1. These are nine connected second appeals which may be disposed of together, as they have been by the lower Appellate Court, the essential facts being the same in each of the nine suits out of which they arise.
2. The plaintiffs, Chaudhri Umrao Singh, Risal Singh and Mnmmmat Kisar, together with the first and principal defendant, Chaudhri Shibba Singh, are co-sharers in each of two mahals, one situated in a village called Bahadurpur and the other in a village called Abdullah-pur. Of each of these mahals the defendant Shibba Singh is the lambarlar. In the year 1908 Shibba Singh, in his capacity as lambardar, granted to a number of tenants in both these mahals registered leases for periods of seven years; perhaps this was not the precise period in each case; but the point is not material. Apparently these leases covered a great bulk of the cultivable land in both mahals which was, not already in the hands of occupancy tenants, or held by Shibba Singh himself as his sir or khudkasht. It is an important fact in the case that there was no action taken or objection raised by the plaintiffs in respect of these leases, until the connected suits now before me were instituted in the month of April 1912. In the meantime the -. relations between the plaintiffs and the defendant had become very much strained. In the latter part of the year 1911 the tenants who held the registered leases presented in the Revenue Court a series of applications under Section 95 of the Agra Tenancy Act (Local Act II of 1901), asking for a declaration as to the various matters therein specified, and amongst other things as to the class to which the said tenants belonged and the rent payable in respect of their holdings. It will be convenient in order to explain the position exactly to take one case in detail as a sample of others, and I, therefore, turn to the actual facts of the case out of which Second Appeal No. 869 of 1913 arises. In this case the registered lease granted by Shibba Singh was in favour of a tenant called Umrao Singh. It was dated August the 24th, 1908, and it gave the said tenant the right to hold the fields therein specified for a period of seven years at a rent of Rs. 55 per annum. Umrao Singh's plaint in the Revenue Court was to the effect that there had been an agreement between himself and the lambdrdar Shibba Singh superseding the lease of 1908. He alleged that the terms of this agreement were that, from the commencement of the agricultural year 1319 Fasli, he should pay rent at Rs. 62 per annum instead of Rs. 55; but on the other hand that the term of his lease should be extended so as to run to the end of 1329 Fasli, that is to say, roughly to the month of September 1922 A. D. He admitted that he had no registered lease to this effect and. pleaded that the lambardar was for some reason -declining to have the correct facts regarding his tenancy entered in the village papers. On these grounds he sought a declaration under Section 95 of the Agra Tenancy Act as already explained. When this suit was set down for hearing it was terminated by a compromise filed by the parties, that is to say, by the tenant Umrao Singh and the lambardar Shibba Singh. This compromise is dated September the 9th, 1911. It is to the effect that Shibba Singh has agreed to give Umrao Singh a lease for 11 years from 1319 to 1329 Fasli inclusive and that on the other hand the tenant Umrao Singh has agreed to his rent being enhanced up to the sum of Rs. 69 per annum.
3. Now in view of the manner in which the case has been argued before me it is scarcely possible for me to avoid some sort of criticism or discussion of the action taken by the Revenue Court in this matter. It seems to me that the Assistant Collector, before proceeding to give a decree for a declaration in terms of compromise, might have stopped to consider whether the tenant Umrao Singh actually held a lease, registered' within the meaning of the definition of that expression, given in the Tenancy Act itself, so as to give him: a right to classify himself as a tenant holding under an eleven years' lease. It seems open to argument also whether under the provisions of Section 47 of the Tenancy Act enhancement of rent had been duly applied for, and whether the Assistant Collector should not have considered this point before proceeding to dispose of the suit before him. As often happens, however, when a suit is compromised, the Court did not look beyond the terms of the compromise itself. It gave the tenant Umrao Singh a decree to the effect that he is the tenant of the lands specified in his application at a rent of Rs. 69 per annum for the period of 1319 to 1329 Fasli inclusive.
4. Similar proceedings took place in respect of all the tenants who had been given leases in 1908 A. D. Bach of them obtained against the lambardar Shibba Singh a decree stating that he held the lands covered by his former lease at an enhanced rent and for a longer term, terminating with the year 1329 Fasli.
