1. The question that arises for consideration in this civil revision petition is whether a civil Court has jurisdiction under S. 151 C.P. C., to stay a suit, or proceeding. involving a decision as to whether a particular person is a cultivating tenant or not, pending before it, on the ground that the tenant had applied for registration of his tenancy under the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Lands Record of Tenancy Rights Act, (Act 10 of 1969) even if it is satisfied that such stay of the proceedings may be necessary for the ends of justice or to prevent the abuse of process of the court. The civil revision petition came up for hearing before Sengottuvelan. J. who referred this matter for a consideration by the Division Bench in view of the importance of the matter and also on the ground that the decision of Sathiadev, J. in C. R. P. No. 3084 of 1978, Thangavelu v. Kamalanathan, is in conflict with the decision of Suryamurthy, J. in Rayappan v. Patheeswaraswami Devasthanam, reported in (1978) 91 Mad LW 459.
2. The petitioners herein filed O.S. No. 8 of 1979 on the file of the Subordinate Judge, Mayuram, for recovery of possession of the plaint schedule properties. They entered into an agreement of sale with the first defendant in the suit and in part performance of that agreement of sale they put the first defendant in possession of the properties. The first defendant is stated to be a teacher employed at Orathanad and the properties are situated in a different place and in the circumstances therefore, the further case of the plaintiffs was that the first defendant put his brother, the second defendant, in possession of the properties and the second defendant was in possession and management as such manager of the first defendant. On certain allegations which, it is not necessary to refer, the plaintiffs claimed that the first defendant is not entitled to get a sale deed in his favour and that the plaintiffs are entitled to recover possession of the properties. The plaintiffs have added defendants 3 to 9, on the ground that they also claimed to be in possession under the second defendant.
3. After the summons in the suit were served on the defendants, defendants 2 to 9 filed I. A. No. 442 of 1979, purporting to be under Ss. 10 and 151, C. P. C., praying for a stay of the trial of the suit till the enquiry on their application filed before the Record officer, Mayuram under the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Lands Record of Tenancy Rights Act (Act 10 of 1969) is disposed of. In the affidavit filed in support of this application, they had stated that they are cultivating tenants in respect of the suit properties, that they have filed the application in form No. 5 on the file of the' Additional Tahsildar and Record Officer, Mayuram, to record their names as such cultivating tenants in respect of the suit properties, that -almost the examination of the witnesses in favour of the petitioners and the respondents was over, that the Record Officer has jurisdiction to decide as to whether the petitioners before him were cultivating tenants or not and that, if during the pendency of the enquiry before the Record Officer the suit is taken up for trial their rights as tenants would be jeopardised and irreparable loss and hardship will be caused to them.
4. While not disputing that the defendants 2 to 9 have filed such an application before the Record Officer, Mayuram and the enquiry was in progress, the plaintiffs filed a counter to the application denying that the defendants - petitioners had any such right as cultivating tenants and stating that they are not tenants under the plaintiffs. They further contended that by reason of the parallel proceedings before the Record Officer, they can successfully nullify the proceedings in the civil court and that the ends of justice require that the civil proceeding should be proceeded with. It was further contended that S. 10 of the Code is not applicable and there is no inherent jurisdiction vested in the court either, to stay the proceedings of a civil court, pending decision by the Record Officer. The learned Subordinate Judge, following the decision of this court in Rayappan v. Patheeswaraswarni Devasthanam, (1978) 91 Mad LW 459, held that the civil court had jurisdiction to stay the proceedings under S. 151, C. P. C. and since the learned Subordinate Judge was satisfied that the ends of justice needed the stay of the trial of the suit, ordered the application- and stayed the suit pending disposal of the proceedings before the Record Officer. It is against this order, the present civil revision petition has been filed.
