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Sangubhotla Venkatramaiah Vs. Kalu Venkaswamy and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberSecond Appeal No. 17 of 1973
Judge
Reported inAIR1976AP402
ActsTamil Nadu Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1948 - Sections 12 to 15; Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908 - Sections 9 and 100 to 101
AppellantSangubhotla Venkatramaiah
RespondentKalu Venkaswamy and ors.
Appellant AdvocateT. Veerabhadrayya, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateS. Ranga Reddy, Adv.
Excerpt:
.....possession - appeal against judgment declaring suit as neither premature nor barred - alleged that landholder cannot sue for possession without obtaining ryotiwari patta - appellant-plaintiff taking plea of ryotwari patta only when decision in suit went against them - held, appellant not entitled to claimed relief. - - chinnayya panipundar ,air1959mad447 .6. the principles relating to the exclusion of the jurisdiction of civil court by statutory tribunals are fairly well settled. where the court is satisfied that the plaint is but a trick to invoke the jurisdiction of the civil court and to oust the jurisdiction of the special tribunal the civil court will naturally dismiss the suit. andiyappan (1959-1 mad lj 195) rama chandra iyer j, stated the position clearly :but if the relief..........their predecessors had occupancy rights in the land, that the plaintiff and his predecessors were landholders, that the plaintiff had borrowed a sum of rs. 200 from papaiah mortgaging his melwaram interest in the land, that the recitals in the mortgage deed were inoperative and that the recitals had only been made to give a form to the deed of mortgage. they pleaded that the occupancy rights possessed by the could not be extinguished by the mortgage. the land was never the private land of the plaintiff. the only interest which the plaintiff had in the land was the melwaram right which ceased on the estate being taken over by the government under the provisions of the estates abolition act. the defendants also pleaded that they had also been granted rough patta under section 11 of the.....
Judgment:

Chinnappa Reddy, J.

1. The plaintiff-appellant filed the suit, out of which the Second Appeal arises, for redemption of usufructuary mortgage dated 25-6-1946 and for possession. The plaintiff was the mortgagor, Kale Papaiah, husband of 4th defendant and father the defendants 1 to 3 was the mortgagee. The mortgage was for a sum of Rs. 200 and it was in respect of land in Kankanampadu Shortrium village, an estate which was later taken over under the provisions of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotiwari) Act. The plaintiff is one of the erstwhile Shortrimdars of the village. The defendants pleaded that they and their predecessors had occupancy rights in the land, that the plaintiff and his predecessors were landholders, that the plaintiff had borrowed a sum of Rs. 200 from Papaiah mortgaging his melwaram interest in the land, that the recitals in the mortgage deed were inoperative and that the recitals had only been made to give a form to the deed of mortgage. They pleaded that the occupancy rights possessed by the could not be extinguished by the mortgage. The land was never the private land of the plaintiff. The only interest which the plaintiff had in the land was the melwaram right which ceased on the estate being taken over by the Government under the provisions of the Estates Abolition Act. The defendants also pleaded that they had also been granted rough patta under Section 11 of the Estates Abolition Act.

2. It was found by the trial Court and the first appellate Court that the land which was the subject-matter of the mortgage was not the private land of the plaintiff and that what was mortgaged by the plaintiff was only his melwaram interest in the land. The land was ryoti land in which the defendants and their predecessors had occupancy rights. The melwara right of the plaintiff became extinguished on the taking over of the estate by the Government and the plaintiff's right of redemption ceased. The concurrent finding of the lower Courts that the land was ryoti land i which the defendants and their predecessors had occupancy rights and not private land of the plaintiff was not challenged before the learned single Judge who heard the Second Appeal in the first instance. Indeed the concurrent finding of fact could not be challenged in Second Appeal.

3. Sri Veerabhadrayya raised two questions before the learned single Judge: (1) The defendants who were mortgagees were estopped from contending that the mortgagor had no right to redeem the mortgage. (2) The suit should have been dismissed as premature, without any adjudication on the merits as the application of the plaintiff for grant of ryotiwari patta was pending enquiry under Section 15 of the Estates Abolition Act. The learned single Judge rejected the first contention. In regard to the second contention, he was of the view that the suit was not barred and need not be dismissed as premature. The decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Sri Someswaraswari Varu v. Sri Rajitam, (1971) l Andh WR l4 was pressed for the acceptance of the learned Judge. He was of the view that the decision required reconsideration. He, therefore, directed that the papers be placed before the learned Chief Justice for appropriate orders. The matter was then considered by a Division Bench consisting of Kondaiah and Gangadhara Rao JJ., and they directed that the matter should be considered by a Full Bench. This is how the matter has come before us.

