Midnapore Zemindary Company v Province of Bengal

CourtFederal Court (India)
Docket NumberCase No. 6
India, Federal Court.

(Sir Harilal Kania, C.J., Patanjali Sastri and Mehr Chand Manajan, JJ.)

Case No. 6
Midnapore Zemindary Co., Ltd.
and
Province of Bengal and Others.
STATES AS INTERNATIONAL PERSONS

States — Sovereignty and Independence — Conclusiveness of Statements of Executive — Statements as to Extent of National Territory — India and Pakistan.

The Facts.—This was an appeal from a Judgment and Decree of the High Court of Calcutta which dismissed a suit for a declaration that the settlement of rent made in respect of certain lands was illegal. Following the decision of the High Court of Calcutta, the appellant Company secured leave to appeal to His Majesty in Council. However, before the case could be transmitted to His Majesty in Council, the Indian Independence Act of August 15, 1947, came into force, and each of the Dominions of India and Pakistan claimed the lands in question as lying within its own boundaries. The High Court of Calcutta transmitted the records to the Federal Court of India under the Federal Court (Enlargement of Jurisdiction) Act, 1947. Counsel for the appellants raised a preliminary objection to the effect that the Federal Court had no jurisdiction, for the reason, inter alia, that as a foreign State was concerned in the case it was not consistent with rules of international comity that the Federal Court should hear the appeal. It was argued on behalf of the Province of Bengal that the Federal Court, being a Court in India, was bound by the view of the Government of India that the properties in question lay within Indian territory.

Held: that the Court had jurisdiction. The statement of the Government of India as to the extent of Indian territory was conclusive upon the Court. The Court said:

“This Court cannot entertain an objection based on the allegation that the land which is the subject-matter of these proceedings is within the territories of another State when, as has been represented to us on behalf of the Government, the Government of this country disputes the boundary line as put forward by the Dominion of Pakistan and claims that the land in question lies within the home territory, being comprised within the boundaries of the Province of West Bengal as determined by the award of the Boundary Commission already referred to. ‘State territory’, observes Oppenheim, ‘is an object of the Law of Nations, because the latter recognises the supreme authority of every State within its territory’,1 and disputes as to...

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