Lilavati Bai V/s. The State Of Bombay

The rule of ejusdem generis is intended to be applied where general words have been used   following particular and  specific words of the same  nature  on  the established  rule  of  construction  that  the   legislature presumed  to use  the general words in a  restricted  sense

Case name:Lilavati Bai V/s. The State Of Bombay
Case number:Petition No. 119 of 1955   with Petition for Special Leave to Appeal No. 140 of 1955.
Court:Supreme Court Of India
Bench:Sinha, Bhuvneshwar P Das, Sudhi Ranjan (Cj) Aiyyar, T.L. Venkatarama Das, S.K. Gajendragadkar, P.B.
Decided on:05/03/1957
Relevant Act/Sections:Constitutional law


The petitioner was the widow of one Dharamdas Chellaram, who was  a  tenant  of  the  premises  in  question. The said Dharamdas  Chellaram  died  in November  1953,  leaving  him surviving his widow and a daughter. 

The petitioner alleged that she had been occupying the premises in question  as  a member  of  her  husband’s family since 1938.

She also alleged that one Narottam Das Dharamsey Patel was a mere lodger who was, occupying a portion of the premises by leave and licence of her husband.

The said Narottamdas had vacated the portion in his occupation sometime in the year 1953. On behalf of the State of Bombay, the respondent it was alleged that it was not a fact that at the time of her husband’s death in November 1953 the petitioner was residing in the premises in question. 

The petitioner moved to High Court  of Bombay for a writ of mandamus against the State of Bombay and challenged  the constitutional validity of the Bombay Land Requisition  Act,1948,  as amended by the two amending Acts of 1950, and  the enforceability  of  an  order of  requisition  made  by  the Governor  of  Bombay  under s. 6 (4) (a) of  the  Act.

The same was dismissed by the High Court and thus the petitioner moved this Court for an appropriate writ, direction or order under Art. 32 of the Constitution, challenging the vires of the Act, as also the legal efficacy of the Order impugned.  She also filed a petition praying for special leave to appeal from the judgment  aforesaid  of  the Bombay High  Court.


Whether the Special Leave Petition should be upheld or not.

  • The court firstly overruled all the contentions made on the constitutionality of the Act based on such fundamental rights as are recognised by Arts.  19(1)(f) and 31(2) of the Constitution as these were already dealt by the court in its judgements of State of Bombay V Bhanji Munji.
  • The Court further stated that it was certain that the Act which -was good law before the commencement of the Constitution did not become void under Art.  13 of the Constitution, because there was nothing in the Act which was inconsistent with the provisions of Part III of   the Constitution. If  the Act  was  good  law   after   the commencement  of  the  Constitution,  it  follows  that  the amendments  aforesaid made in 1950, were equally  good  law, even  though  the  assent  of the  President  had  not  been obtained.
  • The court further went on to consider the other arguments advanced  on behalf  of  the  petitioner  which had  a  bearing  on  the petition  for special leave to appeal from the  judgment  of the Bombay High Court.
  • It was contended that ss. 5 and 6  of  the Act have  made certain  matters conclusive, so that the High Court or  even this  Court  could  not go behind the  order  of  the  State Government. It was also contended that  the legislature had, by making those provisions rendering  those matters conclusively proved, impaired the powers of the High Court under Art. 226 and of this Court under Art. 32 of  the Constitution. Along with this it was also contended that it was still open to the courts to find whether the facts found constituted in law “vacancy” as defined in the Act, with strong reliance on the Hubli electricity co. V Province of Bombay.
  • The court answered these contentions together.

While referring to case of  Hubli electricity co. V Province of Bombay  the court stated that it  is  well settled  that  observations  made  with reference  to  the  construction of one  statute  cannot  be applied with reference to the provisions of another  statute which  is not in pari materia with the statute  which  forms the  subject matter of the previous decision.  The  Judicial Committee was dealing with the provisions of s. 4(1) of  the Indian  Electricity  Act, 1910, which did  not  contain  the words  “conclusive  evidence” or any words to  that  effect.

  • Those words or words of similar import appear in the beginning of s. 5. In the words  of  the  Judicial Committee, those words signify the subjective opinion of the Government  and not an opinion subject to  objective  tests.
  • Further it was contended that the finding on the question of  vacancy  by the  State  Government was a “jurisdictional  fact”  in  the sense that unless it was found that there was a vacancy, the jurisdiction of the State Government to make the declaration and  to  requisition  the permises could  not  arise.   To which the Court while taking the case of Rai  Brij  Raj  Krishna  v.  S.  K.  Shau   & Brothers as an apt illustration explained: The Act has made a specific  provision to the effect that the determination  on the  questions referred to in ss. 5 and 6 of the Act by  the State  Government  shall  be  conclusive  evidence  of   the declaration  so  made.   But that does  not  mean  that  the jurisdiction  of  the High Court under Art. 226 or  of  this Court  under Art. 32 or on appeal has been impaired.   In  a proper case the High Court or this Court in the exercise  of its  special  jurisdiction under the  Constitution  has  the power  to  determine how far the provisions of  the  statute have or have not been complied with.  But the special powers aforesaid  of this Court or of the High Court cannot  extend to reopening a finding by the State Government under s. 5 of the  Act  that the tenant has not actually  resided  in  the premises  for a continuous period of six months.
  • Lastly, it was contended that there   was   no termination,  eviction, assignment or transfer and that  the words ” or otherwise ” must be construed as ejusdem  generis with  the,  words  immediately  preceding  them:  and   that therefore  on  the facts as admitted even in  the  affidavit filed  on  behalf  of the Government there  was  in  law  no vacancy.
  • The Court stated that  the  rule  of ejusdem  generis  sought  to  be  pressed  in  aid  of   the petitioner   can   possibly  have   no   application.    The legislature  has been cautious and thorough-going enough  to bar all avenues of escape by using the words ” or  otherwise “. Those words are not words of limitation but of  extension so  as  to cover all possible ways in which  a  vacancy  may occur.   Generally  speaking, a tenant’s occupation  of  his premises  ceases when his tenancy is terminated by  acts  of parties  or  by  operation  of law or  by  eviction  by  the landlord  or  by  assignment or  transfer  of  the  tenant’s interest.  But the legislature, when it used the words ”  or otherwise “, apparently intended to cover other cases  which may  not come within the. meaning of the preceding  clauses, for example, a case where the tenant’s occupation has ceased as a result of trespass by a third party.  The  legislature, in  our  opinion, intended to cover all  possible  cases  of vacancy occurring due to any reasons whatsoever. 
  • The Court concluded by stating that the vacancy as declared by the order  impugned in  this  case,  even though it may not be  covered  by  the specific  words  used,  is certainly covered  by  the  legal import of the words “or otherwise”. 
  • The court held that there was no need to apply the rule of conclusive proof as laid down in sub-s. (2) of s. 13. 
  • In any event, as the concluding words of the section have provided, any irregularity or failure to comply  with the-requirements of the section cannot  “affect the validity of the order”.
  • The petition was dismissed with costs.

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