4. Sri Veerabhadrayya argued that the Settlement Officer and the Estates Abolition Tribunal had exclusive jurisdiction to consider the question whether the landholder was entitled to ryotiwari patta and that until a landholder was able to get a ryotiwari patta any suit by him for possession of land had to be dismissed on the ground that it was premature. He pressed for our acceptance the decision of Venkatesam and A.D.V. Reddy, JJ, in Sri Someswaraswami Varu v. Sri Rajitam, (1971-l Andh WR 14).

5. The object and scheme of the Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Area) Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act have been explained in several decisions of this Court and of the Madras High Court. We do not think it necessary to make a re-statement of the object and the scheme of the Act. We will refer to the relevant provisions of the Act necessary for deciding the question raised before us. Section 3 enumerates the consequences of notifying an estate under Section l of the Act. In particular, section 3 (c) provides that all rights and interests created in and over the estate by the landholder shall cease and determine as against the Government. Section 3 (d) empowers the Government to take possession of the estate but saves from dispossession any person who the Government considers is prima facie entitled to a ryotiwari patta until the question whether he is actually entitled to such patta is decided by the Settlement Officer and the Tribunal on appeal in the case of landholder. Section 3 (f) provides ryot shall be extinguished as between them. Section 3 (g) provides that ryots in the estate shall, as against the Government, be entitled only to such rights and privileges as are recognised or conferred on them by or under the Act. Section 11 confers on every ryot in an estate the right to obtain a ryotiwari patta in respect of ryoti land which was included or ought to have been included in his holding on the notified date. Sections 12, 13 and 14 confer on the landholder the right to obtain a ryotiwari patta in respect of private land in a Zamindari, Inam and Under Tenure estate respectively. Section 15 (1) provides for enquiry by the Settlement Officer into claims by a landholder for a ryotiwari patta under Sections 12, 13 or 14. Section 15 (2) provides for an appeal to the Tribunal from the decision of the Settlement Officer and it declares that the decision of the Tribunal shall be final and not liable to be questioned in any Court of law. While Section 15 provides for the determination of claims of landholders to the grant of ryotiwari pattas under Sections 12, 13 and 14 there is no corresponding provision for determining the rival claims of persons to the grant of ryotiwari patta as ryots under Section 11 of the Act. For several years it was understood that Section 56 (1) (c) enabled the Settlement Officer to decide such rival claims. But it has recently been held by a Full Bench of this Court in Cherukuru Muthayya v. Gopalakrishnayya, : AIR1974AP85 (FB) that having regard to its setting in the Act. Section 56 (1) (c) had no connection with Section 11 and that the decision under Section 56 (1 (c) had relevance only to a claim for arrears of rent under Section 55 of the Act. Sri Veerabhadrayya argued that a Sections 12 to 15 were a complete code in themselves and that the jurisdiction of the Civil Court was excluded from deciding any question which would fall for decision under Section 15 of the Act. The answer of the respondent's counsel, Sri S. Ranga Reddy to the contention of Sri Veerabhadrayya was that the Settlement Officer and the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to grant the relief prayed for in the suit. If for the purpose of granting it became necessary to adjudicate upon questions which under the Act had to be decided by the Settlement Officer and the Tribunal, it could not be said that the Civil Court was barred from deciding such questions. Sri T. Veerabhadrayya relied on Appanna v. Sriramamurthy, (1958) l Andh WR 420, Ravu Gopala Rao v. Official Receiver, (1961) 2 Andh WR 339; Desikacharyulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1959)2 Andh WR 412; Desikacharyulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh, : AIR1964SC807 and Sri Someswaraswari Varu v. Srirajitam, (1971) l Andh WR 14. Sri Ranga Reddy relied on Chigurupati Venkatesubbayya v. Ravi Punnayya, (1957)2 Andh WR 204; Sriramamurthy v. Batchu Dhana Raju, (1957) l Andh WR 332 = (AIR 1957 Andh Pra 495); Ramayya v. Brahmayya, AIR 1958 Andh Pra 100; Mahalakshmi v. Ammayamma, (1969) l Andh WR 13; Soosai Udayar v. Andiyappan, (1959) l Mad LJ 195 (196) and Adakalathammal v. Chinnayya Panipundar , : AIR1959Mad447 .

