1. This Second Appeal is preferred against the decree and Judgment of the learned District Judge of Cuddalore in A.S. No. 104 of 1956, confirming the decree and judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge of Cuddalore in O. S. No. 97 of 1954.
2. The appellant before me Ahmad Maraicair is the owner of Ac. 76-47 cents of Nanja lands in four villages and a cocoanut garden and a bungalow in the village of Keelachavadi. He intended to go to Java on business. Therefore, he executed a registered lease deed Ex. A. 1 dated 21-4-1951 in favour of the respondent Muthuvalliappa Chettiar for a period of five years for an annual rent of 1825 kalams of paddy and Rs. 100 cash.
Subsequently, the parties entered into a fresh agreement of lease Ex. A-2 whereby the period of lease was reduced to three years. The dispute between the parties, so far as these legal proceedings are concerned, has been in respect of rent payable, for the third and last year, as the rent payable for the 6rst two years has admittedly been paid. The case for the appellant, who filed O.S. 97 of 1954 and out of which this second appeal arises, was that there was some damage on account of floods only in respect of Ac. 17-48 cents of lands, that in the rest of the lands there was normal harvest and the lessee realised more than 300 and odd bags of kuruvai paddy from the sub-tenants.
His further case was that the lessee had informed his (lessor's) kariyasthar that he could not attend to collection of rent on account of personal difficulties and that as the period of lease itself was coming to an end, the lessor himself could collect the Poengar paddy for the second crop directly from the tenants and give credit to the same towards rent payable for the third year. The lessor claims to have collected 683 kalams and 10 marakkals of paddy alone from the sub-tenants. So giving credit for the Game and lost paid by the lessee, the suit was filed for recovery, of Rs. 4,800/- from the lessee.
3. On the other hand, the case of the lessee Muthuvalliappa Chettiar was : The Kuruvai crops were damaged on account of floods during harvest time. He gave timely notice to the lessor (plaintiff) to be present at the harvest and to share the waram but the plaintiff did not turn up. He realised only 90 kalams of paddy by way of rent from the subtenants in respect of kuruvai crop. The plaintiff high-handedly took possession of the bungalow and prevailed on the sub-tenants to pay the rent directly to him.
The plaintiff was not authorised or permitted to collect the second crop rent from the sub-tenants directly, and he had committed breach of covenant for quiet enjoyment and therefore was not entitled to recover any amount towards the lent for the third year. He has paid Rs. 1062-7-0 towards kist and after deducting a sum of Rs. 720 being the value of 96 kalams of paddy, the balance due to him from the plaintiff is Rs. 342-7-0-, for recovery of which and for rendition of accounts, the lessee had filed O. S. No. 17 of 1955. The defence of the plaintiff in that suit was the same as the allegations in his plaint in O.S. No. 97 of 1954.
4. The trial Court tried both the suits together and found that the annual rent of 1825 kalams of paddy was not payable in two equal shares for each crop as contended by the lessor, that the lessee collected more than 300 and odd bags of kuruvai paddy for the third year of the lease and not merely 96 kalams of kuruvai as contended by him, that the lessor realised 46 kalams of paddy as proportionate waram for 17 acres 48 cents of land in respect of the first crop, that after making deductions for the failure of crops etc., the lessor would be entitled to 593 and odd kalams of paddy for the third year according to the terms of the lease deed, that the value of paddy claimed in the plaint is correct, and that the lessor is not entitled to the balance of rent as he caused interruption and obstruction to the enjoyment of the lands by the lessee and the alleged surrender of lease pleaded by the lessor was not true.
In the result, the trial Court dismissed the plaintiffs suit O. S. 97 of 1954. It found that the lessee had collected more than 300 and odd kalams of paddy during kuruvai harvest, that the claim of the lessee that he had paid Rs. 342-7-0 in excess of the collections for payment of lost was not true, that the lessor is not liable to account, that the lessor took? possession of the demised lands high-handedly and against the will and consent of the lessee and that the remedy of lessee is to sue for damages or claim abatement or suspension of rent. Therefore, the suit filed by the lessee O. Section 17 of 1955 was also dismissed.
5. The appeals preferred by both the lessors and lessee were dismissed by the learned District Judge. The lessee has been content with the dismissal of his claim by the Courts below and it is only the lessor Marakayar who had preferred this second appeal against the dismissal of his suit O.S. 97 of 1954.
