Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 – suit for declaration of his occupancy rights in the suit land – No occupancy rights of a tenant in the land in the absence of possession = whether the plaintiff had become a cultivating farmer of the land in question and while answering this issue the trial court has discussed the question whether the plaintiff was in possession of the land or not. It has been found that the plaintiff was not in possession of the land. In fact, the plaintiff himself had admitted that he is not in possession of the land and cultivation on his behalf is carried out by a servant. It was also stated that one relative was managing the cultivation of the land. The trial court held that the plaintiff had failed to prove that he was in possession because he failed to mention the name of the persons who were owning the neighbouring lands nor could he give any details thereof. The servant Buda and the relative Amlok Chand were not examined by the plaintiff. Therefore, even as per the stand of the plaintiff he was not in personal cultivating possession and hence, he could not have got occupancy rights of a tenant in the land which can only be given to a person who is actually cultivating the land.

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NON-REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5040 OF 2009
YASHCHANDRA (D) BY LRS. …APPELLANT(S)
Versus
THE STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH
& ORS. …RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
Deepak Gupta, J.
1. The State of Madhya Pradesh enacted the Madhya
Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 (hereinafter
referred to as ‘the Act’). The Bill in this regard was published
on 15th September, 1959 and the Act was published on 1st
October, 1960 after receiving the assent of the President of
India. Section 7 of the Act provided the maximum extent of
land to be held by a person and when the Act was initially
passed, a land holder was not entitled to hold land in excess of
28 standard acres. Standard acre was defined under Section
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2(n) of the Act to mean one acre of perennially irrigated land or
two acres of seasonally irrigated land or three acres of dry
land. Section 4 of the Act provided that any transaction of
land by the land holder by way of sale, gift, exchange, partition
etc. could be verified by the competent authority, provided
such transfer of land had been made after the date of
publication of the Bill i.e. 15.09.1959. Sub-section 2 of
Section 4 of the Act provided that this section would not apply
to a transfer made by the land holder who does not hold land
in excess of the ceiling area on the date of transfer. Section 5
of the Act restricts the transfer or sub-division of land after the
coming into force of the Act till final order under Section 11 of
the Act is passed unless the permission of the Collector in
writing is taken before entering into the transaction.
2. One Phoolchand was the owner of 72 acres 75 decimals
of land. Admittedly, this was dry land and, therefore, he was
entitled to hold 84 acres of dry land under the Act. The Act
was amended in the year 1972. We are only concerned with the
Amendment Act of 1972 and the Second Amendment Act of
1972. Both these Acts came into force from 7th March, 1974.
The maximum extent of holding was changed and where the
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holder of the land was a member of the family of less than 5
members, the family was entitled to retain 15 standard acres of
land, and 18 standard acres of land where a family consisted of
more than 5 persons. As per this amendment, Phoolchand was
at the most entitled to retain 18 standard acres or 54 acres of
dry land. Vide Second Amendment Act, 1972, Section 4 of the
Act was amended and the competent authority was entitled to
set aside any transaction entered into after 24th January, 1971
and before the appointed day, which is 7th March, 1974.
3. After the Act was amended, Phoolchand filed his return
and in his return he did not say that he had leased out any
land to Yashchandra, the original plaintiff who was also the
original appellant before this Court, who is deceased and is
now represented by his legal representatives. It is the admitted
case of the parties that Yashchandra was related to
Phoolchand. Yashchandra filed a petition before the competent
authority under the Act claiming that he was an occupancy
tenant on the eastern part of the land of Phoolchand measuring
25 acres and claimed that this land had been leased out to him
vide lease deed dated 21st November, 1968 on a rental of
Rs. 500/- per annum. He further claimed that since he was in
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occupation of the land he had got the rights of occupancy
tenant under Section 169 of the Madhya Pradesh Land
Revenue Code, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Code’). The
competent authority rejected the objections and declared 20.88
acres of land of Phoolchand as surplus under the Act.
4. Thereafter, Yashchandra filed a suit for declaration of his
occupancy rights in the suit land on the same grounds. In
this suit he claimed that Phoolchand had transferred 24 acres
of land to him in 1968. In this suit a written statement was
filed and in the written statement the State denied that
Phoolchand had created any lease in favour of Yashchandra.
