Tenancy is a feature of land tenure system in many under-developed countries particularly in India where land tenures were comprised of various types of inams, cash grants, watans, non-ryotwari tenures, etc., cultivation of land by tenants being a predominant feature. Even after much legislative enactments and reforms, the class of tenants still exists but they are no more the tenants-at-will.

In the past there were no special laws regarding the regulation of the relations between the landlords and tenants in the State and these relations were mostly governed by mutual contract or local usage and custom, the tenants having no legal protection. The growing pressure on land due to the increase in population compelled a large number of agriculturists to accept the tillage of the land from the landlord on any condition. The migration of landlords to the neighbouring cities and towns due to unfavourable economic conditions in rural area also, to a great extent, caused the lease of land to tenants. However, for want of legal protection and fixed tenure, the tenant-cultivators did not have any stakes in the land they cultivated. During this period the landlord-tenant relationship was regulated by making the provisions of section 83 of the Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879, the Khoti Settlement Act, 1880 (which regulated the relations of Khots and dharekaris, quasi-dharekaris and permanent tenants) and also the other legislative measures in this regard applicable to local areas. However, these enactments neither stopped the exploitation of the tenants nor did they give him any equality of status with the landlord.

The Congress Ministry which assumed office in the State in 1937, declared its policy of enacting legislation to transfer the ownership of land to the tillers of the soil. It was on this background that the Government passed the Act called the Bombay Tenancy Act of 1939. This Act introduced a new concept of " protected tenancy " in case of those tenants who held land continuously for a period of not less than six years immediately preceding the 1st January 1938. The Act gave to the tenants for the first time a fixity of tenure, rentals, house-sites, right to trees, protection from eviction, etc. In the initial stage the Act was applied to the districts of Surat, Thana, West Khandesh and Dharwar and the " partially excluded areas ", as an experimental measure and was applied to the whole of the State in 1946. The Act provides that the maximum rent payable by a tenant on account of use or occupation of the land held by him, but which docs not include the rendering of any personal service or labour, should not exceed 1 / 4th and 1/3rd of the crop in the case of irrigated and non-irrigated lands, respectively. After Independence, the problem of agricultural production assumed dimensional importance. With a view therefore of preserving the tenants' interests by encouraging the peasant proprietorship the previous Act was amended. However, in the administration of the Act, some defects were noticed. In order to remedy this state of affairs, a new legislation called the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948, was passed. This Act retained the beneficent provisions of the Act of 1939 and added others.

The following are the main provisions of the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948:-

(i) assumption of management of the estates of landlords such as sarenjamdars, jahagirdars, inamdars, khole, etc.;

(ii) taking over the management of fallow lands and their acquisition where necessary;

(iii) restriction on transfer of agricultural land;

(iv) conferment of the right to purchase land from the landlord on the protected tenants; and

(v) prevention of uneconomic cultivation.

To remove gradually all intermediaries, the Government made the following additional amendments to the Act of 1948 by the amending Act of 1955:-

(i) fixing minimum and maximum limits of rent;

(ii) fixing prices at which a tenant could purchase occupancy rights from his landlord;

(iii) limiting right of the landlord to evict the tenant;

(iv) restricting rent to cash payment only; and

(v) conferring on all permanent and protected tenants and other tenants subject to the right of the landlord the right to recover possession for personal cultivation or for non-agricultural purpose. Such tenants were deemed to have purchased the land cultivated by them on 1st April 1957 called the "Tiller's Day" at prices to be fixed within the prescribed limit. This was an important step towards the removal of absentee landlordism which is one of the disincentives in any programme of agricultural improvement; and

(vi) fixing of the ceiling area and economic holding. After the Tenancy Act of 1948, the Bombay Act XV of 1967 made an important provision for compulsory purchase of land by the tenants with effect from 1st April 1957 (Tillers' Day).

Further by the amending Act No. XXXXIX of 1969, which came into force from 17th October 1969, the right of purchase of the land by the tenants who were so on 15th June 1955 but who were unlawfully evicted by the landlords upto 31st March 1957 was conferred upon the tenants.

Thus the Government have taken measures for implementing a sound agrarian reform policy so as to improve the conditions of tenants. With the enforcement of the Tenancy Act, the number of tenants has considerably reduced. Many of them have purchased the lands from their landlords under the provisions of various enabling enactments. The implementation of the Tenancy Act as regards compulsory purchase is, however, still in progress.