1. This is a plaintiff's appeal from the order of the lower appellate Court setting aside the decree which had been given to him by the trial Court and directing the plaint to be returned for presentation to the proper Court. The question before me therefore is one of jurisdiction only. The plaintiff-appellant sued on the ground that he had had permission to plant trees in a certain plot from the lambadar, that he had been dispossessed by the zataindars, and that he was entitled to a declaration that he was the owner of the trees and to an injunction against the respondents restraining them from obstructing his enjoyment of the trees that ho was entitled to final, possession if he was found to be out of possession. The question of jurisdiction was raised and the trial Court found that the suit would lie in the civil Court. The lower appellate Court went into the merits of the case, but finally decided that as the plaintiff-appellant was practically a grove-holder he had to seek his remedy as such from the Revenue Courts, and therefore returned the plaint. The question of jurisdiction is important at his stage because if the suit of the plaintiff-appellant would have lain in the Revenue Court, it will now be barred by limitation.
2. The plaint is worded as I have mentioned above, i.e., not as the plaint of a grove-holder, but on the plea that the plaintiff had permission to plant trees, and it is clear that if there were no Agra Tenancy Act and no definition of a grove-holder he could claim the reliefs which he has entered in his plaint from a civil Court. It has been argued here that his position is exactly that of a grove-holder, that is to say, he had permission from the lambardar to plant trees which have now actually become a grove, and consequently he cannot be regarded as anything else but a grove-holder as defined in Section 196, Agra Tenancy Act. Consequently if the defendants interfered with his enjoyment of the trees, his remedy lay under Section 99 of that Act and could only be claimed within six months of his dispossession.
3. The question is one of some general importance, because if it could be held that a grove-holder, that is to say, a person who has made an agreement with the zamindars to plant a grove and has planted a grove could file a plaint in the civil Courts claiming the reliefs merely as the owner of trees and not as a grove-holder, he might be able to avoid the provisions of the Agra Tenancy Act. There appear to be two respects in which the present appellant differed from a grove, holder as defined in the Act. It does not appear that the land was let or granted to him for the purpose of planting a grove. It is true that he was given permission to plant trees, but it does not follow from this that he was given any interest in land or that it was the intention of the landlord (in this case the lambardar) that a grove should be planted in this particular plot. Nor did he 'plant a grove on land held by him as tenant.' His case is, and there is nothing on the record to disprove it, (except that he certainly did refer to a grove in his statement recorded by the Court under Order 10, Rule 2) that he was merely granted permission to plant trees on the payment of Nazrana to the lambardar, and he does not claim any interest in the land under the trees. There is nothing to show that the lambardar intended to have a grove planted in that plot and there is nothing in the licence granted by the lambardar to the plaintiff to prevent the zamindars or anybody else from planting crops or otherwise enjoying the use of the land in that plot. All that the plaintiff claims is that he should not be deprived of the possession and enjoyment of the trees which he has planted with the permission of the zamindars. He did not claim the rights of a grove-holder, nor does it appear that he had the rights of a grove-bolder. The lower appellate Court may not have considered the question of limitation when remarking that the plaintiff would have to seek his remedy from the Revenue Court as a grove-holder and that the Revenue Court could certainly grant adequate relief. Nor did the lower appellate Court consider the provisions of Section 268, Agra Tenancy Act, 1926, under which it might have disposed of the appeal as if the suit had been instituted in the right Court, and there is nothing to show that the learned Subordinate Judge's attention was drawn to this provision of law. In my opinion, however, the Court's decision as to jurisdiction is not correct for the reasons that I have indicated above. The suit of the plaintiff-appellant as set out in the plaint was one that could be entertained in the civil Court, and I therefore set aside the order of the lower appellate Court, directing the plaint to be returned for presentation in the proper Court. It is open to me to return the case to the lower appellate Court for a decision on the merits, but I think it is unnecessary to do so and counsel on both sides agree that it will be better for ma to give the decision as the whole of the case is before me. The findings of fact are in the plaintiff's favour, and I therefore direct that the plaintiff-appellant's suit be decreed with costs in all Courts.
4. Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad has asked for leave to appeal under the Letters Patent and as the question of jurisdiction raised is of some general importance, this is allowed.