S.K. Dhaon, J.
1. In these three petitions the sole controversy is common. They are, therefore, being disposed of by a common judgment.
2. Long back the Estate Officer, in the purported exercise of powers under Section 5 of the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupation) Act, 1971 (hereinafter referred to as the Act) passed separate orders of eviction of the petitioners from the public premises of which they were found to be in unauthorised occupation. These orders became final. For the purposes of evicting the petitioners from, and taking possession of, the public premises under the occupation of the petitioners the Estate Officer duly authorised one Sri Om Prakash, the Building Officer of the Cantonment Board, Allahabad. This authorisation was challenged by the petitioners by separate appeals. These appeals have been dismissed by the XIIth Additional District Judge by separate but similar orders. The learned Judge has taken the view that the appeals are not competent under Section 9 of the Act. The legality of this view is being impugned in these petitions.
3. Section 3 empowers the Central Government to appoint Estate Officers for the purposes of the Act. Section 4 provides that if the Estate Officer is of the opinion that any persons are in unauthorised occupation of a public premises and that they should be evicted, the Estate Officer shall issue a notice in writing calling upon all persons concerned as to why an order of eviction should not be made. The specification of the grounds, the period within which cause should be shown and the manner of serving the notice are laid down in the said provision. Sub-section (1) of Section 5 empowers the Estate Officer to pass an order of eviction. Sub-section (2) thereof enables the Estate Officer or any other Officer duly authorised by him in this behalf, to evict the person against whom an order under Subsection (1) has been passed. Section 5-B talks of an order of demolition of unauthorised constructions. Section 5-C empowers the Estate Officer to seal unauthorised constructions. Section 7 authorises the Estate Officer to pass an order directing any person, who is in arrears of rent payable in respect of any public premises to pay the same within a specified time. It also authorises the Estate Officer to assess the damages payable by any person, who is or who has been in authorised occupation of any public premises. Section 9 makes every order of the Estate Officer made in respect of any public premises under Section 5 or Section 5-B or Section 5-C or Section 7 appealable.
4. On behalf of the petitioners the emphasis is on the words : "an appeal shall lie from every order of the Estate Officer made in respect of any public premises under Section 5" and it is urged that the authorisation made by the Estate Officer under Sub-section (2) of Section 5 is appealable. The contention appears to be plausible at the first blush but the same cannot hold water for the reasons to be stated hereafter.
5. It will be convenient to extract Subsections (1) and (2) in extenso and also the relevant portions of Section 9:
"5. Eviction of unauthorised occupants. --(1) If, after considering the cause, if any, shown by any person in pursuance of a notice under Section 4 and (any evidence produced by him in support of the same and after personal hearing, if any, given under Clause (b) of Sub-section (2) of Section 4), the Estate Officer is satisfied that the public premises are in unauthorised occupation, the Estate Officer may make an order of eviction, for reasons to be recorded therein, directing that the public premises shall be vacated, on such date as may be specified in the order, by all persons who may be in occupation thereof or any part thereof, and cause a copy of the order to be affixed on the outer door or some other conspicuous part of the public premises. (2) If any person refuses or fails to comply with the order of eviction on or before the date specified in the said order or within fifteen days of the date of its publication under Sub-section (1), whichever is later, the estate officer or any other officer duly authorised by the Estate Officer in this behalf may after the date so specified or after the expiry of the period aforesaid, whichever is later, evict that person from, and take possession of the public premises and may, for that purpose, use such force as may be necessary."
"9. Appeals -- (1) An appeal shall lie from every order of the estate officer made in respect of any public premises under Section 5 or Section 5-B or Section 5-C or Section 7 to an appellate officer.....
(2) An appeal under Sub-section (1) shall be preferred, --
(a) in the case of an appeal from an order under Section 5, within twelve days from the date of publication of the order under subsection (1) of that section;
Provided that the appellate officer may entertain the appeal after the expiry of the said period, if he is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time."