5. The nine suits now before me on appeal were filed by the remaining co -sharers in the two mahals in question with a view to contesting the validity of the arrangement come to between the lambardar and the various tenants, In each case the plaintiffs alleged that the arrangements come to and the decree obtained from the Revenue Court were fraudulent and collusive as between the lambardar and the tenants, and intended simply to cause injury to the remaining co-sharers. The relief sought in each case is a declaration that the lease entered into in the year 1908, which is described as having been subsequently amended under the compromise-of September the 9th, 1911, may be cancelled so far as it affects the plaintiffs' rights. The Court of first instance has considered separately the validity of the contracts of lease embodied in the registered instruments of 1908 and those subsequently effected which are evidenced by the Revenue Court's decrees passed on the compromises of September 1911. The learned Munsif came to the conclusion that the plaintiffs were entitled to no relief in respect of the registered leases of 1908, and this for two reasons. He held that a suit for the cancellation of those leases was barred by limitation on the date on which those suits were instituted by reason of Article 91, Schedule I, of the Indian Limitation Act IX of 1908. He held further that the plaintiffs had acquiesced in those leases by the enjoyment of profits on the basis of the rents collected by the lambardar in accordance with the said leases, and for this reason also they were not entitled to obtain any decree invalidating the same. He was, however, of opinion that the plaintiffs had been wronged by the arrangements come to between the lambardar and the various tenants in the month of September 1911, and that the wrong was one for which relief could be given by a decree of his Court. He gave the plaintiffs in each case a declaration that the compromise dated September the 9th, 1911, is null and void as against them, and also that it is ineffectual in so far as it affects their interests. The defendants appealed to the Court of the District Judge and cross-objections were filed by the plaintiffs in respect of that portion of their claim which had been dismissed. The learned District Judge before whom the appeals came for decision has remarked that the cross-objections were not pressed before him, and in any case he can see no force in the pleas taken. On the appeals of the defendants he discussed the various questions of law and of fact involved at considerable length. He doubted whether the plaintiffs could, in any case, obtain a decree which would have the effect of nullifying the decrees passed by the Revenue Court in a matter in which that Court had sole jurisdiction. But he did not come to any definite decision on this point. He went on to hold, however, that there was no reason to suppose that the compromises entered into in the Revenue Court were collusive as between the lambardar and the tenants, or were detrimental to the interests of the co-sharers. He has gone in fact somewhat further than this, for he has recorded a finding that 'it is fairly shown that the compromise was for the benefit of the co-sharers.'
6. The plaintiffs have filed a series of second appeals in this Court. There are two pleas in their memorandum of appeal which seem to be intended to challenge the finding of the Court of first instance, affirmed by the lower Appellate Court, with respect to the registered leases of 1908. Apart from the question of limitation, I do not think I can go behind the findings of both the Courts below that there has been acquiescence by the plaintiffs in the matter of these leases. It has not been suggested that the plaintiffs were not getting their share of the profits during the years 1908 to 1911 inclusive, or that they claimed profits on the basis of some calculation of a possible rental of the lands in suit over and above the divisible profits calculated on the basis of the rents set forth in the leases of 1908. It seems to me on a consideration of the case as a whole that the plaintiffs were not disposed to quarrel with the lambardar's management at the time when these leases of 1908 were executed, and that the real reason for the present suits is to be found in the subsequent disagreement of the parties, the intention of the plaintiffs to apply for the partition of the two mahals and their belief that the suits in the Revenue Courts and the compromises of September the 9th, 1911, represented some trick or device on the part of the lambardar to prejudice their position after the partition should have been effected. I find from the record that applications for the partition of the two mahals were actually made on the 3rd and 4th of January 1912 respectively. Some of the pleas taken in the memorandum of appeal before me, and some of the arguments addressed to me in support of these appeals, are not of a nature calculated to help the plaintiffs' case. I have already pointed out the sort of criticisms which have been applied to the compromise decrees' passed by the Revenue Court. The argument before me goes to suggest that those decrees, in so far as they purport to lay down the period of the tenancy, are on the face of them illegal as dealing with matters outside the scope of Section 95 of the Agra Tenancy Act. It is useless for 'the appellants to try to argue the appeals on such lines as these. If, as a matter of fact, these proceedings in the Revenue Court are void by reason of some inherent irregularity or illegality, that is a matter with which the Civil Courts have no concern. Obviously a suit for a declaration that an Assistant Collector sitting as a Court of Revenue has passed a decree, whether based on a compromise or otherwise, which is' illegal or inoperative by reason of some