6. The principles relating to the exclusion of the jurisdiction of Civil Court by statutory Tribunals are fairly well settled. The exclusion of the jurisdiction of a Civil Court from entertaining a suit of a civil nature may be expressed or implied. Where a special Tribunal is created by an Act of Legislature for the purpose of determining the rights created by the statute and finality is given to the orders of the Tribunal, the jurisdiction of the Civil Court must be considered to be excluded with regard to those matters. But where the subject-matter of the suit falls outside the exclusive jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal or where the relief sought in the suit is one which the Special Tribunal is incapable of granting, the jurisdiction of the Civil Court is not ousted merely because the question which has to be incidentally but necessarily decided is a question within the competence of the Special Tribunal. The forum has to be determined by the plaint. If the allegations in the plaint and the reliefs sought do not bring the action within the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal there is no reason to exclude the Civil Court from trying the action merely because the defence put forward involves the adjudication of matter within the competence of the Special Tribunal. Of course, it is always open to a defendant to show that the allegations in the plaint are a mere camouflage to circumvent the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal. Where the Court is satisfied that the plaint is but a trick to invoke the jurisdiction of the Civil Court and to oust the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal the Civil Court will naturally dismiss the suit. We do not propose to refer to the legion of cases on the question of the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the Civil Court. We will confine our consideration to cases which arose under the provisions of the Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotiwari) Act.

7. In Chigurupati Venkatasubbayya v. Ravi Punnayya (1957-2 Andh WR 204), the question arose whether Section 56 of the Act ousted the jurisdiction of the Civil Court to entertain a suit for ejectment if one of the issues related to occupancy rights. Section 56 (2) provides that the decision of the Tribunal in an appeal preferred against the decision of the Settlement Officer under Section 56 (1) shall be final and not be liable to be questioned in any Court of law. Chandra Reddy J, (as he then was) held that the Civil Court's jurisdiction was not ousted since it was beyond the competence of the Settlement Officer to grant the relief of possession. He said,

'The Civil Courts can certainly take cognizance of suits in which the title to the holding forming part of an estate is put in issue. Further, the relief of possession and mesne profits cannot be granted by the Settlement Officer they being beyond his competence, and within the purview of Civil Courts. The principle is now firmly established that the jurisdiction of Civil Courts is not excluded when special forums could grant certain prayers. See Swaminatha v. Asan, (1947) l Mad LJ 83 = (AIR 1947 Mad 276) (FB)and Sukh Dev v. Basdev (AIR 1935 All 594). In my opinion the ratio of this doctrine is that a plaintiff cannot be required to split up his cause of action and seek redress partly in Civil Court and partly before a Special Tribunal. There is no reason why he should be compelled to choose different forums to get different reliefs.'

8. In Sriramamurthy v. Bachu Dhana Raju (AIR 1957 Andh Pra 495), Chandra Reddy, C.J. and Krishna Rao, J., dealing with Section 56, observed :

'Under proviso (ii) to Section 3 (d), the Government shall not dispossess a landholder of any land in any estate in respect of which they consider that he is prima facie entitled to a ryotiwari patta pending the decision of the Settlement Officer and the Tribunal on appeal, if any, to is as to whether he is actually entitled to such patta. If the suit land is a private land of which the landholder is entitled to possession under the said proviso he is entitled to continue in possession. The Government is not entitled to dispossess him and he is surely entitled to evict any trespasser from the land. There is nothing in the Act to support the view that the landholder has no right to possession of private land until he gets a ryotiwari patta in respect of it under Section 12.'

In Appanna v. Sriramamurthy, (1958-l Andh WR 420) the question arose whether, after the estate was taken over, a suit could be laid for recovery of arrears of rent which had accrued prior to the taking over of the estate. Both the plaintiff and the defendant claimed to be the lawful ryots of the land. The case fell directly within Section 56 (1) and therefore, attracted the mischief of Section 56 (2). The suit was held to be not maintainable. Referring to the decision of Chandra Reddy, J, (as he then was) in Chigurupati Venkatasubbayya v. Ravi Punnayya (1957-2 Andh WR 204), Subba Rao, C.J. did not express any dissent with the proposition that the Civil Court could take cognizance of suits for possession and mesne profits which were beyond the competence of the Settlement Officer. Subba Rao, C.J. however, observed :

'But if the learned Judge meant to lay down that the Civil Court is not barred even in respect of a dispute between two persons claiming to be lawful ryots, with great respect, we cannot agree with that view.'

Of course, Subba Rao, C.J. must have had in mind a dispute with reference to one of the rights granted by the Act.

9. In Ramayya v. Brahmayya (AIR 1958 Andh Pra 100) Krishna Rao, J, held that the rights to obtain a ryotiwari patta could be enforced only before the special forum setup under the Act and that relief could not directly or indirectly be sought elsewhere. But, he said, there was nothing in the Act to show that until the ryotiwari patta was obtained, all reliefs in respect of other, ryots, flowing from possession were taken away and could not be claimed in the ordinary Civil Courts.

