09 March 1964
Supreme Court


Case number: Writ Petition (Civil) 1 of 1963





RESPONDENT: STATE OF MADRAS(With connected Petitions)

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/03/1964


CITATION:  1964 AIR 1515            1964 SCR  (7)  82  CITATOR INFO :  RF         1965 SC 845  (13)  RF         1967 SC1643  (227,259)  RF         1972 SC 425  (5,8)  RF         1980 SC1789  (36)  RF         1980 SC2097  (10)  RF         1981 SC 234  (31)

ACT: Madras Land Reforms (Fixation of Ceiling on Land) Act,  1961 (Mad.  58 of 1961) ss. 5(1), 50-Provisions for land  ceiling and  compensation-If  violative of Art.  14-Constitution  of India, Arts. 14, 19, 31(2).

HEADNOTE: The  constitutionality of the Madras Land Reforms  (Fixation of  Ceiling  on Land) Act, 1961 was attacked on  the  ground that it violated Arts. 14, 19, 31(2) of the Constitution. Held  (i)  The provisions of s. 5(1) of the  Act  result  in discrimination between persons equally circumstanced and are thus  violative  of Art. 14 of the  Constitution.   As  this section  is  the basis of Chapter II of the Act,  the  whole chapter must fall along with it. The  ratio of Karimbil Kunhikoman v. State of Kerala  [1962] Supp.   1 S.C.R. 829 applies with full force to the  present case. (ii)The  provisions in s. 50 read with Sch.  III of the  Act with respect to compensation are discriminatory and violate Art. 14 of the Constitution. Karimbil  Kunhikoman v. State of Kerala [1962] Supp.  S.C.R. 829, followed. (iii)Ss.  5 and 50 are the pivotal pro-visions of  the  Act, and  as  they  fall, the whole Act must be  struck  down  as unconstitutional.

JUDGMENT: ORIGINAL JURISDICTION: Writ Petitions 1, 7, 8, 10, 53 and 76 of 1963.



Petitions under Art 32 of the Constitution of India for  the enforcement of Fundamental Rights. R.V.  S. Mani and K. R. Shama, for the petitioner  (in  W.P. Nos.  1 and 76 of 1963). R.  V. S. Mani and T. R. Y. Sastri, for the  petitioner  (in W.P. Nos. 7, 8, 10 and 53). A.V. Ranganadham Chetty and A. Y. Rangam, for the respondent (in the petitions). I.N. Shroff, for the interveners Nos.  1 and 5 (in all the petitions). M.   C. Setalvad, N. S. Bindra and R. H. Dhebar, for  inter- vener No. 2 (in W.P. No. 1 of 1.963). C.   P. Lal, for intervener No. 3 (in W.P. No. 1 of 1963). R.   H.  Dhebar,  for  intervener No. 4 (in W.P.  No.  1  of 1963). S.   V.  Gupte, Additional Solicitor-General, N.  S.  Bindra and  R.  H. Dhebar, for intervener No. 6 (in W.P. No.  1  of 1963). 83 March 9, 1964.  The Judgment of the Court was delivered by WANCHOO,   J.-These   six  petitions  under   Art.   32   of Constitution raise a common question about the constitution- ality  of  the Madras Land Reforms (Fixation of  Ceiling  on Land  Act,  No. 58 of 1961 (hereinafter referred to  as  the Act),  which was assented to by the President on  April  13, 1962  and  came into force on publication in  the  Fort  St. George Gazette on May 2, 1962.  The constitutionality of the Act is attacked on the ground that it violates Arts. 14,  19 and  31(2) of the Constitution.  It is not necessary to  set out in full the attack made on the constitutionality of  the Act  in these petitions.  It will be enough if  we  indicate the  two  main attacks on the constitutionality of  the  Act under  Art. 14.  The first of these is with respect to s.  5 of the Act which lays down the ceiling area.  The second  is on  s.  50  of the Act read with Sch.   III  thereof,  which provides for compensation.  It is urged that the Act is  not protected  under  Art.  31-A  of  the  Constitution  and  is therefore open to attack in case it violates Art. 14, 19  or 31.  The petitioners in this connection rely on the judgment of this Court in Karimbil Kunhikoman v. State of Kerala(1). Before  we  consider the two main attacks on  the  constitu- tionality  of the Act we may briefly indicate the scheme  of the  Act.   Chapter  1 is  preliminary,  Section  3  thereof provides  for  various definitions, some of which  we  shall refer  to later.  Chapter 11 deals with fixation of  ceiling on land holdings.  Section 5 thereof fixes the ceiling area. The other sections provide for determining surplus land, and s.18  provides  for the acquisition of  surplus  land  which vests in the Government free from all encumbrances.  Chapter III   provides  for  ceiling  on  future   acquisition   and restriction  on certain transfers.  Chapter IV provides  for the constitution and functions of the land board.  Chapter V provides  for  the constitution and functions of  the  sugar factory  board.   Chapter  VI  provides  for   compensation. Section  50 thereof read with Sch.  III lays down  the  mode for  determining compensation for the land acquired  by  the Government   and  other  ancillary  matters.   Chapter   VII provides   for  survey  and  settlement  of  lands  in   the transferred  territory which came to the State of Madras  by virtue  of the States Reorganisation Act of  1956.   Chapter VIII   provides  for  cultivating  tenants’  ceiling   area. Chapter IX provides for exemption of certain lands from  the application  of  the  Act.   Chapter  X  provides  for  land tribunals and Chapter XI for appeals and revision.   Chapter XII  provides  for  certain penalties  and  procedure  while