want of jurisdiction or error of law, is not a suit which can be entertained by a Civil Court. It may be that the tenants who are defendants in these various suits may hereafter find 'themselves setting up the compromise decrees of September the 9th, 1911, as defences against some suit for their ejectment brought under Section 58 of the Agra Tenancy Act, and that the Revenue Courts themselves may have to decide whether the tenants are in effect holding under an unexpired lease and can produce legal evidence that they are so holding. With these matters we are not concerned in the present suits. If, as a matter of fact, the lambardar and the tenants handled the business so clumsily that their proceedings in the Revenue Court failed to confer upon the tenants the status of tenants holding under valid leases, so much the better for the present plaintiffs; but it is not for the Civil Court in these present suits to give them a decree to that effect. If the plaintiffs are really entitled to any relief at all, they must start with the assumption, so far as these suits are concerned, that the lambardar Shibba Singh entered into contracts with these various tenants which would confer upon the said tenants a right to hold the lands in suit for a period of eleven years, unless it can be shown that the lambardar, in entering into those contracts on behalf of the whole body of co-sharers, was exceeding his powers. This was substantially the relief which the plaintiffs were trying to get, although they do not seem to have put the point very happily in their plaint. What they really want is a declaration in each of these suits that the contract of lease entered into in the month of September 1911 by the defendant lambardar with the defendants-tenants in each case is a contract which is not binding upon the plaintiffs, in so far as it purports to confer upon the tenants the right to hold the lands in suit under a lease for a period of eleven years, or otherwise than as tenants from year to year. The mere fact that the contract of lease between the lambardar and the tenants had got itself embodied in a decree of rent Court, in a suit to which the plaintiffs-co-sharers were no parties, would not, in my opinion, be sufficient in itself to bar the plaintiffs from maintaining a suit for a declaration to the effect above stated. The real question, however, is whether on the findings recorded by the lower Appellate Court the plaintiffs have made out a good case for such a declaration. The question of the rights and powers of a lambardar in dealing with co-parcenary land has been considered by this Court in a series of rulings. I am content to refer to the case of Chattray v. Nawala 29 A. 20 : 3 A.L.T. 639 : A.W.W. (1906) 257 where it was laid down, in concurrence with a previous decision by another Bench of this Court, that a lambardar has not general power to grant any lease of coparcenary land beyond such period as the circumstances of a particular year or particular season may require. The effect of this decision is understood to have been modified by the views expressed by another Bench of this Court in Mukhta Prasad v. Kamta Singh A.W.N. (1906) 277 : 3 A.L.J. 655. But the weight of authority seems to me in favour of the ruling in Chattray v. Nawala 29 A. 20 : 3 A.L.J. 639 : A.W.W. (1906) 257. I should be disposed to presume against the validity of a lease for a long period of years granted by a lambardar of co-parcenary land in winch he himself had only a small share; more particularly I should incline to presume against the validity of a series of leases granted under circumstances so peculiar as those with which I am now concerned, and at a time when it is presumable that the lambardar knew that his co-sharers were about to apply for partition. At the same time I am bound to admit that in the case of any and every lease granted by him, whatever be its period, it is open to the lambardar to plead and to prove by evidence that the grant of the lease was justified by the circumstances of the case and that it was beneficial to the co-parcenary body as a whole. In the present case I have before me the express findings of the Court below that there was nothing collusive about the proceedings in the Assistant Collector's Court, and that it is fairly shown that the compromises there entered into were for the benefit of the co-sharers. I cannot say that these findings rest upon no evidence at all. It is quite a peculiar feature of the case as it now stands that the registered leases of the year 1908, which were acquiesced in by the co-sharers, were in every case for an annual rental considerably lower than that secured by the contracts of lease entered into in 1911. It is difficult to say that the mere fact that the period covered by the leases was considerably extended in the contracts entred into in 1911 would in itself be prejudicial to the other co-shares. The tenants must either pay the enhanced rent contracted for by them, or they will have to submit to ejectment in default of payment of rent. I am not prepared to say that the lower Appellate Court was not entitled to arrive at the findings recorded by it, and it seems to me that I must treat them as decisive in regard to all these appeals. I hold then that the plaintiffs are not entitled to any decree declaring the invalidity of any contracts of lease which may have been entered into between the lambardar-defendant and the tenants defendants in the month of September 1911, assuming that valid contracts of lease were entered into between these parties, because the lambardar has succeeded in proving affirmatively to the satisfaction of the lower Appellate Court that he entered into these contracts in good faith and that they were advantageous to the general body of the co-sharers. These appeals must, therefore, fail and I dismiss each of them with costs.