CHANDY CHERIYAN Vs. VENKITESWARA IYER HARIHARA IYER
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
VENKITESWARA IYER HARIHARA IYER
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(1.) This Civil Revision Petition is by the 1st defendant in a suit for eviction. Plaintiff describes him as a care-taker, but he claims to be a cultivating tenant entitled to immunity from eviction. The suit is pending disposal in the original Court. When the Kerala Prevention of Eviction Act, XII of 1966, hereinafter the Act came into force, he moved for a stay of the suit under S.8 thereof on the ground that a Record of Rights has not been prepared in respect of the property. The Additional Subordinate Judge, Kottayam, dismissed that motion.
(2.) In the nature of the pleadings a material issue in the suit is the status of the 1st defendant whether he is a tenant or only a care-taker of the suit properties. Counsel for the petitioner contends that in the determination of that issue the Record of Rights is a relevant piece of evidence, though not conclusive; and that S.8 of the Act commands a stay of trial of the issue till that evidence becomes available. S.29 of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, I of 1964, which came into force on April 1, 1964, directs preparation by the Revenue Divisional Officer of a Record of Rights in respect of a holding on application by the tenant and after an enquiry with the landlord and all other persons interested. It is obvious from that Section that a Record of Rights relates to a holding, and if a particular land is not found to be a holding by the Revenue Divisional Officer there will be no Record of Rights in regard to it. Sub-S. (6) of the Section says that the Record of Rights prepared under the Section shall be admissible in evidence before any Court. Evidence of what Must certainly be of its contents. Sub-section (4) enjoins that its contents must show that in such and such a land belonging to such and such an owner, such and such persons have tenancy rights. The Record of Rights will then be an evidence of landlord-tenant relationship. S.8 of the Act XII of 1966 enjoins the Court not to proceed with a suit for eviction of a cultivating tenant "until the Record of Rights in respect of the holding is prepared and made available to it." It is clear that the purpose of production of the Record of Rights is to help the Court in the adjudication of the status of a person as a cultivating tenant by providing an item of evidence thereon. It may be that in the light of other evidence adduced by the parties the Court may reach a conclusion different from that made by the Revenue Divisional Officer in the Record of Rights; but the Record of Rights can provide a basis for the Court's enquiry and a guide to the burden of proof on the issue.
(3.) Counsel for the plaintiff contends that S.8 of the Act is attracted only to a "suit or other proceeding for the eviction of a cultivating tenant...from his holding", and that, therefore, unless the suit is laid as for eviction of a cultivating tenant from his holding the Section would have no application. In other words, unless the plaint makes an admission that the defendant, who is sought to be evicted, is a cultivating tenant, S.8 of the Act has no relevance. I am afraid, if that interpretation be accepted S.8 of the Act will be devoid of any purpose, and the production of the Record of Rights will be of no use to the Court. As cautioned by the Supreme Court the purpose of the enactment has to be borne in mind in construing the provisions of an Act (Gurbax Singh v. State of Punjab-AIR 1967 S. C. 502) and the words of an Act must be construed so as to give a sensible meaning to them (Avtar Singh v. State of Punjab AIR 1965 SC 666 ). It would not then be reasonable to hold that merely because the plaint in a suit for eviction of a tenant is framed as for eviction of a trespasser or a care-taker or a licensee, the Section must be excluded. The nature of the suit, in the context of S.8 of the Act XII of 1966, depends not on the averments in the plaint, but on the controversy arising out of pleadings as to the status of the defendant concerned. It is in the determination of the status of the defendant who claims to be a cultivating tenant, and only in the determination of that issue, that the Record of Rights can be a relevant piece of evidence.;
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