Chapter  XIII provides for disposal of land acquired by  the Government   under   the  Act.   Chapter  XIV   deals   with miscellaneous  provisions, including s.110,  which  provides for the framing of rules (1)  [1962] Suppl.  1 S.C.R. 829. 84 The  main purpose of the Act is to provide for a ceiling  on land  holdings, for determining surplus land which would  be acquired  by  Government  and for  payment  of  compensation therefor.   The  Act is applicable to agricultural  land  as defined  in  s. 3(22) and is mainly concerned  with  persons holding  lands  in ryotwari settlement or in any  other  way subject to payment of revenue direct to the Government.   It is  not in dispute that the Act is not protected under  Art. 31-A  of the Constitution and it is in this background  that we  shall  consider the attack based on Art. 14 on  the  two main provisions of the Act relating to ceiling area under s. 5  and compensation under s. 50 read with Sch.  III  of  the Act. It  is first necessary to read certain definitions in  s  3. Section 3(14) defines family as follows--               "family"  in  relation to a person  means  the               person,  the wife or husband, as the case  may               be, of such person and his or her-               (i)   minor sons and unmarried daughters; and               (ii)  Minor  grandsons  and  unmarried   grand               daughters  in the male line, whose father  and               mother are dead."               It is unnecessary to refer to the  explanation               of s. 3(14), for present purposes.  Section  3               (34) is in these terms: -               person’  includes any trust, company,  family,               firm,  society or association of  individuals,               whether incorporated or not."               Section 3 (45) is as follows: -               "  ’surplus  land’ means the land  held  by  a               person  in  excess  of the  ceiling  area  and               declared to be surplus land under sections 12,               13 or 14."               Section 5 is in these terms: -               "5.  (1)  -(a) Subject to  the  provisions  of               Chapter VIII, the ceiling area in the case  of               every person and, subject to the provisions of               sub-sections (4) and (5) and of Chapter  VIII,               the ceiling- area in the case of every  family               consisting  of  not more  than  five  members,               shall be 30 standard acres               (b)   The  ceiling area in the case  of  every               family  consisting of more than  five  members               shall,  subject  to  the  provisions  of  sub-               sections  (4) and (5) and of Chapter VIII,  be               30 standard acres together with an  additional               5  standard  acres  for every  member  of  the               family in excess of five.               (2)   For  the purposes of this  section,  all               the lands held individually by the members  of               a  family  or jointly by some or  all  of  the               members  of such family shall be deemed to  be               held by the family.               85               (3)   (a)  In calculating the extent  of  land               held  by  a  member  of  a  family  or  by  an               individual person, the share of the member  of               the family or of the individual person in  the               land  held  by an undivided  Hindu  family,  a



