1. This is a claim made to a percentage of the net revenue of the reserved forest at Sriharicotta under Madras Forest Act V of 1882. The appellant before us is the Secretary of State for India in Council represented by the District Forest Officer, and respondents are two mirasi karnams who had served as such in connection with the forest till 1884, when the Forest Officer dispensed with their services. The claimants stated that from time immemorial their family had been enjoying the rusum and rendering services as karnams in relation to the forest, and that in return a commission of Rs. 5-7-6 on every 100 rupees of the net income of the forest had been paid to them. The appellant repudiated the claim, but did not object to the jurisdiction of the Forest Settlement Officer. On the 31st May 1888, the Forest Settlement Officer held that he had no jurisdiction to entertain the claim, the right asserted by respondents being neither a right in and over the forest nor a right to forest produce. He further held that the claim was barred by Section 4 of the Pensions Act, XXIII of 1871. The respondents appealed from this decision to the Collector of the district, who considered that the right set up by the claimants was not outside the provisions of the Forest Act, that the Forest Settlement Officer was not a Civil Court for the purposes of the Pensions Act, and that the G.O. No. 389, dated 26th May 1886, referred the claimants to the Forest Settlement Officer. The appellant denied the Collector's jurisdiction to entertain the appeal, but his objection was overruled, and in the result the Collector remanded the case for disposal on the merits. Thereupon, the Forest Settlement Officer investigated the merits and decreed the claim. From his decision the Secretary of State preferred an appeal to the District Court, but the District Judge held that he had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal and dismissed it with costs. Hence this second appeal.
2. The jurisdiction created by the Forest Act being a limited jurisdiction, the first question is whether, as held by the Judge, the right claimed is a right specified in Section 4 of the Forest Act. That section describes the rights which the Forest Settlement Officer is authorized to deal with as rights in and over the land comprised within the limits of the forest or to any forest produce of such land the Judge determines the question in the negative. Assuming that his decision is correct, it does not follow that he had no jurisdiction to entertain the appeal preferred by the appellant. If a Court of limited jurisdiction exceeds its powers and adjudicates on a claim over which it has no jurisdiction, it is an error which the Court, if any, exercising appellate jurisdiction over it is bound to correct, as every Court of appeal has all the powers of a Court of revision. In the case before us, it is clear that the Forest Settlement Officer exercised jurisdiction by reason of the Collector Mr. Macleane's decision that the right in contest was not outside the provisions of the Forest Act. Under Section 14 of the Forest Act, the Collector has appellate; jurisdiction only when the right adjudicated on by the Forest Settlement Officer is a right excepted from the provisions of Section 10 which, among other things, constitutes the District Court as the Court of appeal in regard to any right in and over the forest save the excepted rights. We agree with the Judge that the right claimed does not amount to an interest in land. It is not similar to the grant of melvaram right in land in the possession of the grantee, or of some one else as in the case of inams. But it is similar to the right to a mera to be paid to a karnam by the ryots of the village out of the produce of the lands in their possession, and it cannot be said that the right creates a joint interest on the part of the karnam in the holding of each ryot. Again, an agreement to pay a certain percentage of the profits of partnership as wages to a servant of the firm does not make him a partner. Looking to the relation of the parties as master and servant and to the character of the rusum, as a money payment out of the income of the forest in the possession of the Government, it is not reasonable to impute any intention to create an interest in the lands.
3. Another question for decision is whether the Collector had appellate jurisdiction in this case under Section 14 or whether the right adjudicated on is a right to forest produce. The fudge, holds that it is not, and on referring to Section 2 which explains that right, we concur in his opinion. Section 2 describes the right as the right to certain specific forest products, which it enumerates, and the fact that the enumeration is not exhaustive can only justify other rights of the same description being included in the section. But the right asserted by the respondents is a right not to any specific jungle product, but to a percentage of the forest income from certain sources. In this connection, the Judge observes that he has no power to hear an appeal from the decision of the Collector. If the right claimed is not a right to forest produce and the Collector had no appellate jurisdiction, the order made by him is one made without jurisdiction, and it is not incompetent to a Court of competent appellate jurisdiction to say that it is not bound by an order made without jurisdiction by the Collector in the same suit the Government denied his jurisdiction and cannot be said to have submitted to it. We are, therefore, of opinion that the Judge was in error in declining to entertain the appeal and that he ought to have entertained it and adjudicated thereon.
4. The Judge states that in his opinion the claim was also barred by the Pensions Act of 1871, though he does not rest his decision upon it. By Section 4 of that Act, no Civil Court shall entertain any suit relating to any grant of money or land revenue made by the British or any former Government, whatever may have been the consideration for any such grant and whatever may have been the nature of the payment, claim or right for which such grant may have been substituted. Nor was any certificate produced before the Forest Settlement Officer as provided by Section 6 and the endorsement referred to by Mr. Macleane cannot be treated as a certificate within the meaning of Section 6. The Judge is therefore well founded in saying that even if the right is a right in and over the land, the Pensions Act would be a bar. The Collector is in error in saying that the Forest Settlement Officer is not a Civil Court for the purposes of the Pensions Act. It is not necessary that the Forest Settlement Officer should be a Civil Court for all purposes, but it is sufficient if the jurisdiction exercised by a Civil Court over a civil right is transferred to him and he is authorized to exercise it as a subordinate tribunal in its place, though a special procedure is prescribed for his guidance by a special Act. Nor can submission give jurisdiction in a case like this, in which the Forest Settlement Officer has no inherent jurisdiction, but has only a limited jurisdiction as provided by the Forest Act.
5. The conclusion we come to is that the District Judge should have adjudicated on the appeal and set aside the decree of the Forest Settlement Officer on the ground that the suit was barred by the Pensions Act, and also that that officer had no jurisdiction to entertain it under the Forest Act. As the question to be decided is one of law, we proceed to do what the District Judge ought to have done and accordingly we set aside the decrees of both the Courts below and dismiss the claim with costs throughout.