(1.) These two appeals by the State of Haryana challenged the High Court's approach to an interpretation of two crucial provisions of a land reforms law, namely, Sections 10-A and 18 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act (X of 1953) 1953 (for short called "the Act"). Counsel for the appellants complains that if the view upheld by the High Court of subordinating Sections 10-A to 18 were not upset by this Court, large landholders may extricate their surplus lands in excess of the ceiling set, through legal loopholes, such as have been practised in the present case. If make-believe deals and collusive proceedings, he argues, may maneouvre through the legal net cast by sec.10-A of the Act interdicting alienations and orders which diminish the surplus pool intended for re-settlement by the State of ejected tenants, the agrarian reform measure would be reduced to a paper tiger or sicio-economic eyewash. Certainly, land reforms are no basic to the national reconstruction of the new order envisaged by the Constitution that the issue raised in this case deserves our anxious attention. We have to bear in mind the activist, though inarticulate, major premise of statutory construction that the rule of law must run close to the rule of life and the court must read into an enactment, language permitting, that meaning which promotes the benignent intent of the legislation in preference to the one which perverts the scheme of the statute on imputed legislative presumptions and assumed social values valid in a prior era. An aware court, informed of this adaptation in the rules of forensic interpretation, hesitates to nullify the plain object of a land reforms law unless compelled by its language, and the crux of this case is just that accent when double possibilities in the chemistry of construction crop up.
(2.) A brief survey of the relevant facts leading up to the legal controversy seeking resolution in these appeals will help forcus forensic attention on the provisions of the Act which bear upon the issue. A lady by name Lachhman had considerable agricultural property, far in excess of the relatively liberal ceiling set by the Act which came into force on April 15, 1953.She had a daughter Shanti Devi and son-in-law Amar Singh, respondent in Civil Appeal No. 1755 of 1967, whose brother Indraj is the respondent in the connected Appeal No. 1756 of 1967. Annexure 'B' to the writ petitions is an order dated May 11, 1962,passed under the Act and the Rules by the Collector, (Surplus Area) Sirsa. It is this order which has been successfully attacked in the writ petitions and is the subject-matter of the present appeals. The facts stated therein have not been reversed in the judgment of the High Court and we have to proceed on the assumption that those statements are correct. We are concerned with three khasras Nos. 177, 265 and 343,in all over 131 acres of land. At the commencement of the Act, khasra No. 177 was under Mst. Lachhman's self-cultivation but there were two tenants under her, Chandu and Sri Chand, on the other two plots. Together, these three plots constitute a large slice out of her surplus area and are now claimed by the respondents Amar Singh and Indraj, as their own under a purchase ordered by the Assistant Collector who is the competent authority under Section 18 of the Act (Annexure 'A' to the writ petitions). Appellant's counsel urges that the history of the derivation of title of these claimants needs to be sceptically studied, the relationship of the parties being that of mother and daughter, son-in-law and brother, and the heavy impact being slicing off a good chunk from the surplus area, otherwise available for re-settlement of evicted tenants.
(3.) At the outset it must be mentioned that the two tenants, Chandu and Sri Chand, who were on the land on the determinative date (April 15, 1953) presumably showed no interest in claiming rights granted to tenants under the Act, which were subject, of course, to their possessing lands less than the 'permissible area'. We have no information in this case what the total extent of lands in the possession of these two tenants was and whether they had chosen to keep other lands in preference to the ones under Mst. Lachman We need not speculate on how or why they left the suit plots but may note that they were on the holding on the key date in 1953 and if later they did not keep their possession (abandoned or surrendered) the tenancy terminated and on the facts of this case the lands came into the actual possession of the land-holder, Mst. Lachhman, no other legal inference being possible than that the leases were extinguished and the lands reverted to the landlady on general principles of law. In short, we have to proceed on the assumption that one plot, namely, Khasra No. 177, had always been in the self-cultivation of the landlady and that the two tenanted plots, namely, Khasra Nos. 265 and 343, came into the khas possession of the landlady to the crucial date. Apprehending the statutory peril to these lands which were admittedly outside her "reserved area", Mst. Lachman went through the exercise of making a gift of the three lands to her daughter, Smt. Shanti (vide mutation No. 445 decided on December 24, 1953 and referred to in Annexure 'B'). Subsequently, it is seen that Amar Singh, husband of Shanti and Indraj, brother of Amar Singh, purported to apply for purchase of the land-holder's right in these three plots under Section 18 of the Act making Lachhman and Shanti co-respondents and alleging that they were tenants qualified for the statutory benefit. The Assistant Collector before whom the application was made for purchase under Section 18 has said in Annexure 'A' to both the writ petitions that these two ladies "are said to be big landowners but ..... had not got this land reserved for their own purpose." Curiously enough, in both the purchase petitions the parties avoided even an enquiry by the Assistant Collector as is evident from the following statement from Annexure 'A':
"Before the proceedings could state the parties have come to terms and they have actually put in court a compromise deed which they have backed up by their statements."
May be, because these dubious moves if exposed to the examination of an officer might prove a fiasco, the close relations who figured as petitioner and respondents lulled the Assistant Collector into mechanically acting on the compromise without enquiring into any of the eligibility factors before a purchase could be ordered.;