1. The plaintiff, Panni Lal, brought a suit for possession of a house in the abadi against the defendant, Anant Singh, on the ground that the defendant, Anant Singh, had, without any right, wrongfully dispossessed him in March 1940. The plaintiff's allegations were that there was a house in the abadi which had belonged to one Chita. After the-death of Chita, it came into the possession of his widow and she died about two years back without leaving any issue with the result that the house reverted to the zamindar, the Raja of Tirwa. The Raja of Tirwa decided to auction the house and give it to the highest bidder, but ultimately agreed to accept from the plaintiff the sum of Rs. 75 as malikana dues and give him the house. On 18th January 1940 the plaintiff paid to the Raja Rs. 75. The receipt, Ex. 1, mentions that the payment was 'babat malikana makan.' After this payment Panni Lal became entitled to enter into possession of the house, to live in it and to rebuild it, if he thought that necessary, and on his death his right of residence could be inherited by his legal heirs and in case he decided to remove the materials he had the right to do so. He may even have acquired the right to transfer his right of residence if there was such a usage in the village giving the reyayas a right to transfer their house. The defence was that Mt. Bhagwana, the last owner of the house, had left the defendant as her heir and therefore there was no question of Bhagwana having died without any legal representative or the house having escheated to the zamindar, and the zamindar had no right to make a transfer of the house to the plaintiff. It was further pleaded that the defendant had been in possession of the house ever since the death of Mt. Bhagwana and the plaintiff never got possession of the same.
2. The trial Court decreed the plaintiff's suit. The lower appellate Court has, however, set aside the decree of the trial Court and dismissed the plaintiff's suit on the preliminary ground that the plaintiff was a bare licensee and had, therefore, no right to maintain the suit. The lower appellate Court recorded only two findings, firstly, that the plaintiff did not get possession of the house after 18th January 1940 and that the defendant was in possession from before that date. The lower Court did not consider whether the Raja of Tirwa had a right to give this house to the plaintiff, nor did it go into the question whether the defendant was the legal representative of Chita Singh, the last male owner of the house. The only points that arise, therefore, before me are whether Panni Lal, plaintiff, was a bare licensee and whether he had a right to maintain this suit. To my mind, the position of a reyaya occupying a house in a village has been only loosely said to be that of a bare licensee. He no doubt has got no interest in the land barring a right of building on it and a right of residence so long as he lives in the village, but the materials of the house belong to him and he is the owner thereof. Further his rights are heritable and in certain cases also transferable The report of the case in Manbahal Rai v. Ram Ghulam : AIR1927All633 has, to my mind, been not properly appreciated by the Court below. In that case the defendant on 29th August 1941 had secured a licence from one Shujaat Ahmad Khan, a cosharer, who had a one anna share, to build on a plot of land in the abadi which had once been the site of the house of one Khudi, a ryot in the village. The defendant secured possession of the land and started building on it. On 23rd September 1921 the plaintiffs were given a licence to build by the remaining cosharers, who owned the remaining 15 annas. The plaintiffs brought the suit for possession by demolition of the constructions made by the defendant. The defence was that the defendant was building under a licence granted to him by one of the cosharers and he could not be ejected by the plaintiffs. The main decision was that it was necessary for the validity of the licence that all the cosharers should have joined in giving the licence and the licences of the plaintiffs and of the defendant were both bad and the plaintiffs' suit must, therefore, fail.
