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The State Of Maharashtra vs Shri Murarao Malojirao Ghorpade on 16 October, 2009

Bombay High Court
The State Of Maharashtra vs Shri Murarao Malojirao Ghorpade on 16 October, 2009
Bench: S.B. Mhase, A.M. Khanwilkar
                             1


          IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY




                                                                   
                  CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION 

                     SECOND APPEAL NO. 411 OF 1990




                                           
     1.   The State of Maharashtra,              )       Appellant 




                                          
                                                         Orig.Defendant
     2.   Chairman, Surplus Lands                )
          Determination Tribunal,                )
          Ajara, District - Kolhapur.            )




                                
     3.   The Chairman, Lands Distribution
                   ig                            )
          Tribunal, Ajara, Dist. - Kolhapur.     )
                 
                       Versus


     1.   Shri Murarao Malojirao Ghorpade,       )
      

          Age 56 years, Occu: Agri.& Service,    )
          Gajendragad at Present Nipani, )
   



          District - Belagaum.                   )

     2.   Smt. Ashwanidevi W/o. Shanbhusing )
          Ghorpade, age 34, r/o - do-       )





     3.   Shri Daulatrao Shambhusing Ghorpade,)
          Age 14, Minor, through G.A. L.    )
          Plaintiff No.2.                   ).... Respondents
                                                 (Org.Plaintiffs )





                --

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ALONG WITH

CIVIL APPLICATION NO. 2431 OF 1993
IN
SECOND APPEAL NO. 411 OF 1990

1. The State of Maharashtra, )

2. Chairman, Surplus Lands )
Determination Tribunal, )
Ajara, District – Kolhapur. )

3. The Chairman, Lands Distribution
ig )
Tribunal, Ajara, Dist. – Kolhapur. ).. Petitioners

Versus

1. Shri Murarao Malojirao Ghorpade, )
Age 56 years, Occu: Agri.& Service, )
Gajendragad at Present Nipani, )

District – Belagaum. )

2. Smt. Ashwanidevi W/o. Shanbhusing )
Ghorpade, age 34, r/o – do- )

3. Shri Daulatrao Shambhusing Ghorpade,)

Age 14, Minor, through G.A. L./ )
Respondent/Plaintiff No.2. ).. Respondents
(Org.Plaintiffs )

S/Shri R.M. Kadam, Advocate General, with A.A. Kumbhakoni,
N.P. Deshpande, AGP and Ms G.P. Mulekar, AGP for the
Appellants.

S/Shri D.J. Khambatta, Additional Solicitor General, Amicus
Curaie.

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Shri Shekhar Jagtap with Mrs. Manisha S. Jagtap and Shailesh
Chavan i/by M/s. J. Shekhar & Co. for Respondent Nos.1 and 2.

Shri S.P. Thorat for Respondent No.3.

                   CORAM :        SWATANTER KUMAR, C.J.,
                                  S.B. MHASE, A.M. KHANWILKAR, 




                                                  
                                  A.S. OKA & R.M. SAVANT, JJ 




                                     
     JUDGMENT RESERVED ON       :   14TH SEPTEMBER, 2009
                     

JUDGMENT PRONOUNCED ON : 16TH OCTOBER, 2009

JUDGMENT : ( PER SWATANTER KUMAR, C.J. )

The State of Maharashtra enacted the Maharashtra

Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holdings) Act, 1961 (hereinafter

referred to as “the Act”), primarily with an object to give effect to

the State policy so that the operation of the economic system does

not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production

to the common detriment as well as to ensure the ownership and

control of the material resources of the community are so

distributed as best to subserve the common good. The Directive

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Principles of State policy contained under Part IV of the

Constitution of India had attained a different significance and

legal stature of the Directive Principles was uplifted by the 25th

Amendment Act, 1971 of the Constitution. Article 31-C of the

Constitution states that, notwithstanding anything contained in

Article 13, no law giving effect to the policy of the State towards

securing all or any of the principles laid down in Part IV shall be

deemed to be void on the ground that it is inconsistent with, or

takes away or abridges any of the rights conferred by Article 14 or

Article 19 of the Constitution, and no law containing a declaration

that it is for giving effect to such policy shall be called in question

in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such

policy. Article 39 of the Constitution places an obligation upon

the State under Clauses (b) and (c) to ensure and appropriately

control the distribution and ownership of material resources

available to the community. The Act, therefore, was intended to

unequivocally declare the State policy towards securing principles

specified in Clauses (b) and (c) of Article 39 of the Constitution.

The implementation of the provisions of the Act faced number of

practical and legal impediments and the Act, within the span of

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1962 to 2006, was subjected to State Amendment Bills by

amending different provisions of the said Act 23 times, including

latest amendment by Maharashtra Act 8 of 2006. The Amendment

of 2006 was introduced by the Legislature to impose a maximum

limit or ceiling on holdings of agricultural land in the State of

Maharashtra and to provide for acquisition and distribution of

land held in excess of such ceiling.

2.

Ours is an agricultural country with large population

living in the rural areas and depending upon agriculture for their

livelihood. It was felt necessary by the framers of the Act to

provide that the lands taken over from undertakings and the

integrity of which is maintained in compact blocks, for ensuring

the full and efficient use of the land for agriculture and its

efficient management through a Corporation or Company, the aim

was made clear to secure and distribute the agricultural land as

best to subserve the common good and thus it was felt expedient

in the public interest to impose a maximum limit or ceiling on

acquisition of land. Section 3 of the Act incorporated the

prohibition on holding land in excess of ceiling area declaring the

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area in excess of ceiling to be surplus lands. Constitutional

validity of Section 3 of the Act was challenged before a bench of

this Court.

3. The Amending Act 21 of 1975 had introduced two

important changes viz. definition of ‘family unit’ and requiring a

landholder in the State to declare the agricultural land holding in

any other part of the State and States in India for the purposes of

clubbing together, in order to determine the ceiling on holdings.

By these amendments, the landholders also had a grievance, as

under the earlier Act the land possessed by them was lower than

the ceiling limit but by amendment, even that land was partially

adversely affected. The land owners were required to file fresh

returns within the specified time under the amended Act, even

declaring the lands held by them situated in other States of India.

Various Writ Petitions were filed from time to time which came to

be clubbed together before different Benches of this Court. The

Division Bench which was hearing the bunch of cases was inter

alia concerned with the challenge to the definition of the ‘family

unit’ and lowering of the limit. They came to be disposed of by a

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judgment of this Court in the case of Vithalrao Udhaorao Uttarwar

v. The State of Maharashtra, AIR 1977 Bom. 99. However, as a

result of oversight, some matters were not listed before the Court

and they came up for hearing before another Division Bench. The

Division Bench hearing other group of the matters at Nagpur

found that they were unable to agree with the conclusions reached

by the Division Bench at Bombay. In fact, the Judges presiding

over the Division Bench differed with each other on the question

of extra territorial jurisdiction. The judgment of the Court in

Vithalrao’s case (supra) was challenged before the Supreme Court

but in that Petition, the question of extra territoriality of the

ceiling provision had not been raised. In these circumstances, the

matter was placed before the Full Bench on the issue whether the

question should be determined by the Full Bench itself or the

matter needs to be referred to a 3rd Judge as a member of the

Division Bench at Nagpur had differed on certain basic issues,

therefore, the Full Bench while dealing with the case of

Shankarrao & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra, 1980 MhLJ 888

decided to deal and decide the questions of law by itself ( Full

Bench). At this stage itself, it will be relevant to refer to the

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questions framed by the Full Bench. Paragraph 4 of the said

judgment reads as under: –

“4. Since the other challenges are negatived by
the judgment of the Supreme Court, the referring
judgment framed as many as three points. With the

consent of the learned counsel on either side, we
have reframed the questions as below:-

(1) Whether the scheme of section 3(1), (2) and
ig (3) read with section 4(1) as well as section
6 of the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands
(Ceiling on Holdings) Act, 1961, is extra-
territorial in operation?

(2) Whether the provisions of Chapter III
regarding the restrictions on transfers,
acquisitions, partitions and consequences

ensuing as well as the penalties or liabilities
provided for by Sections 10(3), 21-A, 40-A

and section 43-A have extra-territorial
operation ?

(3) Whether there exist nexus which is sufficient

and pertinent for the purpose of the present
law ?

4. On these questions, the Full Bench found that the

provisions of the Maharashtra Act were extra-territorial in their

operation and therefore declared the same as beyond the

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competence of State Legislature and, in paragraph 27 of the

Judgment, the Full Bench concluded as under:-

“27. The next question that arises for our
consideration is whether these provisions are
severable and is it possible to save the Act minus

those provisions ? We think it is quite possible to
give pointed references to certain words and
expressions which, if deleted, would give full
effect to our conclusions in this judgment.

Accordingly, we declare that in sub-section (2) of
section 3 the word “whether” in the first line, and

the group of words “or any other part of India”,
occurring in the second line, should be declared
beyond the competence of the State Legislature

and should be struck down. As a consequence, the
entire Explanation clause to sub-section (2) is
unlawful and is being declared inoperative and
beyond the competence of the State Legislature.

