1. This appeal arises out of an order returning a plaint for presentation in a Revenue Court. The land in respect of which this suit for rent arose is admittedly situated within a mukhasa village which according to the trial Court's judgment was admitted to be an 'estate' falling under Clause 2(d) of Section 3 of the Madras Estates Land Act. It is common ground that the land in question was formerly the kambattam land of the plaintiffs and that it was demised to the defendant in 1920 under Ex. A which is described as a 'permanent khat relating to the sale of kudivaram right for Rs. 33,492.' This instrument recites that the lands demised form part of the plaintiff's private kambattam land in which they have a permanent kudivaram right as well as melwaram right and that the plaintiff have sold to the defendant all the rights possessed by them in the lands excepting the melvaram right thereto, the consideration being the payment of a substantial cash premium and future payments of rents at rates specified. The trial Court applied the provisions of the Amending Act '(XVIII of 1936) and held that the suit related to land which was ryoti land within the terms of the Act and that therefore the suit to recover arrears of rent in respect of that land fell under Section 77 of the Madras Estates Land Act and it could only be entertained by a Revenue Court.
2. It seems to me unnecessary to go into the question whether Act XVIII of 1936 which had not been passed when the suit was instituted governs the forum in which the suit should be decided, for I am of opinion that the suit was ab initio filed in the wrong Court even under the statute in force at the time when the litigation started. Under the Madras Estates' Land' Act as amended up to 1934 'ryoti land' means cultivable land in an estate other than private land and 'private land' means the domain or home-farm land of a land-holder by whatever designation known. The argument of the appellants is that because this land was admittedly at one time the home-farm land and is designated as kambattam, it retains for all time its character as home-farm land regardless of the use to which it is put and of the tenure upon which it is granted, provided there is no explicit conversion of that land into ryoti land. It seems to me that this contention runs quite contrary to the scheme of the Madras Estates Land Act. The Act contemplates lands of various categories. There is poramboke land not suitable for assignment and there is 'oldwaste' with neither of which we are here concerned. Cultivated land is for all practical purposes divided into ryoti land in which the ryot has an occupancy right and in which the conditions of his tenure are governed by the Act and home-farm land which the landholder retains in his own occupation for his private use though he may for convenience of enjoyment make temporary arrangements for its cultivation by others. In my opinion it is not in accordance with the scheme of the Act to recognise another category of land, namely, land which was initially the home-farm land of the landholder but which he has no intention to retain for his own use and in which he has transferred the occupancy right to a cultivating tenant for cash consideration as a permanent measure. It is contended that the demise in favour of the defendant contains terms which are inconsistent with the provisions of the Act regarding the tenure of an occupancy right, particularly in that there is a permanently fixed rent, that there is a rate of interest on arrears different from that prescribed by the Act, that the landholder retains the right to existing trees on the land demised and that there is a provision for variation in the amount of premium to be paid in accordance with any survey excess or deficiency which may be found on accurate measurement of the land demised. It seems to me that all these terms are matters of minor importance and the question whether all of them would be of binding force in view of the provisions of the Act, is a matter on which I am not now called upon to express an opinion. The fact however remains that by this demise of 1920 the plaintiffs divested themselves for all time of any right in the kudivaram of the land in-question other than the right to receive a recurring rent and an interest in the trees then standing on the land. It cannot be said that this land any more partook of the character of the private domain of the landholder, kept for his own use and enjoyment, or that there was any intention on the part of the landholder that it should ever revert to the condition of private home-farm land. What the landholder clearly intended to do was to transfer the kudivaram permanently for a cash consideration, while reciting in the conveyance the fact that it was the kambattam land presumably in the hope that thereby he would be able to evade the provisions of the Estates Land Act designed for the protection of occupancy ryots.
3. The Estates Land Act does not define what is meant by 'home-farm land', but the term has been defined by the Courts and the definition is now well settled. Sir John Wallis, C.J., in the case of Zamindar of Chellapalli v. Somayya : (1914)27MLJ718 adopted the definition of similar land in a case from North India as:
Land which a Zamindar has cultivated himself and intends to retain as resumable for cultivation by himself even when from time to time he demises it for a season.
4. This definition was approved by the Privy Council in Raja Yerlagadda Mallikarjuna Prasad v. Somayya (1918) 36 M.L.J. 257 : L.R. 46 IndAp 44 : I.L.R. 42 Mad. 400 at 405 (P.C.) and it has been followed in subsequent cases. We may therefore take it as settled that home-farm land is land regarding which the landholder at least retains an expectation that he will at some not too distant date use it for his own cultivation and enjoyment. If land does not fall within this definition, if the landholder has alienated his right in the kudivaram with such permanence as to preclude the probability of its ever again coming into his personal enjoyment, then quite clearly that land, whatever it was in the past, is no longer the home-farm land, of the landholder and the mere fact that it continues to go by the name of kambattam land would not restore it to the privileges which it has ceased to enjoy. Apart from the presumptions to be drawn under Section 185 of the Act and even in the absence of any express intention to convert land, which was once home-farm land, under Section 181 into ryoti land, it seems to me to be apparent that land which has ceased to be in fact home-farm land of the landholder cannot be treated in law as retaining a character which it has lost. If the land is no longer the private land of the landholder, then by the definition of 'ryoti land' it will automatically be treated as ryoti land to which all the incidents of ryoti tenure will apply. One of these incidents is that a suit for rent in respect of that land will fall under Section 77 of the Act and will be cognisable only by the Revenue Court. I am clearly of opinion that the land in this cause is no longer the private land of the landholder but has become ryoti land and that the suit for rent falls under Section 77 and has to be brought in the Revenue Court. In this view it seems to me to be unnecessary to go into the question of the effect of Section 127, Sub-section (2) of Madras Act VIII of 1934 on the course of this litigation in the trial Court or to consider the question whether the Amending Acts of 1936 in terms apply.
5. The appeal is therefore dismissed with costs.