1. The plaintiff-respondent is the manager of the Piranmalai Devasthanam. He instituted a suit to recover rent in respect of certain lands belonging to the Devasthanam which were granted on a permanent lease at a favourable rent by one of his predecessors. Exhibit II, dated the 21st of January, 1900, is the perpetual cowle. The suit was resisted by the defendant-appellant on the ground that it was barred by limitation under Article 134 of the Limitation Act and that the lease was justifiable under Section 26 of the Estates Land Act because it was granted for the purpose of bringing waste land into cultivation. Following Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Aiyar ILR (1921) M 831 : 41 MLJ 346 and other decisions of this Court the learned Judge (Phillips, J.) held that Article 134 did not apply to this case and as according to these rulings the period of limitation began to run only from the date of the ascension of the plaintiff trustee to his office, he held that the suit is in time. He also held that the appellant is not entitled to rely on Section 26 of the Estates Land Act, as in his view it did not appear that the land in question was granted for the purpose of
clearing and bringing waste land of the estate into cultivation
2. In this Letters Patent Appeal preferred against the learned Judge's judgment his decision on the question of limitation, in view of the rulings of this Court and of the Privy Council [see also Rama Reddy v. Rangadasan ILR (1925) M 543 : 50 MLJ 589] has not been questioned. The argument that has been pressed before us is that the learned Judge's view that Section 26 of the Estates Land Act does not apply to this case is wrong. On this point the observations of the learned Judge are as follows:
Although the lease recites that this land was overgrown, that the irrigation source was out of repair and that the land was uneven, it does not appear that the land was waste land within the meaning of Section 26. I agree with the District Judge that 'bringing into cultivation' means cultivating land which had not previously been cultivated or at any rate had not been cultivated for a long period. The mere fact that land lies fallow for one, two or even four years cannot constitute it as waste land within the meaning of that section. Otherwise land lying fallow for even one year would come within the definition.
3. We may say at once that we agree with these observations. To attract those provisions of Section 26, Clause (1) of the Estates Land Act relied on by the appellant it must be shown that the land at the time of the lease was (1) waste land, and (2) that the lease was given for clearing it and bringing it into cultivation. What is 'waste land' has not been defined in the Estates Land Act, nor are there any decisions on the point explaining its meaning. It appears to us that the question whether a piece of land is waste land or not must depend upon the circumstances of each case and the evidence given in it. In order to be described as 'waste land' the land need not necessarily be immemorial waste land; but if it has really never been cultivated, or at any rate has not been cultivated for a long period, it will come within the meaning of the term 'waste land' used in the section. As we have already observed, in any particular case the question will be whether, having regard to the circumstances of that case and the evidence given in it, it can reasonably be said that the land in question is waste land. If so and if the lease is given to bring such land into cultivation, then the landlord is justified in assigning it on favourable rent. The question is essentially one of fact for the Lower Courts to consider on the evidence. In this case the Lower Courts have held that the land given on cowle under Exhibit II cannot be called waste land and the learned Judge has accepted the finding. There is abundant evidence to support this opinion. Exhibit II itself furnishes valuable evidence on this point. It shows that the land must have been under cultivation not very long ago and that there was a tank in it which was once in good condition. The evidence shows that up to 1895 this land was under actual cultivation. The mere fact that the land lay fallow for about five years cannot constitute it as waste land within the meaning of the section. The lease is not sought to be supported on any other ground. It therefore follows that the act of the plaintiff's predecessor in granting a permanent lease of the Devasthanam lands on favourable rent is not binding on his successor and he is therefore entitled to recover the rent claimed from the defendant.
4. We dismiss this Letters Patent Appeal with costs.