We further hold that the last sentence in sub-
section (1) of section 43A beginning with the

words “The person” and ending with the words “to
any Tahsildar” (i.e. “The person shall also furnish
such particular of land held by him, if any, in any
other part of India to any Tahasildar” should also

be declared beyond the competence of State
Legislature. If these provisions are struck down as
beyond the competence of the State Legislature, as
they have the effect of operating extra-territorially,
there is no other challenge before us so far as the

Ceiling Act is concerned.”

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5. Thus, the Full Bench settled the position of law as far

as this Court is concerned in the year 1980, whereafter certain

cases had been decided by different Benches of this Court

following the law enunciated by the Full Bench.

6. One Murarao Malojirao Ghorpade instituted suit for

declaration that the order passed in Ceiling Case No.43A and as

confirmed by the Chairman Surplus Land Determination Tribunal

was bad, illegal, null and void, without jurisdiction and

inoperative for different reasons and particularly inter alia that the

judgment of the Full Bench of this Court in Shankarrao’s case

(supra) was the foundation of the suit. The suit was decreed in

favour of the Plaintiff. The Appeal filed by the State (Civil Appeal

No.46 of 1984) also came to be dismissed vide judgment of the 3rd

Additional District and Sessions Judge, Kolhapur dated 23rd

October, 1989. Being aggrieved by the affirmation of the decree

of the Trial Court dated 15th October, 1983 by the Appellate Court,

the State felt aggrieved and filed the Second Appeal before this

Court challenging the decisions of the Courts below. It was

contended that the Full Bench decision of the Court in

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Shankarrao’s case (supra) was not applicable to the facts of this

Case. When this Appeal came up for hearing before the learned

Single Judge of this Court for final disposal, the judgment of the

Supreme Court in the case of Shrikant Bhalchandra Karulkar &

Ors. v. State of Gujarat, (1994)5 SCC 459 was brought to the

notice of the learned Single Judge. The contention was raised

that in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court, the decision of

the Full Bench of this Court was no longer a good law while on

behalf of the Respondents, the contention was that the decision of

the Full Bench was binding on the learned Single Judge and the

Court should follow the law stated rather than referring the matter

to a Larger Bench. The learned Single Judge formed an opinion

that the matter should be referred to a Larger Bench under Rule 7

Chapter I of the Bombay High Court (Appellate Side) Rules, 1960.

The order of Reference dated 28th July, 2009 reads as under:-

“1. The Second Appeal has been preferred

by the State contending that the Courts below have
wrongly interpreted the judgment of the Full Bench
in the case of Shankarrao v/s. State of Maharashtra,
1980 Mh.L.J. 888. It is also the case of the
appellant that the Full Bench judgment of this Court
will not hold the field today in view of the decision

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of the Supreme Court in the case of Shrikant
Bhalchandra & Ors. v/s. State of Gujarat, 1994 (5)

SCC 459. According to the appellants, both the
Courts below have not interpreted the provisions of
the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on

Holdings) Act in its true spirit.

2. The question raised is whether while

determining the land holding of a person in excess
of the ceiling area it is necessary to club all lands
owned by him anywhere in India with the lands
owned by him in the State of Maharashtra. While

interpreting section 3(1) of the Maharashtra
Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holdings) Act (for

short, hereinafter referred to as `the Ceiling Act’),
the Full Bench has opined that State of Maharashtra
did not have legislative competence to decide about

the holdings of a person in areas other than the
State of Maharashtra. As a consequence it was
held that the explanation to subsection (2) of
section 3 is unlawful and inoperative and beyond

the competence of the State Legislature. The last
sentence in subsection (1) of section 43A of the Act,

requiring a person to furnish particulars of the land
held by him in other parts of India to the Tehsildar
was also declared to be beyond the competence of
the State Legislature. While so holding the Full

Bench considered similar provisions in the State of
Gujarat and other adjoining states. The Court
observed that the Agricultural Ceiling Acts of
Gujarat and Maharashtra are similar and on par,
whereas the Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh

Acts, although similar do not take cognisance of
holdings of agricultural lands by the holders in any
other part of India.

3. The Supreme Court in the case of
Shrikant Bhalchandra Karulkar & Ors. (supra), was

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dealing with the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling
Act, 1960. The Supreme Court observed that in

view of the provisions of Article 245 and 246 of the
Constitution of India, the State Legislature has no
legislative competence to make laws having extra

territorial operation. The Supreme Court observed
thus:

7. It is no doubt correct that under
Articles 245 and 246 of the Constitution of
India the Legislature of a State can make
laws for the State or any part thereof. It

would be overstepping the limits of its
ig legislative field when it purports to affect
men and property outside the State. In other
words the State Legislature has no legislative
competence to make laws which have

extraterritorial operation. Meaning of the
words “extraterritorial operation” have been
authoritatively laid down by this court in
various judgments. A State Legislature has

plenary jurisdiction to enact laws in respect
of subjects i Lists II and III, Seventh

Schedule, Constitution of India. Such laws
may be in respect of person within the
territory, of property – immovable or
movable – situated within the State, or of

acts and events which occur within its
borders. So long as the law made by the
State Legislature is applicable to the persons
residing within its territory and to all things
and acts within its territory, it cannot be

considered extraterritorial. This Court – over
a period of three decades – has evolved a
principle called “doctrine of territorial nexus”
to find out whether the provisions of a
particular State law have extraterritorial
operation. The doctrine is well-established

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that there is no dispute as to its principles. If
there is a territorial nexus between the

persons/property subject-matter of the Act
and the State seeking to comply with the
provisions of the Act then the Statute cannot

be considered as having extraterritorial
operation. Sufficiency of the territorial
connection involves consideration of two
elements, the connection must be real and

not illusory and the liability sought to be
imposed under the Act must be relevant to
that connection. The Act has to satisfy the
principles of territorial nexus which are

essentially discernible from the factual
ig application of the provisions of the Act.

4. It then observed that within the State a ceiling

can be fixed by law beyond which no person can
hold agricultural land and if for determining the
extent of the ceiling the land held by the person
outside the State is taken into consideration such a

provision of law pertaining to fixation of such a
ceiling would not become extra territorial. This is

because in pith and substance, the law remains a
legislation, imposing the ceiling on holding of land
within the State, under the Entry 18 List II r/w Entry
42 List III, 7th Schedule of the Constitution of India.

5. The learned Counsel for the appellants herein
submits that in view of the ratio in the case of
Shrikant Bhalchandra Karulkar (supra), the decision

of the Full Bench would no longer be a good law. It
is submitted that the observations of the Full Bench
judgment in the case of the Shankarrao (supra),
would have to be revisited especially in light of para
9 of the judgment in Shrikant Bhalchandra Karulkar
(supra). Para 9 reads as under:

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9. “……. It is obvious that the provisions
of Section 6(3-A) of the Act and Section
3(2) of the Bombay Act are entirely

different. On the plain reading of Section
3(2) of the Bombay Act it is patent that the
Maharashtra Legislature was making law in
respect of the land held by a person

anywhere in India. The expression “all
land held by a person or as the case may be
by a family unit whether in this part of the
Maharashtra Legislature to make

extraterritorial law. No assistance can, thus,
igbe taken by the learned Counsel from the
Full Bench judgment of the Bombay High
Court. Even otherwise we are of the view
that various observations made by the

learned Judges of the Bombay High Court
are, rather, broadly stated and require to be
straightened, if necessary, in some
appropriate proceedings.”

6. According to the learned counsel appearing for
the State, the observations made by the Full Bench
must be reconsidered in the light of the ruling of the
Supreme Court while dealing with the Gujarat

Agricultural Land Ceiling Act 1960. He therefore
submits that the matter be placed before the learned
Chief Justice under Rule 7 Chapter 1 of the Bombay
High Court (Appellate Side) Rules, 1960.

7. The learned advocate for the respondent
submits that such an exercise would not be
necessary. She points out the judgment of the
Supreme Court in the case of Tribhovandas
Purshottam Thakkar vs. Ratilal Motilal Patel, AIR

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1968 SC 372 and submits that the Full Bench
judgment is binding on the Single Judge of this

Court and, therefore, there would be no need to
place the matter before a larger Bench.

8. There can be no doubt that the judgment of
the Full Bench is binding on a Single Judge of this
Court. However, in view of the judgment of the

Supreme Court in the case of Shrikant Bhalchandra
Karurkar (supra), in my opinion, it would be
appropriate to place the matter before the learned
Chief Justice for necessary directions under Rule 7

Chapter 1 of the Bombay High Court (Appellate
Side) Rules, 1960.

9. Registry to take necessary steps accordingly.”

7. In view of the above Order of Reference and in view

of the fact that the correctness of the law stated by Full Bench of

this Court in Shankarrao’s case (supra) was questioned, the matter

was referred to the present Bench consisting of five Judges.

