Horace Owen Compton Beasley, Kt., C.J.
1. The question which arises in these Letters Patent Appeals is one under Section 26(3) of the Madras Estates Land Act which reads as follows:
Except as provided by Sub-section (1) no rate of rent at which land may have been granted by a landholder shall be binding upon the person entitled to the rent after the lifetime of the landholder if such rate is lower than the lawful rate payable by the ryot before the date of the grant upon the land or upon land of similar description and with similar advantages in the neigho bourhood.
2. The facts of the case have been very fully set out in the order of Madhavan Nair, J., in Second Appeals Nos. 140 to 144 of 1928 calling for a finding from the District Judge upon the question:
Whether the rates now paid are lower than the lawful rates paid by these ryots on the suit holdings and, if lower, what were the rates that were paid before?
3. The learned District Judge's finding is that 'the rates now paid are in fact lower than the rates agreed to by these ryots on the suit holdings.'
4. The position, therefore, is that the tenants of the suit lands prior to the date of the grant to the appellants in 1905 by the respondent's predecessor were, under an agreement with the then landholder, paying a higher rate of rent than that paid by the appellants.
5. The respondent claims that under Section 26(3) the lower rate of rent paid by the appellants under the grant in 1905 is not binding upon him. Whether his claim is well founded must depend upon the construction of that section. The appellants claim that the rate should be that which was being paid by tenants of neighbouring lands and not that actually payable by the former tenants of this land because the latter tenants were tenants-at-will having no occupancy rights and were therefore not ryots within the terms of Section 26; and it is further contended that the words 'the ryot' mean the ryot under the Estates Land Act to whom occupancy rights had been granted under the Act, namely, the appellant. These two contentions are really bound up in one another.
6. As regards the latter contention, the words of the sub-section clearly refer to the ryot in possession of the land before the date of the grant who may be an entirely different person to the person to whom the grant was made. But it is argued that such prior tenants were not ryots at all as the only ryots in the contemplation of the Act are ryots to whom occupancy rights have been granted under the Act. If this contention is right, then it means that Section 26(3) does not provide for the case of a higher rate of rent paid by a tenant prior to 1908. This contention, in my view, cannot succeed. Section 6 of the Jyladras Estates Land Act reads as follows:
Subject to the provisions of this Act every ryot now in possession or who shall hereafter be admitted by a landholder to possession of ryoti land not being old waste situated in the estate of such landholder shall have a permanent right of occupancy in his holding; but nothing contained in this sub-section shall affect any permanent right of occupancy that may have been acquired in land which was old waste before the commencement of this Act.
7. This section gives the ryots then in possession of ryoti land permanent occupancy rights. The former tenants of the suit lands, even though tenants only at will and not having occupancy rights, were in possession of ryoti land paying rent for that land and they were clearly ryots; and it has not been shown that the rates of rent paid were not lawful. They were paid under a contract enforceable at law and hence were lawful rates. In respect of the suit lands there was ho faisal rate fixed for them and there were no faisal rates in competition with contract rates as was the case in Karuppa Kavundan v. Narayana Chettiari which is referred to in support of the appellants' case.
8. There was no faisal rate at all here but only a contract rate. Madhavan Nair, J., says in his judgment:
In my opinion the agreement of the predecessors of the appellant to pay the rents agreed to by them not being shown to be bad in law, or prohibited by it, those rates which they agreed to pay must be considered to be lawful rates.
9. With that opinion I entirely agree.
10. For these reasons, these Letters Patent Appeals must be dismissed with costs in L. P. A. No. 81 only.
11. I agree with my Lord.