5. The learned counsel for the petitioners contended that there is a specific provision relating to stay of suits under S. 10 of the Code and unless the conditions referred to therein are satisfied, the court had no jurisdiction to stay the trial of any suit and it is not possible for the court in such circumstances to invoke the inherent powers under S. 151 either. There can be no doubt that S. 10 which enables the court to stay the trial of suits in certain circumstances is not applicable to this case. The inherent powers also cannot be invoked by any court when the exercise of such powers would be inconsistent with or opposed to the express provisions of the Code. But where the Code is silent, such powers can be exercised so long as it is not opposed to or prohibited by the provisions of the Code or when it relates to matters of which the Code cannot be said to be exhaustive. This was so held by the Supreme Court in the decision in Arjun Singh v. Mohindra Kumar, and Nainsingh v. Koonwarjee,
. In the former decision, the Supreme Court considered the powers of a court to invoke S. 151, C. P. C. in considering an application for setting aside an ex parte decree and held that 0:19, R. 7 and 0. 9, R. 13 of the Code, between them exhaust the whole gamut of situations that might arise during the course of the trial and that in such circumstances, there is no inherent power to be exercised dehors those mentioned in those provisions themselves. In other words, the Supreme Court held that the inherent power of a court cannot be invoked to override the express provisions in the C. P. Code. In Nainsingh v. Koonwarjee, , the Supreme Court, was concerned with
the question as to whether a party to a litigation who had allowed an order to become final without filing an appeal could try to question the same in a later stage of the same proceeding purporting to invoke the jurisdiction of the court under S. 151 of the Code. The party in that case questioned a remand order made by a Subordinate Judge when the matter came at a High Court. The Supreme Court held that the remand order of the learned Subordinate Judge was appealable under S. 105(2) of the Code and without appealing and questioning the correctness of that order, it was not open to him to question the same when it came before the High Court against the decree of the trial court after remand and the court also had no jurisdiction to interfere with the order under Section 151, C. P. C. In the words of the Supreme Court (at p. 998)-
"....... the court cannot make use to the special provisions of S. 151 of the Code, where a party had his remedy provided elsewhere in the Code and he neglected to avail himself of the same. Further, the power under S. 151 of the Code cannot be exercised as an appellate power."
But where the Code is silent and where the exercise of power is not opposed to or prohibited by the provisions of the Code, there could be no doubt that the court could invoke its inherent jurisdiction if it is satisfied that it is necessary for the ends of justice or to prevent the abuse of the process of the court.
6. The earliest direct authority on this question by this court is the decision of Yahya Ali J. in Balaji Rao v. Natesa Chetti, (1947) 1 Mad LJ 330 : (AIR 1948 Mad 138). In that case, the inherent jurisdiction of this court was invoked for stay of an independent suit pending disposal of a civil miscellaneous appeal which arose out of a different proceeding. Objection was raised on the ground that the application was not maintainable as Section 151 of the Code was not applicable and this court had no jurisdiction to stay the trial of the suit out of which the proceedings in this court did not arise. Overruling this objection, this court held that the only limitation that could be placed upon the exercise of jurisdiction would be that the applicant for stay had no other remedy available to him in law which he could seek from a competent civil court and that the stay had to be ordered in the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of the court. The learned Judge further observed that If these conditions are satisfied, there can be no doubt that the trial of an independent suit can be stayed by this court in the exercise of its inherent powers under S. 151, C. P. C. in the course of other proceedings pending before it. This decision was followed in a number of unreported judgments of this court since 1947. The other direct reported decision is the one in Rayappan V. Patheeswaraswami Devasthanam, (1978) 91 Mad LW 459. That was also case where a plaintiff who had filed suit for a declaration that he is a cultivating tenant and for an injunction restraining the defendant from interfering with his possession filed an application for stay of his own suit under Sections 10 and 151, C. P.C. on the ground that he had applied to the Tenancy Record Officer for entering his name in the tenancy record register as a cultivating tenant in respect of the suit lands and pending disposal of that petition his suit will have to be stayed. The learned Judge held that apart from the provisions of S. 10, C. P. C., the Civil Court has ample jurisdiction to grant a stay in order to meet the ends of justice. It was also observed that the comity of courts will have to be observed by civil courts -even though the connected proceedings are pending in a forum which cannot be strictly called a court, let alone a civil court. Though ultimately the order of Sathiadev, J. in C. R. P. No. 3084 of 1978, Thangavelu v. Kamalanathan, upheld the order of dismissal of. an application under Ss. 10 and 151 Of the C. P. C., for stay of trial of a suit pending disposal of proceedings under the Record of Tenancy Rights Act in our view, it is not an authority for holding that the court had no inherent jurisdiction to stay the trial of any independent proceedings in cases where S. 10 is not strictly applicable.