When the matter came up for hearing, it was noticed that the

learned Single Judge had not formulated any question and/or

proposition of law which is required to be considered by the

Larger Bench as suggested by the learned Single Judge in the

Order of Reference. When the matter came up for hearing before

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us on 26th August, 2009 and after hearing the learned counsel

appearing for the parties, we felt that it will be appropriate to

formulate the questions which need to be examined by the Larger

Bench during the course of hearing. Thus, in paragraph 4 of our

Order, we recorded the questions as under:-

“4. As no question of reference to be answered

by this Bench has been formulated by the learned
Single Judge vide order dated 28th July, 2009, we

would like to prefer to state broadly the matters in
issue before this Bench:

(a) What is the scope of an order of reference
and whether the order of reference was
called for in view of the Judgment of the
Supreme Court in the case of Shrikant

Bhalchandra Karulkar & Ors. v. State of
Gujarat,
1994(5) SCC 459.

(b) How the law declared by the Full Bench of
this Court could be construed in light of the
judgment of the Supreme Court and what

will be its effect and consequences;

(c) Whether the judgment of this Bench would
relate back to the date of earlier decision of
the Full Bench or will be given effect

prospectively in view of the fact that the
Full Bench had declared the provisions of
Section 43A(1) of the Maharashtra
Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holdings)
Act, 1961 as ultra vires.”

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8. From paragraph 4 of our order dated 26th August,

2009, it necessarily follows that the first and foremost question to

be considered by us relate to the law of precedents and judicial

propriety.

9. Salmond on Jurisprudence discusses in some detail

the origin and significance of judicial precedents. In the 12th

Edition of Salmond on Jurisprudence, it has been recorded that

the importance of judicial precedents has always been a

distinguishing characteristic of English law. In recent years, the

value of doctrine of precedent has been much debated. It has two

meanings. The first, which may be called the loose meaning, and

the second, the strict meaning. Under the first meaning,

precedents are reported, may be cited, and will probably be

followed by the courts. Whilst in the second meaning, precedents

not only have great authority but must in certain circumstances be

followed. It is said that the practice is necessary to secure the

certainty of the law, predictability of decisions being more

important than approximation to an ideal, any very unsatisfactory

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decision can be reversed for the future by statute. Judicial

decisions may be distinguished as authoritative and persuasive.

An authoritative precedent is one which judges must follow

whether they approve of it or not. A persuasive precedent is one

which the judges are under no obligation to follow, but which they

will take into consideration, and to which they will attach such

weight as it seems to them to deserve. In other words,

authoritative precedents are legal sources of law, while persuasive

precedents are merely historical. ( Ref : Salmond on Jurisprudence,

12th Edition, by P.J. Fitzgerald. )

10. A Full Bench of this Court in the case of M/s. Emkay

Exports & Anr. v. Madhusudan Shrikrishna, 2008(4) MhLJ 843,

while dealing with the concept of precedent and significance in

judicial decision making process, held as under:-

“6. The concept of precedent has attained

important role in administration of justice
in the modern times. The case before the
Court should be decided in accordance
with law and the doctrines. The mind of
the Court should be clearly reflecting on
the material in issue with regard to the

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facts of the case. The reason and spirit of
case make law and not the letter of a

particular precedent. Halsbury’s “The
Laws of England”, explained the word
“ratio decidendi” as “It may be laid down

as a general rule that that part alone of a
decision by a Court of Law is binding
upon Courts of coordinate jurisdiction and
inferior Courts which consists of the

enunciation of the reason or principle
upon which the question before the Court
has really been determined. This
underlying principle which forms the only

authoritative element of a precedent is
ig often termed the ratio decidendi.” It is by
the choice of material facts that the Court
create law. The law so created would be
a good precedent for similar subsequent

cases unless it falls within the exceptions
hereinafter indicated.

7. The doctrine of precedent relates to

following of previous decisions within its
limitations. It introduces the concept of

finality and adherence to the previous
decisions and while attaining it, it creates
consistency in application of law. The
later judgment should be similar to the

earlier judgment, which on material facts
are the same. Finding ratio decidendi is
not a mechanical process but an art which
one gradually acquires through practice.
What is really involved in finding the ratio

decidendi of a case is the process of
abstraction. Ratio decidendi is a term
used in contrast to obiter dictum which is
not necessariloy binding in law.

According to Sir John Salmond, “a
precedent is a judicial decision, which

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contains in itself a principle. The only
principle which forms its authoritative

element is often termed the `ratio
decidendi’. The concrete decision is
binding between the parties to it, but it is

the abstract ratio decidendi which alone
has the force of law as regards the world
at large”. According to Austin, the
general reasons or principles of judicial

decision abstracted from peculiarities of
the case are commonly styled by writers
on jurisprudence as `ratio decidendi’.

8. Amongst the principles of law governing
ig the binding value of judgments, doctrine
of precedent is not only a well accepted
principle but is one fo the most pertinent
facets of judicial interpretation. A ruling

of Bench of higher court is considered to
be binding on the lower courts and the
courts having a smaller Bench structure.

Earlier judgments are even taken to be

binding on subsequent equi Bench unless
and until reasons compelling for taking a

divergent view are stated. To apply this
principle, the court must examine by
process of appropriate reasoning as to the
applicability of the precedent cited before

the court or even which of the views
expressed by a higher court or even a
larger Bench or even a Bench of equi
strength is more aptly applicable to the
facts and circumstances of the case in

hand. The essence of law of precedent is
its applicability on the basis of ratio
decidendi. The importance and
significance of adherence to alw of
precedent was emphasized by the
Supreme Court in the case of S.I. Rooplal

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and another v. Lt. Governor through Chief
Secretary, Delhi and others, A.I.R. 2000

SC 594.”

11. With the development of law, the doctrine of

precedents has become an integral part of judicial discipline. The

doctrine of precedent is a habit of following previous decisions

within more or less well-defined limits. What the doctrine of

precedent declares is that cases must be decided the same way

when their material facts are the same. The part of a case that is

said to possess authority is the “ratio decidendi”. Finding “ratio

decidendi” is not a mechanical process but is an art that one

gradually acquires through practice and study. What is really

involved in finding the “ratio decidendi” of a case is a process of

abstraction. The ascertainment of the “ratio decidendi” of a case

depends upon a process of abstraction from the totality of facts

that occured in it. The higher the abstraction, the wider the “ratio

decidendi”. In contrast with the “ratio decidendi” is the “obiter

dictum”. “Obiter dictum” is a mere saying by the way, a chance

remark, which is not binding on the future Courts, though it may

be respected according to reputation of the Judge, the eminence of

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the Court and the circumstances in which it came to be

pronounced. The reason for not regarding an “obiter dictum” as

binding is that it was probably made without a full consideration

of the case on the point, and that, if very broad in its terms, it was

probably made without a full consideration of all the

consequences that may follow from it; or the judge may not have

expressed a concluded opinion. ( Ref : Paper submitted in Third

Workshop of 2005 on the Subject of Law of Precedents and

appropriate use of case law in Court working by U.B. Shukla.)

12. In light of the above, now let us examine some

judgments of the Supreme Court which have some bearing on the

issue before us. In the case of Tribhovandas Purshottamdas

Thakkar v. Ratilal Motilal Patel & Ors., AIR 1968 SC 372, the

Supreme Court examined the question as to when a reference can

be made to a Full Bench and whether mere irregularity in the

constitution of Full Bench would nullify the law laid down by the

so constituted larger bench. The Supreme Court held as under: –

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“10. The effect of a precedent of the Gujarat High
Court fell to be considered indirectly in this case.

Before Raju, J., it was urged for the first time in the
course of this litigation that in the absence of the
sanction of the Charity Commissioner the Court sale

was invalid. Counsel for the auction purchaser
contended that this question was not raised before the
District Court and that Court cannot be said to have
acted illegally or with material irregularity in not

deciding the question. Counsel for the auction
purchaser relied upon two decisions in support of that
proposition : Pinjare Karimbhai v Shukla Hariprasad,
1962-3 Guj LR 529 and Haridas v Ratansey, 23 Bom LR
802: (AIR 1922 Bom 149). He urged that under the

Bombay Reorganization Act, 1960, the jurisdiction of
the Bombay High Court which originally extended over

the territory now forming part of the State of Gujarat,
ceased when a new High Court was set up in the State
of Gujarat, but it was held by a Full Bench of the High
Court of Gujarat in State of Gujarat v Gordhandas, 3

Guj LR 269: (AIR 1962 Guj 128) (FB) that the decision
of the Bombay High Court will be regarded as binding
since the Gujarat High Court had inherited the
jurisdiction, power and authority in respect of the

territory of Gujarat. When pressed with the
observations made in the two cases cited at the Bar,

