1. These are two appeals under the Madras Estates Land Act. The suits were filed under Section 77 of the Act by the plaintiff-landlord against the defendants for arrears of rent. One of the suits is filed for the arrears of faslies 1325 to 1327 and the other for faslies 1328 to 1330.
2. The facts necessary for disposal of the appeals are that plaintiff granted melwaram of the suit land, which is admitted to have been ryoti land, as inam to the defendants' predecessors in lieu of service. In fasli 1325 (December, 1914) the plaintiff resumed the inam. There was some litigation about the matter of this resumption, but the Civil Court eventually on 27th February, 1918, upheld it. The plaintiff now sues for arrears of rent on the land from the date of resumption. The lower appellate Court fixed the annual rent at Rs. 600 and has decreed that sum for the suit faslies with interest, and the defendants appeal. They do not dispute that they are bound to pay rent. They argue that, since the rent was not ascertained, no rent having been paid for the period during which the inam was in force, no suit for rent under Section 77 lies until the rent has been ascertained, because until then it is an anomaly to speak of rent ' being due' or of an ' arrear of rent.'
3. The learned Vakil for the appellants pressed on us the contention that the scope of the Act was that Chapters III and IV were intended to deal with proceedings for the ascertainment of rent, Chapter V with the payment of rent, and then Chapter VI with the recovery of rent by a suit or distraint, and argues therefrom that, unless the rent has been ascertained under Chapter III or Chapter IV or has been already fixed, no suit under Chapter VI will lie for its recovery. We are unable, however, to hold that the Act does actually contain any such comprehensive or exhaustive scheme. The only sections in Chapters III and IV which deal with ascertainment of rent are Sections 25, 30 and 45, and these deal with certain exceptional cases and leave untouched the ordinary case of rent due by an occupancy tenant. There is in fact no special procedure or agency provided in the Act by which in any and every case the amount of rent is to be separately fixed or ascertained before a suit for it can be filed. To hold, as the appellant contends, that, in all cases to which Section 25, Section 30 or Section 45 do not apply, the rent must be ascertained by a tender of patta and a suit thereon, is to hold that, for the extraordinary cases a simple procedure has been provided, but, for the ordinary cases a most cumbrous procedure has been prescribed. We cannot agree that this is the meaning of the Act.
4. Obviously then the Act intended that in all cases where, the rent was not ascertained under Section 25, Section 30 or, Section 45 or is not already fixed, the Court in a suit under Section 77, when the amount of rent is in dispute, should as part of its duty ascertain the amount. And this is no new procedure. After all, rent which has been or is fixed only means the rent which has been uniformaly and lawfully paid for a series of years or a rent agreed upon by the parties or a rent which has been already determined by a decree of Court. In the first two cases, if there is any dispute as to the amount of rent, the authority to decide that dispute must in the last resort be the Court. Probably in 99 per cent. of suits under Section 77; the amount of rent is in dispute and has not been fixed previously by Court or agreement. Parties come to court because they cannot agree as to the rate of rent. To accede to the appellants' argument that a suit under Section 77 will only lie if the rent has been fixed by some other authority than the trying Court would be to hold that the great majority of the suits tried under Section 77 and all the suits in which the Court has in the slightest degree interfered with the amount of rent claimed were not maintainable in law, and that in a maintainable suit under Section 77 the defendant cannot be heard to say that the amount of rent is not correct because it must have been already fixed. To such a desperate conclusion we do not consider ourselves compelled to come. Our view is that taken by a single Judge of this Court in Mallayya v. Narayanagajapathiraju (1924) 21 L.W. 42. The appellant has referred us to a Privy Council decision under Act VIII of 1865 reported in Rangayya Appa Rao v. Bobba Sriramulu (1903) L.R. 30 IndAp17 : I.L.R. 27 Mad. 143 : 190314 M.L.J. 1. But the procedure under that Act was so different from the procedure under the presnt Act that that decision has in our opinion no bearing on the present case. Under Act VIII of 1865 the rent had to be fixed by the Revenue Court usually by a suit for acceptance of patta, and when it had been so fixed then the suit for rent was brought in a Civil Court. But under the present Act it is the Revenue Court itself that entertains the suit for rent.
