Case Analysis of Shanta Bai v. State of Bombay, 1958
By Shagun Mahendroo
A brief summary of the situation: The case concerned petitioner A, whose husband B, the forest owner, had signed an unregistered document in the shape of a lease in A's favour. As a result, A was granted the right to cut and utilise bamboo, teak, and fuelwood for a fee of Rs. 26,000 for a period of 12.5 years.
A lost her right to remove any more trees after the Madhya Pradesh Abolition of Proprietary Rights Act was passed in 1950. A filed a petition under Article 32 alleging that her contractual right has been denied, as well as a claim for damages. The question was whether the right was one of mobile or immovable property.
The 5-judge court issued a decision, with one member issuing a distinct decision. The four judges said in their ruling that the paper cannot be construed as a lease, but it does allow A to enter the land to chop the aforementioned trees. Profit-a-prendre, or the right to take soil, minerals, or any other produce from a land, was said to be the case. The court said that such trees are deemed standing wood as of the date of the document, but are recognised as movable property because their size is small and they can collapse at any time.
The deed was an unregistered instrument that demonstrates that no basic right was violated in the first place, and A cannot enforce it because A has not gained any legal rights. As a result, the petition was denied.
One judge, Justice Bose, issued a separate ruling, stating that while a lease allows one to enjoy the property, it does not grant them the right to remove it from its original position. He went on to say that trees are immovable, and that registration is required in the case of a lease, as well as for the leasing of immovable property for more than a year.
The additional trees included by the grant would be immovable property, and because the total value was Rs. 26,000, the deed required registration.
The main takeaway from this case was that trees are considered immovable property. The person who enjoys the property has no right to take it away under a lease. In a profit-a-prendre, one is given permission to enter the land with the intent of removing something rather than enjoying it. If registration is required, the right is transferred by a deed. The terms lease and profit-a-prendre are not interchangeable. The lease enjoys transportable property, but in profit-a-prendre, a person simply has the right to take products (such as soil or minerals from land).