Raju, J., found an easy way out. He observed that the
judgment of the Full Bench of the Gujarat High Court
had “no existence in law”, for in the absence of a
provision in the Constitution and the Charter Act of
1861, a Judge of a High Court had no power to refer a

case to a Full Bench for determination of a question of
law arising before him, and a decision given on a
reference “had no existence n law”. The learned Judge
also thought that if a Judge or a Division Bench of a
Court makes a reference on a question of law to a Full

Bench for decision, it would in effect be assuming the
jurisdiction which is vested by the Charter of the Court
in the Chief Justice of the High Court. In so observing
the learned Judge completely misconceived the nature
of a reference made by a Judge or a Bench of Judges to
a large Bench. When it appears as a Single Judge or a
Division Bench that there are conflicting decisions of

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the same Court, or there are decisions of other High
Courts in India which are strongly persuasive and take

a different view from the view which prevails in his or
their High Court, or that a question of law of
importance arises in the trial of a case, the Judge or the

Bench passes an order that the papers be placed before
the Chief Justice of the High Court with a request to
form a special or Full Bench to hear and dispose of the
case or the questions raised in the case. For making

such a request to the Chief Justice, no authority of the
Constitution or of the Charter of the High Court is
needed, and by making such a request a Judge does
not assume to himself the powers of the Chief Justice.
A Single Judge does not by himself refer the matter to

the Full Bench: he only requests the Chief Justice to
constitute a Full Bench for hearing the matter. Such a

Bench is constituted by the Chief Justice. The Chief
Justice of a Court may as a rule, out of deference to the
views expressed by his colleague, refer to the case; that
does not mean, however, that the source of the

authority is in the order of reference. Again it would
be impossible to h old that a judgment delivered by a
Full Bench of a High Court after due consideration of
the points before it is liable to be regarded as irrelevant

by Judges of that Court on the ground of some alleged
irregularity in the constitution of the Full Bench.”

13. While citing the above judgment with approval, the

Supreme Court again in the case of Sub-Inspector Rooplal & Anr. v.

Lt. Governor Through Chief Secretary, Delhi & Ors., (2000)1 SCC

644 considered the question that subordinate Court is bound by

the precedent of superior court, and a Bench of a Court is bound

by the precedent of a Coordinate Bench. While discussing the

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jurisprudential basis for honouring a precedent, the Supreme

Court also expressed a view that even the co-ordinate bench

cannot pronounce a judgment contrary to declaration of law made

by another Bench. The Supreme Court held as under: –

“12. At the outset, we must express our
serious dissatisfaction in regard to the manner in
which a Coordinate Bench of the Tribunal has

overruled, in effect, an earlier judgment of another
Coordinate Bench of the same Tribunal. This is

opposed to all principles of judicial discipline. If at all,
the subsequent Bench of the Tribunal was of the
opinion that the earlier view taken by the Coordinate
Bench of the same Tribunal was incorrect, it ought to

have referred the matter to a larger Bench so that the
difference of opinion between the two Coordinate
Benches on the same point could have been avoided.

It is not as if the latter Bench was unaware of the

judgment of the earlier Bench but knowingly it
proceeded to disagree with the said judgment against
all known rules of precedents. Precedents which

enunciate rules of law form the foundation of
administration of justice under our system. This is a
fundamental principle which every presiding officer of
a judicial forum ought to know, for consistency in

interpretation of law alone can lead to public
confidence in our judicial system. This Court has laid
down time and again that precedent law must be
followed by all concerned; deviation from the same
should be only on a procedure known to law. A

subordinate court is bound by the enunciation of law
made by the superior courts. A Coordinate Bench of a
Court cannot pronounce judgment contrary to
declaration of law made by another Bench. It can only
refer it to a larger Bench if it disagrees with the earlier
pronouncement. This Court in the case of
Tribhovandas Purshottamdas Thakkar v Ratilal Motilal

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Patel, AIR 1968 SC 372, while dealing with a case in
which a Judge of the High Court had failed to follow

the earlier judgment of a larger Bench of the same
Court observed thus:

“The judgment of the Full Bench of the Gujarat
High Court was binding upon Raju, J. If the
learned Judge was of the view that the decision
of Bhagwati, J., in Pinjare Karimbhai case,

(1962) 3 Guj LR 529 and of Macleod, C.J., in
Haridas case, AIR 1922 Bom 149(2) did not lay
down the correct law or rule of practice, it was
open to him to recommend to the Chief Justice
that the question be considered by a larger

Bench. Judicial decorum, propriety and
ig discipline required that he should not ignore it.

Our system of administration of justice aims at
certainty in the law and that can be achieved
only if Judges do not ignore decisions by courts
of coordinate authority or of superior authority.

Gajendragadkar, C.J., observed in Bhagwan v
Ram Chand, AIR 1965 SC 1767 :

‘It is hardly necessary to emphasise that

considerations of judicial propriety and
decorum require that if a learned Single

Judge hearing a matter is inclined to take
the view that the earlier decisions of the
High Court, whether of a Division Bench or
of a Single Judge, need to be reconsidered,
he should not embark upon that inquiry

sitting as a Single Judge, but should refer
the matter to a Division Bench, or, in a
proper case, place the relevant papers
before the Chief Justice to enable him to
constitute a larger Bench to examine the

question. That is the proper and traditional
way to deal with such matters and it is
founded on healthy principles of judicial
decorum and propriety.’ ”

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14. The respect for the law of precedent was illucidated

by the Supreme Court again in the case of Govenment of Andhra

Pradesh & Anr. v. B. Satyanarayana Rao (Dead) by Lrs. & Ors.,

(2000)4 SCC 262, where the Court explained rule of per incuriam

decisions and held as under: –

“8. ….. The rule of per incuriam can be applied

where a court omits to consider a binding precedent
of the same court or the superior court rendered on
the same issue or where a court omits to consider
any statute while deciding that issue. ……”

15. Similarly, in the case of Lily Thomas & Ors. v. Union of

India & Ors., (2000)6 SCC 224, the Supreme Court reiterated the

principle that rulings of larger benches should be followed and

those of coordinate benches of equal strength not be differed from

and must be followed. The Supreme Court also observed that the

division bench would not be justified in ignoring the full bench

judgment or even that of a coordinate bench.

16. The law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on

all the Courts but such a decision has to be made on the expected

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norms of the ratio decidendi. The Supreme Court itself stated a

word of caution that the judgment of the Supreme Court and the

law declared should not be applied mechanically but after due

examination and specifying the fact that the judgments are really

applicable to the facts and circumstances of the case. In the case

of Delhi Administration (Now NCT of Delhi) v. Manohar Lal,

(2002)7 SCC 222, the Court held as under:-

“5.

ig We have carefully considered the submissions
of the learned counsel appearing on either side.

Apparently, the learned Judge in the High Court was
merely swayed by considerations of judicial comity
and propriety and failed to see that merely because
this Court has issued directions in some other cases, to
deal with the fact situation in those other cases, in the

purported exercise of its undoubted inherent and
plenary powers to do complete justice, keeping aside

even technicalities, the High Court, exercising
statutory powers under the criminal laws of the land,
could not afford to assume to itself the powers or
jurisdiction to do the same or similar things. The High

Court and all other courts in the country were no
doubt ordained to follow and apply the law declared
by this Court, but that does not absolve them of the
obligation and responsibility to find out the ratio of
the decision and ascertain the law, if any, so declared
from a careful reading of the decision concerned and

only thereafter proceed to apply it appropriately, to
the cases before them. Considered in that context, we
could not find from the decisions reported in
Sukumaran and Santosh Kumar any law having been
declared or any principle or question of law having
been decided or laid down therein and that in those

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cases this Court merely proceeded to give certain
directions to dispose of the matter in the special

circumstances noticed by it and the need felt, in those
cases, by this Court to give such a disposal. The same
could not have been mechanically adopted as a

general formula to dispose of, as a matter of routine,
all cases coming before any or all the courts as a
universal and invariable solution in all such future
cases also. The High Court had no justifying reason to

disturb the conclusion of the first appellate court, in
this regard.”

17. The importance of following the law declared by the

Supreme Court was emphasized by the Court in the case of State

of Punjab v. Bhag Singh, (2004)1 SCC 547 where the Supreme

Court said that judicial discipline to abide by declaration of law by

the Supreme Court cannot be forsaken under any pretext by any

authority or court, be it even the highest court in a State, oblivious

to Article 141 of the Constitution.

18. Of course, it was aptly stated by the Supreme Court in

R.L. Jain (D) By Lrs. v. DDA & Others, (2004)4 SCC 79, that a

decision is an authority for what it actually decides. What is of the

essence in a decision is its ratio and not every observation found

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therein nor what logically follows from the various observations

made therein.

19. Normally, the judgment of a higher Court or a larger

bench or coordinate bench would be binding on a bench of a lesser

strength. The exception to the applicability of the law of

precedent is, if on the facts of a given case and the law applicable,

the case falls for good and valid reasons within the exception

specified in the judgment, or that the judgment is per incuriam,

sub silentio and/or hit by stare decisis. Unless the subsequent

judgment discusses such an issue and records reasons, it may fall

within the mischief of violating the law of precedent which may

not be in conformity with the canons of judicial discipline. The

concept of certainty and finality is essential in judicial decision

making process.

