Supreme Court: The bench of Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has explained the scope of a “very strange provision” under Section 85A of the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 and has held that
“Though Section 85(2) mandates that no order of the Mamlatdar, the Tribunal, the Collector or the State Government passed under the Act shall be questioned in any Civil or Criminal Court, the bar contained therein stands diluted to some extent under Section 85-A.”
The Court said that such a provision is not found in many other statutes which contain provisions barring the jurisdiction of Civil Courts.
Section 85. Bar of jurisdiction
(1) No Civil Court shall have jurisdiction to settle, decide or deal with any question [(including a question, whether a person is or was at any time in the past a tenant and whether any such tenant is or should be deemed to have purchased from his landlord the land held by him)] which is by or under this Act required to be settled, decided or dealt with by the Mamlatdar or Tribunal, a Manager, the Collector or the [Maharashtra Revenue Tribunal] in appeal or revision or the [Maharashtra Revenue Tribunal] in appeal or revision or the [State] Government in exercise of their powers of control.
(2) No order of the Mamlatdar, the Tribunal, the Collector or the [Maharashtra Revenue Tribunal] or the [State] Government made under this Act shall be questioned in any Civil or Criminal Court.
Explanation–– For the purposes of this section a Civil Court shall include a Mamlatdar’s Court constituted under the Mamlatdar’s Courts Act, 1906.
Section 85A. Suits involving issues required to be decided under this Act
(1) If any suit instituted in any Civil Court involves any issues which are required to be settled, decided or dealt with by any authority competent to settle, decide or deal with such issues under this Act (hereinafter referred to as the “competent authority”), the Civil Court shall stay the suit and refer such issues to such competent authority for determination.
(2) On receipt of such reference from the Civil Court, the competent authority shall deal with and decide such issues in accordance with the provisions of this Act and shall communicate its decision to the Civil Court and such Court shall thereupon dispose of the suit in accordance with the procedure applicable thereto.
Explanation–– For the purpose of this section a Civil Court shall include a Mamlatdar’s Court constituted under the Mamlatdar’s Courts Act, 1906.
How does Section 85-A dilute the bar contained under Section 85?
The Court explained that Section 85A, inserted by Bombay Act 13 of 1956, prescribes a two-stage procedure for the Civil Court to follow, whenever a suit is instituted, despite the bar contained in Section 85.
- In the first stage, the Civil Court should stay the suit and refer the issues to the competent authority under the Act for determination.
- In the second stage, the Civil Court should dispose of the suit in accordance with the procedure applicable thereto, after receipt of the decision of the competent authority, to whom the issues were referred for a decision under the Act.
Hence, if the bar under Section 85(2) was absolute, the Civil Court would have no option except to dismiss the suit. If the bar of jurisdiction is absolute, the question of the Civil Court staying further proceedings in the suit, referring the issues for the adjudication of the competent authority under the Act and disposing of the suit after receipt of a decision from the competent authority, would not arise.
[Salim D. Agboatwala v. Shamalji Oddhavji Thakkar, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 735, decided on 17.09.2021]
For appellants” Senior Advocate Kevic Setalvad
For Respondents: Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade and advocate Aniruddha Joshi
*Judgment by: Justice V. Ramasubramanian