M.M. Dutt, J. -
(1.)Kadambini Tea Company Ltd. is the Petitioner in all these three Rules. The principal question that is involved in these Rules is the applicability of the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1955 (hereinafter referred to as the Act), to the lands comprised in the tea -gardens belonging to the Petitioner company and the power of the Revenue Officer to assess and determine rent in respect of the said lands of the Petitioner company under the provisions of the Act.
(2.)In C.R. Nos. 2176(W) of 1970 and 2177(W) of 1970 the subject -matter is the Bamandanga Tea Estate comprising tea lands appertaining to J.L. No. 107, Tousi No. 97 within P.S. Nagrakata in Western Duars in the district of Jalpaiguri. The district of Jalpaiguri is divided into two parts, Western Jalpaiguri and Eastern Jalpaiguri. Eastern Jalpaiguri was a part of Bhutan, but after the Bhutan war the king of Bhutan ceded a portion of the territory to the Queen of England sometime in 1865, which was subsequently annexed to the district of Jalpaiguri as Eastern Jalpaiguri and is otherwise known as Bhutan or Western Duars. The lands of Western Duars which are mostly tea lands belong to the Government in sovereign right. On December 23, 1927, the Government granted a lease of tea lands to the Duars Tea Company Ltd., the predecessor -in -interest of the Petitioner company, for thirty years with effect from April 1, 1951, in Form C of chap. V of Tea Lease Rules under the Bengal Waste Land Manual, 1936, with perpetual right of renewal. The tea lands covered by the said lease is known as the Bamandanga Tea Estate. As far back as in 1898, the Government by a notification No. 963 T.R. extended the Bengal Tenancy Act to the whole of Jalpaiguri district, except Western Duars, with effect from January 1, 1899. Again by a notification No. 14007 L.R. dated December 1, 1933, the Government excluded the operation of the Bengal Tenancy Act from Western Duars. Under Clause (III) of this notification, it has been provided, inter alia, that nothing in the Bengal Tenancy Act shall apply to any lands hereinbefore or hereinafter granted or leased by the Government to any person or company under an instrument in writing for the cultivation of tea, or for the reclamation of land under the Arable Waste Land Rules. These two notifications clearly show that the Bengal Tenancy Act does not apply to tea -plantations in Western Duars. The Petitioner company and its predecessor -in -interest had been paying rents to the Government as reserved in the lease.
(3.)On February 12, 1954, the Act came into force. Sec. 4 of the Act provides for the vesting of all estates and the rights of every intermediary in each such estate situated in any district or part of a district with effect from Baisakh 1, 1362 B.S. corresponding to April 15, 1955. The word 'intermediary has been defined in Sec. 2(i) under which it means a proprietor, tenure -holder, under -tenure -holder or any other intermediary above a raiyat or a non -agricultural tenant and includes a service tenure -holder and in relation to mines and minerals, includes a lessee and a sub -lessee. The Act, however, does not define an estate nor does it define a proprietor, tenure -holder, under -tenure -holder or a raiyat. But in Clause (p) of Section2 of the Act, it is provided that the expressions used in the Act and not otherwise defined have in relation to the areas to which the Bengal Tenancy Act, 1885, applies, the same meaning as in that Act and in relation to other areas meaning as similar thereto as the existing law relating to land tenures applying to such areas, permits. Sec. 6(1) of the Act confers on the intermediary the right to retain certain lands. Under Clause (f) of Sec. 6(1), subject to the provisions of Sub -section (3), the intermediary is entitled to retain tea gardens. Sec. 6(2) provides as follows:
An intermediary who is entitled to retain possession of any land under Sub -section (1) shall be deemed to hold such land directly under the State from the date of vesting as a tenant, subject to such terms and conditions as may be prescribed and subject to payment of such rent as may be determined under the provisions of this Act and as entered in the record -of -rights finally published under Chapter V except that no rent shall be payable for land referred to in Clause (b) or (i);
Provided that if any tank fishery or any land comprised in a tea garden, orchard, mill, factory or workshop was held immediately before the date of vesting under a lease, such lease shall be deemed to have been given by the State Government on the same terms and conditions as immediately before such date, subject to such modification therein as the State Government may think fit to move.
Sub -section (3) of Sec. 6 is as follows:
In the case of land comprised in a tea garden, mill, factory or workshop the intermediary, or where the land is held under a lease, the lessee, shall be entitled to retain only so much of such land as, in the opinion of the State Government, is required for the tea garden, mill, factory or workshop, as the case may be and a person holding under a lease shall, for the purpose of assessment of compensation, be deemed to be an intermediary.
The proviso to Sub -section (3) is not relevant for our purpose and as such, it is omitted. Sec. 42(1), inter alia, provides for determination by the Revenue Officer of rent payable by an intermediary who is entitled to retain possession of any land under Sub -section (1) of Sec. 6. Sub -section (2) of Sec. 42 is as follows:
When an intermediary is entitled to retain possession of any land comprised in a tea garden under Clause (f) of Sub -section (1) as read with Sub -section (3) of Sec. 6, the Revenue Officer shall determine the rent payable in respect of such land in the following manner, that is to say - -
(a) for land under cultivation of tea or covered by factories, office buildings or quarters for labourers of the tea garden, at twice the average rate of rent paid for the highest class of agricultural lands in the vicinity, subject to a maximum of Rs. 6 -50 per acre.
Clauses (b), (c), (d) and (e) of Sub -section (2) are not relevant and are omitted. Sub -section (3) provides as follows:
Notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the proviso to Sub -section (2) of Sec. 6 or in any contract, where any land comprised in a tea garden is held under a lease, the rent payable by the lessee in respect of such land shall be the rent determined by the Revenue Officer in the manner specified in Sub -section (2).