However, it was admitted that the plaintiff was in cultivating
possession of the land. The State, however, took the plea that
the alleged transaction of lease is a sham transaction set up
with an intention to defeat the provisions of the Act.
Phoolchand was defendant in the suit but did not contest the
same. He did not file any written statement. The trial court
dismissed the suit. Yashchandra filed an appeal and the first
appellate court allowed the appeal mainly on the ground that a
lease was created by the document in question and, as such,
the plaintiff had obtained occupancy rights. An appeal was
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filed by the State and the High Court came to the conclusion
that the alleged deed was a sham transaction. It relied upon
the evidence of the plaintiff himself to come to the conclusion
that the plaintiff was not in possession of the land. This
judgment is challenged before us.
5. Shri Puneet Jain, learned counsel for the appellants has
basically raised two issues- the first is that since the
transaction in question is of the year 1968, the competent
authority had no jurisdiction to invalidate the same either
under the un-amended provisions of the Act or under the
amended provisions of the Act. He submits that when the
transaction took place, the holding of Phoolchand was less
than the maximum prescribed limit and such a transfer was
permissible under section 4(2) of the Act. He further submits
that after the Amendment Act of 1972, the competent authority
could only look into the validity of those documents or
transactions which had been entered into after 24th
January, 1971.
6. This argument seems attractive on first blush. However,
when we carefully peruse the original document, we notice that
by this document [Annexure P-2] Phoolchand states that he
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has received Rs.2000/- from Yashchandra and that he has
permitted Yashchandra to enclose and cultivate 1/3rd of his
land measuring 24 acres and cultivate the same and only
Rs. 500/- would be deducted. Even after payment of the full
amount of Rs. 2000/-, Yashchandra would be entitled to
cultivate the land for a period of 10 years. This document is
signed only by Phoolchand and it is neither witnessed by
anybody nor registered. This document transfers an interest in
immovable property of more than rupees hundred. It may be
true that under the provisions of the Code oral leases of
agricultural holdings are permissible, but once the lease is
created by a document then the same has to be registered
under the Registration Act. This document is an unregistered
document. The courts below have come to the conclusion that
this document is an ante-dated document. Therefore, this
document cannot be looked into for deciding whether this
document creates any right, title or interest in the appellants.
In our view, in the absence of any registration or any attesting
witness, the document could have easily been manipulated by
Phoolchand and the plaintiff by ante-dating it.
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7. The second issue raised by Shri Puneet Jain, learned
counsel for the appellants is that the aforesaid document can
be looked into for the collateral purpose for deciding the
possession of the plaintiff. In this regard, Shri Jain, learned
counsel also relied upon the written statement wherein it is
mentioned that the cultivating possession of the plaintiff is
admitted. No doubt, this one sentence in the written statement
gives the impression that possession of the plaintiff is admitted,
but if we read the written statement as a whole we find that the
stand of the State is that the document is a sham document, at
best a mortgage deed and the possession of the plaintiff is in
the nature of a mortgagee.
8. One of the issues framed was whether the plaintiff had
become a cultivating farmer of the land in question and while
answering this issue the trial court has discussed the question
whether the plaintiff was in possession of the land or not. It
has been found that the plaintiff was not in possession of the
land. In fact, the plaintiff himself had admitted that he is not
in possession of the land and cultivation on his behalf is
carried out by a servant. It was also stated that one relative
was managing the cultivation of the land. The trial court held
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that the plaintiff had failed to prove that he was in possession
because he failed to mention the name of the persons who were
owning the neighbouring lands nor could he give any details
thereof. The servant Buda and the relative Amlok Chand were
not examined by the plaintiff. Therefore, even as per the stand
of the plaintiff he was not in personal cultivating possession
and hence, he could not have got occupancy rights of a tenant
in the land which can only be given to a person who is actually
cultivating the land.
9. In view of the above discussion we find no error in the
judgment of the High Court and the appeal is dismissed
accordingly. Pending application(s), if any, stands disposed of.
….……………………..J.
(MADAN B. LOKUR)
.….…………………….J.
(DEEPAK GUPTA)
New Delhi
September 20, 2017