20. Whether a precedent is binding and effective itself is

an issue to be considered by the Court. The ratio and effect of

the judgment is required to be ascertained with reference to the

question of law as decided by the Court. The ratio of the

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judgment or the principle upon which the question before the

Court is decided is alone binding as a precedent, and this must be

ascertained and determined by analysing all the material facts and

issues involved in the case. While observing so, the Supreme

Court in the case of ICICI Bank & Anr. v. Municipal Corporation of

Greater Bombay & Ors., (2005)6 SCC 404 relied upon the decision

in the matter of Paisner v. Goodrich, (1955)2 All ER 530, (All ER at

p.332 H-1), where Lord Denning observed :-

“When the judges of this Court give a decision
on the interpretation of an Act of Parliament, the
decision itself is binding on them and their
successors: see Cull v. IRC, (1939)3 All ER 761,

Morelle Ltd. v. Wakeling, (1955)1 All ER 708.
But the words which the judges use in giving the

decision are not binding. This is often a very
fine distinction, because the decision can only be
expressed in words. Nevertheless, it is a real
distinction which will best be appreciated by

remembering that, when interpreting a statute,
the sole function of the court is to apply the
words of the statute to a given situation. Once a
decision has been reached on that situation, the
doctrine of precedent requires us to aply the

statute in the same way in any similar situation;
but not in a different situation. Wherever a new
situation emerges, not covered by previous
decisions, the courts must be governed by the
statute and not by the wordsw of the judges.”

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21. The Supreme Court in the case of Bharat Petroleum

Corpn. Ltd. v. Mumbai Shramik Sangh & Ors., (2001)4 SCC 448

held as under: –

“2. We are of the view that a decision of a
Constitution Bench of this Court binds a Bench of
two learned Judges of this Court and that judicial

discipline obliges them to follow it, regardless of
their doubts about its correctness. At the most,

they could have ordered that the matter be heard
by a Bench of three learned Judges.”

22. The settled principle of judicial discipline and

propriety requires that a smaller Bench normally may not question

the correctness of the decision of a larger Bench even on the

ground of sub silentio or per incuriam. Generally, it would lie in

the domain of equi Bench to make a reference. The concept of

finality as well as judicial hierarchy in the administration of justice

would suffer if the norm of precedent is not applied to the

functioning of the Court, much less a smaller Bench, that even a

equi Bench is expected to follow the law, may be for valid and

appropriate reason. It may request for a reference to a larger

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Bench but the earlier decision cannot be thrown out for any

purposes whatsoever.

23. In contra distinction to a binding precedent, the Court

has to be careful about the `obiter dictum’ made by a court in a

judgment. Again in the case of Director of Settlements, A.P. & Ors.

v. M.R. Apparao & Anr., (2002)4 SCC 638, the Supreme Court held

that it was necessary to follow the law declared by the Supreme

Court and said that a judgment of the Court has to be read in

context of questions which arose for consideration in the case in

which the judgment was delivered. An “obiter dictum” as

distinguished from a “ratio decidendi” is an observation by the

Court on a legal question suggested in a case before it but not

arising in such manner as to require a decision. Such an obiter

may not have an effect of a binding precedent but it cannot be

denied that it is of considerable weight.

24. The law of precedent thus takes in its ambit an

implied but apparent requirement of following the judicial dictum

settled by the Superior Court, a larger Bench with strict

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application equally binding is the judgment of an earlier

coordinate bench unless there are grounds and reasons felt by the

Bench dealing with subsequent matter that the law enunciated by

an earlier judgment falls within the exceptions of law of precedent

and the facts and circumstances of the case so require. As already

noticed, such an approach would be essential to maintain judicial

discipline, consistency and certainty in judicial decisions to

advance the doctrine of finality. The Full Bench Judgment of this

Court in Shankarrao’s case (supra) as well as the judgment of the

Supreme Court in Shrikant Karulkar’s case (supra) were before the

learned Single Judge. As already noticed, the Supreme Court in

the case Delhi Administration v. Manoharlal (supra), had observed

that the High Court and all other courts in the country were no

doubt ordained to follow and apply the law declared by this Court,

and responsibility to find out the ratio of the decision and

ascertain the law, if any, so declared from a careful reading of the

decision concerned and only thereafter proceed to apply it

appropriately, to the cases before them. Therefore, in our humble

view, the appropriate course of action that the learned Single

Judge ought to have taken was to decide the case in light of the

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law stated in the aforesaid two judgments, if in the opinion of the

learned Single Judge the law stated by the Full Bench was not a

good law in view of the judgment of the Supreme Court, the

judgment of the Supreme Court being that of the superior Court

and in terms of Article 141 of the Constitution of India, the same

being binding on all Courts, Tribunals and the Government as the

law of land declared by the Supreme Court should be followed.

On the other hand, if the learned Single Judge felt that the

Supreme Court had practically accepted the view of the Full Bench

or there was no conflict between the two judgments, the principles

stated by the Full Bench could have been applied. Be that as it

may, it is not necessary for this Bench to deliberate on the said

issue any further. Suffice it to note that the learned Single Judge,

while relying upon Rule 7(1) of the Bombay High Court (Appellate

Side) Rules, 1960, felt that it would be more advantageous that

the matter be heard and decided by two or more judges, which

view was accepted by one of us ( Chief Justice ), and the present

Bench was constituted. Since the learned Single Judge had

framed no questions of law for reference to a larger Bench, this

Bench by its order dated 26th August, 2009 formulated the

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questions of law. The said questions of law as are of some

importance, it would be more advantageous that the matter be

heard and decided by a larger Bench. Thus, we would proceed to

discuss the questions of law formulated by us.

25. The ratio decidendi of a previous judgment if

applicable to a fact of a subsequent case would be a binding

precedent. Similarly, an obiter dicta of the Supreme Court again

is having a binding effect but not of the value as that of a binding

precedent if the obiter is a finding recorded on the facts of a given

case. Mere observations on facts, the superior Court cannot be

said to be binding precedent. However, they may have some

weightage or persuasive value subject to exercise of judicial

discretion by the Court hearing the case. Once the “ratio

decidendi” of an earlier judgment does not fall within the three

exceptions i.e. Per incuriam, stare decisis and/or sub silentio with

reference to facts and law of a subsequent case, it would be a

binding precedent to be followed, particularly where the judgment

is of the Supreme Court. It will be law of land and binding in

terms of Article 141 of the Constitution of India. The judgment of

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the Supreme Court in the case of Shrikant Karulkar (supra) has to

be taken as a binding precedent. Before the Supreme Court, the

Appellants had raised the contentions based on the Full Bench

Judgment of the Bombay High Court in the case of Shankarrao’s

(supra) which was duly considered by the Supreme Court and

upon discussion the findings were recorded in paragraph 9 of the

judgment. In other words, a point was raised, argued and

entertained by the Supreme Court with direct reference to the

question for consideration before that Court and the reasoned

findings were recorded. Quantitative and qualitative value of the

findings recorded by the superior Court cannot be a matter of

consideration before a Court as the judgment of the Supreme

Court is binding in terms of the Constitutional mandate on all

other Courts. Thus, we must accept the judgment of the Supreme

Court to the facts and circumstances of the case before us in its

appropriate perspective.

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KEEPING IN VIEW THE PROVISIONS OF THE MAHARASHTRA
ACT, HOW THE LAW DECLARED BY THE FULL BENCH IS TO

BE CONSTRUED IN LIGHT OF THE JUDGMENT OF THE
SUPREME COURT:

26. At the very outset, it will be important for us to

examine the provisions of Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act.

Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act reads thus:-

“3(2) All the land held by a person, or as the

case may be, a family unit whether in this State or
any other part of India in excess of the ceiling
area, shall, notwithstanding anything contained in

any law for the time being in force or usage, be
deemed to be surplus land, and shall be dealt with
in the manner hereinafter provided for surplus
land.

In determining surplus land from the

holdings of a person, or as the case may be, of a
family unit, the fact that the person or any
member of the family unit has died (on or after
commencement date or any date subsequent to

the date on which the holding exceeds the ceiling
area, but before the declaration of surplus land is
made in respect of that holding ) shall be ignored;
and accordingly, the surplus land shall be
determined as if that person, or as the case may

be, the member of a family unit had not died.

Explanation:- In calculating the ceiling area to be
held in this State, and determining the surplus
land, the area of land in any other part of India
(being land which a person or family unit is

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entitled to hold in such other part of India under
any law relating to ceiling on land) shall be taken

into consideration. Only land held in this State
may be declared as surplus.”