(2) Where an appeal is preferred from an order of the estate officer, the appellate officer may stay the enforcement of that order for such period and on such conditions as he deems fit....."
In Sub-section (1) of Section 4 a show cause notice has to be given to an unauthorised occupant of any public premises. In Sub-section (2) the requirements of the notices are mentioned. One is that the grounds on which the order of eviction is proposed to be made shall be specified. The second is that all persons concerned are required to show cause, if any, against the proposed order on or before such date as specified in the notice, being a date not earlier than seven days from the issue thereof. And the last is to appear before the Estate Officer on the date specified in the notice along with the evidence intended to be produced in support of cause shown. Personal hearing is also ensured on the date specified in the notice, if such hearing is desired. It will be immediately seen that for the purpose of passing an order of eviction under Sub-section (1) of Section 5 the giving of a notice is mandatory and a complete opportunity of a hearing too is contemplated. Thus, the Legislature has provided a complete scheme containing inbuilt safeguards so as to ensure a fair hearing to a person against whom an order of eviction is proposed to be passed. In contrast, neither any notice nor any opportunity of a hearing is contemplated for the purpose of taking an action under Subsection (2) of Section 5.
6. A bare reading of the provisions of subjection (1) of Section 5 indicates that the Estate Officer is enjoined to consider the reply given by a person to the show cause notice, the evidence produced by him in support of the same, and the representation made during ' the course of the personal hearing, if desired. Therefore, the satisfaction of the Estate Officer as envisaged in the provision under consideration is objective and not subjective, This is doubly ensured by requiring the Estate Officer to record reasons for making an order of eviction. There is also a mandate on the Estate Officer to fix a specified date in the order of eviction for the vacation of the public premises by an unauthorised occupant. The mode of the service of the order has also been indicated by the Legislature.
7. In Sub-section (2) the manner of the execution of the order of eviction passed under Sub-section (1) is provided. It says that on the failure of a person to comply with the order of eviction on or before the date specified in the order or within 15 days of the publication of the order, whichever is later, the Estate Officer or any other Officer duly authorised by him may evict an unauthorised occupant and take possession of the public premises from him. Use of force, if necessary, has also been permitted. Rule 4 framed under the Act provides the manner of service of notices and orders. Under Sub-section (2) the primary duty of executing the order of eviction passed under Sub-section (1) is on the Estate Officer. He could proceed with the eviction of the petitioners without authorising the officer of the Cantonment Board. For the facility of the execution and for the convenience of the Estate Officer, the Legislature has authorised him to designate another officer. Designation of an officer by the Estate Officer is, therefore, an internal matter. The designation of an Officer does not have any impact on any of the rights of a third party. None of the rights of the persons found to be in unauthorised occupation under Sub-section (1) of Section 5 are affected by the designation of an Officer for the purposes of executing the order already passed. It is immaterial whether the Estate Officer himself or his delegate or an Officer duly authorised by him resorts to the execution proceedings. Moreover, it will be seen from a re-reading of Sub-section (2) that the action under that subsection is mechanical. The action under Subsection (2) is pursuant to the order passed under Sub-section (1). No element of discretion or independent judgment is involved. The duty to be performed by the Estate Officer is laid down in certain and specific terms. There is no scope for the investigation of any fact. No choice is left. The discharge of function is, therefore, ministerial. Kair and Lawson in cases in Constitutional Law (Fifth Edition) page 402 say :
"Many of the acts performed by public authorities or public officers are done in strict obedience of Rules, statutes or common law which impose on them a symbol of definite duty in exercising which they have no choice. Such a duty is, prima facie, a ministerial duty.''
Once the conditions enumerrated in the provision are fulfilled, eviction of an unauthorised occupant is a matter of course. Further it is clear from the perusal of the contents of Sub-section (2) that the passing of any order is not envisaged therein.
