Radhu Hari And Anr. vs Narendra Nath Chatterjee And Anr. on 14 December, 1928

Calcutta High Court
Radhu Hari And Anr. vs Narendra Nath Chatterjee And Anr. on 14 December, 1928
Equivalent citations: AIR 1929 Cal 224
Author: Mitter


Mitter, J.

1. These two appeals are by the defendants and arise out of two rent suits commenced by the plaintiffs respondents. The plaintiffs prayed for recovery of rent at the rate of Rs. 6 and damages at 25 per cent. The case of the plaintiffs is that their predecessor took settlement of the choukidari chakran lands to which the disputed lands appertain and that the defendants are in possession of these lands by doing gratuitous work or begar for 12 days every year in lieu of rent. The defendants contested the suit and amongst other defences they raised the contention that the suit for rent could not be maintained as the stipulation to work for 12 days in the year was arbitrary and indefinite and is opposed to the provisions, of Section 3, Regulation 5 of 1812. The trial Court held that the agreement to do begar work for 12 days has been established in both the cases and decreed the suit at the rate of Rs. 2-4-0 a year in each of these suits. The lower appellate Court has taken the same view.

2. In second appeal by the defendants it has been contended that such an agreement, namely, to do begar in lieu of rent is contrary to public policy and should not be given effect to. It is said that such a contract contravenes the provisions of Section 23, Contract Act. It is also argued that as the contract to do work for 12 days in the year is indefinite and arbitrary such an imposition cannot be made under Section 3, Regulation 5 of 1812. All that Section 3 lays down is that no arbitrary and indefinite imposition could be made in addition to rent, such impositions being in the nature of abwabs. Section 74, Ben. Ten. Act, says that:

all impositions upon tenants under the denomination of abwab, mahtut or other like appellations in addition to the actual rent, shall be illegal, and all stipulations and reservations for the payment of suoh shall be void.

3. There is nothing in Regulation 5 of 1812 to suggest that there cannot be a valid agreement by which in lieu of rent the tenant may agree to perform certain services. There is nothing indefinite in the contract for all that is required of the tenant is work for 12 days in the year. It is not known, it is true, whether 12 days are at the option of the tenant or at the option of the landlord. It has been contended, as I have already said, that Section 3, Regulation 5 of 1812, should be so construed as not to legalise the imposition of the arbitrary rent of this description. It appears, however, that the section of the regulation to which I have referred altered certain of the provisions of Regulation 8 of 1793 which laid down that where abwabs were consolidated with the asil jama into one specific sum, such abwabs could be realised. Besides, there is authority for saying that cases of this description are governed not by the Bengal Tenancy Act but by the Transfer of Property Act. The tenures are really in the nature, of service tenures and I am not satisfied that they are contrary to public policy and are in any way illegal. Such contracts are not unknown in this country. In the circumstances, I think, the view taken by the Courts below is right and these appeals must be dismissed with costs.

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