1. This revision application has been filed against the order passed by the learned Joint Judge of Akola in Miscellaneous Civil Appeal No 6 of 1975 dismissing appeal of the applicants against the order of the trial Court passed in Regular Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972, granting temporary injunction against them restraining them from interfering with the possession of the suit fields.
2. The subject matter of this litigation consists of two agricultural lands bearing survey Nos. 35 and 36/2 situated at Gondeshwar in Akola district. These lands admittedly belong to non-applicant No. 1. On 12th July, 1972, the present applicants had filed a suit being Regular Civil Suit No. 105 of 1972, against the present non-applicant No. 1 and Vithal for a permanent injunction restraining these two defendants from interfering with their possession and cultivation of the suit lands. It appears that the applicants had also prayed for temporary injunction in the suit and an ex parte injunction was granted. However, it was vacated after the defendants appeared in the suit and contested it. An appeal was preferred against the vacation of the stay but that appeal was also dismissed. In that suit the applicants claimed that one Haribhau who was the husband of applicant No. 1 and father of applicants Nos. 2 and 4 had been cultivating suit lands as tenant for the last 10 to 12 years till his death and that after his death, the applicants had become tenants in respect of the suit lands as heirs of Haribhau and were as such cultivating them. They alleged that non-applicant No. 1 was interfering with their possession and was trying to oust them. It is on these allegations that they sought the temporary and permanent injunctions. It appears that non-applicant No. 1 appeared in that suit and denied the claim of the applicants to be the tenants of the suit land and on this contention an issue was raised as to whether the applicants were tenants of the suit lands. This issue regarding tenancy had been referred to the competent authority under the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands (Vidarbha Region) Act, 1958 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act') on 14th December, 1973.
3. I am told that the competent authority has not yet decided the issue which has been referred to it as above and the matter is still pending before it.
4. When Regular Civil Suit No. 105 of 1972 was thus pending in the trial Court the present non-applicant No. 1 instituted another suit being Regular Suit No. 167 of 1972 on 30th November, 1972 against the present applicants and the present non-applicant No. 2. This suit was also for permanent injunction restraining the defendants in that suit from interfering with the alleged possession of the plaintiff namely non-applicant No. 1. An application for temporary injunction was also filed along with the plaint. On 30th November, 1972 the trial Court granted an ex parte temporary injunction in favour of the plaintiff namely non-applicant No. 1, subject to the condition that he would not oust defendant No. 1 i.e. the present applicant No. 1 from the residential hut in which she was residing in the suit lands, otherwise than in due course of law. The present applicants appeared in the suit and filed the written statements as well as reply to the application for temporary injunction. They denied that Haribhau was not the tenant of the land and that land was personally cultivated by the plaintiff. They maintained that they are heirs of Haribhau, who was in occupation of the suit land as tenants and as such the lands were not in possession of the plaintiff in this suit also an issue regarding tenancy was framed and has been referred to the competent authority under the Act for determination and it is pending with that authority.
5. The trial Court after hearing the parties and considering the evidence on record, confirmed the temporary injunction granted earlier and removed the condition on which it was granted. This order was passed on 22nd January, 1975, The applicants being aggrieved by this order, preferred an appeal to the District Court at Akola and that appeal also came to be dismissed. It is against this order that the present revision application has been filed.
