11 September 1970
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal (civil) 1228 of 1966






DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/09/1970


CITATION:  1971 AIR 2320            1971 SCR  (2) 163

ACT: Civil  Court-Exclusion  of Jurisdiction-Delhi  Land  Reforms Act,  1954--Sections  84,  185,  186 and  item  4  of  First Schedule-Jurisdiction  of Revenue Court--Suit  to  establish Bhumidari  right if competent--Civil Court’s  competence  to decide title in proceedings under First Schedule.

HEADNOTE: Under  s. 13 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 tenant  was declared bhumidhar of land belonging to the respondent filed a  suit  in  the Civil Court claiming  that  issued  to  the appellant was illegal, that he should instead bhumidhar  and prayed  for  possession of the land.  Apart on  merits,  the appellant  raised the issue that the Civil  jurisdiction  to entertain the suit in view of the bar in s. The trial  court held that the jurisdiction of civil court was the  appellant a  respondent.  The the bhumidhari be declared the from  the issues Court had no 185 of the Act. not barred, and  decreed the  suit.  The decree was upheld in appeal by the  District Judge. and, in second appeal, by a single Judge of the  High Court.   The  Letters  Patent  Appeal  was  also  dismissed. Allowing the appeal, this Court, HELD : (i) The reliefs claimed by the respondent were within the competent jurisdiction of the Revenue Assistant and  the Civil  Court  had  no jurisdiction to  entertain  the  suit. Under s. 84 the right to institute a suit for possession was granted  only to a bhumidar or an asami, or the gaon  sabha. The  Act envisaged only these three classes of  persons  who would   possess  rights  in  agricultural  land  after   the commencement of the Act.  Proprietors as such having  ceased to  exist,  could  not,  therefore,  institute  a  suit  for possession.  This aspect of the case has been lost sight  of by  the High Court and the lower courts, because it  appears that  their attention was not drawn to the provision  of  s. 154 of the Act, under which all lands of proprietors,  other than  those comprised in their holdings, vested in the  gaon sabha,  thus extinguishing their proprietary rights. [ 1  67 G-H] (ii)There is no provision in the rules for giving notice to different   interested  parties  before  a  declaration   of bhumidari rights is made, Any person, who is aggrieved by  a declaration of bhumidhari right issued in favour of  another



person  can  appropriately  seek his  remedy  by  moving  an application before the Revenue Assistant under item 4 of the First Schedule, whereupon, if he succeeds, he will obtain  a declaration  that  he is the Bhumidar.  Such  a  declaration will  automatically supersede the declaration issued by  the authorities  in  accordance  with  the  Rules  without   any adjudication  of  rights and without  notice  to  interested parties [169 B] Lai  Singh v. Sardara & Anr.  I.L.R. [1964] Vol. 17,  2  Pb. 428 referred to. (iii)It  is  true  that the declarations  made  by  the revenue  authorities  without  going  through  the  judicial procedure  are  subject to due adjudication of  rights;  but such adjudication must be by an application under item 4  of Sch.   I  and  not  by approach to  the  civil  court.   The jurisdiction of the civil court is already barred by s.  185 of  the  Act read with various items of the  first  Schedule [169 D-E] The inference contra in Lal Singh v. Sardara & Anr.   I.L.R. [1964] Vol. 17, 2 Pb. 428 disapproved. 164 (iv)Section 186 only envisages that question of title  will arise  before  the Revenue Courts in  suits  or  proceedings under the first schedule and only if such a question  arises in  a  competent proceeding pending in a  Revenue  Court  an issue will be framed and referred to the civil court.   Such a provision does not give jurisdiction to the Civil Court to entertain the suit itself on a question of title. [170 B-C]