6. That there was interruption by the lessor breaching the covenant for quiet enjoyment by the lessee, has been found on relevant and acceptable evidence by the Courts below. The lessor wanted to make out that that interruption was of the making of the lessee and for which purpose he relied upon a casual remark said to have been made by the lessee to the lessor's Gumastha that the lessor could collect directly from his sub-tenants which according to the lessor, was tantamount to surrender of the lease with liability to pay up the contract rent. On the other hand, the circumstances show that the lessee has not consented to the collection of the rent by the lessor from the sub-tenants.
It is significant to note that this alleged conversation is not mentioned in the plaint or in the notices or in any other document. In Ex. A. 9 the letter sent by the lessee, he complains about the conduct of the lessor in collecting the rent from the subtenants unlawfully. He is unlikely to have written this letter ten days after the alleged conversation, if it were true. In the context of the case where the lessor and the lessee had fallen out by this time and the lessee was putting forward claims under the Tenants Protection Act, it is extremely unlikely that the lessee would have surrendered possession of the lands or agreed to the lessor collecting the rents from the sub-tenants.
In Ex. A-10 the lessor has stated that the lessee had told him in person that he could collect the rents from the sub-tenants and even surrendered possession of the bungalow. The evidence of P.Ws. 1 and 2 is that the lessee met only P.W. 2. It is true that the sub-lessee have sent notices Exs. B-3 to B-16 to the lessee stating that they were asked by the lessee to pay the Poonkar rent to the lessor. But both the Courts below have found, and with which conclusion I entirely agree, that these notices were sent by the sub-lessees at the instance of P.W. 2.
The addresses have been written by P. W. 2. The lessor has undoubtedly set up the sub-tenants against the lessee. One other clinching circumstance showing that this alleged surrender and constituting the lessor as the agent coupled with interest of the lessee is not true, is that as regards the bungalow, which is included in the lease deed, it is admitted that the key still continues to remain with the lessee, whereas if the version of the lessor is true, the key must he with him. Therefore, both the Courts below rightly concluded that the lessee did not surrender possession of the lands and bungalow or authorise the lessor to collect the, rents from the sub-tenants and that the lessor unlawfully collected the rents due from the sub-tenants to the lessee in spite of the objections by the lessee.
7. In this connection the learned District Munsif has pertinently pointed out the implications of the decision in Gopal Chandra Das v. Harendra Natha Datta, 63 Ind. Gas. 483 . In that case the Calcutta High Court held that though no writing was Ordinarily necessary in this country for surrendering a tenancy if the original lease is registered the surrender of a portion of the tenancy with an abatement of rent can only be effected by a registered instrument as in such a case the surrender involves a variation of the original contract of tenancy. The Calcutta High Court has also held that oral evidence as regards such surrender is inadmissible under Section 92 of the Evidence Act. This decision has been cited with approval in the well-known commentaries on the Transfer of Property Act by Chitaley and Annaji Rao, Third Edition (1950) page 1861.
8. When the facts lead to the conclusion that there was sufficient interruption, substantial interference -- it need not be physical exposition (?) (sic) (dispossession) to the quiet enjoyment of the lessee, of the demised land under the lessor assured to the lessee under Section 108(c) of the T. P. Act what are the consequences which flow? The Courts below have rightly relied on the decision in Dhunput Singh v. Mahomed Kazim, I.L.R. 24 Gal 296 and held that the lessee in this case can plead that his obligation to pay rent or balance of rent due to the lessor be held under suspension or must be held to have had abated by reason of the conduct of the lessor. The effect of partial eviction by a lessor has been dealt with in the following passage at page 659 under Section 108(l) in Mulla's Transfer of Property Act, Fourth Edition (by C. J. S. R. Das):
'If the premises are let for one rent, the rule of English law is that the eviction of the lessee by the lessor from part of the demised premises suspends the rent for the whole. The reason of the rule given in the earlier cases is that the landlord being in feudal times the defender and protector of the tenant, should not be encouraged to disturb him. In later cases the reason given is that the landlord is not entitled to apportion his wrong. Judicial decisions in India on this point have not been uniform. In some cases this rule of English law has been followed and at has been, held that if the rent is an entire rent for all the property leased, eviction by the lessor of the lessee from part of the property leased suspends the whole rent'.
In Mecnakshi Sundara Nachiar v. Chidambaram Chetty, 23 M.L.J. 119 the Calcutta decision has been discussed and it was held that a tenant may on partial eviction repudiate the whole lease; but if he does not and remains in possession of a portion, he is estopped from pleading non-liability for the rent of the portion in his occupation and that he will be liable to pay rent but will be entitled to damages in respect of the eviction and he can set off the damages as against the rent in the landlord's action for rent.
