1. This case raises a question under Section 12 of the Madras Estates Land Act which occurs in Ch. II of the Act which is headed 'General rights', the original effect of which is to put the rights of landholders and ryots whether admitted before or after the passing of the Act on a statutory basis. Section 12 which deals with the ryot's rights as regards the trees on his holding makes an exception from this principle in the cases of trees in existence at the date of the passing of the Act, as to which the ryot's rights are made subject to any rights which by custom or by contract in writing executed by the ryot before the passing of this Act are reserved to the landholder, while as regards trees which after the passing of the Act are planted by the ryot or naturally grow upon the holding the ryot's rights are absolute and not to be affected by custom or contract to the contrary. As regards trees in existence at the time of passing of the Act, the section says that ' every occupancy ryot shall have the right to use, enjoy and cut down all trees now in his holding.' It is argued by Mr. Venkatarama Sastri that every occupancy ryot here means every occupancy ryot at the date of the passing of the Act and does not extend to ryots admitted subsequently, because the section speaks of trees 'now in his holding,' and ryots admitted subsequently had no holding at that date. This contention is entirely opposed not only to the policy of the Act but also to the words 'every occupancy ryot in the section itself, and would lead to the result that, at any rate as regards trees in existence at the passing of the Act, ryots subsequently admitted would be altogether outside the scope of the section. The use of the word ' holding ' which is defined in Section 3 as a ' parcel or parcels of land held under a single patta or engagement in a single village' does not in my opinion require us to hold that the land must have been held by the ryot claiming under the section at the time of the passing of the Act, but means in this connection land which either was a holding at that time or subsequently became one. It might have been more accurate to say 'trees which now at the passing of the Act are growing on land which now forms part of a holding or may subsequently have become part of one' but the meaning is in my opinion clear. It is said in the present case that the trees were in existence at the passing of the Act. Contract is therefore excluded as the ryots were admitted subsequently. The term in the pattah ' the puttah palmyra trees are reserved,' may however be enforceable as in accordance with custom as regards trees in existence at the passing of the Act.
2. The District Judge has not considered whether any such custom is established, and we therefore set aside his decree and remand the appeal to him for disposal according to law. Costs to abide.