1. This is an appeal from a decision of Mr. Justice Lal Gopal Mukerji, who has held that a judgment given on appeal by the District Judge of Pilibhit on the 31st of August 1914, and the decree of this Court following on that judgment of the Court of the District Judge were both without jurisdiction, and cannot be held to operate adversely to the defendants in this particular suit. The claim was brought by Bankey Lal and others against Piare Lal and others for possession of 10 bighas and 11 biswas of land, being the western portion of a grove bearing No. 1549, and comprising in all 20 bighas 10 biswas.
2. The story, as set out in the plaint, was that the father of Banke Lal, Seth Ratan Lal, filed in the Court of the Parganah Officer, on the 19th of September 1923, a suit for the ejectment of certain tenants from the plot in question, alleging a breach by them and invoking Section 57 of Act II of 1901. That suit by Ratan Lal, based upon the fact that the tenants had used the land for a purpose inconsistent with the letting of it for agricultural purposes was heard and dismissed. The plaint in that suit contained the valuation, and that valuation was Rs. 18, which was the proper and legal valuation which is statutorily prescribed. It was in fact the amount of the rent paid in the year immediately preceding the suit. When the Parganah Officer had given his decision adversely to Ratan Lal, that judgment, by reason of the valuation being under Rs. 100, was a final and unappealable judgment. Somebody conceived the bright idea that, if a fictitious valuation were put upon the memorandum of appeal, the District Judge might allow the matter to go through, and the counsel appearing for the defendants might likewise not notice that the District Judge was being asked to entertain an appeal as to which he had no jurisdiction whatever.
3. The memorandum of appeal was presented to the Court, and it contained an assertion which was in violation of the statute that the valuation of the suit and of the appeal was Rs. 125. Counsel on behalf of the plaintiffs got up to argue the case. Counsel for the respondents were heard, and on the 31st of August 1914 the District Judge of Pilibhit decreed the claim for ejectment, and, therefore, the trick of the plaintiff, by which he was enabled to get before the District Judge, had succeeded, and he got what appeared on the face of it to be a perfectly good decree, reversing the non-appealable judgment of the Parganah Officer in his favour. The defendant came up to the High Court and he adopted the valuation of Rs. 125 which had been improperly put as the valuation before the District Judge. Nobody in the High Court noticed the circumstance of the over valuation, and the decree of District Judge was upheld by the High Court. We have not been given the date of that High Court's decision, but presumably it was in the first half of the year 1915. Subsequently on the plaintiffs, who are the sons of Ratan Lal, making an application in the revenue Court for mutation of names in respect of a portion of the grove, namely the western plot, the matter came up in contest, the defendants asserting that they were entitled to and were in fact in possession of the entire plot. The revenue Court, on the 23rd of September 1921, found that the plaintiffs were not in possession of any portion of the grove, and they were remitted to a civil Court for proof of their alleged right.
4. A point that was taken by the plaintiffs was that subsequent to the decision of the High Court there was a private compromise. In the original action the plaintiff Ratan Lal undoubtedly intended to set up a claim for the whole or 20 bighas 10 biswas. By some mistake the plaintiff in the Pargana Officer's Court asked for 10 bighas 11 biswas only. By virtue of the second appeal to this Court ejectment was ordered against the defendants, and the plaintiffs appear to have obtained possession of the whole of the plot. Then the defendants discovered the area given in the plaint embraced only 10 bighas 11 biswas, and that may have been the time at which the parties came to a compromise. But at all events all that we know from the statement of the claim is the vaguest possible assertion that there was a private compromise (certainly not in writing, nor is there any date given in the plaint) by which the plaintiffs were allowed to remain in possession of the western portion, and the eastern portion was occupied by the defendants. The defendants denied in this suit that there was ever any compromise at all, and the learned Munsif was of opinion that there was no satisfactory proof that there was any settlement by which the western portion fall to Ratan Lal, and he gives reasons for his belief that there was no such compromise.
5. On appeal the learned Judge of the lower appellate Court thought that the evidence produced by the plaintiffs showed a preponderance in favour of a compromise having been effected between Ratan Lal and Sheo Baran Lal, and he thought that possession was actually given to the plaintiffs of the western portion. Now that was a finding in favour of the defendants, and when this matter came up before Mr. Justice Mukerji on appeal it appears unfortunately that the only point that was argued was on this question of law as to the legal effect if any of the judgment obtained in the Court of the District Judge in 1914 and the later judgment of the High Court. The learned Judge's decision is confined entirely to that one point and that is the only ground of appeal taken before us to day. We think that in the circumstances we must leave the question of the alleged compromise in the condition in which it was left by the Munsif who found against the plaintiffs.
6. We now come to a consideration of the question of jurisdiction. We have already given an outline of what happened before the District Judge, namely that there having been an unappealable decision in the Court of the Pargana Officer, the plaintiffs managed by over-valuation to obtain a hearing from the District Judge. There can be no doubt that had the attention of the District Judge been called to the circumstances that Rs. 18 was the statutory and only legal valuation, he would have declined to hear the appeal. The question is whether when he heard the appeal he was not acting entirely without jurisdiction and his decree consequently a nullity. We think that is the true decision.
7. We also think that when this High Court was invited to and did enter upon the second appeal, it was entering on a question as to which it was not competent to pronounce any binding decree, and was acting without jurisdiction. Section 11 of Act VII of 1887, Suits Valuation Act, has been referred to and is asserted to be in point. We do not think Section 11 has any application, and we are of opinion that this decision must go upon much broader grounds. The position was this: In the Court of first instance the valuation was correct and no question could have been raised at all. Nothing was or could have been said in the memorandum of appeal to the District Judge with regard to the valuation, and it was only when the matter was first proposed to be submitted to the District
8. Judge that this intentional over-valuation took place. We think there can be no doubt that intentional over-valuation made the decree of the District Judge and of this Court inoperative, and that the plaintiffs cannot at any moment claim any advantage under either the decree of the District Judge or the decree of this Court. It was open, in our opinion, to the defendants to attack both those judgments and to say that they were wholly inoperative in law, and whatever decision they purported to give was a decision which the defendants could disregard. That being so, the legal position as between the plaintiffs and defendants was that decreed by the Pargana Officer, in the suit of the 19th of September 1913, in which he dismissed the suit brought by the plaintiffs. We are, therefore, of opinion for the reasons which are given by Mr. Justice Lal Gopal Mukerji, and the reasons which we have given above, that the decision of the Single Judge of this Court was correct, and this appeal must be dismissed with costs and fees on the higher scale.