JUDGMENT: CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 1228 of 1966. Appeal  by special leave from the judgment and decree  dated December 2, 1965 of the Punjab High Court, Circuit Bench  at Delhi in Letters Patent Appeal No. 57-D of 1965. C. B. Agarwala and P. P. Juneja, for the appellant. Sardari  Lal  Bhatia, D. R. Gupta and H. K.  Puri,  for  the respondent. The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Bhargava, J. The appellant Hatti was declared a Bhumidar ,of some  land belonging to the respondent, Sunder Singh,  under section  13  of  the Delhi Land Reforms Act No.  8  of  1954 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act").  The respondent then brought  a suit in the Civil Court claiming  three  reliefs. The  first  relief claimed was for a  declaration  that  the declaration of Bhumidari issued in the name of the appellant with  respect  to the land in dispute  was  wrong,  illegal, without  jurisdiction,  ultra vires,  void  and  ineffective against  the  respondent.  The second relief  was  that  the respondent  be declared entitled to Bhumidari  rights  under section    11  of  the  Act; and the  third  relief  was  for possession  of  the  land.   The suit  was  brought  on  the allegation  that the respondent was the owner of  the  land, while  the  appellant had no rights in it.  The  land  along with some other land was on Mustrajri with one Sultan  Singh for  a  period  of 20 years ending in June,  1952,  and  the appellant  had  been  admitted as a  tenant-at-will  by  the Mustrajar.  On the expiry of the period of 20 years in June, 1952,  the  Mustrajri  stood  terminated  and  the  original Mustrajar’s  heirs left the land.  The  appellant,  however, continued in possession, but, since he was a  tenant-at-will of  the  Mustrajar, he had no rights in the land  after  the expiry  of  the  Mustrajri.   He  was  asked  to   surrender possession, but failed to do so.  On the other hand, he  was



wrongly granted the declaration under S. 13 of the Act  that he  was  a Bhumidar when he had no rights as tenant  in  the land  at  all.   The main defence taken  on  behalf  of  the appellant was that he was a non-occupancy tenant and he  was entitled to the declaration of his Bhumidari rights.   Apart from  the  issues  on merits, one issue was  raised  by  the appellant  that  the  Civil Court  bad  no  jurisdiction  to entertain the suit in view of the provisions 165 of  section 185 of the Act.  The trial Court held  that  the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was not barred.  On  merits, the  finding  recorded  was  that  the  respondent  was  the proprietor of the land, but no declaration could be  granted that  he  became Bhumidar under s. 11 of the  Act,  as  that relief  could  only be granted by  the  revenue  authorities under  the Act.  It was held that he was, however,  entitled to  possession  in exercise of his right as  proprietor,  so that  a  decree for possession was granted  in  his  favour. That  decree  was upheld, in appeal, by the  District  Judge and, in second appeal, by a learned single Judge of the High Court  of  Punjab.   The Letters Patent  appeal  before  the Division Bench was also dismissed, so that the appellant has now come up to this Court in this appeal by special leave. The only point that was argued before the Division Bench  in the  Letters Patent appeal was that the Civil Court  had  no jurisdiction  to  entertain  the suit,,  so  that,  in  this appeal,  we  are  also  concerned  with  this  issue  alone. Section  185(1)  of  the Act, on, which  reliance  has  been placed for urging that the Civil Court has no  jurisdiction, is as follows :-               "185. (1) Except as provided by or under  this               Act, no court other than a court mentioned  in               column 7 of Schedule 1 shall,  notwithstanding               anything  contained  in  the  Code  of   Civil               Procedure, 1908, take cognizance of any  suit,               application,   or  proceedings  mentioned   in               column 3 thereof." The  relevant entries in the First Schedule,  which  require consideration,  are Numbers 4, 19 and 28.  Item  4  mentions applications for declaration of Bhumidari rights in column 3 and, inter alia refers to sections 1 1 and 1 3 of, the  Act. For  these  applications, there is no period  of  limitation prescribed at all, and the Court of original jurisdiction is that of the Revenue Assistant.  Item 19 refers to section 84 of  the Act, and relates to suit for ejectment of  a  person occupying  land  without title and for damages.   The  three sub-clauses mention that the suit can be instituted (i) by a Bhumidar  declared  under Chapter III of the Act  or  by  an Asami falling under section 6 of the Act where such unlawful occupant  was in possession of the land before the issue  of the prescribed declaration form; (ii) by a Gaon Sabha  where the  unlawful occupant was in possession of the land  before the constitution of Gaon Panchayat; and (iii) by a Bhumidar, Asami  or  Gaon  Sabha in any other  case.   The  period  of limitation is three years, in the first case, from the  date of  issue of the prescribed declaration form; in the  second case, from the date of constitution of Gaon Panchayat  under s.  151;  and,  in  the third case, from  the  1st  of  July following the date of occupation.  The 166 Court  of original jurisdiction in each case is that of  the Revenue  Assistant.   Item  28 refers  to  section  104  and relates  to declaratory suit under that section.  No  period of  limitation is prescribed for such a suit, and the  Court of  original  jurisdiction is again the  Revenue  Assistant.



