1. The first respondent-temple filed a petition under Section 13 read with 16 of the A.P. (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, 1956 (for short 'the Act') for eviction of the petitioner herein from the schedule land on the ground of wilful default in payment of Maktha and also on the ground that the petitioner herein converted the schedule land into a fish tank. The Special Officer-cum-Prl. District Munsif, Kaikalur, allowed the said petition - A.T.C. No. 17 of 1993 on 17-3-1997 and directed the petitioner herein to deliver the schedule land to the first respondent-landlord within one month from the date of that order. The petitioner herein who claims to be the cultivating tenant preferred an appeal against the said order with a delay of nine days along with an application to condone the delay in preferring the appeal, for the reasons stated in the affidavit filed in support of the said application.
2. The learned District Judge following the decision report in G. Sriramamurthy v. Majji Narsaiah, (DB) rejected the said application for condonation of delay on the ground that Section 5 of the Limitation Act has no application to the proceedings before the appellate authority under the Act. Hence this Civil Revision Petition.
3. In G. Srirammurthy's case (supra), the Division Bench of this Court held that an appeal provided under Section 16(2) of the Act lies to the District Judge against the order of the Special Officer and the said appeal cannot be treated to have been filed before the District Court. This Court, accordingly, held that the appellate authority mentioned in Section 16(2) of the Act viz., the District Judge is only a persona designate, but not a Court and, therefore, the provisions of Section 5 of the Limitation Act will not apply to the proceedings before the appellate authority under the Act. The appellate authority rightly reject (the application following the judgment of this Court in G. Srirammurthy (supra). It had no oilier option except to do so.
4. Learned Counsel for the petitioner in this civil revision petition would, however, places reliance upon a decision of the Supreme Court in Mukri Gopalan v. Cheppilat Puthanpurayil Aboobacker, , and contend that the decision in G. Srirammurthy (supra) is no longer good law and deemed to have been impliedly over-ruled. It may be noticed that the decision of the Apex Court in Mukri Gopalan (supra) is dated 12-7-1995; but the same, however, is not referred to in ., G. Srirammurthy's case (supra), though the decision of the Division Bench was rendered on 12-9-1995. Obviously, the decision in Mukri Gopal case (2 supra) was reported only in November, 1995 part of the AIR. For whatever reason, the decision in Mukri Gopalan case was not brought to the notice of this Court.
5. Mukri Gopalan's case arose under the Kerala Buildings (Lease and Rent Control) Act, 1965 (for short 'the Rent Act'). A Division Bench of Kerala High Court has dismissed an application filed for condonation of delay in preferring an appeal against the primary authority as not maintainable. The High Court took the view that the appellate authority being not a Court, but a persona designata, it has no power to condone the delay in filing the appeal by invoking the provisions contained in Section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963. The Supreme Court following the decision in Central Talkies Ltd., Kanpur v. Dwaraka Prasad, , held, that the appellate authorities as constituted under Section 18 of the Rent Act being the District Judges, they constituted a class and cannot be considered to be persona designata and accordingly held that the appellate authorities functioning under Section 18 of the Rent Act function as Courts. The Apex Court while dealing with the question as to the applicability of the provisions of the Limitation Act held:
"After repealing of Indian Limitation Act, 1908, and its replacement by the present Limitation Act of 1963 a fundamental change was made in Section 29(2). The present Section 29(2) as already extracted earlier clearly indicates that once the requisite conditions for its applicability to given proceedings under special or local law are attracted the provisions contained in Sections 4 to 24 both inclusive would get attracted which obviously would bring in Section 5 which also shall apply to such proceedings unless applicability of any of the aforesaid Sections of the Limitation Act is expressly excluded by such special or local law. By this charge it is not necessary to expressly state in a special law that the provisions contained in Section 5 of the Limitation Act shall apply to the determination of the periods under it. By the general provisions contained in Section 29(2) this provision is made applicable to the periods prescribed under the special laws. An express mention in the special law is necessary only for any exclusion. It is on this basis that when the new Rent Act was passed in 1965 the provisions contained in Old. Section 31 was omitted. It becomes therefore apparent that on a conjoint reading of Section 29(2) of Limitation Act of 1963 and Section 18 of the Rent Act of 1965, provisions of Section 5 would automatically get attracted to those proceedings as there is nothing in the Rent Act of 1965 expressly excluding the applicability of Limitation Act to appeal under Section 18 of the Rent Act."
6. Before we deal with the question as to the applicability of the Supreme Court Judgment in Mukri Gopalan case (supra), it is necessary to note the relevant statutory provisions, in the light of which the controversy has to be resolved. The A.P. (Andhra Area) Tenancy Act, 1956, is enacted to provide for payment of fair rent by cultivating tenants and for regulating the relations of landlord and cultivating tenants of agricultural lands and for matters connected in the Andhra Area of the State of Andhra Pradesh. Section 3(j) of the Act defines Special Officer to mean any judicial officer not below the rank of a District Munsif appointed by the Government in consultation with the High Court to perform the functions of a Special Officer under the Act. Section 6 deals with the determination of fair rent on application by the tenant, as well as the landlord to the Special Officer. Section 7 deals with deposit of rent during pendency of proceedings for the fixation of fair rent. Section 8 of the Act deals with the jurisdiction of the Special Officer to entertain an application from a cultivating tenant for remission of rent and grant the same as the Special Officer may consider just in the circumstances of the case. Section 12 of the Act provides of resumption of possession of land by the landlord for his personal cultivation by making an application in that behalf to the Special Officer. Section 13 of the Act provides for termination of tenancy of a cultivating tenant on various grounds mentioned therein, including the one that the cultivating tenant has failed to comply with any order passed or direction issued by the Special Officer or the District Judge under the Act. Section 15 of the Act lays down the cultivating tenant's right to first purchase the land leased to him on payment of agreed price or reasonable price of such land and confers jurisdiction upon the Special Officer to determine the reasonable price on an application filed in that behalf.
