1. These are appeals from decrees of the District Court of Chingleput dismissing suits under Section 9 of Act VIII of 1865 for the acceptance of pattas.
2. For the purposes of the point of law which was argued before us, the following facts may be taken to have been found or admitted.
3. In 1898 the Shrotriemdar gave to the plaintiff a power of attorney authorising the plaintiff to exercise the rights of the Shrotriemdar under the Act of 1865. This power, being coupled with an interest, was in law irrevocable. The Shrotriemdar purported to revoke this power of attorney and gave notice to the defendants that he had done so. He then tendered pattas to the defendants which the defendants accepted. At the time the defendants accepted the pattas they were aware that the Shrotriemdar's right to tender the pattas was disputed by the plaintiff. The plaintiff subsequently presented pattas for the same fasli and the defendants refused to accept them on the ground that they had already accepted pattas from the Shrotriemdar.
4. The question is whether the defendants are discharged from their liability to the plaintiff by reason of their having already accepted pattas from the shrotriemdar. The District Judge decided the point in favour of the defendants upon the ground that as the relation of principal and agent existed between the Shrotriemdar and the plaintiff and the pattas tendered by the Shrotriemdar had been accepted, the plaintiff was not entitled to tender second pattas by reason of the facts that the Shrotriemdar had acted in contravention of the contract with the plaintiff in himself tendering the patta. On behalf of the defendants it was contended before us that the plaintiff's only remedy was to sue the Shrotriemdar for damages for having derogated from his own grant. We do not think that this contention is well founded. It is not necessary for us to consider whether the defendants would have had a good defence if at the time they accepted the Shrotriemdar's pattas, they had been unaware that the plaintiff disputed the Shrotriemdar's right to tender, the pattas. There is no express finding on the point, but it seems clear to us (and the learned Vakil for the defendants did not contened otherwise, that when the defendants accepted the Shrotriemdar's pattas they were aware that the right to tender the pattas was claimed by the plaintiff by virtue of the authority which had been given to him by the Shrotriemdar. This authority was in law irrevocable, and this distinguishes the present case from the class of cases where payment to agent has been held to be a good discharge. See for instance Venning v. Bray 2 Best will abide the event.
5. The principle which governs the present case is thus stated in Story on Agency. In dealing with the exceptions to the general rule that the principal may sue upon a contract made by the agent in the same manner as if he had personally made it, the learned author says: - 'Another exception is, where the agent has a lien or claim upon the property bought or sold or upon its proceeds, which is equal to or exceeds the amount or value thereof; for in such a case (as we have seen), the rights of the agent are paramount to those of the principal and the principal has no right to sue thereon, unless with the consent of the agent, and if he does sue, and the other party has received notice of the lien the suit will be ineffectual, or at the peril of the party sued. If any other doctrine were to prevail, the right of lien of the agent might be defeated at the mere will of the principal.'
6. No doubt the case of Eagleton v. The East India Railway Company 8 B.L.R. 581, to which our attention was called on behalf of the appellant may be distinguished on the ground that there was an assignment of property, whereas, here, there was only an assignment of a right, but the basis of the decision appears to be that the defendants who had received notice from the party who had given the original authority to the plaintiff to take delivery of the goods to give delivery to a person other than the plaintiff, were not discharged from liability to the plaintiff for the reason that the authority which had been given to the plaintiff was an authority coupled with an interest and was therefore irrevocable. See the passage in the judgment of Sir R. Couch on p. 601.
7. As we think the learned judge was wrong in dismissing the suits on the ground taken by him, we must set aside his decrees and remand the cases to him for disposal on the other points in the cases.
8. Costs will abide the event.