The  plea  put forward on behalf of the appellant  was  that this suit, which was instituted by the respondent,  ,covered only  those  reliefs which could be granted by  the  Revenue Assistant  under  the three items Nos. 4, 19 and 28  of  the First  .Schedule  to the Act mentioned above,  so  that,  by virtue  of section 185 of the Act, the jurisdiction  of  the Civil  Court was barred.  The High Court has taken the  view that  the suit is really in the nature of a title  suit  and such a title suit is not covered by these items, so that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was not barred.  It is  this view of the High Court that has been challenged before us in this appeal. Learned counsel appearing for the appellant took us  through the various provisions of the Act to show that the Act is  a complete Code which lays down the rights that any person can possess  in agricultural land in the area to which  the  Act applies,  and the remedies that can be sought in respect  of such  land for obtaining declaration of their rights or  any other  declaration  for possession.  The Act  abolished  the ownership of agricultural land by the previous  proprietors. This was effected by first laying down in sections 11 and 13 that  proprietors will become Bhumidars in respect of  their lands  which  were their Khud Kasht or  Sir,  while  tenants would become Bhumidars in respect of their holdings.   Under section 6 of the Act, persons belonging to several  classes, which  included non-occupancy tenants of proprietor’s  grove and sub-tenants of tenant’s grove, and non-occupancy tenants of  pasture  land, or of land covered by  water,,  and  some other  classes, shall become Asamis.  "Holding" was  defined in section 3(11a) ,of the Act by stating that it means:--               (a)   in respect of-               (i)   Bhumidar or Asami; or               (ii)tenant  or sub-tenant under  the  Punjab               Tenancy  Act, 1887, or the Agra  Tenancy  Act,               1901; or               (iii)lessee  under  the  Bhoodan  Yagna  Act,               1955,  a parcel or parcels of land held  under               one tenure, lease, engagement or grant; and               (b)   in  respect of proprietors, a parcel  or               parcels of land held as sir or khud-kasht. The  effect  of  sections 6 and  13  was  that,  thereafter, tenants and :sub-tenants are lessees under the Bhoodan Yagna Act, 1955, 167 ceased  to continue as such, and either became Bhumidars  or Asamis  in  respect  of their  holdings.   Similarly,  under section  11,  proprietors in respect of their sir  and  khud kasht land became Bhumidars.  These sections have to be read in  conjunction  with section 154 of the Act  of  which  the relevant portion is quoted below:--               " 154.  On the commencement of this Act-               (i)   all   lands   whether   cultivable    or               otherwise,  except  land for  the  time  being               comprised in any holding or grove,               situate  in a Gaon Sabha Area, shall  vest  in               the Gaon Sabha Sections  6, 11, 13 and 154 of the Act read together,  thus, show  that,  after the Act came into force,  proprietors  of agricultural land as such ceased to exist.  If any land  was part  of a holding of a proprietor, he became a Bhumidar  of it.  If it was part of a holding of some other person,  such as  a  tenant  or  a sub-tenant etc.,  he  became  either  a Bhumidar or an Asami, whereupon the rights of the proprietor in  that  land ceased.  Lands, which were  not  holdings  of either  the  proprietor or any other person, vested  in  the



