1. The appellant - the landholder - sued to evict the respondent from his holding on the ground that with reference to the terms of Section 151 of the Madras Estates Land Act the tenant had materially impaired the value of the holding for agricultural purposes and rendered it substantially unfit for such purposes. The proved facts are that the contesting respondent purchased a holding of 41 cents, round which he built a wall apparently in substitution for an old mud wall which had previously existed, and in the northern half of the holding he constructed a small house and two cattle-sheds. The actual extent occupied by these buildings is said to be just under two cents out of the 41 cents of the holding. But it is contended that if one takes into consideration the area required for the ordinary use of these buildings, about one-fourth of the holding has been diverted from agricultural purposes. The rest of the land seems to be used for growing vegetables and fruit trees. Both the Courts below have found that the holding as a whole has not been rendered substantially unfit for the agriculture by the use to which it has been put by the contesting respondent. That is a finding of fact which binds me unless it can be shown that the Courts below have approached the question without regard to the proper legal criteria which must govern a decision on this point.
2. The Privy Council in the case of Hari Mohun Misser v. Surendra Narayan Singh have observed that the matter must be decided with reference to the size of the holding, the area withdrawn from actual cultivation and the effect of such withdrawal upon the fitness of the holding as a whole for cultivation. The learned District Judge in the course of his judgment observes:
In all these cases the point that has to be decided is not what is the extent taken away from the holding for purposes of building. The point that should be decided in each case is whether the tenant has in any way rendered the holding substantially unfit for agricultural purposes.
3. The first sentence in the passage quoted, taken by itself, would appear to indicate that the learned District Judge regarded the extent occupied by the buildings as immaterial. But reading the judgment as a whole I have no doubt that he quite rightly takes into consideration the area occupied by the buildings in comparison with the area as a whole and considers whether the construction of those buildings has materially affected the fitness of the holding as a whole for agricultural purposes. That is what according to the Privy Council he should do.
4. I may observe that according to the contesting respondent's own evidence the house in question is a small house intended to be used as a farm house where he may stay when supervising the cultivation of his other holdings in the same estate, and where he can store grain. As to the cattle-sheds it might be argued that the building of a cattle-shed abstracts a certain area from cultivation and renders it unfit for agriculture. But I am of opinion that since the use of cattle is a necessary incident of agriculture, the occupation of a very small proportion of a holding for housing cattle cannot legitimately be treated as an occupation rendering the holding as a whole unfit for agricultural purposes. Similarly with regard to the storage of manure which appears to have been done on the land, so far from that rendering the land unfit for growing crops, it would in all probability make it much more fertile.
5. With reference to the argument that besides two cents occupied by buildings another 10 cents is diverted from agriculture by reason of the use of the buildings, I must observe that the mere diversion of land from agriculture is not a ground for eviction, provided that that diversion does not by its nature impair the value of the land for future agriculture. If a ryot uses a portion of his holding as a cattle-stand, he would not be using it for agriculture, but he would certainly not be impairing its fitness for agriculture. I do not think it can be said that the construction of this small house occupying as it does something less than one-twentieth of the whole holding renders that holding taken as a whole unfit for agricultural purposes. Nor do I think it can be said that the Courts below have adopted the wrong legal criteria in deciding the question which was before them.
6. The result therefore is that the appeal is dismissed with costs.
7. Leave to appeal is refused.