1. This is an application to consolidate the several appeals from awards passed by the District Judge of Madura on reference made to him by the Land Acquisition Officer under Section 18 of Act I of 1894. Several references appear to have been made to the District Judge, but they were all in connection with land taken up for the extension of Madura Town, except one with which we are not now concerned. The District Judge treated all the references as 47 separate petitions, and passed a separate award on each of these although they were all tried together and were disposed of in one judgment. It is not quite clear whether the Land Acquisition Officer divided up the references in this way, either of his own initiative or at the request of the District Judge or whether it was done by the District Judge himself.
2. The first question argued is whether this Court has power to consolidate appeals. No express power to do ho is conferred by the legislature, but such power has been held to be inherent in the Court, and I think has rightly been so held. So long ago as 1871 the Calcutta High Court approved of the consolidation of two suits and their disposal by one decree. Enayetolloh v. Radha Charu Roy (1871)15 W.R. 395. In Kashi Prosad Singh v. The Secretary of State for India I.L.R (1901) C.140 appeals from 44 references under the Land Acquisition Act were ordered to be consolidated. In Fink v. The Secretary of State for India I.L.R. (1907) C. 599 it was held that in that case it was too late to consolidate the appeals from references under the Land Acquisition Act, but the Court pointed out the inconveniences that arose from the failure to consolidate and remarked that the Judge and the Collector should have consolidated the references. In In re Dorabji Cursetji (1907) 10 Bom. L.R. 675 Macleod, J., held that the Court had power to consolidate, and relied on Fink v. The Secretary of State for India I.L.R. (1907) C. 599. Reference may also be made to In the matter of the Falls of Ettriuk I.L.R. (1894) C. 511 where the question is considered. There appears to be no decision of this Court on the point, and the only case at all analogous is that when two appellate decrees have been passed on appeal from one decree, the second appeals, are consolidated into one. Sanyasi Lingam v. Gavaramma : (1906)16MLJ411 , but the analogy is somewhat remote. Consolidation is allowed in England and consequently I agree with the Calcutta and Bombay High Courts that a Court has power to consolidate appeals and would, if necessary, invoke the provisions of Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure in support of the proposition.
3. The learned Government Pleader takes objection to consolidation only on the ground that if it is allowed the public revenues will be deprived of a portion of the court-fees payable by appellants. We have therefore to consider whether this is a fit case for consolidation. Although several plots of land were acquired from appellants, only one notice was served on them under Section 12(2) of the Land Acquisition Act in respect of all the plots and under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act the appellants only made one application to the Collector to refer their objection to the award. Under Section 20 of the Land Acquisition Act the Court has to determine the objection, i.e., the objection referred to in Section 18(2). The fact that only one notice was sent under Section 12 and one objection filed under Section 18 would prima facie indicate that there was only one award the correctness of which had to be determined by the District Court. The fact that the award contained several items does not make it as many awards for there is no reason why one single award should not decide many questions referred for decision. So far therefore as appellants were concerned there was only one award which was referred under Section 18 for the decision of the District Court. The fact that in the arbitration proceedings before the District Court the award was split up and amalgamated with other awards, which had reference to other claimants, ought not to be allowed to prejudice the right of the appellants to treat their award as one, and they appear to be equitably entitled to consolidation.
4. A further objection is taken that the appeals cannot be allowed to be consolidated as there was no consolidation nor even a request for consolidation in the lower court, and reliance is placed on Rakkal Chandra Tewari v. Manmatha Nath Mitter (1911) 15 C.W.N. 994 and Janardan Kishore Lal v. Shib Pershad Ram I.L.R. (1915) C.95 These are however appeals not from suits, but from arbitration proceedings. (Vide The Secretary of State for India in Council v. Chelikani Rama Rao (1915) 31 M.L.J 324 and in the Lower Court there was no occasion for appellant to ask for consolidation. They had been furnished with only one award, to which they objected and consequently there was only their one objection to be disposed of, and it was disposed of, in conjunction with other objections at one hearing and by one order. The splitting up of the awards by the referring officer or by the Court may not even have been known to the parties, and in any case there was no occasion for the claimants to take any objection at the hearing, for all the cases were heard together. The splitting up of the awards, if made by the Land Acquisition officer, was apparently not communicated to the parties under Section 12 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act and consequently there was only one valid award, so far as the appellants are concerned and they are entitled to appeal against it in one appeal. The petition is therefore allowed with costs.
5. Civil Miscellaneous Petitions Nos. 2138 and 2139 follow the order in the Petition. The time allowed for the payment of the costs is three months from this date.