1. This revision has been filed by the original defendants Nos. 2 and 3 against an order dated August 19, 1970, whereby the learned Judge rejected an application filed by those defendants on July 8, 1970. That application sought to raise a preliminary issue relating to the jurisdiction of the Small Cause Court to entertain the suit as was filed on the plea that it involved a question of title and the question as to who is the landlord of the defendants. Though, admittedly no specific issue was drawn, the learned Judge while rejecting the said application, pointed out that the suit was tenable in that Court. In sum, the Court held that the suit was an ejectment suit based upon the cause of action that arises usually between the landlord and the tenant and, therefore, it has the jurisdiction to try the same.
2. The pleadings of the parties may be noticed before the contentions in this revision application are appreciated. The plaintiffs Nos. 1 to 3, claiming as trustees of a private trust by name 'Krishnabai Motilal Family Trust.' filed a suit as landlords. The plaint alleges that the defendant No.1 was the monthly tenant and having obtained regularly the permission from the Rent Controller, the tenancy was duly determined. It is said that the other two defendants, i.e., the present applicants, in this revision are either licensees or sub-lessees of the defendant No.1. It was, therefore, claimed that a decree for possession be passed in favour of the plaintiffs along with usual reliefs.
3. To this the main contesting defendants Nos. 2 and 3, who are in actual possession have raised the contest. The defendant No.1, who is admittedly the tenant, has by his written statement, produced at Ex. 8, stated that he is the tenant from the plaintiffs and that the defendants Nos. 2 and 3 were inducted by him as his sub-lessees. The present applicants-defendants Nos. 2 and 3 - have raised several contentions including the challenge to the jurisdiction of the Small Cause Court. The main plea for the purposes of this challenge is that the plaintiffs are neither the landlords nor the owners. It is however, not disputed that the defendant No.1 is the person who inducted them in these premises. What is being said as a matter of plea is that the defendant No.1 is the tenant of a trust known as 'Sukhanand Gurmukhram Trust' and some reference is also made to litigation that is going on relating to this property under the aegis of that trust. In other words, the defendants Nos. 2 and 3, admitting that they are in possession of the property properly inducted by the defendant No.1, are setting up a title to the suit property in a third party. They are also claiming that third party is the landlord of the defendant No.1.
4. After hearing the parties, the learned Judge came to the conclusion that the preliminary issue does not arise and the Court of Small Causes has ample jurisdiction to try the matters raised by these pleadings. He relied upon the decision of this Court reported in Asgarali Roshanalli v. Kayumalli Ibrahimji. : AIR1956Bom236 .
5. Mr. Palshikar, appearing for the defendants Nos. 2 and 3 the applicants herein, seriously contends that the view expressed by the learned Judge is erroneous. By that defence plea he has raised a substantial question that affects the very character of the suit; at any rate, it involves a substantial question that puts in issue the title of the plaintiffs themselves. He being inducted by the tenant of the plaintiff, he says, the provisions of Section 116 of the Evidence Act do not apply to him, nor the estoppel operates upon his defence.
6. The position relating to the persons claiming through the tenants is not better than the tenant himself. The estoppel that is enacted in the provisions of Section 116 of the Evidence Act is not an exhaustive one and it is well settled that once it is possible to find out the relationship of landlord and tenants between the parties, the rule of estoppel will bar further enquiry as to title at the instance of the tenant. This inquiry would take in even the challenge on the footing that there is a defective title in the present plaintiff. In the present case, it is not at all in dispute that the defendant No.1 is the superior title holder than the defendants Nos. 2 and 3 in the matter of lease. The said defendant No.1 has categorically admitted that he is the tenant from the present plaintiffs. In other words, the defendant No.1 is bound by the estoppel that is operative under S. 116 of the Evidence Act.