             Marumakkattayam   tarwad,   an   Aliyasanthana               family  or  a Nambudiri Illom shall  be  taken               into account.               (b)   In  calculating the extent of land  held               by  a family or by an individual  person,  the               share  of  the  family or  of  the  individual               person in the land held by a firm, society  or               association     of    individuals     (whether               incorporated  or not) or by a  company  (other               than  a  non-agricultural  company)  shall  be               taken into account.               Explanation-For the purposes of this section-               (a)   the share of a member of a family or  of               an  individual person in the land held  by  an               undivided  Hindu  family,  a   Marumakkattayam               tarwad,   an   Aliyasanathana  family   or   a               Nambudiri Illom, and               (b)   the   share  of  a  family  or   of   an                             individual  person in the land held by  a  firm,               society or association of individuals (whether               incorporated  or not), or by a company  (other               than a non-agricultural company),               shall be deemed to be the extent of land-               (i)   which, in case such share is held on the               date  of the commencement of this  Act,  would               have  been allotted to such member, person  or               family  had  such  land  been  partitioned  or               divided, as the case may be, on such date; or               (ii)  which, in case such share is acquired in               any  manner whatsoever after the date  of  the               commencement of this Act, would be allotted to               such  member, person or family if a  partition               or division were to take place on the date  of               the  preparation of the draft statement  under               sub-section (1) of section 10.               "(4)..............." It  is unnecessary to consider the rest of s. 5 for  present purposes. The attack on s. 5 (1) is that it is hit by Art. 14 inasmuch as it denies equality before the law or equal protection  of law to persons similarly situate, and reliance is placed  in this  connection on the decision of this Court  in  Karimbil Kunhikoman(1).  In that case this Court was considering  the Kerala Agrarian Relations Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred to as the 86 [1962] Suppl. 1 S.C.R. 829. Kerala  Act). The argument is that as in the Kerala Act,  so in  the  present Act, the word "family" has  been  given  an artificial definition which does not conform to any kind  of natural  families  prevalent  in the  State,  namely,  Hindu undivided  family,  Marumakkattayam  family,  Aliyasanathana family  or Nambudiri Illom, and that a double  standard  has been  fixed in s. 5(1) in the matter of  providing  ceiling. It is therefore urged that the ratio of that decision  fully applies  to the present Act.  Therefore, s. 5(1)  should  be struck down as violative of Art. 14 in the same manner as s. 58 of the Kerala Act was struck down. We  are of opinion that this contention is correct  and  the ratio  of that case applies with full force to  the  present case.  It was observed in that case that "where the  ceiling is  fixed ......... by a double standard and over and  above that  the  family has been given  an  artificial  definition which does not correspond with a natural family as known  to



personal law, there is bound to be discrimination  resulting from  such a provision".  In the present case also  "family" has been given an artificial definition as will  immediately be clear on reading. 3(14), which we have set out above.  It is true that this definition of "family" in s. 3(14) is  not exactly the same as in the Kerala Act.  Even so there can be no  doubt  that the definition of the word "family"  in  the present  case is equally artificial.  Further in the  Kerala Act  s.  58  fixed  a double standard  for  the  purpose  of ceiling;  in  the  present case s. 5(1)(a)  fixes  a  double standard  though there is this distinction that in  s.  5(1) the same ceiling is fixed in the case of a person as in  the case  of a family consisting of not more than five  members, namely,  30  standard  acres while in the  Kerala  Act,  the ceiling fixed for a family of not more than five was  double that for an adult unmarried person.  But that in our opinion makes no difference in substance.  The provision of s.  5(1) results   in   discrimination   between   persons    equally circumstanced  and  is  thus  violate  of  Art.  14  of  the Constitution.   This will be clear from a simple example  of an undivided Hindu family, which we may give.  Take the case of  a joint Hindu family consisting of a father,  two  major sons and two minor sons, and assume that the mother is dead. Assume  further  that this natural family has  300  standard acres  of land.  Clearly according to the personal  law,  if there  is a division in the family, the father and  each  of the  four  sons will get 60 standard acres  per  head.   Now apply s. 5(1) to this family.  The two major sons being  not members  of the family because of the artificial  definition given to "family" in s. 3(14) of the Act will be entitled to 30 standard acres each as individuals and the rest of  their holdings i.e. 30 standard acres in the case of each will  be Surplus  land.  But the father and the two minor sons  being an artificial family as defined in s. 3(14) will be entitled to 30 87 standard acres between them and will thus lose 150  standard acres, which will become surplus land.  This shows,  clearly how this double standard in the matter of ceiling read  with the  artificial  definition  of  "family"  will  result   in complete  discrimination  between these five  members  of  a natural  family.  Under the Hindu law each member  would  be entitled  to  onefifth  share  in  the  300  standard  acres belonging  to  the family.  Under the Act  however  the  two major sons will keep 30 standard acres each while the father and the two minor sons together will keep 30 standard  acres which  work  out to 10 standard acres each.  The  two  major sons will thus lose 30 standard acres each while the  father and the two minor sons will lose fifty standard acres  each. No  justification has been shown on behalf of the State  for such  discriminatory  treatment  resulting in  the  case  of members  of  a  joint Hindu family; nor  ;.ire  we  able  to understand  why  this discrimination which  clearly  results from the application of s. 5 (1) of the Act is not violative of Art. 14 of the Constitution.  Examples can be  multiplied with reference to joint Hindu families which would show that discrimination  will  result  on  the  application  of  this provision.  Similarly we are of opinion that  discrimination will   result  in  the  case  of   Marumakkattayam   family, Aliyasanthana family and a Nambudiri Illom, particularly  in the case of the former two where the husband and wife do not belong  to the same family.  We are clearly of opinion  that as in the case of s. 58 of the Kerala Act so in the case  of s.  5  (1) of the Act discrimination is writ  large  on  the consequences  that follow from S. 5(1).  We  therefore  hold