6. Mr. Kherdekar, learned counsel for the applicants, submitted that the matter in issue in Regular Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 is also directly and substantially in issue in the previously instituted suit namely Regular Civil Suit No. 105 of 1972 and both the suits are between the same parties and hence the trial Court ought to have stayed Regular Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 under the provisions of Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter referred to as 'the Code'). According to Mr. Kherdekar, if the trial Court had proceeded to stay the suit under Section 10 of the Code, it could not have passed any interim order including the order for temporary injunction. Mr. Kherdekar secondly 'submitted that the suit involved the determination of the question of tenancy of agricultural land and hence the Civil Court was bound to stay the suit under the provisions of Section 125 of the Act and hence also it would not be competent for it to pass any orders, including interim orders, when the suit is required to be stayed under the provisions of the said Act. Mr. Kherdekar submitted that the issue regarding tenancy has already been referred to the competent Court in Civil Suit No. 105 of 1972 and hence the trial Court should not have granted any temporary injunction in favour of non-applicant No. 1 in Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 inasmuch as it would amount to determine the issue regarding tenancy which power of jurisdiction the trial Court did not have. Mr. Kherdekar submitted that on merits also non-applicant No. 1 had no case and the evidence on record clearly indicated that the applicants were in possession of the suit lands and were cultivating the same. Mr. Kherdekar submitted that the very fact that non-applicant No. 1 did not take any steps in Civil Suit No. 105 of 1972 to obtain injunction against the present applicant would itself show that he was not in possession of the suit lands and that he had instituted Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 after a long time and he had applied for the temporary injunction after considerable delay. On these contentions Mr. Kherdekar submitted that the trial Court should not have granted temporary injunction in favour of non-applicant No. 1 in the latter suit. Lastly, Mr. Kherdekar submitted that while confirming the ex parte temporary injunction granted earlier the trial Court should not have deleted the condition which it had put while granting that injunction namely that applicant No. 1 should be allowed to continue to occupy the residential hut in the suit fields. According to Mr. Kherdekar, deletion of this condition would amount to putting non-applicant No. 1 in possession of the hut which even on his own showing was in the occupation of applicant No. 1.
7. In so far as the first contention of Mr. Kherdekar is concerned, it may be stated that on 24th August, 1973 applicant No. 1 had made an application in Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 stating that this suit had to be stayed in view of the previously instituted suit namely Civil Suit No. 105 of 1972. It appears that this application was purported to have been made under Section 10 of the Code. However, no order appears to have been passed on this application. It may be pertinent to note that neither in the written statements to the suit nor in reply to the application for temporary injunction did the applicants raise the contention that Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 was required to be stayed in view of the previous suit having been instituted and pending. It also appears that at the time of hearing of the application for temporary injunction also no contention was taken before the trial Court that in view of the provisions contained in Section 10 of the Code the suit had to be stayed and the trial Court was not competent to pass any order on that application. It also appears that such contention was not even taken before the appellate Court and it is being taken for the first time in this revision application in this Court. However, this is a question of law and I do not propose to stop the applicants from raising that question here.
8. As already noted above, Mr. Kherdekar contended that the matter in issue in both the suits is substantially the same and that issue is whether the applicants are tenants of the suit lands. According to Mr. Kherdekar, if this is so, the provision's of Section 10 of the Code would clearly govern the lattersuit namely Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 and the provisions of that section being mandatory as laid down by the Supreme Court in Manoharlal v. Hiralal : AIR1962SC527 , the trial Court had no other alternative but to stay the suit and if it had to stay the suit it could not entertain any interim application like the application for temporary injunction. Mr. Kherdekar further submitted that even though Section 10 speaks of stay with regard to trial of the suit, the trial of the suit commenced as soon as the plaint is instituted and hence the provisions of Section 10 would govern all the stages of the suit right from its institution. In support of this contention that trial of suit begins with filing of the plaint, Mr. Kherdekar has drawn my attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in Harish Chandra v. Triloki : 1SCR370 and Om Prabha Jain v. Gian Chand : AIR1959SC837 .