The principle of this decision was followed in Hanumantha Goundan v. Doraisami Pillai, AIR 1928 Mad 380. Even in I.L.R. Cal 296 the apportionment of rent was allowed, as the rent had been fixed separately in that case in respect of the portion from which the tenant was evicted. In Katyayani Debi v. Udoy Kumar the P. C. has held that the doctrine of suspension of rent applied when the rent was an entire rent & the tenant had not been put in possession of part of the subject leased; for it Is tantamount to an eviction if the lessor is unable to put the lessee in possession of any portion of the premises demised. See also Sajjad Ahamad v. Trailakya Nath : AIR1928Cal479 ; Ram Lal Dutt v. Dhirendra Nath ; See exhaustive discussion in Mulla from p. 658 and following Woodfall landlord and Tenant (1939) Edn. PP. 621 to 625; Ray Transfer of Property Act, 7th Edn., (1951) P. 618 and following. Darashaw Transfer of Property Act, P. 863;
9. The learned Advocate for the appellant tried to avert these consequences by a twofold argument. Firstly, it was contended that the lessor should have been allowed to recover the rent due for the Kuruvai crop and that the alleged obstruction to the realisation of the rent due for the Second crop could at best affect only his claim for the second crop. But both the Courts have found that the annual rent of 1823 kalaras was payable in one lump at the end of the lease period and not in two instalments, as claimed in the plaint.
Therefore, when the annual rent was payable in one lump sum at the end of the lease period, it is not possible to allocate half the annual rent as the rent payable for the Kuruvai crop and half the annual rent as the rent payable for the Kar crop. Besides, though the tenant who remains in possession of a portion of the lands is bound to pay rent for the same and his remedy for the wrongful act of the lessor in depriving him possession of the remaining portion of the lands is only to sue for damages, and he is bound to pay the proportionate rent for the enjoyment of the lands as in the instant case during the first Kuruvai crop, it should be noted that the lands were not in the physical possession of the lessee.
These lands are covered by the sub-leases Exs. B-21 to B-38. The only mode by which the lessee could enjoy the lands is by collecting rents from the sub-tenants. So, when the lessor started collecting from the sub-tenants this has effectively interrupted the lessee from collecting the rents for the entire area. In short, on account of the conduct of the lessor, the lessee was prevented from collecting the rents from the sub-tenants for the entire year and therefore the allocation pressed for by the appellant rightly failed.
10. Secondly, it was argued that the remedy of the lessee is only to claim damages and that he could not set off the difference between the rent collected by the lessor and the rent due from the subtenants against the rent payable to the lessor. But as pointed out in 23 M.L.J. 119 strictly speaking where the tenant has once been let into occupation of the premises leased to him, his right, in law where he is deprived of possession of a part thereof, is only to damages while he is liable to pay the rent and that it is only a rule of convenience that he should be allowed to enforce his right to damages by setting them off in the landlord's action for rent. In this case, there can be no question of the lessor being liable to render an account to the lessee of the collections made from the sub-tenants.
I have already mentioned that both the Courts below rightly found that the lessor was not the agent of the lessee in making the collections from the subtenants. Therefore, it is but right and proper that the lessor should be made to bear the consequences brought about by his own unauthorised and highhanded action of collecting the rents from the subtenants and if he Is not able to collect the entire rents from them, he should thank himself for it, and cannot look to the lessee to make good the uncollected portion, and which incidentally has not been substantiated by production of accounts etc. This case only recalls the adage that 'A house divided against itself falls' and when the landlord and the tenant have fallen out, the sub-tenants have fully profited from these quarrels as the claim against the sub-tenants is now clearly barred.
11. Finally, we have to consider the case of the lessor that he was authorised by the lessee to collect the rents from the sub-tenants and appropriate the same towards the rent payable by the lessee for the third year. If that were so, he would become an agent of the lessee coupled with interest, and would be entitled to collect the rent from the sub-tenants in spite of the subsequent direction of the lessee not to do so. The lessor even if he had collected only a portion of the rent from the subtenants and failed to collect the balance and allowed the same to get barred by limitation, he would not be entitled to claim the balance of rent from the lessee as he defaulted to collect the rents from the sub-tenants and allowed the claims against the sub-tenants to get barred in spite of his wholly supererogatory undertaking to collect the rents from, the sub-tenants.
12. Therefore, looked from any point of view, the lessor is found not entitled to claim the balance of the lease amount from the lessee.
13. This Second Appeal devoid of merits is dismissed with costs. No leave.