5. Now if Section 77 applies to the ordinary case in which parties are disputing about the rate of rent, there is no reason why it should not apply to unusual cases which are not covered by Sections 25,30 and 45. In fact, even with reference to Sections 25 and 45, it is clear that the Court trying a suit under Section 77 has, in the case of Section 25, a duty to hold the ryot bound to pay rent at a rate not exceeding the rate prevailing for similar lands with similar advantages in the neighbourhood if such information is available, and, in the case of Section 45, has a duty to decide what is the rent fixed on the land, and it is only when the trying Court cannot decide these points that an application has to be made to the Collector to fix the rent. To uphold his argument the appellant's vakil had to contend that, though in these two sections an application to the Collector was prescribed only in the second alternative mentioned, yet the sections must mean that application had to be made to the Collector even in the matter of the first alternative. This contention seems to us wholly untenable on the language of the sections.
6. Now the present case is a suit for arrears of rent in which the amount of rent has to be determined, and it is a case which does not appear to come under Section 25, Section 30 or Section 45. It is quite clear that it does not come under either Section 45 or Section 30. Some argument before us centred round the question whether it comes under Section 25, that is, whether it can be said that the defendant was a person admitted by the landlord to possession of ryoti land from the date of resumption of the inam. The lower appellate Court held that he was. The defendants in the lower Courts maintained that Section 25 did apply. Here, however, their learned Vakil has taken up the opposite position and maintains that it does not. The plaintiff also maintains that it does not apply. As the land was all along ryoti and was not in itself the inam, it is not excluded from the definition of ryoti land given in Section 3, 16 (c)--See Rajah 'Venkata Ramayya v. Veerasami ILR (1917) Mad 554 : 1917 34 M.L.J. 309. Hence the defendant was in possession of ryoti land all along, and was not 'admitted' to possession of it on the date of the resumption. It appears to us, therefore, that the District Judge was wrong in his view that he was so admitted and that Section 25 applies,. The provisions of that section therefore are also not applicable.
7. The suit, therefore, falls under Section 77, and none of these exceptional sections applies. In such a suit, as we have already held, when the rent is not already agreed upon or known and therefore has to be fixed or ascertained, it is the duty of the trying Court to ascertain it. One method of doing that which, for example, it is bound to apply under Section 25, is to ascertain the rate prevailing for similar lands with similar advantages in the neighbourhood. Such a principle may well be applied to a suit for rent against a tenant when the rent is not already known or fixed. Such a method has been the one adopted by the lower courts in the present case and it seems to us a method justified both by law and in equity. There is no reason why the defendants should occupy the land at a lower rate than a ryot admitted newly to the land would have to pay.
8. The lower appellate Court has fixed the amount of rent on this basis at Rs. 600 per annum. It has been contended by the appellants that the rate of rent should not be increased beyond Rs. 140 which apears to have been the sum which was being paid before the creation of the inam or at least should be not more than Rs. 450 per annum which was the figure which the plaintiff entered in 1905 in his accounts, Ex. M, as the nominal rent for purposes of calculation of road cess at the time when the inam was still unresumed. The plaintiff himself claimed Rs. 800. As we have said, there seems no obvious reasons why on resumption the defendant should not pay what a newly admitted tenant would be bound to pay. What is the fair and reasonable rent on the land is really a question of fact, and in second appeal we will not go into the question of the correctness of that rate, provided the principles upon which that rate has been ascertained are legally correct. We decline to interfere with the finding of the lower appellate court on this point.
9. Finally a question of interest was raised, but we can see no reason why interest should not be awarded. The defendant has retained possession of the money which ought to have been paid by him to his landlord and has had the benefit of the interest on those sums. The decree will, however, have to be slightly altered to fix the dates from which interest is payable and it will be declared that interest for each fasli is payable from the first day of the succeeding fasli. With this modification we dismiss the appeals with costs (one pleader's fee).
10. A memorandum of Objections has been filed by the Respondent which is concerned with the reduction by the lower appellate Court to Rs. 600 of the trial Court's figure of Rs. 650. We do not see that the lower Appellate Court has committed any error of law in fixing the figure at Rs. 600 and we therefore dismiss the memorandum of objections.