1. This was a suit by the Zamindar of Pedda Kimidi to set aside the decision of a District Panchayet under Regulation XII of 1816 awarding certain lands to the Zamindar of Chikati. The 1st defendant is the Zamindar of Chikati, 2nd defendant the Collector of Ganjam, the 3rd defendant the District Munsif of Berhampore who convened the Panchayet, defendants Nos. 4 to 8 are Panchayetdars.
2. The District Judge held that defendants Nos. 2 to 8 were not necessary parties and struck them off the record, but plaintiff has made them respondents to this appeal.
3. Plaintiff's Zamindari lies to the north of the 1st defendant's and the estates are conterminous for some distance, and there has been a long-standing dispute as to the boundary between the plaintiff's village of Jakkara and the 1st defendant's village of Kapanavugam involving about 200 acres of land, which each Zamindar claims to be within the boundaries of his own village.
4. By an order of 5th June 1888 the Collector referred the matter under Regulation XII of 1816 to the District Munsif for disposal by a District Panchayet under the regulation.
5. The District Munsif assembled a District Panchayet, which passed a decree in favour of the 1st defendant on the 29th of July 1888.
6. Plaintiff sues to set aside that decree on seven grounds:
(a) That the Panchayet was not properly constituted.
(b) That no notice was given by the Munsif to plaintiff before constituting the Panchayet.
(c) That plaintiff was not allowed an opportunity of objecting to the Panchayetdars and they were appointed without consulting him.
(d) No opportunity was allowed to plaintiff of naming two Panchayetdars as required by Regulation V of 1816.
(e) The various steps prescribed by Section 4 of Regulation V of 1816 were not strictly adhered to.
(f) The award was not read in the presence of the parties as required by Section 6 of Regulation XII of 1816.
(g) The Panchayetdars went beyond their powers in proceeding to decide the rights of the plaintiff and the 1st defendant to the lands, tanks, &c.;, in dispute and in ordering them to be made over to the 1st defendant.
7. The plaint also prays that, as plaintiff has been dispossessed of the lands, &c;, he may be replaced in possession with mesne profits. The 1st defendant by his written statement denied plaintiff's right altogether and the allegations in the plaint as to the irregularity of the procedure.
8. Three issues were settled, which are called preliminary:
(1) Whether, under the circumstances, the Collector had jurisdiction to refer the suit for the decision of a District Panchayet.
(2) Should the order of the Panchayet be set aside on the ground that no notice was given to plaintiff before nominating the Panchayet?
(3) Should it be set aside on any of the grounds (a),(c),(d), (e), or (f)?
9. The Judge made a note on the issue paper that, should any of these issues be decided in favour of plaintiff, it would be time enough to settle issues as to the title.
10. The District Judge found all the issues against the plaintiff and dismissed the suit with costs. Plaintiff appeals.
11. There was a previous application for a reference to a District Panchayet in 1884 and the District Court then held that District Panchayets had become obsolete, Regulation VII of 1816, which constituted them, having been repealed. On appeal, the High Court held that the jurisdiction of District Panchayets still existed for the purposes of Regulation XII of 1816, but set aside the award on the ground of irregularity of procedure. The case is reported as Chikati Zamindar v. Peddakimedi Zamindar I.L.R. 8 Mad. 569.
12. In the present appeal, the appellant's Vakil first argues that this was not a case for a reference to a Panchayet under Regulation XII of 1816, because no breach, of the peace had taken place, or was apprehended. It is contended that, as Regulation XII of 1816 was only intended to add a new remedy to those provided by Regulation XXXII of 1802 and as the object of the latter Regulation, as shown by the preamble, was to prevent forcible dispossession and consequent breaches of the peace, it is a condition precedent to Regulation XII of 1816 being put in force that a breach of the peace should either have happened or be apprehended.
13. This argument appears to us to be founded on a mistaken view of the object and scope of the regulations. Regulation XXXII of 1802 by Section 2 enacts that persons shall not assert their claims to lands or crops by force, but have recourse to the Civil Courts, that is, it proclaims what was already the law. Sections 3, 4 and 5 provide a summary remedy when persons persist in asserting their rights by force, viz., the restoration of possession without reference to title, and if death or other injury is caused, the forfeiture of the guilty party's rights, if any. Section 6 provides for forfeiture of the disputed property to Government and punishment by the Criminal Courts when force issued on both sides and an affray takes place.
