1. The question in this Civil Revision Petition is whether, having regard to the terms of Proviso D to Section 3(ii) of the Madras Agriculturists' Relief Act, the petitioner is an agriculturist entitled to the benefits of Section 15 of the Act. The petitioner owns the kudivaram interest in certain lands in the village of Kolathur, which is an estate under the Madras Estates Land Act, paying a peishcush of Rs. 1,200. Some years ago he purchased the zamin rights of the estate and in 1927 he was recognised by the Collector as the landholder. In 1934 he executed two usufructuary mortgages, each covering one moiety of the zamin right in the estate. He retained his ryoti lands and thus became the tenant of his mortgagees in respect of those lands. In 1935 the respondent (one of the mortgagees) applied to the Collector for recognition as the landholder of the estate. His application was opposed by the mortgagees of the other half of the zamin and the petitioner was also a party to the proceedings. The Collector recognised the respondent as the landholder, holding that the petitioner was no longer entitled to collect the rents and that the respondent was entitled to a larger share of the income than either of the mortgagees of the other half. The question is whether in view of this order, the petitioner can be deemed to be a landholder of an estate in respect of which a sum exceeding Rs. 500 is paid as peishcush. The lower Court held that he was a landholder and therefore disentitled to the benefits conferred on agriculturists by Section 15 of Act IV of 1938.
2. The question is by no means free from difficulty. Proviso D to Section 3(ii) excludes from the category of agriculturists any person who 'is a landholder of an estate under the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908, or of a share or portion thereof in respect of which estate, share or portion any sum exceeding Rs. 500 is paid as peishcush...' The exclusion of a landholder of a share or portion of an estate paying a peishcush exceeding Rs. 500 seems to indicate that the Legislature had in mind the qualification of ownership of the zamin interest rather than the qualification of recognition by the Collector. But the definition of a 'landholder' in the Estates Land Act as a person. owning an estate or a part thereof or entitled to collect the rents of a whole or any portion of the estate, has the following subsidiary clause:
Where there is a dispute between two or more persons as to which of them is the landholder for all or any of the purposes of this Act or between two or more joint landholders as to which of them is entitled to proceed and be dealt with as such landholder, the person who shall be deemed to be the landholder for such purposes shall be the person whom the Collector subject to any decree or order of a competent Civil Court may recognize or nominate as such landholder in accordance with rules to be framed by the local Government in this behalf.
3. One of the rules framed under this section provides that where two landholders have equal claims to recognition, the Collector shall recognize the more competent.
4. Under this provision of law, the respondent has been recognized by the Collector as the landholder for all the purposes of the Act. It is argued that by reason of this recognition, the other joint landholders (including the petitioner) ceased to be landholders for any of the purposes of the Act and that since the definition exists only for the purposes of the Act, they ceased to have the status of landholders at all.
5. Now there can be no doubt that the acceptance of this view of the law would lead to serious anomalies. Take the case of an estate paying a peishcush of Rs. 2,000, which is enjoyed in two equal moieties by A and B. The Collector would have to decide whether A was more competent than B and the result would be that the more competent man who was recognized as the landholder would not. be an agriculturist, while the less competent man, though owning a portion of an estate paying a peishcush of Rs. 1,000, would be entitled to the benefits of Act IV of 1938 as an agriculturist, though it appears to have been intended that he should not be so entitled. In fact the result of this interpretation of Proviso D would be practically to nullify the exclusion from the category of agriculturists of landholders of a share or portion of an estate paying a peishcush exceeding Rs. 500.
6. At the same time there are serious difficulties in interpreting the word 'landholder' in this proviso in accordance with its dictionary sense as a proprietor or owner and without regard to the definition in the Madras Estates Land Act. The word 'landholder' is used in Sections 3(a)(ii), 3(iv), 15, 16 and 17 of Act IV of 1938 and in each of these sections it appears to be used in its technical sense as a landholder under the Estates Land Act. Moreover in Proviso D to Section 3(ii), though the words 'under the Madras Estates Land Act,' appear grammatically to qualify 'estate' rather than 'landholder' the whole phrase seems to have reference to that Act and it is to be presumed that the legislature had in mind the definition of the term 'landholder' in that Act rather than the dictionary meaning of the word.
7. The solution of the difficulty seems to us to lie in a more careful reading of the second clause of Section 3(5) of the Estates Land Act. This clause seems to contemplate two classes of dispute. One is a dispute between two or more persons as to which of them is the landholder for all or any of the purposes of the Act, that is to say a dispute regarding title. The other is a dispute between two persons who are admittedly joint landholders as to which of them is entitled to proceed and be dealt with as the landholder, that is to say, it is a dispute not regarding title but. regarding the right of management. In the latter class of cases, the proper order to be passed by the Collector is not one recognizing the successful party as the landholder for all purposes under the Act, but one recognizing him as entitled to proceed and be dealt with as the landholder. When such an order is passed, though the successful party would be solely entitled to conduct proceedings and to perform the functions of the landholder so long as the order is in force, it would not have the effect of taking the joint proprietor out of the definition of 'landholder' in the first clause of the sub-section. It is true that the Collector's order in the present case purported to recognize the respondent as the landholder for all purposes under the Act, but this order can have no larger effect than the recognition which the Collector was empowered to make.
8. It follows that, notwithstanding the recognition of the respondent as the landholder, the petitioner as owner of the estate must also be deemed to be a landholder within the definition in Section 3(5) of the Madras Estates Land Act. He is here-fore not an agriculturist under Act IV of 1938. The petition is therefore dismissed with costs.