3. The learned Judge made certain observations that the plaintiffs not being the owners of the land could not bring a suit for possession thereof. There were no observations that a licensee could in no case maintain a suit nor there could be such a general rule that a licensee could never file a suit for any relief. Any such decision would, to my mind, be contrary to the general principles that an invasion of a civil right was actionable and the civil Courts have the right to try all suits of a civil nature. If a civil right of a person is infringed, I can find no reason why he should not have a remedy in a Court of law and why the Courts should say to him that he must go back to his licensor and ask him to protect his interest. The licensor may not be bound to do so and it may be a matter of indifference to him whether the licensee's rights are or are not protected. The observations in Manbahal Rai v. Ram Ghulam : AIR1927All633 were based on certain observations in Heap v. Hartley (1889) 42 Ch. D. 461. A careful examination of that case would show that it did not purport to lay down any such general principle. All that their Lordships decided in that case was that a person could only enforce such rights as he himself had and if he had a cause of action he would be entitled to relief, but if he himself had no right to claim a relief of the nature claimed by him no doubt such relief could not be granted to him. The facts of that case were that one Charles Edward Moser held a letters patent for using a particular invention described in the patent. If any one made a colourable imitation thereof, no doubt Charles Edward Moser had a right to bring a suit for a proper relief and for the protection of his own rights and in a suit brought by Moser for infringement of his patent it would not be at all relevant whether the defendant did or did not know that Charles Moser was the owner of the patent, i.e., the particular property which the defendant had in effect stolen. Charles Moser had granted a licence to Heap giving him exclusive right to use that patent within a particular area. Heap's rights were, therefore, based on this contract, but he had no title to the patent itself. There were certain colourable imitations made of the invention by one Hartley and Heap brought a suit for an injunction and for inspection. The suit was not brought on the basis of the contract but on the ground that Hartley had infringed the patent. The Court of appeal held that Heap had no right to bring a suit of that kind as he was not interested in the patent at all. His rights were based on, and arose out of, the contract and he could, if he so desired, base his suit on a breach of the contract against Moser, the owner of the patent, or against the defendant if he had with notice of the agreement done anything to injure the plaintiff's rights. So far as I can see from the report, Moser was not impleaded as a party to the suit and their Lordships held that the plaintiff could not claim to be the owner of the patent and enforce it against Hartley as he was obviously not the owner thereof. They held that his suit was not based on the agreement in his favour and he had failed to prove that Hartley had any notice of that agreement. They went on to hold that the owner of the patent was a necessary party to the action and the plaintiff had no right in his absence to maintain the suit. I have dealt with the facts and the decision in that case at some length, as I am afraid that that case has given rise to certain misconceptions. To my mind, there is no such general proposition of law that a licensee can, in no case, maintain a suit if his rights are affected by the action of another party. This point also arose in Kanta Tewari v. Sheo Narain Lal : AIR1935All123 . Their Lordships distinguished the case in Manbahal Rai v. Ram Ghulam : AIR1927All633 on the ground that in that case before their Lordships the plaintiff had, atone time, been put in possession and had, therefore, sufficient possessory title to maintain the suit. To my mind, in each case the question whether a suit by a licensee was maintainable would depend upon the cause of action alleged in the plaint and the nature of the relief claimed by him.
4. Apart from the question of law which I have discussed above, to my mind, the lower appellate Court was wrong in assuming that the plaintiff was a bare licensee. He may not have acquired any interest in the land in the sense that the ownership vested in the landlord even after the grant. The landlord had, however, been impleaded and was a party to the suit. The plaintiff had on payment of consideration acquired valuable rights. I can find no justification in law and in equity why the plaintiff should not be able to maintain a suit for the protection of those rights. If the landlord after the receipt of Rs. 75 had refused to carry out his part of the contract and had refused to give the plaintiff possession of the site, the plaintiff could no doubt have come to the civil Court for relief. I do not see why when the plaintiff could have filed a suit against the landlord he should be helpless to protect his rights against a trespasser. The lower Court has not gone into the other questions on the merits whether the house had reverted to the zamindar, the Raja of Tirwa, and whether the defendant was the legal representative and had become the owner by succession to the house of Chita Singh. I, therefore, set aside the decree of the lower appellate Court and remand the case to that Court for decision according to law. Costs here and hitherto will abide the event. Court-fees of this Court will be refunded to the appellant as the case was decided on a preliminary point by the lower appellate Court. Learned Counsel for the respondent asked for leave to file an appeal under the Letters Patent, but I do not think any useful purpose would be served by giving him leave at this stage.