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Indian Case Summary

K.C. Gajapati Narayana Deo And … vs The State Of Orissa on 30 January, 1953 – Case Summary

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In the case of K.C. Gajapati Narayana Deo and others versus The State of Orissa on 30th January 1953, the Orissa High Court was presented with applications under Article 226 of the Constitution. The applicants sought mandatory writs against the State of Orissa, restraining them from issuing any notifications or taking any other steps under the Orissa Estates Abolition Act, 1 of 1952, in so far as the estates to which these applications relate. These eight applications concern eight permanently settled estates of the ex-Madras area, which since 1-4-1936, became part of the then newly formed State of Orissa. All the applications involve substantially the same questions and are therefore dealt with together.

The case was presided over by a bench consisting of Jagannadhadas and Narasimham. The judgment was delivered by Jagannadha Das, C.J. The case was primarily centered around the Orissa Estates Abolition Act, 1952, the validity of which was the main question arising from these applications. The Act was not one of the Acts mentioned in the 9th Schedule of the Constitution, and therefore, did not get the protection of the new Article 31B. However, the Act obtained the protection of Article 31(4) and of the new Article 31A of the Constitution, in so far as they are applicable to the provisions thereof.

The court observed that the trend of economic and political thought of the nation has insisted upon the abolition of Zamindari tenure and the elimination of intermediaries between the State and the cultivator as the first step in any general measure of agrarian reform. It was considered that concentration of large blocks of land in the hands of a limited number of Zamindars denying fair distribution thereof to the cultivators and the existence of intermediaries between the State and the cultivators, tending to insecurity and oppressive rents for the tillers of the soil, and the development of absentee landlordism and sub-in-feudation of tenures, have produced deleterious effects on the improvement of agriculture which is the main occupation of the predominantly large rural population of the country.

The court also noted that the Orissa Estates Abolition Act, 1952, provides for the transference of the ownership of the estate of any landed proprietor from him to the State on the issue of a notification for such estate. It authorizes the State Government to take over the possession and management of the estate and converts the previous raiyat of the proprietor into a raiyat of the State. It also transforms the temporary cultivator or tenant of the proprietor into a tenant of the State. It provides for payment of compensation to the dispossessed proprietor on certain principles prescribed by it.

The court further observed that the Act, unlike its sister Act of Bihar, sets out the public purpose, which inspired the legislative measure, in clear and unmistakable terms in its preamble. The transference of the ownership of the estates from the proprietors to the State is brought about by the definition of the words “estate”, “intermediary” and “date of vesting” taken with the provisions of Section 3 of the Act, which empowers the State Government to declare by notification from time to time that the estates specified in those notifications have passed to and become vested in the State free from all encumbrances.

The court concluded that the objections to the validity of the Act as a whole were based on the assumption that what has in fact been decided by the Supreme Court is that the Estates Abolition Acts are not open to challenge only on the grounds that the scheme of acquisition of zamindaries is not for a public purpose or that the compensation provided is grossly inadequate

or in some instances illusory or on the ground that the same is arbitrarily discriminatory. The court rejected these arguments, stating that the requirements of a valid law relating to compulsory acquisition must be found with reference to the terms of Article 31(2) of the Constitution itself.

The court also examined the scheme of the Act, noting that it provides for the transference of the ownership of the estate of any landed proprietor from him to the State on the issue of a notification for such estate. It authorizes the State Government to take over the possession and management of the estate and converts the previous raiyat of the proprietor into a raiyat of the State. It also transforms the temporary cultivator or tenant of the proprietor into a tenant of the State. It provides for payment of compensation to the dispossessed proprietor on certain principles prescribed by it.

The court further observed that the Act, unlike its sister Act of Bihar, sets out the public purpose, which inspired the legislative measure, in clear and unmistakable terms in its preamble. The transference of the ownership of the estates from the proprietors to the State is brought about by the definition of the words “estate”, “intermediary” and “date of vesting” taken with the provisions of Section 3 of the Act, which empowers the State Government to declare by notification from time to time that the estates specified in those notifications have passed to and become vested in the State free from all encumbrances.

The court concluded that the objections to the validity of the Act as a whole were based on the assumption that what has in fact been decided by the Supreme Court is that the Estates Abolition Acts are not open to challenge only on the grounds that the scheme of acquisition of zamindaries is not for a public purpose or that the compensation provided is grossly inadequate or in some instances illusory or on the ground that the same is arbitrarily discriminatory. The court rejected these arguments, stating that the requirements of a valid law relating to compulsory acquisition must be found with reference to the terms of Article 31(2) of the Constitution itself.

The court also examined the scheme of compensation under the Act, noting that it is calculated at a certain number of years’ purchase of the net annual income of the estate during the previous agricultural year. The multiple of the net annual income taken for the calculation of compensation is one, based on a sliding scale applicable to the net income of the estate on a slab system, the largest multiple being applicable to the lowest slab, and the smallest multiple to the highest slab.

The court finally held that the Orissa Estates Abolition Act, 1952, was valid and constitutional, rejecting the applications for mandatory writs against the State of Orissa. The court’s decision was based on a detailed examination of the Act, its provisions, and the principles of the Constitution, as well as the prevailing economic and political thought of the nation.