Venkatasubba Rao, J.
1. The respondents are not represented and Mr. D. Narasaraju has at our request appeared as amicus curiae.
2. The suit was filed by the Zamindar of Kirlarhpudi and the defendant was one of his ryots. The Subordinate Judge, finding that the lands were situated in an estate, held that he had no jurisdiction to hear it and ordered the plaint to be returned for presentation to the proper Court. His order has been confirmed by Pandrang Row, J. and this Letters Patent Appeal is directed against his judgment.
3. In view of a decision given by a Bench of this Court, the plaintiff's counsel has had to concede that the suit lands are in an estate, but he contends that the ryot is precluded from relying upon that ground, by reason of the arrangement to be presently referred to. In a certain litigation between the Maharajah of Pithapuram and his tenants, the question was raised whether the lands involved there were in an estate or not. The decision in that litigation would be decisive of the question whether the lands here answered the description of an estate. The District Munsiff, who tried the cases of the Maharajah of Pithapuram, was of the opinion that the lands to which they related, did not form part of an estate, though later on the opposite view prevailed in the High Court. After the Munsiff had given his decision, but before the High Court reversed it, the Zamindar of Kirlampudi, that is, the landholder in the present case and certain of his ryots entered into an arrangement. The effect of it was, that occupancy rights were conferred upon the tenants, who agreed in their turn to pay an enhanced rent. Mr. Somasundaram, the plaintiff's learned Counsel, argues that this constituted a bona fide settlement of a doubtful claim; the position at the time was, he says, that under the prevailing decision the ryots had no occupancy rights, but nevertheless such rights were conferred upon them under the arrangement. He goes on to contend that it would be to beg the question to treat the lands as forming part of an estate, when the parties by a special contract agreed to remove them from that category. The question then resolves itself into : is the agreement such as can be enforced in a Court of Law? By the Estates Land Act certain advantages are conferred upon the ryot and there are provisions which show that the tenant's freedom of contract has been in some respects taken away. The Civil Courts are under the Act deprived of jurisdiction in respect of 'estates' and what is now contended is, that by private contract this statutory prohibition has been abrogated. The permanent right of occupancy conferred on the tenants is again a statutory right, which cannot be fettered or controlled by any contract impeding or preventing its exercise - such a contract being prohibited both by the language as well as the spirit of the Act. That the contract has in this case been the result of a bona fide settlement of a disputed claim, makes no difference whatsoever. There is no exemption in the Act in favour of such a contract.
4. In the result, the Letters Patent Appeal fails and is dismissed.