9. On the other hand Mr. Sohoni, learned counsel for non-applicant No. 1 submitted that the two suits were not between the same parties since non-applicant No. 2 is not a party to Civil Suit No. 105 of 1972 and one Vithal, who has been impleaded as defendant No. 2 in that suit, is not a party in the present suit. Hence according to Mr. Sohoni, the parties in both the suits are not the same and hence the provisions of Section 10 of the Code would not be applicable. Further, Mr. Sohoni submitted that even if that section is held to be applicable it would not deprive the trial Court from passing the interim order like granting temporary injunction, as what is contemplated by Section 10 is stay of the trial of the suit which would mean the ultimate decision of the suit and not all proceedings in the suit. Mr. Sohoni, pointed out that the decision of the Supreme Court in Harish and Om Prabha with regard to the interpretation of word 'trial' cannot be resorted to for the construction of the word 'trial' occurring in Section 10 as these two decisions proceed on the interpretation of that word occurring in Section 90 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the Supreme Court has based its construction of that word occurring in that section on the scheme of that Act. Mr. Sohoni pointed out that in Senaji v. Pannaji (AIR 1922 Bom 276) a Division Bench of this Court has laid down that an order staying the suit under Section 10 of the Code does not prevent the Court from making any interlocutory orders such as orders ior receiver or injunction or attachments before judgment, Mr. Sohoni, therefore, submitted that in so far as this Court is concerned, the point is concluded by the decision of the Division Bench in Senaji's case.
10. There cannot be any dispute that the provision's of Section 10 of the Code are mandatory. In Manoharlal's case (cited supra) the Supreme Court has categorically observed that provision of Section 10 of the Code is clear and mandatory. There is, therefore, no difficulty in holding that the trial Court has to stay the trial of the suit which is governed by the provisions of that section. However, it may be noted that what is prohibited is proceeding with the trial of the suit. The word 'trial' has not been denned in the Code and that word occurring in Section 10 will have to be construed in the light of scheme of the Code itself. As has been observed by the Supreme Court in Harish Chandra's case the word 'trial' standing by itself is susceptible of both the narrow and wider senses i.e. it may be understood in the limited sense as meaning the final hearing of the matter consisting of examination of witnesses, filing documents and addressing arguments or it may connote entire proceedings before the tribunal from the time that the matter is instituted until the pronouncement of the decision. The case before the Supreme Court was under the Representation of the People Act of 1951 and, there the Court was called upon to construe the word 'trial' occurring in Section 90 of that Act. Considering the scheme of the Act the Supreme Court held that the word there was used in a wider sense. It would, therefore, appear that the word 'trial' cannot have only one meaning as urged by Mr. Kherdekar, namely all proceedings right from the institution of the plaint till disposal of the suit. As has been observed by the Supreme Court, it is also capable of narrower meaning namely the final hearing of the suit consisting of examination of witnesses, filing documents and addressing arguments. In my view, it is in this narrow sense that the word 'trial' has been used in Section 10 of the Code.
11. At any rate this point is concluded by the decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Senaji's case (cited supra) and I am respectfully bound by the ratio in that case. In my view, therefore, the trial Court was competent to entertain the application for temporary injunction and pass orders on it eventhough Civil Suit No. 167 of 1972 was a latter suit and might come within mischief of Section 10 of the Code. However, I may make it clear that I am not expressing any opinion here as to the applicability of Section 10 of the Code and it is open to the trial Court to pass such orders as it deems fit on the application which has been made by the applicants for the stay of the suit. Suffice it to say that I do not find any substance in the first contention urged by Mr. Kherdekar.
