Tenancy rights have long been a problem for Punjab. Without legislation to regulate tenant rights, some classes of tenants enjoyed special privileges, whereas other tenants were ignored. No proper rules had been formulated to fix the tenure related to the cultivation of soil.
In 1868, the Indian legislature passed an enactment that helped thousands of agriculturists who would otherwise have been at the mercy of greedy proprietors who only wanted to boost their income and reduce the status of tenants to mere tenants at will.
The tenants were exploited and were ejected at any time at the whims of their landlords, misusing their power of ejectment. These controversies led to the Punjab Tenancy Act of 1887 and Act XVI of 1887.
Table of Contents
Right of Occupancy Under Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887
Section 5 of Chapter II of the Punjab Tenancy Act deals with the occupancy rights of the tenants. The section has laid down extensive provisions for the securement of occupancy rights of the tenants by setting different criteria in the following Act.
Section 5, Sub-section(1) mentions the conditions under which tenants may fail to secure their occupancy rights.
The section lays down certain conditions under which the tenants have exclusive occupancy rights over their lands.
Clause (a) – If a tenant, at the commencement of the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887, had their male descendants up to two generations holding a land for a period not less than 20 years, either from the grandfather’s side or grand-uncle’s side. The descendants should have paid only the land revenues and other rates and cesses that prevailed during their time.
Clause (b) – A tenant who owned land for a continuous period but ceased to have the ownership, either due to the land forfeiture by the Government or through voluntarily giving up on land.
Clause © – A tenant residing in a village where the land is also present or has been settled in a town by its founder to cultivate land has occupied it on 21 October 1868 and has been holding the ground since that date.
Clause (d) – A jagirdar of an estate or any part of an estate in which the land is situated is occupied by him continuously for a period not less than 20 years and has the right of occupancy in the land.
Sub-section (2) – If a tenant proves that he has occupied a piece of land for 30 years and has paid no rent for it except the land revenue and other rates and cesses charged per the prevailing times. Such a person shall be presumed to have fulfilled the conditions of clause (a) of sub-section (1).
Sub-section (3) – The natural relationship in the clauses also includes the relationship by adoption and appointment of an heir through customs and usages of a religious community.
Section 6 – Right of occupancy of other tenants registered after 2 October 1868
A tenant who has been recorded in the record of rights sanctioned by the Government before 21 October 1868, shall be considered to have rights of occupancy over the land, if he/she has continuously occupied the land from the time of the preparation of that record.
Section 7 – Right of occupancy over the land that has been taken in exchange
If the tenant voluntarily exchanges the land or any portion of it in exchange for other land belonging to the same landlord, then he/she would possess the right of occupancy over the land taken in exchange, the same as the land given in exchange had not taken place.
Section 8 – Establishment of rights of occupancy on valid grounds
This section states that no one can procure the right of occupancy on any ground other than the grounds specified in the above sections.
Section 9 – Right of occupancy cannot be acquired by mere time lapse.
Section 10 – Right of occupancy for joint owners of land
No owners in joint land ownership can possess the right of occupancy over the land, except if there is a custom of doing so.
Relinquishment of Tenancy
Section 35 – This section specifies that a tenant under a contract, decree, or order of a competent authority for a fixed term to hold the rights over land can relinquish his/her tenancy without providing any notice at the end.
Different procedures of relinquishment by other tenants
Section 36 (1) – This Section states that any tenant can relinquish his/her tenancy voluntarily by giving a notice describing the intention for his/her relinquishment, verbally or in writing to his landlord or his landlord’s agent, on or before the 15th of January in any year; that is at the end of the agricultural year.
Section 36 (2) – The tenant, instead or in addition to what is specified in clause (1) of the Section, may apply to a Revenue Officer before the 15th of January to send the notice to the landlord. After this, the revenue officer, on receiving the cost of service, shall take action regarding the notice of relinquishment.
Section 36 (3) – If the tenant does not relinquish as per the procedure maintained, then he/she would be liable to pay the rent of the land of that agricultural year during which the tenancy has not been given to any other person by the landlord, or even if the landlord himself cultivates it.
Relinquishment of a certain part of tenancy
Section 37 states that a tenant can never, without the consent of his landlord, relinquish a part only of his tenancy.
Abandonment of Tenancy
Section 38 states that if a tenant for more than 1 year, without any reasonable cause, fails to cultivate his tenancy and pay the rent, then his/her right of occupancy shall cease to exist from the end of that year.
Ejectment of Tenancy
Section 39 states that a tenant has the right of occupancy. However, under the following grounds, a tenant could be ejected from his tenancy:
- If he/she has used the land for purposes and in a manner that is not fit for the use.
- If he/she is unable to cultivate land in a particular required manner and to an extent that is customary in the locality in which the land is situated.
- If there is considerable arrears of rent and a decree has been passed against him/her to vacate the land.
Section 40 states that whoever has held land and its right of occupancy under a contract, a decree, or an order for a fixed period shall be ejected from his tenancy at the expiration of that period. However, a person can also be held liable for ejectment before the expiry of the term on the following grounds:
- If he/she has used the land for purposes and in a manner that was not fit for the use.
- If there is considerable arrears of rent and a decree has been passed against him/her to vacate the land.
- On any other ground that would satisfy ejectment under the contract, decree, or order.