8. In Sub-section (2)(a) of Section 9 limitation for, filing the appeal is provided only in the case of an order passed under Sub-section (1) of Section 5. If the intention of the Legislature is that action taken under Sub-section (2) of Section 5 too is appealable, there was no difficulty in its prescribing a period of limitation in that behalf. If the contention of the petitioners is accepted it would lead to anomalous results. In the case of an appeal against an order passed under Sub-section (1) there is a limitation provided: whereas in the case of an appeal against the order or action taken under Sub-section (2) no limitation is provided. To get over this anomaly, learned counsel suggested that even for the purposes of preferring an appeal against the action taken or order passed under Sub-section (2) of Section 5 the period of limitation would be twelve days from the date of the publication of the order passed under Sub-section (i) of Section
5. It is implicit in such a construction that the filing of the appeal beyond the period of limitation prescribed is implicit. This is so as in Sub-section (1) of Section 5 an action can be taken only if the unauthorised occupant has failed to vacate the public premises within fifteen days of the publication of the order of eviction passed under the said section, whereas as we have already seen, the outer limit to prefer an appeal against an order passed under Sub-section (1) of Section 5 is twelve days from the publication of the order passed under that Sub-section. However, it is contended that a person aggrieved can still prefer an appeal against the order by invoking the aid of the proviso to Sub-section (2) which authorises the appellate authority to condone the delay on his being satisfied that a particular appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal within time. Such a construction, if accepted, will run counter to the wellknown principle of the construction of the statute of limitation. It is trite that such a statute is to be interpreted strictly against the party who sets up the plea of limitation and construction favourable to the party whose valuable right is being taken away must always be given. Besides, such a construction will necessarily result in a strain on the language used in Section 9.
9. Sub-section (3) of Section 9 also requires to be considered. The Appellate Authority is empowered to stay the enforcement of an order of the Estate Officer. As already indicated, in Sub-section (1) of Section 5 an enforceable order complete in all respects is intended to be passed. On the contrary, no order much: less an order to be enforced is contemplated, to be passed under Sub-section (2) of Section 5. A combined reading of the provisions of Ss. 4, 5, and 9 leads to the irresistible conclusion that an order made or action taken under Sub-section (2) of Section 5 has not been made appealable under Section
10. The expression 'order' in the context of the provisions of the Act is not a term of art. It has, therefore, to be understood in a natural and common sense meaning. In Black's Law Disctionary 'order' is defined :
"A mandate, precept, a command or direction authoritatively given."
"Order" as a noun has been equivalent or synonymous with decision. We have. emphasised that in Sub-section (2) of Section 5 there is neither any direction authoritatively given nor any decision taken. Both these features are to be found in Sub-section (1) wherein an order of eviction is passed. Therefore, the authorisation made by the Estate Officer in favour of the Officer of the Cantonment Board is not an order.
11. The Act was amended by the Amending Act No. 61 of 1980. The Statement of the Objects and Reasons for introducing the Amendment Act of 1980 said that the purpose of the enactment was to provide for speedy and summary eviction of unauthorised occupants from premises of the Central Government etc. In paragraph 3 it is stated that amendments with a view to overcome the difficulties which have been experienced in the working of the Act and to make the administration of the Act more effective are being introduced. In particular, it is stated that amendments of Sections 4, 5 and 9 of the Act for reducing the total period taken in eviction proceedings by reducing the period of showing cause to the notice of eviction from 10 to 7 days, eliminating personal hearing after cause is shown by an unauthorised occupant, reducing the period within which an unauthorised occupant should vacate the premises after the order of eviction is passed from 30 days to 15 days, and reducing the period for filing an appeal against the order Of Estate Officer from 15 days to 12 days are being introduced. Indeed, these amendments are now to be found in the Act. Having regard to the fact that the purpose of the Act is to provide for speedy and summary eviction of unauthorised occupants from public premises, the amendments made in Sections 4, 5, and 9 and keeping in view the well-known principle of purposive construction of statutes there should be no hesitation in taking the view that the authorisation made by the Estate Officer in favour of the official of the Cantonment Board in the exercise of powers under Sub-section (2) of Section 5 is not appealable under Section 9.
12. These petitions have no substance. They are dismissed summarily.