1. In such a case there must be rateable distribution. The policy of the Act is that such suits should be brought in the Revenue Courts and the Civil Courts have no jurisdiction. If an 'owner' farms out his 'estate' after he has acquired a right for arrears of rent it cannot be said that he loses his rights of summary procedure. The right of suit having accrued in a Revenue Court no act of the landholder, such as transfer of the estate, could take away from him that right.
2. N. Rama Rao for respondent.--The question is, is he a landholder any longer. He must be entitled at the time of suit to sue for the rents, i.e., he must own an estate or part thereof. By the transfer he has ceased to be a landholder. Reference was made to Sections 3(5) and 189, Sundaram Ayyar v. Kulathu Ayyar I.L.R.,(1916) Mad., 1018, Venkata Lahshmamma v. Seetayya I.L.R.,(1920) Mad., 786, and Forbes v. Maharaj Bahadur Singh I.L.R.,(1914) Cal., 926 (P.C.).
3. In this case the Civil and the Revenue Courts have both declined jurisdiction over a suit, instituted by the plaintiff after he had parted with his estate, to recover rent which had accrued due to him while he was still the owner of the estate and, as such, a 'landholder' as defined in Section 3, Clause (5), of the Madras Estates Land Act. One of the principal changes effected by that Act was that on grounds of policy it took away from the Civil Courts and transferred to Revenue Officers jurisdiction to try rent suits instituted by 'landholders' against 'ryots' as defined in the Act. Section 189 confers jurisdiction on a Collector, or other Revenue Officer specially authorized, to try this and the other suits and applications specified, and expressly prohibits any Civil Court from taking cognizance in the exercise of its original jurisdiction:
of any dispute or matter in respect of which such suit or application might be brought or made.
4. This cause of action when it arose was one which the Revenue Court was empowered to try and the Civil Court was prohibited from trying. It was one which in the interest of the landholders and the ryots, and especially of the ryots, the legislature considered should be disposed of by the Revenue Court; and the real question in this case appears to me to be, whether, looking at the Act as a whole, it was the intention of the legislature that the parties should be deprived of the appointed forum for this class of suits by reason of the fact that, after the cause of action accrued and before the institution of the suit, the plaintiff parted with his estate and ceased to come within the definition of 'landholder' as 'owner' of the estate.
5. One of the questions referred to us is whether the fact that after the transfer he was entitled to collect certain arrears brought him within the second part of the definition as a person:
entitled to collect the rents of the whole or any portion of the estate by virtue of any transfer from the owner or his predecessor in title or of any order of a competent Court or of any provision of law.
6. Assuming for the moment it did not, that would not, it appears to me, conclude the further question in the reference as to the jurisdiction of the Revenue Court over a suit for such arrears, which is really the only question arising on the facts of the case. The undoubted effect of Section 189 of the Act is to confer on the Revenue Court exclusive jurisdiction to try suits for rent accruing due to a landholder from a ryot on his estate and to prohibit the Civil Courts from entertaining them. The Revenue Court having thus become seized with exclusive jurisdiction over this cause of action when it arose, I can find no sufficient reason for holding that the Revenue Court became divested of this exclusive jurisdiction by reason of a transfer of ownership after the cause of action arose. The subsequent transfer in no way affects the cause of action or the reasons which moved the legislature to confer exclusive jurisdiction on the Revenue Court, and it would, in my opinion, be opposed to the scheme and policy of the Act to hold that it had the effect of taking away the suit from what in the opinion of the legislature is undoubtedly the more appropriate forum, Further, by Section 210 read with the schedule to the Act, the legislature has provided special periods of limitation for suits and applications under the Act in the Revenue Courts, periods which do not apply to suits in the Civil Courts. In this case, No. 8 in the schedule, the special period is:
three years from the date when the arrears become due, or where there has been a suit or other proceeding for the purpose of ascertaining the rent, the date of the decree or order by which the rent is finally ascertained whichever date may be the later,' whereas under Article 110 of the Limitation Act which would have to be applied by the Civil Court in a suit for arrears of rent time begins to run