7. Section 16ofthe Actis relevantfor our purpose, which provides for adjudication of disputes and appeal against the order passed by the Special Officer:
16. Adjudication of Disputes and Appeal:--
(1) Any dispute arising under this Act, between a landlord and cultivating tenant in relation to a matter not otherwise decided by the Special Officer under the provisions of this Act, shall, on application by the landlord or the cultivating tenant, as the case may be, be decided by the Special Officer after making an enquiry in the manner prescribed:
Provided that nothing in this sub-section shall apply with respect to any matter pertaining to the fixation of reasonable rent, or the determination of other terms and conditions of the lease relating to the said reasonable rent, under clause (e) of sub-section (1) of Section 74 of the Andhra I'radesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1966 (Act 17 of 1966).
(2) Against any order passed by the Special Officer under this Act an appeal shall lie to the District Judge having jurisdiction, within thirty days of he passing of the order; and the decision of the District Judge on such appeal shall be final.
8. Rule 8 of the Rules framed under the Act known as A.P. (Andhra Area) Tenancy Rules, 1980, (for short 'the Rules') provides for the procedure of hearing and disposal of the appeals preferred against the orders of the Special Officer. Sub-Rule (4) of Rule 8 provides that in computing the period of thirty days specified in subsection (2) of Section 16 of the Act, the time taken for obtaining a copy of the order of the Special Officer to be excluded. Rule 9 provides for providing reasonable opportunity to the parties to state their case and adduce their arguments and orders to be passed only thereafter.
9. It is absolutely clear that the learned District Judge who is constituted as appellate authority under Section 16 of the Act has to decide the Us between the parties in a judicious manner and the verdict would remain final between the parties. It is true that the appellate authority is constituted by designation as the District Judge of the district having jurisdiction over the area for which the Act has been extended. It is not as if the proceedings would come to an end immediately upon the concerned District Judge retiring or getting transfer or otherwise cease to hold the office of the District Judge. His successor in office picks up the thread of the proceedings from the stage where it was left by his predecessor and continue to function as an appellate authority under Section 18 of the Act and decides the appeal on merits.
10. On an analysis of the provisions of the Act, it becomes obvious that the ratio of the decision in Mukri Gopalan's case (supra) squarely applies to the facts of the ease on hand and following the said decision it has to be declared that the appellate authorities constituted under Section 16 of the Act being the District Judges they constitute a class and cannot be considered to be as persona designata. The appellate authority functions as a Court.
11. Section 16 of the Act, itself, provides period of limitation for filing an appeal against the orders of the Special Officer and the said period is different from the period prescribed under the schedule to the Limitation Act. Following the ratio in Mukri Gopalan's case (supra) and for the reason that the above stated two requirements are satisfied, the consequences contemplated by Section 29(2) of the Limitation Act would automatically follow and as held by the Supreme Court, these consequences are as under:
(i) In such a case Section 3 of the Limitation Act would apply as if the period prescribed by the special or local law was the period prescribed by the schedule.
(ii) For determining the period of limitation prescribed by such special or local law for a suit, appeal or application all the provisions containing Sections 4 to 24 (inclusive) would apply insofar as and to the extent to which they are not expressly excluded by such special or local law.
12. Thus, it is clear from a reading of the provisions of the Act that there is no express exclusion anywhere in the Act taking out the applicability of Section 5 of the Limitation of Act to appeals filed before the appellate authority under Section 16 of the Act. Consequently all legal rcquiremenls for the applicability of Section 5 of the Limitation Act can be stated to have been satisfied.
13. This Court is bound by the law declared by the Supreme Court. In the light of the decision rendered in Mukri Gopalan case (supra), it is to be held that the appellate authority as constituted under Section 16 of the Act cannot be considered to be a persona designata. It is to be further held that all the provisions of Sections 4 to 24 of the Limitation Act would apply and Section 5 being one of them is, therefore, get attracted.
14. Accordingly, in the instant case, the delay in filing appeal before the appellate authority deserves to be condoned, as the affidavit filed in support of the application for condonation of delay discloses sufficient cause for condonation of delay. The order under revision is, therefore, set aside. IA No.434 of 1997 on the file of the District Judge, Krishna at Machilipatnam is accordingly allowed. The appellate authority is directed to register the appeal preferred by the petitioner and hear and dispose of the same as expeditiously as possible.
15. Accordingly the civil revision petition is allowed to the extent indicated above. In the circumstances there shall be no order as to costs.