Gaon Sabha.  In the case of proprietors, their rights in the land  continued to exist only in respect of holdings  which, under  the  definition, must have been either their  sir  or khud  kasht at the commencement of the Act.  If it  was  not sir  or  khud  kasht of a proprietor, it would  not  be  his holding and, consequently, such land would vest in the  Gaon Sabha  under section 154, the result of which would be  that the  rights  of the proprietor would  be  extinguished.   It appears that it was in view of this scheme of the Act  that, under section 84, the right to institute a suit for  posses- sion  was  granted only to a Bhumidar, or an Asami,  or  the Gaon  Sabha.  The Act envisaged only these three classes  of persons who would possess rights in agricultural I-and after the  commencement  of the Act.  Proprietors as  such  having ceased  to exist could not, therefore, institute a suit  for possession.  This aspect of the case has been lost sight  of by  the High Court and the lower courts, because it  appears that  their  attention was not drawn to  the  provisions  of section  154 of the Act, under which all lands  of  proprie- tors,  other than those comprised in their holdings,  vested in  the  Gaon Sabha, thus  extinguishing  their  proprietary rights. 168 A second aspect that needs examination relates to the provi- sions  of  the  Act for  declaration  of  Bhumidari  rights. Sections 11 and 13 grant power to the Deputy Commissioner to declare proprietors in respect of their holdings and certain classes   of  tenants  in  respect  of  their  holdings   as Bhumidars.   The  procedure to be adopted  for  issuing  the declaration  forms was laid down in the Delhi  Land  Reforms Rules, 1954 (hereinafter referred to as "the Rules") made by the  Chief Commissioner of Delhi in exercise of  the  powers conferred  by sections 9, 105, 149, 162, 180 and 191 of  the Act.   The relevant Rules are 6 to 8. These Rules  envisaged preparation of declaration forms by the revenue  authorities without  any  application from any party.   The  declaration forms  are based on the entries in the revenue records  and, having  been prepared on their basis, the declaration  forms are issued to the persons who, under the forms, are held  to be  entitled  to. be declared as  Bhumidars.   These  Rules, thus,  do not envisage any application under section  11  of section  13 at this early stage.  Rule 8(4) lays  down  that anyone,  who  challenges the correctness of entries  in  the forms  of  declaration, shall, except where it refers  to  a clerical  omission  or  error, be directed  by  the  Revenue Assistant  to file a regular suit within two months  of  the date   of  issue.   Obviously,  this  sub-rule  has  to   be interpreted in conformity with section 185 and item 4 of the First  Schedule to the Act, so that the scope of  this  sub- rule must be confined to institution of suits in respect  of matters  not covered by item 4 of the First Schedule.   This sub-rule would not stand in the way of an application  being made  by any person claiming to be Bhumidar under item 4  of the First Schedule. The  Rules  were  examined by Khanna J.,  in  Lal  Singh  v. Sardara  and Another(1) and in our opinion, he rightly  held that  a perusal of the Rules goes to show that there  is  no provision for giving notice to different interested  parties before  a  declaration of Bhumidari rights is made  and  the whole thing is done in more or less a mechanical way.   That being  the position, it becomes obvious that an  application for  declaration  of  a  Bhumidari right  under  item  4  of Schedule  I of the Act is intended to be made even in  cases where  a declaration may have been previously granted  under section 11 or section 13 in accordance with the Rules.   The