12. This then brings us to the contention of Mr. Kherdekar that the suit was required to be stayed under Section 125 of the Act as it involved an issue regarding the tenancy which could be determined only by the competent authority under the Act and if that was so the trial Court could not have proceeded to decide the application for temporary injunction which in a way involved the decision of the issue regarding tenancy. Mr. Sohoni, learned counsel for non-applicant No. 1 submitted that the stay of the suit will not operate in so far as interim matters are concerned and the stay contemplated by Section 125 of the Act would be in so far as the decision of the issue which is required to be determined by the competent authority is concerned. Mr. Sohoni submitted that an anomalous situation may arise if Section 125 of the Act is construed to mean that the Civil Court should stay its hands off the proceedings in a suit if contention regarding tenancy of an agricultural land is raised. It is submitted that if such construction was put on Section 125 of the Act, in a given case a party which is genuinely entitled to temporary injunction against his possession would be deprived of that remedy as such a remedy is not available to him before the authorities under the Act as has been held by this Court in Mela Kabhai v. Motibai : (1958)60BOMLR1071 ). Further Mr. Sohoni submitted that in deciding the application for temporary injunction the Civil Court is not concerned with the decision regarding the right, title and interest of the parties to the suit in the subject matter of the suit. The Civil Court is concerned in granting temporary injunction only with the question as to which party is prima facie in possession at the time of the institution of the suit. There may be dispute between the parties with regard to the title of the suit property and the parties may set up their own claim to the property in various ways which would be decided in the suit. Mr. Sohoni therefore, submitted that the trial Court in this case was not prevented from granting temporary injunction simply because the applicants had contended that they were tenants of the suit land and issue regarding tenancy had to be referred to the competent authority under the Act and the suit had to be stayed. Sub-section (1) of Section 125 of the Act provides that if any suit instituted in any civil Court involves any issues which are required to be settled, decided or dealt with by any authority competent to settle, decide or deal with such issues under the Act the Civil Court should stay the suit and refer such issues to such competent authority for determination. There is no dispute that the question, whether a person is a tenant of agricultural land, is to be decided by the Tahsildar as provided by Clause (2) of the Section 100 of the Act. It is, therefore, clear that if in a suit a contention is raised, that a party to it is tenant of agricultural land, that issue will have to be referred to the tahsildar as provided by Sub-section (1) of Section 125 of the Act. However, the question is whether in a suit of such a nature the Civil Court is debarred from exercising its jurisdiction in granting temporary reliefs like interim injunction. It is not necessary in this case to construe as to what the phrase 'stay the suit' occurring in Sub-section (1) of Section 125 of the Act actually means. Suffice it to say that this phrase could not have been used with the intention to deprive the Civil Court from making any order whatsoever in a suit the moment any contention involving the issue which, is to be referred to the competent authority is taken in it. If this is not the construction to be put on the word 'stay' serious complications are likely to arise as for example, the Civil Court would not be in a position to amend the pleadings or to bring the legal representative of the deceased parties on record during the time when the suit is stayed under the provisions of this Sub-section. That certainly could not have been the intention of the Legislature when it enacted that the Civil Court shall stay the suit and refer the issue to the competent authority. In my opinion, the stay would operate so far as the final decision of the suit is concerned. It cannot deprive the Civil Court from passing orders (on) interim applications and granting interlocutory reliefs Such as interim injunction or attachment before judgment, if passing such orders do not involve the determination of any issue which is required to be determined by the competent authority under the Act, However, if interlocutory matters require any such issue to be decided and determined, it would not be competent for the Civil Court to pass an interim order unless that issue is determined by the competent authority.
