The Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, came into force on 2-10-1965. The Act was in execution of the policy of agrarian reforms and was intended to give ownership of the land to the actual lawful tiller and to avoid absentee landlordism. Certain revolutionary amendments were made to the provisions of the Act by Act No. 1/1974, which came into force w.e.f. 1-3-1974. The Land Reforms Act so amended is relevant for the purpose of this case. According to the Land Reforms Act as amended, all agricultural lands which were under cultivation by the tenants as on the appointed date i.e. as on 1-3-1974 stand vested in the State Government under Section 44 of the Act, Section 45 of the Act provided for registering the tenants as occupants of the agricultural lands of which they were the tenants.

Section 2(34) of the Land Reforms Act defined the word 'tenant' reads:- "2(34) 'tenant' means an Agriculturist (who cultivates personally the land he holds on lease) from a landlord and includes, - (i) a person who is deemed to be a tenant under Section 4; (ii) a person who was protected from eviction from any land by the Karnataka Tenants (Temporary Protection from Eviction) Act, 1961; (iia) a person who cultivates personally any land on lease under a lease created contrary to the provisions of Section 5 and before the date of commencement of the Amendment Act; (iii) a person who is a permanent tenant; and (iv) a person who is a protected tenant.

2 (23) “permanent tenant” of the Land Reforms Act means a tenant who cultivates land personally,— (a) the commencement or duration of whose tenancy cannot satisfactorily be proved by reason of antiquity of such tenancy; or (b) whose name or the name of whose predecessor-in-title has been entered in the record of rights or in any public record or in any other revenue record as a permanent tenant; or (c) who by custom, agreement or the decree or order of a court holds the land on lease permanently; or (d) who holds land as mulgenidar, mirasdar or khata kul; and includes any person whose tenancy is under the provisions of any law presumed to be co-extensive with the duration of the tenure of the landlord;

Section 4 of the Land Reforms Act reads:- "4. Persons to be deemed tenants:- A person lawfully cultivating any land belonging to another person shall be deemed to be a tenant if such land is not cultivated personally by the owner and if such person is not - (a) a member of the owner's family, or (b) a servant or a hired labourer on wages payable in cash or kind but not in crop share cultivating the land under the personal supervision of the owner or any member of the owner's family, or (c) a mortgagee in possession:

Provided that if upon an application made by the owner within one year from the appointed day - (i) the Tribunal declares that such person is not a tenant and its decision is not reversed on appeal, or (ii) the Tribunal refuses to make such declaration but its decision is reversed on appeal, such person shall not be deemed to be a tenant."

Section 2(11) of the Land Reforms Act defines "to cultivate personally" as follows : Cultivate land on one's own account i) By one's own labour, or ii) by the labour of any member of one's family, or iii) by hired labour or by servants on wages payable in cash or kind but not in crop share, under the personal supervision of one self or by member of one's family.".

Preamble to the Karnataka Land Reforms Act would show that the said Act has been enacted to have uniform law relating to agrarian. Confirmation of ownership on tenant, ceiling of land holding and for certain other matters. Interpretation has to be in favour of the weaker sections of the society which would achieve the object in terms of the intentment of the legislation. 'Agriculture' has been defined so also 'agricultural labourer' in the Act. 'Tenant' has been defined to mean an agriculturist who cultivates personally the land he holds on lease from a landlord, and 'Agriculturist' has defined to mean a person who cultivates land personally. ……..

Crop-share is one mode of tenancy in agricultural operation. In ascertaining the status of a person as tenant, the mode of cultivation as shown in the Act becomes very relevant. There are in all, six modes, viz. (i) cultivated by holder himself, (ii) cultivated by hired labourer; (iii) tenant paying cash; (iv) share of crop; (v) fixed quantity of produce and (vi) proximity of aforesaid forms. It is true that burden of proving tenancy is upon the person who asserts it or who claims it.

Tenancy means relationship of landlord and tenant but in view of the peculiar and special provisions of Section 2(18) and Section 4, a person in possession may have no relation with the landlord in a given case but he, nevertheless, be called as tenant. The provisions show that a person who is merely in possession, lawfully of course, is also a tenant. Definition of "tenant" is divided into two parts - one contractual and the other statutory or who can be described for brevity's sake "deemed tenants". It could very well be visualised from the aforesaid provisions that "deemed tenant" or a statutory tenant means a person who lawfully cultivates any land belonging to another person if such person is not a member of the owner's family or a servant on wages payable in cash or kind but not in share or a hired labour cultivating the land under the personal supervision of the owner or any member of the owner's family or a mortgagee in possession. Section 4, therefore, far from defining a statutory tenant, raises a presumption of statutory tenancy in the circumstances provided therein. A presumption can be rebutted by showing not necessarily the exceptions provided in the section itself but by other circumstances also by showing that the person holding the land is not so holding in the capacity of a tenant but in some other position. The concept of "tenant" in the Tenancy Act is founded primarily on "land" and its "cultivation". The process of thinking embodied in Section 4 is primarily based on the "land" and its lawful cultivation and not merely cultivation. The cultivation must have its origin in some lawful act and that is why the section describes and not defines a deemed tenant, as one who is "lawfully cultivating any land belonging to another" that is to say, so cultivating any land in his own right and not on behalf of another. The expression "lawfully cultivating" would mean the same thing as cultivating "on one's own account" and for "one's own profit", in part or in full. The underlying purport and design behind Section 4 is to protect a lawful cultivator actively engaged in the act of raising the crops on the land or its major part though he may not be holding the land on lease in a traditional sense of the terms. The expression "lawfully cultivating" is now very well settled. It cannot exist without the concomitant existence of lawful relationship which can be proved even without the formal proof of a traditional form of lease.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary, (Vth Edition 1964) defines 'agriculturist' at page 26 under the term 'agriculture' as follows; "Cultivation of the soil. Hence agricultural, agriculturist." In other words the meaning to' be attached to the term 'agriculturist' is the person who cultivates the soil.

The term has been legally defined under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act to mean a person who cultivates land personally. 'To cultivate' with Its grammatical variations and cognate expressions means to till or husband the land for the purpose of raising or improving agricultural produce whether by manual labour or by means of cattle or machinery, or to carry on any agricultural operation thereon; and the expression 'uncultivated' shall be construed correspondingly.

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