,scheme  of  the  Act  appears  to  be  that,  initially,  a declaration of Bhumidari right can be granted under s. 11 or s.  13  without calling for objections and  without  hearing contesting  parties in favour of the person who  appears  to the revenue authorities to be entitled to the declaration on the  basis of the records maintained by  them.   Thereafter, any  person  aggrieved  and  claiming  Bhumidari  rights  is expected to move an application before the Revenue Assistant (1). I.L.R. [1964] Vol. 17 (2) Pb.. 428. 169 who  is  to adjudicate upon the rights after  following  the usual  judicial  procedure.  The order made by  the  Revenue Assistant  in such a proceeding will then have to  be  given effect to and would override the declarations earlier issued in  accordance with the Rules.  This shows that any  person, who is aggrieved by a declaration of Bhumidari right  issued in  favour  of another person, can  appropriately  seek  his remedy by moving an application before the Revenue Assistant under  item  4  of  the First  Schedule,  whereupon,  if  he succeeds, he will obtain a declaration that he is the Bhumi- dar.   Such a declaration will automatically  supersede  the declaration issued by the authorities in accordance with the Rules without any adjudication of rights and without  notice to interested parties. Khanna, J., in the case of Lai Singh v. Sardara & Another(1) correctly  interpreted the scope and purpose of  the  Rules, under  which  forms of declaration of Bhumidari  rights  are issued,  but,  in our opinion,  incorrectly  inferred  that, since  there is no effectual adjudication of rights  by  the revenue authorities while declaring Bhumidari rights,  their declaration  must  be  subject to the  due  adjudication  of rights  which, in the absence of anything to  the  contrary, can  only  be  by  a  Civil Court.   It  is  true  that  the declarations made by the revenue authorities without  going, through   the   judicial  procedure  are  subject   to   due adjudication of rights; but such adjudication must be by  an application  under item 4 of Schedule I and not by  approach to the Civil Court.  The jurisdiction of the Civil Court  is clearly  barred  by  section 185 of the Act  read  with  the various  items of the First Schedule mentioned above.  If  a Bhumidar  seeks  a  declaration  of his  right,  he  has  to approach the Revenue Assistant by an application under  item 4,  while, if a Gaon Sabha wants a clarification in  respect of  any person claiming to be entitled to any right  in  any land,  it can institute a suit for a declaration under  item 28, and the Revenue Assistant can make a declaration of  the right  of such person.  So far as suits for  possession  are concerned, we have already held earlier that section 84 read with item 19 of the First Schedule gives the jurisdiction to the  Revenue Assistant to grant decree for  possession,  and that  the  suit for possession in  respect  of  agricultural land, after the commencement of the Act, can only be  insti- tuted  either by a Bhumidar or an Asami or the  Gaon  Sabha. There  can  be  no  suit by any  person  claiming  to  be  a proprietor,  because the Act does not envisage a  proprietor as such continuing to have rights after the commencement  of the  Act.  The First Schedule and s. 84 of the  Act  provide full remedy for suit for possession to persons who can  hold rights in agricultural land under the Act. (1) I.L.R. [1964] Vol. 17  (2) Pb 428. 2 L235Sup.CI/71 170 The High Court, in this connection, referred to section  186 of  the  Act under which any question raised  regarding  the title of any party to the land, which is the  subject-matter



of a suit or proceeding under the First Schedule, has to  be referred  by the Revenue Court to the competent Civil  Court for  decision  after  framing an  issue  on  that  question. Inference  was sought to be, drawn from this provision  that questions  of title could be competently agitated by a  suit in  the Civil Court, as the jurisdiction of the Civil  Court was  not  barred.   It  appears  to  us  that  there  is  no justification  for  drawing  such  an  inference.   On   the contrary, section 186 envisages that questions of title will arise  before  the Revenue Courts in  suits  or  proceedings under the First Schedule and, only if such a question arises in  a  competent proceeding pending in a revenue  Court,  an issue will be framed and referred to the Civil Court.   Such a provision does not give jurisdiction to the Civil Court to entertain  the  suit  itself on a question  of  title.   The jurisdiction  of the Civil Court is limited to deciding  the issue  of title referred to it by the Revenue  Court.   This clearly implies that, if a question of title is raised in an application for declaration of Bhumidari rights under item 4 of  Schedule  I  of  the Act, that  question  will  then  be referred by the Revenue Assistant to the Civil Court; but  a party wanting to raise such a question of title in order  to claim  Bhumidari  right cannot directly approach  the  Civil Court.  The ,Act is a complete Code under which it is  clear that  any  one,  wanting a declaration of  his  right  as  a Bhumidar,  or  aggrieved  by a  declaration  issued  without notice to him in favour of another, can approach the Revenue Assistant under item 4 of the First Schedule and this he  is allowed  to do without any period of limitation, because  he may  not  be aware of the fact that a declaration  has  been issued  in respect of his holding in favour of  another.   A declaration  by a Gaon Sabha of the right of any person  can also  be sought without any period of limitation.  If  there is dispute as to possession of agricultural land, the remedy has  to be sought under section 84 read with item 19 of  the First  Schedule.  All the reliefs claimed by the  respondent in  the  present  suit  were,  thus,  within  the  competent jurisdiction  of the Revenue Assistant, and the Civil  Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit. In  the result, the appeal is allowed, the decree passed  by the  High Court is set aside and the suit of the  respondent is  dismissed.  The appellant will be entitled to his  costs in this Court, while, costs in other Courts will be borne by the parties themselves. Y.P.                                                  Appeal allowed. 171