7. However, Mr. Palshikar argued that the defendants Nos. 2 and 3 do not admit the tenancy of the defendant No.1 vis-a-vis the present plaintiffs and, therefore, the question of title can well be raised and investigated. This argument overlooks the principle that the right of the sub-lessee or inducted person cannot be better than the person through whom he claims. The derivative demise cannot have larger dimensions than the original device. If the lessee stands estopped so also the person claiming through him.
8. The provisions of Section 116 of the Evidence Act are in two parts and operate against all persons who enter upon the property as tenants or as licensees of the persons in possession thereof. The later part of that section says that the person who enters upon any immovable property by the licence of the person in possession thereof, is not to be permitted to deny that such person had a title to such possession at the time when such licence was given. The principle of this wholesome provision is clearly meant to further the public convenience. It arises from agreements or contracts between the parties. A person while in possession should on considerations of policy and principle be always estopped from denying the title of the person who let him into that possession, both under English Law Deo v. Baytup, (1835) 3 A & E 188; Cooke v. Laxley, (1792) 2 RR 521; Doe v. Austin. (1832) 2 Bing 41 and Re Stringer's Estate LR C Ch 9. per Jussel M. R. and under the provisions of Indian Statutes (See Veerraju v. Venkanna, : 1SCR831 , following Bilas Kunwar v. Desraj Ranjit AIR 1915 PC 96; Mohamad Mumtaz Ali v. Mohansingh AIR 1923 PC 118; Naina Pillai v. Ramnatha Chettiar. AIR 1924 PC 65 and Patna Municipal Corporation v. Ram Das, C. A. No. 598 of 1963, decided on 11-8-1965 by the Supreme Court). It is a grounded rule of law that a tenant who has been let into possession cannot deny his landlord's title, however, defective it may be, so long as he has not openly restored possession by surrender to his landlord. This principle would also apply to the persons who enter into possession by leave or licence of the tenant on the land and they will be estopped from denying the title of such tenant or the person in possession. The effect of this provision is that when a suit for ejectment is filed the Court has to find out as to whether there had been the agreement pleaded between the parties and if that agreement is found, then no question of title arises. The Small Cause Court has ample jurisdiction to find out these matters because of its power to pass decrees for ejectment and possession and to hold whether the defendant was the person who entered in the suit premises as a tenant of the plaintiff or was inducted by a person claiming to be the tenant of the plaintiff. These questions which enable the Court to pass the consequent decree cannot in any manner be treated as complicated questions of title so as to oust the jurisdiction conferred by the Provincial Small Cause Courts Act, 1887.
9. Only because the present applicants think it fit to assert that the defendant No.1 is the tenant of the third party and not of the plaintiff, it does not follow that any complicated question of title is raised which should change the forum chosen by the plaintiff. In fact, as the pleadings stand, it is the duty of the Court trying such a suit to find out as to how these two defendants, who are applicants in this revision came in possession of the property. Once that position is reached, nothing remains to be decided in such a suit.
10. Reliance placed on the decisions reported in Ramesh Chandra v. N. L. Dutta, 1969 Mah LJ 29 and Bai Jivkore Lakshmiram v. Himatlal Girdharlal. AIR 1936 Bom 98 do not help the present applicants in any manner. The question that is argued before me is absolutely a different one and, as I have indicated above, it is based on a pleading which may run specifically counter to the provisions of Section 116 of the Evidence Act. In every ejectment suit in law the Court passing the decree is bound to find out the agreement or contract by which the persons are inducted in possession of the immovable property and upon finding such agreement or contract, it has to pass the necessary decree. In law, in this process a Court of Small Causes is not incompetent to decide even the ancillary questions relating to title to the property so as to find out who was the landlord and who continues to be the landlord of the property in question. In : AIR1956Bom236 the jurisdiction of the Small Cause Court in this regard has been affirmed.
11. It is, therefore, clear that the complaint of the present applicants-original defendants Nos. 2 and 3 that their application was wrongly rejected by the trial Court has no merit. There is no reason to interfere with the said order and this revision consequently is dismissed with costs.
12. Revision dismissed.