Section 41 details the tenants who have held lands but have no rights of occupancy over them. Such tenants may be removed from the land at the end of any agricultural year.
Section 43 empowers a landlord to apply to a revenue officer for the ejectment of a tenant on valid grounds.
Section 49 details a tenant’s rights, even though an ejectment procedure is proposed against him/her. The Act states that if a tenant has uncut or ungathered crops standing on the land for which an ejectment is proposed, he/she shall not be ejected from that part of the land for a reasonable period unless his/her crops have ripened. He/she has been given the required time to harvest them.
Alienation of Right of Occupancy
Chapter V of the Punjab Tenancy Act, of 1887 deals with the alienation and succession to the right of occupancy.
Section 53 (1) – A tenant who has acquired his/her right of occupancy under Section 5 of this Act can transfer that right by sale, gift, or mortgage. However, certain conditions are given in the following subsections.
Section 53 (2) – A person who intends to transfer his/her rights shall submit a notice describing the reason or his/her intention behind doing so to a revenue officer who would later serve it to the landlord. A proceeding shall be conducted regarding the same after 1 month from the date on which the notice is served.
Section 53 (3) – The landlord may claim to purchase the right in that 1 month, at a rate that the revenue officer has fixed.
Section 53 (4) – The revenue officer will fix the value of the right of occupancy as if it were not mortgaged.
Section 53 (5) – The landlord can purchase the rights if he pays the required value to the revenue officer within a particular period stipulated by the officer.
Section 53 (6) – After the payment of value, the right of occupancy will become extinct, and the landlord will hold possession of the tenancy.
Suppose the right of occupancy is transferred to a new person other than the landlord by sale, gift, or usufructuary mortgage. In such a case, the person holds the same rights and is subject to the same liabilities as the previous tenant to whom the right belonged.
Succession of Occupancy Rights
If a tenant who has the right of occupancy dies, then the right shall devolve on the following:
- Lineal male descendants.
- In case of no male descendants, the right shall be conferred to his widow until she dies or remarries or abandons the land or is ejected from holding the rights under the provisions of this Act.
However, the widow is not entitled to her rights of occupancy by sale, gift mortgage, or sub-lease for a term exceeding one year.
- If both male descendants and the widow are absent, then the right shall devolve to a widowed mother; after her, the rights would devolve to the collateral male relatives that are present among the male line of descent arising from the common ancestor of the deceased tenant.
- If the deceased has no person after him to receive the occupancy rights, then the rights will stand as extinguished.
If an irregular transfer contravenes Chapter V’s provisions, it will be voidable at the landlord’s discretion.
Jurisdiction and Procedure
The Act prescribes that the “revenue officer” of any class has the same jurisdiction under this Act as the Punjab Land Revenue Act of 1887. The same classes of revenue officers are present under both the Acts unless any order is passed by the Government to the contrary.
Revenue officers are of the following three groups:
- They look after the proceedings under Section 27 for the adjustment of rents in terms of the land revenue.
- Deals with the proceedings related to remission and suspension of rents under Section 30.
- Deals with the applications submitted regarding the ejectment of a tenant under Section 43, against whom a decree has been passed due to rent arrears.
- Deals with applications under Sections 53 or 54 for fixing the value of the right of occupancy.
- Monitors the proceedings under Chapter VI concerning the award for the compensation for improvements or disturbance.
- Deals with the applications concerning division or appraisement of produce.
- Determines the application under Section 49, which details the rents required to be paid for the land occupied by the uncut crops or ungathered crops when an order for ejectment has been passed.
- Determines the application under Section 74, the value of crops or sum to be paid for the labour and capital invested by the tenant to prepare land for sowing.
- Deals with the application under Section 31 regarding the rents deposited by tenants.
- Deals with the application under Section 36 regarding relinquishment.
- Deals with the application under Section 43 regarding the notice of ejectment.
The Punjab Tenancy Act of 1887 was brought forth to amend the laws related to the tenancy of land in Punjab. The Act is applicable to the whole of Punjab and details aspects regarding tenancy, such as rights of occupancy, alienation, ejectment, abandonment. Provisions are made separately for each of them. The Act lays down a proper statutory framework to regulate the landlord and tenant relationship and removes biases concerning a particular class of tenants.
When did this Act come into force?
The Punjab Tenancy Act came into force on 1 November 1887 and applied to both Haryana and Punjab, even though Haryana was divided from Punjab under Section 88 of the State Reorganisation Act of 1966.
What was the objective of the Punjab Tenancy Act of 1887?
This Act was enacted to regulate the tenant and landlord relationship. It secures the fixed occupation period of the tenants.
What is the fixed time during which the ejectment of a tenant could be performed?
Section 47 of the Punjab Tenancy Act, 1887, fixes a time for ejectment in an agricultural year. It states no tenant shall be excluded any other time than between the first day of May and the fifteenth day of June (including both days).
Under which Section a tenant is allowed to sublet his/her land or any part of it, and for how many years?
Section 58 allows the tenant to sublet his land, or any part of it, for a period not exceeding 7 years.
How does the transfer of right occupancy help in cooperative societies?
Section 58-A empowers a tenant to give away his land for the Consolidation of Holding, to all the members of a Cooperative society, of which both the tenant and the landlord are a part.