27. The Full Bench of this Court, while dealing with

the case of Shankarrao (supra), had declared that the above

underlined portions of Section 3(2) and explanation thereto

are extra territorial in its operation and, therefore, is unlawful

and inoperative and beyond the competence of the State

Legislature. The judgment of the Full Bench of this Court has

not been assailed in appeal before the Supreme Court either by

the parties or by the State. Thus, it has attained finality as far

as this Court is concerned. In other words, the underlined

portions “in any part of India”, and the word “whether”

occuring in Section 3(2) were declared beyond the legislative

competence of the State Legislature, and therefore, were struck

down. The Bench further clarified that the entire explanation

clause to sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Maharashtra Act

was unlawful and declared it inoperative as being beyond the

legislative competence of the State Legislature. The Judgment

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of the Full Bench was declared in the year 1980. Since then

neither the State Legislature has taken any steps to amend the

provision of Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act nor the State

Government has assailed the judgment of the Court before the

Higher Court. The obvious and inevitable result is that the

judgment of the Full Bench of this Court has been accepted by

the parties and now for all these 28 years, the said judgment

has remained in force. Large number of cases have been dealt

with and disposed of by this Court in terms of law enunciated

by the Full Bench of this Court.

28. Both the parties before us had relied upon and

referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of

Shrikant Karulkar (supra). In that case, the Supreme Court was

considering the provisions of Section 6(3A) of Gujarat Agricultural

Land Ceiling Act, 1960 (hereinafter referred to as the “Gujarat

Act”). In order to avoid any ambiguity, we consider it appropriate

to reproduce the said provision at this juncture itself. Section

6(3A) of the Gujarat Act reads thus:-

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“6(3A) Where any person hold any land in
any other part of the India outside the State,

then, the area of land so held by him in such
other part, not exceeding the maximum area of
land, which such person is entitled to hold in

such other part of India under any law, if any,
relating to ceiling on land, used or capable of
being used for agricultural purposes, shall be
excluded from the ceiling area in excess of which

a person is not entitled to hold land under this
section and the extent of land determined after so
excluding such area shall in relation to such
person, be deemed to be the ceiling area, held by

him in this State: Provided that where any such
disposes of, at any time before the determination

of ceiling area under this Act, any land or part
thereof so held by him in any other part of India
outside the State, in accordance with the

provisions of law in force in such part, the area
equal to the land or part thereof so disposed of
shall not be excluded while determining the
ceiling area under this sub-section.”

29. The Supreme Court, while dealing with the provisions

of Gujarat Act, discussed the question of extra territoriality with

reference to the doctrine of territorial nexus as well as examined

the implications arising out of the provisions of Section 6(3A) of

the Gujarat Act. It will be useful to reproduce the relevant extract

of the Supreme Court judgment. The Supreme Court after noticing

the provisions in paragraph 3 held as under:-

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“3. ……………………………………………………………

It is clear from the plain languageof Section 6(3-

A) of the Act that for the purpose of computing
the permissible area of a person in the State of
Gujarat the area held by him in any other part of
India, not exceeding the maximum area of land

which such person is entitled to hold there, is to
be excluded from the permissible ceiling area
under the Act. In other words, the ceiling area of
land permissible under the Act is reduced by

deducting the area of the land owned by a person
in another State —- not exceeding the maximum

area of land which such person is entitled to hold
in the other State —- and whatever is the balance
would be the ceiling area in the State of Gujarat

under the Act. If a person already holds land in
other State/States in excess of the ceiling
provided under the Act, he becomes disentitled to
hold any land in the State of Gujarat. Holding
agricultural land outside the State of Gujarat is,

thus, considered as a relevant factor for deciding
whether a person can hold agricultural land in the

State of Gujarat and, if so, to what extent.”

30. Paragraphs 7 to 9 of the Supreme Court Judgment in

Shrikant Karulkar’s case (supra) are the other observations which

need to be referred by us in order to examine the matter in its

proper perspective.

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“7. It is no doubt correct that under Article
245 and 246 of the Constitution of India

the Legislature of a State can make laws
for the State or any part thereof. It
would be overstepping the limits of its

legislative field when it purports to
affect men and property outside the
State. In other words the State
Legislature has no legislative

competence to make laws which have
extraterriotorial operation. Meaning of
the words “extraterritorial operation”

have been authoritatively laid down by

this Court in various judgments. A State
ig Legislature has plenary jurisdiction to
enact laws in respect of subjects in Lists
II and III, Seventh Schedule,
Constitution of India. Such laws may be

in respect of persons withijn the
territory, of property —- immovable or
movable —- situated within the State,
or of acts and events which occur within

its borders. So long as the law made by
the State Legislature is applicable to the

persons residing within its territory and
to all things and acts within its territory,
it cannot be considered extraterritorial.
This Court —- over a period of three

decades —- has evolved a principle
called “doctrine of territorial nexus” to
find out whether the provisions of a
particular State law have extraterritorial
operation. The doctrine is well-

established and there is no dispute as to
its principles. If there is a territorial
nexus between the persons/property
subject-matter of the Act and the State
seeking to comply with the provisions of
the Act then the Statute cannot be

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considered as having extraterritorial
operation. Sufficiency of the territorial

connection involves consideration of
two elements, the connection must be
real and not illusory and the liability

sought to be imosed under the Act must
be relevant to that connection. The Act
has to satisfy the principles of territorial
nexus which are essentially discernible

from the factual application of the
provisions of the Act.

8. The State Legislature has the legislative
ig competence to enact th Act under Entry
18, List II, read with Entry 42, Seventh
Schedule, Constitution of India. The
lands —- governed by the provisions of

the Act —- are situated within the
territory of the State of Gujarat. The
provisions of the Act provide for
frixation of ceiling in respect of the
agricultural lands which are within the

territory of the State of Gujarat. The
declaration of the surplus land under

the Act is also in respect of the lands
held by various persons in the State of
Gujarat. The territorial nexus is
obvious. It is the land and the persons

holding such land within the territory of
Gujarat to which the provisions of the
Act are applicable. If a person has no
land within the State of Gujarat the
provisions of the Act are not applicable

to him or to the land which he owns
outside the territory of the State of
Gujarat. The sine qua non within the
State of Gujarat. The territorial
connection is thus, real and sufficient

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46

and the liability sought to be imposed
under Section 6(3-A) of the Act is

directly in relation to that connection.

The factum of a person holding land
outside the State of Guajarat is

undoubtedly an aspect pertinent to the
question of his entitlement under the
Act to hold land in the State of Gujarat.

There is no dispute that within the State

a ceiling can be fixed by law beyond
which no person can hold agricultural
land, and if for determining the extent
of said ceiling, the land held by a person

outside the State is taken into
ig consideration, the law pertaining to
fixation of ceiling would not become
extraterritorial. In pith and substance
the law remains to be a legislation

imposing the ceiling on holding of land
within the State under Entry 18, List II,
read with Entry 42, List III, Seventh
Schedule, Constitution of India. Mere

consideration of some factors which
exist outside the State, for the purpose

of legislating in respect ofr the subject
for which the legislature is competent to
make law, would not amount to
extraterritorial legislation. Such

considerations are part of the plenary
legislative function of the State
Legislature. The legislative entries not
only indicate the subjects for the
exercise of legislative power but their

scope is much wider in the sense that
they specify a field for legislation on the
subject concerned. Therefore, when a
statute fixes a ceiling on agricultural
land holding within the State, it would
not become extraterritorial simly

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47

because it provides that while
determining the permissible area of a

person under the said statute the land
owned by him outside the State is to be
taken into consideration. We are,

therefore, of the view that the
impugned provisions are within the
legislative competence of the State
Legislature and have been validly

enacted.

9. The learned counsel for the appellants
have placed reliance on the Full Bench

judgment of the Bombay High Court in
ig Shankarrao v. State of Maharashtra,
1980 Mah. LJ 888 and other connected
matters decided on 2-10-1980. We
have been taken through the judgment

of the Full Bench. Section 3(2) of the
Maharashtra Agricultural Lands Act,
1961 ( Bombay Act) which was struck
down by the Bombay High Court was as

under:-

“All land held by a person, or as
the case may be, a family unit
whether in this State or any other
part of India in excess of the

ceilinhg area, shall,
notwithstanding anything
contained in any law for the time
being in force or usage, be deemed
to be surplus land, and shall be

dealt with in the manner
hereinafter provided for surplus
land …..”

It is obvious that the provisions of Section 6(3-A)
of the Gujarat Act and Section 3(2) of the

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48

Maharashtra Act are entirely different. On the
plain reading of Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra

Act it is patent that the Maharashtra Legislature
was making law in respect of the land held by a
person anywhere in India. The expression “all

land held by a person or as the case may be by a
family unit whether in this State or any other part
of India…” clearly indicates the intention on the
part of the Maharashtra Legislature to make

extraterritorial law. No assistance can, thus, be
taken by the learned counsel from the Full Bench
judgment of the Bombay High Court. Even
otherwise we are of the view that vasrious

observations made by the learned Judges of the
Bombay High Court are, rather, broadly stated

and require to be straightened, if necessary, in
some appropriate proceedings.”

