1. The question involved in this litigation is between landlord and tenant in an estate governed by the Estates Land Act. Can a landlord except by proceedings under Chapter III of the Act raise the rent of land which the tenant has converted from dry into wet? The tenant is the respondent. In 1925 he bought some land from one Krishna Rao Pantulu who had been let into possession in 1914 of a large extent of fifty acres and who, by constructing a tank on four acres, and doing certain other work had rendered, sixteen acres fit for wet cultivation, and had agreed to pay to the Zamindar rent for this sixteen acres at the rate of Rs. 10 per acre, which is the rent applicable to wet land. Respondent knew of this when he bought the land from Krishna Rao, but refused to pay rent at this rate and filed a suit against the Zamindar under Section 55 of the Act to compel the latter to grant him a patta, reserving a rent of Re. 0-8-0 per acre which is the rate for dry land. The suit was decreed in the court of the Sub-Collector in respondent's favour but the Zamindar succeeded in first appeal to the District Judge. On second appeal the decree of the trial court was restored and the Zamindar now files this Letters Patent Appeal. We must observe at the outset that the appellant claims to be entitled to the higher rate of rent on the ground that the land is irrigated with water from a channel belonging to the estate; while the respondent on the other hand claims that he is able to raise wet crops without any aid from the Zamindar's channel. But that question does not arise for decision now. Granting that the increase in the productive powers of the land is in the words of Section 30 CI. (ii) of the Act 'due to an improvement effected by or at the expense of the landholder', is the latter entitled forthwith to raise the rent or must he institute a suit for that purpose before the Collector',
2. The Act is clear on the point. Chapter III is headed 'General provisions relating to the rates of rent payable by ryots'. And Section 24, the first section of this chapter is 'the rent of a ryot shall not be enhanced except as provided by this Act'. Section 30 enacts that when the rent is paid in money the landholder may institute a suit before the Collector to enhance it on one or more of four grounds, set out in Clauses. (i) to (iv) and on no others. And besides Section 30, there is no other provision in the Act for the enhancement of money rents. There can be no doubt therefore that such rent cannot be enhanced except as the result of a suit instituted under Section 30. If a tenant agrees to pay a higher rent he is not bound by that agreement. It is now settled law that even, when a tenant has accepted a patta reservingan enhanced rent and the landholder distrains his land for non-payment, the tenant can have the distraint raised under Section 53 of the Act on the ground that the patta is not one which he was bound to accept. This Court has refused to hold that any contract to pay enhanced rent between the landholder and the ryot can override the provisions of Section 24, Venkataramanachar v. Ibraham Sahib (1925) 20 L.W. 582.
3. Learned Counsel for the appellant does not dispute this general proposition of law. His argument is twofold.
(1) That the levy of rent at wet rates, in this case is in accordance with the terms of the patta; being merely an adjustment of the rate of rent as provided for in the patta and
(2) That the increase of rent is not really an enhancement but merely a change in the nature of the rent to conform to the altered circumstances, by which, namely, the land instead of producing dry crops of small value has been enabled to produce the more valuable wet crops. This second ground may be disposed of in a few words. The change in the nature of the land, is nothing more than the conversion of the land from dry into wet and is covered by Section 30, Clause (ii.) The productive powers of the land have been increased by an improvement. In order to levy enhanced rent on this ground the appellant must institute a suit under Section 30; and he can only succeed if he can show that the improvement has been effected by him or at his expense. It is not enough for him to say 'Your land was formerly dry and you were paying rent at dry rates. Now it is wet and you must pay me rent at wet rates' To convert dry land into wet land it is necessary to provide a regular and steady source of irrigation and if this is done without any help from the landholder and not at his expense he is not entitled to charge rent as for wet or irrigated land. To say that when a ryot brings his land into a fit state for the cultivation of wet crops the landholder automatically becomes entitled to levy rent at the rate applicable to wet land is to ignore entirely the provisions of the Act.
4. It is only to the first of the learned Counsel's arguments that we need devote any attention. The Pattas granted to ryots in this estate contain a clause that when dry land is irrigated from a source belonging to the landholder the tenant is bound to pay extra for the water, the charge being equal to the difference between the rent of wet land and the rent of dry land. But that is not the case here. In the case provided for in this clause the basic rate of rent remains the same. If and when the ryot uses the landholder's water to irrigate his land and so raise a more valuable crop he is bound to pay for that water. The charge is a kind of extra rate or cess imposed for the use of the landholder's water. Here the basic rate of rent has been altered. It has been enhanced. The higher rate of rent has been imposed irrespective of the fact whether the ryot takes the landholder's water or not. And as we have seen, the rent of a ryot cannot be enhanced except as provided in the Act.
5. It remains only to examine the authorities relied on by learned Counsel for the appellant. In Battina Appanna v. Rajah Yarlagadda : (1917)33MLJ355 it was held that when a landholder recovers from a tenant water rate for water taken from a government source of irrigation, the extra charge is not an enhancement of rent.
6. That case is clearly distinguishable from the facts of this case. The relevant words are 'we do not think an extra payment due for an additional advantage is necessarily an enhancement. When new circumstances have come into existence which require new adjustments there is no question of enhancement. We do not think that Clauses (ii), (iii) and (iv) of Section 30 have any application. They contemplate the continuance of the old state of affairs and yet a claim is made for increased rent without offering any fresh advantage? But the whole point here is that the appellant has yet to prove that he has offered a fresh advantage. And the method which he must prove it is by a suit under Section 30 of the Act.
7. For the proposition that rent can be adjusted without reference to outside authority, the Manager to the lessees of the Sivaganga Zamindari v. Chidambaram Chetti : (1913)25MLJ641 is cited. The patta in that case contained a clause that any excess area found on measurement should be paid for at a certain rate. It was held that a claim for rent for an excess so found was sustainable even though no order had been obtained from the Collector under Section 42 Clause (ii) of the Act. That case has no application here.
8. It appears clear to us that there is no question here of an adjustment of rent within the conditions of the patta. This is simply a case where the landholder claims to enhance the rent on the ground that the condition of the land has been improved. The broad general principle of the Act is that rent cannot be enhanced except by a suit under Section 30 of the Act and we can find nothing in this case to make it an exception to that principle; but on the contrary everything to bring it precisely within the terms of clause (ii) of the section. The appellant claims to be entitled to levy enhanced rent not merely by reason of any stipulation in the patta or by way of adjustment according to the terms of the patta, but on the ground that the productive powers of the land have been increased by an improvement effected at his expense. The policy of the Act is that he can establish his claim only by a suit instituted under Section 30 and decided according to the provisions of Section 32.
9. We dismiss this Letters Patent Appeal with costs.