10. In Mahalakshmi v. Ammayamma (1960-1 Andh WR 13) the principle of Venkatasubbayya v. Punnayya (1957-2 Andh WR 204) was reiterated by Chandra Reddy, C.J. and Mohammed Ahmed Ansari J. In Ravu Gopala Rao v. Official Receiver (1961-2 Andh WR 339), Satyanarayana Raju J, (as he then was) speaking for himself and Chandra Reddy, C.J. affirmed the principle of the decision in Chigurupati Venkatasubbayya v. Ravi Punnayya, (1957-2 Andh WR 204) and further observed that there was nothing in the decision of Appanna v. Sriramamurthy, (1958-l Andh WR 420)which can counter it.

11. In Soosai Udayar v. Andiyappan (1959-1 Mad LJ 195) Rama Chandra Iyer J, stated the position clearly :

'But if the relief claimed in Civil Court is not what is created or granted by the Act, e.g. the right to obtain a patta, but a civil right the jurisdiction of the civil court which always existed cannot be held to be ousted as the statute does not either expressly or impliedly extinguish such rights. It may that for the granting of such relief the question to be decided is as to who was the ryot of a holding. Such a determination would necessarily be incidental and cannot be deemed to be impliedly excluded by Section 56. There is no provision in the Act to stay all suits which involved the determination of the question as to who was the lawful ryot of a holding or one to refer to that issue to the statutory tribunals for adjudication and to dispose of the suit on receipt of a finding from such tribunals. I am not able to see anything on principle or in the terms of the Act to hold that the Civil Court has been rendered powerless to decide a necessary issue between the parties though such an issue is one contemplated under Section 56, for the purpose of deciding rights other than those created or provided for by the Act.'

Ramachandra Iyer J, then proceeded to accept as correct the principle of the decision in Chigurupati Venkatasubbayya v. Ravi Punnayya (1957-2 Andh WR 204) the learned Judge also referred to Appanna v. Sriramamurthy (1958-1 Andh WR 420) and observed tat the dissent expressed by Subba Rao C.J must be considered to be with reference to the rights granted by the Act. Finally he said,

'In the instant case the relief claimed is one of possession. Neither the Settlement Officer nor the Tribunal has any jurisdiction to grant such a relief........... Such being the case I am of opinion that the Civil Court should entertain the suits. To hold otherwise would led to certain practical difficulties. Let us take a case where the plaintiff is a lawful ryot but the defendant trespassed into the property. If the plaintiff's suit for possession is not entertained by the Civil Court and if he is asked to go and agitate his right to patta before the Settlement Officer and the Tribunal, it may be that by the time he gets his right to the patta declared by those Tribunals the claim for possession would have become time barred by adverse possession by the defendant.'

12. The decision of Ramachandra Iyer, J., in Soosai Udayar v. Andiyappan (1959-1 Mad LJ 195) was approved by Rajamannar, C.J and Ganapati Pillai J, in Adakalathammal v. Chinnayyan Panipundar : AIR1959Mad447 . Rajamannar, C.J. expressly referred to the following sentence from Ramachandra Iyer, J's decision :

'If the relief claimed in a Civil Court is not what is created or granted by the Act, for example, the right to obtain patta, but a civil right the jurisdiction of the Civil Court which always existed cannot be held to be ousted as the statute does not either expressly or impliedly extinguish such rights.'

13. In Desikacharyulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh : AIR1964SC807 for a declaration that the village of East Takkellapadu was not an estate within the meaning of either the Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Act, 1947 or the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1948, Bhimasankaram and Ranganatham Chetty, J. held that the suit fell directly within the mischief of Section 9 (4) of the Estates Abolition Act and was, therefore, barred. The decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court was affirmed by the Supreme Court in Desikacharyulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh. Section 9 of the Act, we may mention here, confers exclusive jurisdiction on the Settlement Officer and the Estates Abolition Tribunal to determine whether any Inam village is an Inam Estate or not. The decision of the Tribunal is also given finality under the Act. The case is of no practical assistance to us.