31. Here it is appropriate to make reference to a decision

in the case of Som Mittal v. State of Karnataka, (2008)3 SCC 574,

where the Supreme Court held that the stray observation or obiter

of the Supreme Court cannot be relied to do away with the ratio of

the judgment.

32. From a bare reading of the above paragraphs in the

Supreme Court judgment in Shrikant Karulkar’s case (supra), it is

clear that; (a) the provisions of Section 6(3-A) of the Gujarat Act

were held to be not suffering from the legislative vice of extra

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49

territorial legislation as the essentials of the doctrine of territorial

nexus were satisfied. The territorial connection was found to be

real and sufficient and the liability sought to be imposed under

Section 6(3-A) of the Gujarat Act was noticed to be direct in that

connection. The statute which fixes ceiling on an agricultural land

holding within the State, would not become extra territorial simply

because it provides that while determining the permissible area of

a person under the said Statute the land owned by him outside the

State is to be taken into consideration. Thus, it was held that

Section 6(3-A) of the Gujarat Act does not have extra territorial

operation and the appeal preferred by the land owners was

dismissed; (b) the Supreme Court noticed the provisions of

Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act and specifically held in

paragraph 9 that the provisions of Section 6(3A) of the Gujarat Act

and Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act are entirely different; (c)

The supreme Court specifically held that the expression “all land

held by a person, or as the case may be, by a family unit whether

in this State or any other part of India…” clearly indicated the

intention on the part of the Maharashtra Legislature to make extra

territorial law. The above dichotomy of the findings clearly shows

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50

that the view taken by the Full Bench of this Court was specifically

noticed by the Supreme Court with approval. The provisions of

the Maharashtra Act were found to be entirely different than the

Gujarat Act, of course, only limited part of the provision of Section

3(2) of the Maharashtra Act, has been reproduced in the judgment

of the Supreme Court however as noticed in the opening line of

paragraph 9 the provisions were brought to the notice of the Court

and it had been gone into by the Supreme Court. These

undisputed facts and categorical findings recorded by the Supreme

Court, which are binding on us, leaves no further doubt in our

minds that the provisions of the Maharashtra Act are different and

distinct from the provisions of the Gujarat Act, as held by the

Supreme Court. The provisions of the Gujarat Act were held to be

not having extra territorial operation while the provisions of the

Maharashtra Act were clearly stated to be based on intent of the

Maharashtra Legislature to make extra territorial law which in face

of Articles 245, 246 of the Constitution of India was not

permissible. The observations of the Supreme Court in paragraph

9 of the judgment that the principles broadly stated by the Full

Bench are required to be straightened, if necessary, in some

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51

appropriate proccedings, neither falls within the amibt of binding

precedent nor even a obiter dictum. These are mere observations

of the Supreme Court. The stand of the Full Bench of this Court

was not overruled even impliedly much less expressly. The

findings recorded by the Supreme Court take the same view as is

expressed by the Full Bench of this Court and therefore, would be

a binding precedent as far as this Court is concerned. We may also

notice that these observations of the Supreme Court at best can be

referred to the view expressed by the Full Bench of this Court in

the case of Shankarrao (supra) where it observed that the Ceiling

Acts of Gujarat and Maharashtra are similar and on par. Thus, we

have to follow what has been infact decided with reference to the

direct provisions of the Maharashtra Act and follow it as a binding

precedent. A mere observation by the Supreme Court will have to

be understood in its proper perspective and with reference to the

part of the findings which are directly in conflict with the

observations or findings recorded by the full Bench of this Court in

Shankarrao’s case (supra).

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52

33. In the case of Punjab Land Development v. Presiding

Officer, Labour Court, (1990)3 SCC 682, the Supreme Court while

referring to ratio decidendi of a case observed that the only thing

in a Judge’s decision binding as an authority upon a subsequent

Judge is the principle upon which the case was decided. The ratio

decidendi of a decision may be narrowed or widened by the

Judges before whom it was cited as a precedent. In the process,

the ratio decidendi which the judges who decided the case would

themselves have chosen may be even different from the one which

has been approved by subsequent judges. Therefore, that is

binding.

34. Now we will proceed on the basis that, as noticed by

the Supreme Court, the provisions of the Maharashtra and Gujarat

Act are entirely different. A bare reading of the provisions of the

Gujarat Act shows that any land which any person is entitled to

hold in such other part of India outside the State under the law, if

any, relating to ceiling on land, shall be excluded from the ceiling

area in excess to which a person is not entitled hold a land under

those provisions and the extent of land determined after so

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53

excluding such area shall in relation to such person, be deemed to

be ceiling area, held by him in the State of Gujarat. Therefore, the

provisions of the Gujarat Act contemplates “exclusion or

reduction”. The term “exclusion” is derived from the word

“exclude” which means deny access to or keep out or remove from

consideration and exclusion is the process or state of excluding or

being excluded. ( Ref : Oxford Dictionary, Indian Edition ).

35.

Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act does not use the

expression “excluded”. On the contrary, under the Maharashtra

Act, it states that all land held by a person, whether in this State or

in any other part of India in excess of ceiling area shall,

notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time

being in force would be deemed to be surplus land. The

explanation then provides how the surplus land is to be calculated.

In terms of explanation, while calculating the ceiling area to be

held in the State of Maharashtra, and determining the surplus

land, the area of land in any part of India, being land which a

person or family unit is entitled to hold in such other part of India

under any law relating to ceiling on land, shall be taken into

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54

consideration, though, only the land held in the State may be

declared as surplus. As is obvious, in contra distinction to the

provisions of the Gujarat Act which uses the word

“excluded/excluding”, the land held in other State has to be taken

into consideration while calculating the surplus land. The

expression “consideration” means a fact that is taken into account

for making a decision. The consideration normally would not

mean incidental or colateral. It has to be a matter directly

connected to the subject matter. ( Ref : Aiyar’s Judicial

Dictionary, 11th Edition ).

36. The provisions of the Maharashtra Act thus are to be

examined while keeping in mind the fact that the expression

noticed by the Full Bench is no longer valid and in fact does not

remain on the statute book as a lawful piece of legislation. The

two main distinctions, therefore, will be the extra territorial law

emerging in Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act and use of the

word “consideration” instead of word “exclusion” as used in

Section 6(3-A) of the Gujarat Act.

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55

37. The Supreme Court, having unambiguously found

that the provisions of the Acts of two States viz. Gujarat and

Maharashtra were distinct and different, there is nothing in the

judgment which would demonstrate that the Supreme Court has

set-aside the reasons recorded by the Full Bench (Shankarrao’s

case) while declaring the part of provisions of section 3(2) as

extra-territorial. On the contrary, the Supreme Court itself has

come to a definite conclusion that the provisions of the

Maharashtra Act are extra-territorial and therefore, the question of

legislative competence would hit the provisions. In the light of

these findings, the judgment of the Full Bench can hardly be

faulted with except to the extent we have specifically noticed. The

determination of land holding has to be examined and the

calculations as to surplus must be made in terms of provisions of

section 3(2) while ignoring the offending expressions used by the

Legislature in that provision. Interestingly, notice can be taken of

another judgment of the Supreme Court in Tatoba Bhau Savagave

(dead) by LRs. and another v. Vasantrao Dhindiraj Deshpande and

others, (2001) 8 SCC 501, where the Supreme Court was

considering the provisions of Section 43(1-B) of the Bombay

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56

Tenancy and Agriculture Lands Act, 1948, in relation to the land

owner who was a member of the Armed Forces claiming

exemption to the extent of his share in certain lands held by the

tenants. The application was dismissed as not maintainable but

the revision was allowed by the High Court remanding the matter

to the Collector requiring him to record the findings. The decision

of the Collector was confirmed in revision and by the High Court in

its writ jurisdiction. The authorities had taken into consideration

the land held by the member of the Armed Forces in Karnataka

and added the same to the land held by him in Maharashtra to

calculate the entitlement of exemption. The Supreme Court

referred to its judgment in Shrikant Karulkar’s case and held as

under:

“12. Relying on the judgment of this Court in
Shrikant Bhalchandra Karulkar v. State of Gujarat
it was urged by Mr. Lalit that as there was
territorial nexus in this case hence the land of the
first respondent in Karnataka State had to be

taken into computation. We are unable to agree
with this submission. In that case the validity of
Section 6(3-A) of the Gujarat Agricultural Lands
Ceiling Act, 1960 was under challenge. The High
Court upheld the validity of the said provision.
On appeal, this Court confirmed the judgment of

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57

the High Court. It was held: (SCC pp. 463-64,
para 7)

“This Court – over a period of three decades

– has evolved a principle called `doctrine of

territorial nexus’ to find out whether the
provisions of a particular State law have
extraterritorial operation. The doctrine is
well established and there is no dispute as

to its principles. If there is a territorial
nexus between the persons/property
subject-matter of the Act and the State
seeking to comply with the provisions of

the Act then the statute cannot be
ig considered as having extraterritorial
operation. Sufficiency of the territorial
connection involves consideration of two
elements, the connection must be real and

not illusory and the liability sought to be
imposed under the Act must be relevant to
that connection. The Act has to satisfy the
principles of territorial nexus which are

essentially discernible from the factual
application of the provisions of the Act.”