14. Regulation XII of 1816 recites that the remedy by recourse to Civil Courts prescribed by Section 2 of Regulation XXXII of 1802 had been found to be insufficient and provides for the determination by Village or District Panchayets of (1) 'claims to lands or crops in districts permanently settled or otherwise, the validity of which may depend on the determination of an uncertain or disputed boundary or land mark;' and (2)' cases of disputes respecting the occupying, cultivating and irrigating of land which may arise between the proprietors or renters and their ryots in those districts only where the land revenue is fixed either permanently or for a term of years.'
15. In cases coming within these two classes it was apparently considered that the Village or District Panchayets having local knowledge would be a more satisfactory tribunal than the Zillah Court.
16. The Village Panchayet is to be the tribunal when both parties agree to the reference and the District Panchayet when one only desires it.
17. Nothing whatever is said in Regulation XII of 1816 or Section 2 of Regulation XXXII of 1802, to which it refers about a breach of the peace, and there is nothing to limit the application of Regulation XII of 1816 to cases in which a breach of the peace exists or is anticipated.
18. It is next argued on behalf of the appellant that the procedure under Regulation XII of 1816 is only summary and does not oust the ordinary jurisdiction of the Civil Courts. This argument is not quite accurately stated. No doubt, in one sense, the procedure under Regulation XII of 1816 does not oust the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts. If a suit were filed in the Civil Court first, it would be no answer to it to say that the matter should be referred to a Panchayet under Regulation XII of 1816. The regulation provides an alternative remedy to that of having recourse to the Civil Courts. The question is whether, when the jurisdiction of the Panchayet has once been called into play and a decision passed in due course, the matter can again be litigated in a Civil Court. It is contended that this question must be answered in the affirmative, because the proceeding contemplated by the regulation is a summary proceeding, and can never have been intended for a final adjudication of questions of title. The only reason assigned for treating the proceeding provided for by the regulation as summary is that in the case of the reference to a District Panchayet, it is a proceeding taken in spite of the objection of one party. It is argued that the consent of both parties is essential in order that an award may be final and conclusive, and that it cannot have been the intention of the Legislature to make a decision of a Panchayet on a question of title final and binding on both parties, where only one consented to refer the matter to the Panchayet.
19. To ascertain the intention of the Legislature, we must look at the words of the enactment when they are clear and free from doubt, and we can see nothing in the words of the regulation to indicate an intention that the decision of a Panchayet under it should not be final and conclusive between the parties, and on the contrary there is much to indicate the opposite intention. The reason given for the provisions of the regulation, viz., that the remedy of recourse to the Civil Court provided by Section 2 of Regulation XXXII of 1802 had proved insufficient, seems to indicate the contrary, as also that the procedure prescribed is similar to that in regular suit. Plaints and decrees are spoken of. The decree is not to be set aside for any other cause than gross partiality of the Panchayetdars. No appeal is provided, and when the award is set aside for partiality and the second Panchayet agrees with the first, its decision shall be final.
20. Clause 8 of Section 5, which provides that if neither party agrees to the reference of the suit to a District Panchayet, 'the suit shall be dismissed and the parties shall be at liberty to seek redress from the Zillah Court or any competent jurisdiction,' seems to point in the same direction. We must hold that the decision of a District Panchayet under the regulation is final and conclusive between the parties and cannot be impeached or set aside except in the manner prescribed by the regulation.
21. Lastly, it is argued that the decision of the Panchayet is invalid on the ground of irregularity of procedure. The only irregularity relied on in appeal is that no notice was given by the District Munsif to plaintiff before nominating the Panchayet.
22. The regulation does not require such notice; but plaintiff had, as a matter of fact, ample notice of the proceedings. He was duly summoned and informed that the matter was referred to the District Munsif for decision by a District Panchayet within 15 days. He know, therefore, the time within which the Panchayet must be assembled and it was his business to find out when the nomination of the Panchayetdars was to take place. The truth is the objection on this ground does not lie in plaintiff's mouth at all, for he all along protested against the proceedings and declined to appear or be represented by a Vakil.
23. We agree with the District Judge that plaintiff has failed to show any valid reason why the Panchayet's decision should be set aside and we confirm the decree of the lower Court and dismiss this appeal with separate costs of defendants Nos. 1 and 2.