when the arrears become due.' If it be said that the schedule to the Estates Land Act merely reproduces the decisions as to the effect of Article 110 of the Limitation Act, this cannot be said as to the provisions of Section 210 which make some of the general provisions of the Limitation Act inapplicable to this class of suits. Thus, the result of holding that the effect of the transfer of ownership was to transfer jurisdiction to the Civil Court might be to render a suit not barred which had already become barred in the Revenue Court, These difficulties are avoided by holding that the legislature intended to give exclusive jurisdiction once for all to the Revenue Court in suits for arrears of rent which, accrued due to a landholder as defined in the Act. Such an owner appears to me to be in much the same position as an assignee of an arrear from the landholder. Assuming such an assignee not to become a landholder by virtue of the definition, it is none the less clear, in my opinion, that the suit to recover the assigned arrear could only be presented in the Revenue Court. No such question of competing jurisdictions arises under the Bengal Tenancy Act, and the decision of the Privy Council on the terms of that Act, in Forbes v. Maharaj Bahadur Singh (1911) I.L.R., 41 Calc., 926 (P.C.), is in my opinion wholly inapplicable to the present case. It was a decision on a question of some difficulty arising under that Act and depending entirely on the terms of that Act, and should be applied with great caution to questions under this Act which differs from it in many important matters. My answer to the second question is that the Revenue Court and not the Civil Court has jurisdiction to try the present case.
7. It is therefore unnecessary to answer the first question, whether a plaintiff whose right to recover arrears of rent is incident to his former ownership of the land can be considered to be a person entitled 'to collect the rents of the whole or any portion of the estate by virtue of any provision of law,' words which are an amplification and extension of the words 'and all parsons farming lands from the above persons' in Section 1 of the Madras Rent Recovery Act, VIII of 1865. To answer this question in the affirmative it would be necessary to hold that the words 'the rents' mean any rents, and that the fact of the accrual of rent being incident to the ownership of the land is a 'provision of law' within the meaning of the definition.
8. I agree.
Sadasiva Ayyar, J.
9. I respectfully agree with my lord the Chief Justice throughout.
10. I am further inclined to hold that the language of Section 3, Clause (5), of the Madras Estates Land Act, defining 'landholder' as including a person 'entitled to collect the rents of the whole or any portion of the estate by virtue of any transfer from the owner' makes even a bare assignee of an arrear of rent from the owner of the estate, or even a part thereof, a landholder for the purpose of enabling him to pursue his remedies under the Act as a 'landholder.' That there could be several 'landholders' at the same time under the Madras Estates Land Act has been established by the decisions of this Court. Having regard to the policy of the Madras Estates Land Act gatherable from its provisions read as a whole, I think that the legislature could not have intended that the jurisdiction to entertain and decide a suit for rent should change from the Revenue Court to the Civil Court because the plaintiff entitled to an arrear of rent has lost the ownership of the estate, or is an assignee from the owner of the estate and is not the owner of the estate at the time of the suit. The word 'transfer' in Section 3, Clause (5), is not qualified by any words indicating that the transfer of the total estate or part of the estate (to which interest the right to collect rents is appurtenant) is alone intended and that it does not include the transfer of even the bare right to collect an arrear of rent or future accruing rent.
11. In Venkata Lakshmamma v. Seetayya I.L.R., (1920) Mad., 786 there is an observation by me (which observation is an obiter dictum) that a person who does not hold the present position of landlord is not entitled to pursue the summary remedy under the Act for recovery of rent due to him, and I quoted the Privy Council in Forbes v. Maharaj Bahadur Singh (1914) I.L.R., 41 Calc., 926 (P.C.) in support of that dictum. Having further considered the matter in this case, I consider that opinion unsound as I think that I failed to give sufficient weight to the differences both in language and policy found on a comparison of the provisions of the Bengal Tenancy Act and the Madras Estates Land Act.