that s. 5(1) is violative of the fundamental right enshrined in Art. 14 of the Constitution.  As the section is the basis of Chapter 11 of the Act, the whole Chapter must fall  along with it. Next we come to the provisions as to compensation  contained in s. 50 read with Sch.  III of the Act.  Here again we  are of  opinion  that  the decision of this  Court  in  Karimbil Kunhikoman’s(1)   case  fully  applies  to  the  scheme   of compensation provided in the Act which is as  discriminatory as  was the scheme in the Kerala Act.  Learned  counsel  for the  respondent  however contends that Sch.,  III  does  not provide for any cut in the purchase price as was the case in the Kerala Act, and therefore the provisions in the Act  are not  discriminatory.   If we look at the  substance  of  the matter, however, we find that there is really no  difference between  the provisions for compensation in the  Kerala  Act and the provisions in respect thereof in the Act, though the provisions in the Act are differently worded.  What was done in   the  Kerala  Act  was  to  arrive  at  the  figure   of compensation  on  certain  principles, and a  cut  was  then imposed  on  the figure thus arrived at and  this  cut  pro- gressively increased by slabs of Rs. 15,000.  In the present [1962] Suppl. 1 S.C.R. 829. 88 case , a converse method has been adopted and the  provision is  that  first  the net annual income  is  arrived  at  and thereafter  compensation is provided for slabs of Rs.  5,000 each  of net income.  For the first slab of Rs.  5,000,  the compensation  is  12 times the net annual  income,  for  the second slab of Rs. 5,000 it is II times, for the third  slab of  Rs.  5,000 it is -ten times and thereafter  it  is  nine times. Let us now work out this slab system.  Take four cases where the net annual income is respectively Rs. 5,000,  Rs.10,000, Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000. The firstperson    whose  net annual income is Rs. 5,000 will get Rs.60,000            as compensation, the second person whose net annualincome  is Rs. 10,000 will -et Rs. 1,15,000, the third personwith a  net annual income of Rs. 15,000 will get Rs. 165,000  and the  person with a net annual income of Rs. 20,000 will  -et Rs. 2,10,000.  If the same multiplier had been applied as in the  case of the first slab of Rs. 5,000 to the other  three slabs also, these persons would have got compensation of Rs. 1,20,000,  Rs.  1,80,000 and Rs. 2,40,000.  This  will  show that  in  effect there is a cut of about 4 per cent  on  the total  compensation which corresponds to the purchase  price in the Kerala Act in the case of a person with a net  annual income  of Rs. 10,000, of about 8 per cent in the case of  a person  with a net annual income of Rs. 15,000 and about  12 per cent in the case of a person with a net annual income of Rs. 20,000.  Though the manner of arriving at the total com- pensation is ostensibly different from that provided in  the Kerala Act, its effect is the same, namely, as the total net income goes up after the first slab of Rs. 5,000 there is  a progressive  cut in the total compensation just as  was  the case  in  the  Kerala Act.  The argument  that  the  cut  is justified on the same basis as higher rates of income-tax on higher  slabs  of income has already been rejected  by  this Court in Karimbil Kunhikoman’s case(1).  Therefore, for  the reasons  given  in  that case, we are of  opinion  that  the provisions contained in s. 50 read with Sch.  III of the Act with respect to compensation are discriminatory and  violate Art. 14 of the Constitution. Sections 5 and 50 are the pivotal provisions of the Act, and if they fall, then we are of opinion that the whole Act must



be  struck  down as unconstitutional.  The  working  of  the entire Act depends on s. 5 which provides for ceiling and s. 50  which provides for compensation.  If these sections  are unconstitutional,  as we hold they are, the whole  Act  must fall. We therefore allow the petitions and strike down the Act  as unconstitutional.  The petitioners will get their costs from the State of Madras-one set of hearing fee. Petitions allowed. (1) [1962] Suppl. 1 S.C.R. 829. 89