14. We now come to the case on which Sri Veerabhadrayya placed principle reliance in Someswaraswami Varu v. Srirajitam (1971-1 Andh WR 14) the plaintiffs were the deities of Sri Somaswaraswami Varu and Sri Venugopalaswami Varu, Vella Village, Vella village was an estate which was taken over under the provisions of Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act. The plaintiffs claimed that the suit lands were granted to the deities in the year 1738 and that in the year 1900 the defendants were put in possession of the suit lands towards remuneration for the services required to be performed by them by way of giving dance recitals in the temples on festival occasions. The Andhra Pradesh (Andhra Area) Devadasis Prevention of Dedication Act prevented the rendering of such services and the contract, therefore, became void. The plaintiffs claimed that they were entitled to recover possession of the lands from the defendants. The defendants contended that the plaintiffs had no title to the lands and that the defendants had acquired occupancy rights in the lands Venkatesam and A.D.V. Reddy, JJ, noticed the decision of Chandra Reddy, J, (as he then was) in Chigasrupati Venkatasubbaiah v. Ravi Punnayya (1957-2 Andh WR 204) and thought that in Appanna v. Sriramamurthy (1958-1 Andh WR 420) Subba Rao C.J. and Ranganatham Chetty J, had dissented from the view of Chandra Reddy J. We have already pointed out that Subba Rao C.J. and Ranganatham Chetty J, did not dissent from the view of Chandra Reddy J, that Civil Courts could take cognizance of suits where the reliefs sought could not be granted by the Special Tribunals. It is true that Subba Rao C.J. observed that if Chandra Reddy J, meant to lay down that the Civil Court was not barred even in respect of disputes between the two persons claiming to be lawful ryots they could not agree with the view. As explained earlier by us and also by Ramachandra Iyer J, in Soosai Udayar v. Andiyappan (1959-1 Mad LJ 195) the remarks of Subba Rao, C.J. must naturally be confined to rights created by the Act in respect of which there is a dispute between persons claiming to be lawful ryots. After observing that Subba Rao C.J. and Ranganatham Chetty, J had dissented from the view of Chandra Reddy J, Venkatesam and A.D.V. Reddy JJ., went on to say that tough the reliefs of possession and mesne profits could not be granted by the Settlement Officer, the reliefs were intimately connected with the question as to who was entitled to the issue of patta under the Act. As the defendants were admittedly in possession of the land on the date of the coming into force of the Act they were entitled not to be disturbed from their possession by virtue of the proviso to Sec. 3 (d) of the Act, until the question of g rant of patta was determined either under Section 11 or Section 12 of the Act. The learned Judges said that until the question of issue of patta was determined the plaintiff has no right to recover possession from the defendants. The suit was premature. The learned Judges further said that by a trick of pleading or by camouflage of the reliefs asked for they could not make the civil Court inquire into questions which were within the exclusive competence of the tribunals created by the Act. The enquiry into the question of grant of patta could not be considered to be ancillary or incidental to the relief of possession in the civil court since the relief of possession depended entirely on the right of the plaintiffs to the issue of a patta. If the learned Judges were of the view that in substance the plaintiffs were really asking for a declaration of their rights to the grant of a patta cleverly camouflaging the rest relief by asking for possession and mesne profits there can be no quarrel with the conclusion of the learned Judges. If, however, the learned Judges, meant to lay down that no erstwhile landholder or ryot could seek the relief of possession in a Civil Court without first obtaining a ryotwari patta under the provisions of the Estates Abolition Act we must, with great respect overrule the view of the learned Judges. In our view, a suit for a relief which the Settlement Officer cannot grant is not barred merely because it incidentally involves the adjudication of questions within the competence of the Settlement Officer and the Estates Abolition Tribunal. If, however, the relief claimed in the suit is a mere camouflage for obtaining a determination of the rights which are required to be decided by the Settlement Officer and the Estates Abolition Tribunal the suit must be held to be barred. As we said earlier, the plaint must determine the forum. But the defendant may show that the plaint is a mere camouflage to circumvent the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal. If the Court is satisfied that the allegations in the plaint and the reliefs sought do not bring the action within the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal and if the defendant is unable to show that the action is a mere camouflage, there is no reason why the jurisdiction of the Civil Court should be excluded merely because the defence raised involves the adjudication of the Special Tribunal.

15. In Cherukuru Muthayya v. G. Gopalakrishnayya : AIR1974AP85 (FB) a Full Bench of this court expressed its dissent with the reasoning of the learned Judges tough they left open the question whether an erstwhile landholder could institute a suit for possession without first obtaining ryotwari patta.

16. We are also of the view that in the present case the plaintiffs should not be permitted to urge in second appeal that their suit should have been dismissed as premature. In the lower Courts their contention was, the suit was maintainable and it was only when the decision went against them on merits that they have chosen to turn and urge this ground.

17. In the result, we dismiss the second appeal with costs.

18. Appeal dismissed.


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