7. The facts in the decision in C. R. P. No. 3084 of 1978, Thangavelu v. Kamalanathan, were as follows: The suit was one for recovery of possession on the basis of title to property. The father of defendant in that suit had earlier claimed in respect of the same suit property that he was a cultivating tenant that suit was dismissed holding that he was not a cultivating tenant. The appeal and the second appeal filed against that order were also dismissed. In the suit they had also claimed for a Permanent injunction. With reference to that this court had observed that the owner of the property could dispossess the defendant only in properly instituted proceedings. It is in these circumstances, the suit was, filed for recovery of possession. By the time the suit was filed, the defendant's father who had filed the original suit for declaration that he is a cultivating tenant died and his sons in the suit claimed that they are the cultivating tenants. The learned Judge held that since in the prior proceedings the father of the defendants was held to be not a cultivating tenant and his suit for declaration that he is a cultivating tenant was dismissed, there was no scope for the defendants to claim that they were the cultivating tenants. It is in these circumstances, when one of the defendants filed an application under Ss. 10 and 151 of the Code for stay of the suit for possession on the ground that he had filed an application before the Record Officer, it was dismissed. The learned Judge, therefore, considered that the exercise of inherent power to stay the trial would not advance the-course of justice.
8. The decision, therefore, was one on merits and not relating to the jurisdiction of the court under S. 151 of the Code. We have no doubt that a civil court has jurisdiction under S. 151 of the Code, to stay the trial of a suit pending before it, pending the decision of the question of rights as a cultivating tenant before the Record Officer. The decision of Ismail, J. as he then was in Natesan v. Thandigaivel, 1978 TLNJ 316, shows more of instances where the jurisdiction should not be invoked rather than deciding as to whether the court had jurisdiction to stay or not. In that decision, the learned Judge held that where the plaintiff had not put forward a contention that he was a cultivating tenant, and all that he contended was that he was entitled to remain in possession of the property for the period of the lease, the question of the plaintiff being a cultivating tenant and his getting his name registered under the Record of Tenancy Rights Act did not arise and that therefore there was no justification for invoking the jurisdiction of the Court under S. 151 of the Code to stay the trial of the suit on the ground that the plaintiff had filed an' application before the Tenancy Records Officer. The decision of Ramaprasada Rao, J. as he then was in ,Sri Koppanaickenpetti Muthalammal Temple v. Marammal, 1974 TNLJ 113, referred to by the learned counsel concerned with the question of applicability of S. 10 to stay the proceeding when a similar proceeding under Act 30 of 1963 was pending. The jurisdiction of the court under S. 151 of the Code was not invoked. The learned Judge applied the tests in See. 10 and found that the provisions were not satisfied and that, therefore, that is not an authority for holding that Sec. 151 should not be invoked for stay of trial 9. For the foregoing reasons, we are of the view that the civil court has jurisdiction to stay the trial of a suit pending before it invoking its inherent powers under S. 151 during the pendency of a proceeding before the Record Officer, but the exercise of such power would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and on the finding whether the ends of justice called for such a stay or in order to prevent the abuse of process of the court, the stay could be granted. The revision petition fails and it is dismissed. No costs.
9. Revision dismissed.