13. In the instant case there is no provision in
the Act like Section 6(3-A) of the said Gujarat Act.
That judgment is of no help to the appellant.”

38. As the provisions like section 6(3-A) of the Gujarat

Act were not to be found in the Bombay Tenancy Act the view

taken by the High Court setting-aside the action of the authorities

in taking into consideration the land in Karnataka was affirmed.

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58

Thus, the absence of specific provision was found to be the basic

infirmity in the actions of the respondents while in the present

case the provisions of section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act as

enacted suffer from excessive legislation. The State Legislature

has no powers to enact laws which will have real and effective

impact on the property situated in another State. The section to

that extent has extra-territorial operation and is not protected by

the doctrine of territorial nexus and therefore, necessarily has to

be quashed. The Supreme Court and the Full Bench of this Court

have clearly stated the law that the provisions of section 3(2) of

the Maharashtra Act to the extent mentioned in Full Bench

judgment in Shankarrao’s case are beyond legislative competence

of the State Legislature.

CONCLUSIONS

39. Since we were of the considered view that the

findings recorded by the Supreme Court in para 9 of the judgment

in the case of Shrikant Karulkar (supra) has the force of “ratio

decidindi” to be followed by us in the present case, we felt it

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59

unnecessary to discuss in detail the principle of statutory

interpretation in relation to the provisions of section 3(2) of the

Maharashtra Act. In any case, the Full Bench judgment of this case

in the case of Shankarrao (supra) holding part of Section 3(2)

ultra vires on the principle of extra territorial operation having

found favour with the Supreme Court as well, that question in any

case, hardly calls for any further deliberation. On appropriate

analysis of the law of precedent and other principles of law stated

by us (supra) and particularly in terms of the judgment of the

Supreme Court in Shrikant’s case it is evident that there is a clear

markable distinction between the provisions of section 3(2) of the

Maharashtra Act and section 6(3-A) of the Gujarat Act. The

Supreme Court has recorded that they are `entirely different’. The

second linguistic distinction between the two provisions which is

bound to have some effect on the application of these provisions is

the use of the word `consideration’ in the explanation to section

3(2) of the Maharashtra Act and “exclusion” in section 6(3-A).

These words convey the legislative intent which has to be given its

ordinary meaning in implementing the provisions of the Act. It is

a settled principle of law that no sentence or word in a provision is

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60

used by the Legislature without any purpose. Unless otherwise

necessitated, every word has to be given its meaning in accordance

with the doctrine of “plain interpretation” unless there were

compelling circumstances to divert from such an approach. The

part of provisions of Section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act has been

stated to be exfacie extra territorial in its operation and, thus,

beyond legislative competence of the State. Extra territorium jus

dicenti non paretur impune. One who exercises jurisdiction out of

his territory is not obeyed with impunity.

40. Neither we are expected nor we propose to go into

the question of calculation of surplus land on the basis of the

principle aforestated. We are required only to state/re-state the

principles of law which emerge from the judgment of the Supreme

Court (Shrikant’s case) , Full Bench of this court (Shankarrao’s

case) and the provisions of section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act.

The merits of the matter and impact of the principles stated on the

question of calculation of surplus land will have to be examined by

the court of competent jurisdiction. However, we are unable to

approve the finding recorded by the Full Bench (Shankarrao’s

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61

case) that the provisions of the Maharashtra Act and the Gujarat

Act are “on par” or similar. These observations cannot hold the

field primarily for the reason that the Supreme Court in the case of

Shrikant Karulkar (supra) has returned the finding that these

provisions are “entirely different”. The distinction between the

provisions is not a fine one but there is a markable difference in

language and its consequencial effect in law. In the Maharashtra

Act, there is not merely a reference to the land held in other State

but in fact, all the land held by a person or a family unit whether

in the State of Maharashtra or any other part of India in excess of

ceiling area by deeming fiction of law becomes the surplus land.

As per the explanation provided to Section 3(2) in calculating the

ceiling area to be held in Maharashtra State and determining

“surplus land”, the area of land in any part of India shall be taken

into consideration. Considering all the land held by a person or as

the case may be by a family unit whether in State or any part of

India, was found to be beyond legislative competence of the State

by the Full Bench (Shankarrao’s case) and was termed by the

Supreme Court as an “intent to enact extra territorial law”. We

have already indicated that the observations recorded by the

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62

Supreme Court in the last line of para 9 are neither a binding

precedent nor obiter. They are simple observations made by the

Supreme Court expressing its desire to state the law in a better

manner than the law stated by Full Bench of this court. These

observations of the Supreme Court are ascribable to the

observations of the Full Bench with regard to the similarity

between the provisions of the Maharashtra and Gujarat Act.

41.

It was contended before us that as per the judicial

dictum stated by the Supreme Court in the case of Srikant

Karulkar (supra) the provisions of section 6(3A) of the Gujarat Act

were not having an extra territorial operation and as such, the

provisions of section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act would also have

to fall in the same category and to that extent, Full Bench

judgment of this court would stand overruled. Firstly, this

contention is misconceived. The Supreme Court neither

specifically nor by necessary implication has set aside the Full

Bench judgment of this court. On the contrary, it has specifically

stated that the provisions of section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act is

a law enacted by the legislature with the intent of creating an

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63

extraterritorial law. The Supreme Court after noticing the Full

Bench judgment in Shankarrao’s case specifically held that the

provisions of the Maharashtra and Gujarat Acts were entirely

different. In these circumstances, this contention is incapable of

acceptance. Furthermore, in the case of K. Sahadeo v. Suresh,

1995 SCC (Supp) 3), 668, the Supreme Court enunciated the

principle that:-

“5.

ig In our opinion the learned Single Judge in
recording the finding that the decision in Ataur

Rehman was no more a good law, did not act
properly as unless the decision in Ataur Rehman
was set aside by a larger bench the declaration
given by it that Section 4 was ultra vires could not

be put at naught by a decision given by this Court
in respect of another Act. The proper course for

the learned Single Judge was to refer the matter to
the Division Bench. In the absence of any such
decision by a larger bench the section could not
revive.”

42. Merely because the provisions of some enactments

appear to be para materia, they cannot be stated to be impliedly

struck down. Merely because the provisions of Gujarat Act were

upheld by the Supreme Court would not mean that the provisions

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64

of Maharashtra Act are also free from any legal infirmity, more so

when they have been found to be distinctly different.

43. Now we proceed to record our answers to the

questions formulated by us in our order dated 26th August, 2009:

(a) In our humble view, the appropriate course of

ig action before the learned Single Judge would

have been to decide the case in the light of

the judgment of the Full Bench of this court in

Shankarrao’s case (supra) and the judgment of

the Supreme Court in the case of Shrikant

Karulkar (supra). However, keeping in view

the language of Rule 7 of the Bombay High

Court, Appellate Side Rules, 1960 and feeling

that the matter can be appropriately decided

by the larger bench, the question raised being

of some importance, this Bench has proceeded

to deal with the matter on merits.

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65

(b) From the findings recorded by the Supreme

Court in the case of Srikant Karulkar (supra),

it is clear that the Full Bench judgment of this

court has neither been overruled nor can be

stated to be incorrect exposition of law. To

reiterate and follow the dictum of the

Supreme Court, we hold that the provisions of

ig section 3(2) of the Maharashtra Act are

‘entirely different’ from section 6(3-A) of the

Gujarat Act. The view of the Full Bench of

this court in the case of Shankarrao (supra)

holding that the words “all the land held by a

person or as the case may be by a family unit

whether in this State or any part of India”,

had extra territorial operation and are,

therefore, beyond the legislative competence

of the State Legislature is approved by the

Supreme Court. Thus, these provisions

cannot be given effect to since it has an extra

territorial operation beyond the State of

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66

Maharashtra. In fact, it does not exist in the

statute book in view of the decision of the

Full Bench that the same is unconstitutional.

We make it clear that the finding recorded by

the Full Bench treating the two provisions are

similar and on par is not a good statement in

law. Whereas the judgment of the Supreme

ig Court that these provisions are entirely

different shall be binding on this court. The

observations that Section 3(2) of Maharashtra

Act and Section 6(3-A) of Gujarat Act are

“similar and on par”, made by the Full Bench

alone have been disapproved by the Supreme

Court.

(c) As far as question (c) is concerned, it need not

be answered by us as it will be purely an

academic question in view of our answer to

questions (a) and (b) and would hardly arise

for consideration.

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67

44. Having answered the questions of law as formulated

by this Bench, now we direct the matter to be placed before the

learned Single Judge for disposal in accordance with law. Keeping

in view the importance of the questions involved in the present

case, we leave the parties to bear their own costs.

CHIEF JUSTICE

S.B. MHASE, J

A.M. KHANWILKAR, J

A.S. OKA, J

R.M. SAVANT, J

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