears that what the tenants in the District of Tanjore were gelling by way of share of produce and the Pannaiyals for wages when thev worked on the fields, were comparatively less than what the cultivating tenants and agricultural labourers were getting for the same work in other districts. There is no need to discuss whether this difference was due to the fact that owing to natural advantages which the delta lands derived from the rich alluvial deposits of the Cauveri the tenants and labourecs of Tanjore had less of work and more of produce than the labourers in other districts. The fact remains that there was disparity in the matter of returns and wages between tenants in Tanjore district and tenants in other districts and it was this disparity that became a fruitful source of discontent and disaffection. The cultivating tenants and Pannaiyals began to smart under the notion that they had not a proper deal and became gradually estranged from the landlord Then came the second World War and the soaring prices that followed in its wake were the last straw that broke the good relationship that existed between landlords and tenants.
(3.) What followed thereon is thus stated in the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the State :
"While the cultivators pressed for an equitable revision of, terms, the mirasdars were unwilling to concede their demands preferring the drastic measure of a complete change in the body of farm employees. The mirasdars Started to evict pannaiyals who had been attached to their farms for generations and imported labour from neighbouring districts. These measures inevitably led to clashes, fall in production out of fear of riots and inefficient out-turn because imported labour was not so experienced as the local pannaiyals." 5. On 28-10-1948 an agreement which came to be known as the Mayuram agreement, was effected under which the daily wages of a man was raised to one marakkal and of a woman to 3/4 of a marakkal. This agreement also gave the pannaiyal 1/7 of the gross produce of the land he tilled. But the Mayuram agreement failed to provide adequate safeguards to ensure the working ol the pact and breaches in the agreement were reported such as forced evictions, clashes, conversion of employees into casual labour and consequent estrangement between the mirasdars and the pannaiyals." As things were heading for a crisis, the, Government issued G. O. No. 1376 dated 9-3-1950 setting up a Committee presided over by Mr. M.V. Subramaniam, I. C. S. to report on land reforms to be effected. After making extensive enquiries into the matter, the Committee made a report recommending 'inter alia' that where there were first class irrigation sources the landlord's share of rent should be 45 and that of the tenant 55, vide para 167; that the tenants should be granted a lease for a period of five years as that would give sufficient time to them to make up for the losses during bad and indifferent seasons, vide para' 181; that the lease should be renewable only if both the parties agreed thereto, vide para 188, and that during the period of the lease the tenants should be liable to be evicted only on the grounds specified in para 190 which are substantially reproduced in Section 10 of the Act. The report was published on 1-7-1951 and the immediate conseouence thereof was a sharp conflict between the landlords and tenants. The tenants all over the district started an agitation that the recommendations contained in the Subramaniam report should immediately be given effect to. On the other hand, the landlords who were deeply dissatisfied with the proposals contained therein decided to stop the tenants and start personal cultivation with hired labour imported from Ramnad and other outlying districts. The tenants and pannaiyals who were thus frustrated in their attempts at getting better terms took to violence as a means of achieving their ends. There were widespread disorders resulting in theft, arson and murder and proceedings had to be taken under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code for maintaining order and ensuring security of life and property. It was during this state of emergency that the Government Promulgated on 23-8-1952 Ordinance No. 4 of 1952. The preamble to the Ordinance states that the relations between landowners on the one hand and tenants and labourers on the other had become strained, that there were displacements of tenants and dismissal of farm labourers resulting in agrarian crimes and disturbances that the situation threatened to cause deterioration jn agricultural production and that it was necessary to take immediate action in regard to the matter. Then followed the provisions which will be examined presently. This ordinance after having undergone modifications and alterations under Ordinances Nos. 5 'and' 6 of 1952 was eventually replaced by an Act of the Madras Legislature called the Tanjore Tenants and Pannaiyals Protection Act, 14 of 1952, hereinafter referred to as the Act.;
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