13. In granting temporary injunction for restraining one party to the suit from interfering with the possession of the other party, the Civil Court is primarily concerned not so much with the question as regards title of the property or the capacity in which the person claiming to be in possession is holding the property, as with the question as to who is in possession of the suit property at the time of the institution of the suit and this decision has to be arrived at on the basis of evidence which would be adduced in that connection. But, it would only be a tentative and provisional finding, which would be subject to the final decision of the issues in the case, Now, in such an application the question whether the plaintiff or the person who applies for the temporary injunction and claims to be in possession of the suit property is in occupation thereof as a tenant or in his own rights is not material. What the Court has to consider is whether such a person is in actual possession of the suit property and having regard to the balance of convenience and other factors, it is necessary to protect his possession till the decision of the suit. Hence even if a contention is raised by the defendant that he is in occupation of the suit land as a tenant it is not necessary for the Civil Court at that stage to decide whether the defendant is in possession as a tenant. The Civil Court is required to decide whether the defendant is in possession and it is immaterial whether he is in possession as tenant or otherwise. If it is found that he is in possession and not the plaintiff the Court will not grant any interim injunction in favour of plaintiff since he was found not to be in possession. Thus the question whether the defendant is holding possession as a tenant is irrelevant and is not necessary for deciding whether the plaintiff is entitled to the temporary injunction. If that is so, then certainly the Civil Court would be within its power to grant temporary injunction if it finds that the plaintiff is in possession and not the defendant. Mr. Kherdekar is not right when he says that the Civil Court would be deciding the issue regarding tenancy when it holds that the defendant is not in possession of the suit property. Obviously, as stated above, when the Court is concerned with finding out as to who is in actual possession of the suit property, it is immaterial for the purpose of temporary injunction as to the capacity in which he is in possession. In fact, when determining the question regarding possession, the issue regarding tenancy does not enter into consideration at that stage. In my view, therefore, it cannot be said that the trial Court had no jurisdiction to grant the temporary injunction against the applicants simply because they contended that they were in occupation of the suit lands as tenants and the issue regarding tenancy had to be referred to the competent authority under the Act and the suit had to be stayed.
14. On merits Mr. Kherdekar had to submit that the appellate Court had not applied its mind to the evidence on record. The trial Court had taken into consideration the evidence which had been adduced by the parties while deciding that non-applicant No. 1 was in possession of the suit lands, It is true that the learned appellate Judge had not gone in details in this evidence but has observed that the documentary evidence is in favour of the plaintiff i.e. non-applicant No. 1. In Revision this Court cannot interfere with the finding of fact and the appreciation of evidence. I therefore, do not find any substance in the contention of Mr. Kherdekar that on facts the decision of the appellate Court is not correct,
15. There is, however, much substance in the last contention urged by Mr. Kherdekar. In the plaint itself, non-applicant No. 1 admitted that the applicants were residing in the cattle shed in the field. Averment to the same effect has been made in the application for temporary injunction also. It would thus appear that all along it has been the case of non-applicant No, I that though the applicants were not in possession of the suit lands, they were occupying the cattle shed situated therein. It was because of this that while granting the ex parte temporary Injunction, the trial Court had to put the condition that non-applicant No. 1 would not oust applicant No. 1 from the residential hut in which she was residing. However, at the time of confirming the temporary ex parte injunction, the trial Court deleted the condition that non-applicant No. 1 would not oust applicant No. 1 from the residential hut, in which she was residing. The trial Court observed that it would not be proper that applicant No. J with her children should live in the cattle shed or hut in the suit fields and hence according to it the direction which had been given earlier was not necessary. Now the learned Judge, who passed this order lost sight of the fact that even according to non-applicant No. 1, the applicants are occupying the cattle shed or hut in the suit land and they could not be evicted therefrom without due course of law, If, as admitted by non-applicant No. 1, they were in possession of the cattle shed, the effect of granting the temporary injunction would be to oust them from the same even though the suit is not for possession of the hut. As already seen, the suit is only for injunction and if it is found that the applicants are in possession of a part of the suit property, the temporary injunction could not be used to deprive them of that possession. Probably the learned Judge was under the impression that non-applicant No. 1 would not be able to retain the possession of the field if the applicant's are allowed to stay in the hut. That cannot be reason for ousting them from possession under the guise of temporary injunction. In my opinion, therefore, the learned trial Judge was not right in deleting the condition and it appears that the appellate Judge has also not applied his mind to this aspect of the case. The order passed by the Courts below will have to be modified in so far as the cattle shed or hut is concerned.
16. In the result, the revision application is partly allowed and the order passed by the Courts below with regard to the temporary injunction is modified to the effect that it shall not apply to the cattle shed or residential hut which is in occupation of the applicants. In the circumstances of the case, however, there shall be no order as to costs.
17. Appeal partly allowed.