V. Ramesam, J.
1. This batch of second appeals arises out of a number of suits for rent for different faslis under Section 77 of the Estates Land Act. There are two holdings under the tenants one holding under patta No. 38 and another holding under patta No. 54. Rent is claimed for portions of the suit holdings at a rate higher than the dry rate on the ground that there are cocoanut gardens in these holdings. In a former litigation between the same parties which culminated in S.A. Nos. 433, etc., of 1924, the same claim was made. The defendant ryot resisted the claim at the higher rate on the ground that a cocoanut plantation was an improvement within the meaning of Section 3(4)(f) of the Estates Land Act and that he is not liable to pay the higher rate and is liable to pay only the dry rate. It was held by Devadoss and Wallace, JJ., that the planting of a cocoanut garden was not an improvement under the Act and that the plaintiff was entitled to the enhanced rate. The same holdings are the subject-matter of the present suits.
2. It is conceded by the appellant that so far as patta No. 38 is concerned, the cocoanut plantation now existing is merely the old plantation, but as to patta No. 54 it is said that at the time of the former litigation only a portion, namely, 7 karukams, was planted with cocoanut plants but now a larger area is sought to be charged at the higher rate. I will refer to this question of additional area later on. Leaving this aside, two questions arise in the present second appeals. The first is whether cocoanuts are fruits and a cocoanut plantation can be regarded as a fruit garden within the meaning of Section 3(4)(f) of the Estates Land Act. So stated, this question is undoubtedly a question of law, namely, the construction of an Act, the question being whether a particular term in the Act can be so interpreted or defined as to cover a particular class of trees.
3. Now it may be said that the fruit of the cocoanut tree is not a fruit in one sense of the term but is a nut and apparently this was the view that prevailed with Devadoss and Wallace, JJ., in Vellayappa Chetti v. Subramaniam Chettiar (1926) 51 M.L.J. : I.L.R. 50 Mad. 482. But this case was considered in Sri Raja Bommadevara Chayadevamma v. Venkataswawy : AIR1932Mad343 by another Bench of this Court (Reilly and Ananthakrishna Aiyar, JJ.) and was dissented from. Both the learned Judges have dealt with the matter at some length and have given good reasons for differing from the former decision and for holding that cocoanut trees are fruit trees. Even Devadoss, J., from whose judgment the latter case came up in Letters Patent Appeal held that cocoanut trees are fruit trees but he does not refer to the judgment in the other case reported in Vellayappa Chetti v. Subramaniam Chettiar (1926) 51 M.L.J. : I.L.R. 50 Mad. 482. It is unnecessary to repeat the reasons given by Reilly and Ananthakrishna Aiyar, JJ. I will only add the following considerations. In the Century Dictionary under 'Cocoanut' we have 'the nut or fruit of the cocoanut tree.' And then under 'double cocoanut' we have 'the fruit of a remarkable palm.... The fruit often weighs 40 or 50 lbs....' Under 'sea cocoanut' we have 'the fruit of a species of palm.' In Murray's English Dictionary under 'double cocoanut' we have got practically the same sentence repeated. In common parlance the cocoanut is always referred to as a fruit before the fibre is removed.
4. I therefore hold that cocoanuts are fruits and that cocoanut trees are fruit trees and a cocoanut plantation is a fruit garden within the meaning of Section 3(4)(f) of the Estates Land Act. It follows that the tenant who has effected improvements in these cases ought not to be liable for any additional rent beyond the dry rate.
5. The next question is how far the defendant appellant is affected by the rule of res judicata. As already mentioned, the former decision, which, in the light of our present decision, must be held to be erroneous, was between the same parties and in respect of the same holdings. Mr. Rajah Aiyar, the learned Advocate for the appellant, contends that an erroneous decision of law should not be held to be res judicata in a later litigation between the same parties relating to a different year and that the former decision should be confined to the year in respect of which the former litigation arose.
6. The question how far an erroneous decision on a matter of law on the terms of a tenancy would be res judicata has been considered in three decisions of this Court. The first one is Bayyan Naidu v. Suryanarayana : (1912)23MLJ543 . It was there held that a former decision as to the extent of a holding in a suit between a landlord and tenant relating to the validity of patta under the Rent Recovery Act would be res judicata in respect of later years on the ground that it decides a general question not peculiar or special for that particular year. So far as this matter is concerned, the Estates Land Act is similar to the Rent Recovery Act and if any question of general principle is settled in one litigation in respect of one year as regards the terms of patta, that would bind the parties for the future years also until new circumstances intervene. The next decision of this Court that I would refer to is Sree Rajah Bommadevara Venkata Narasimha Naidu v. Andavolu Venkataratnam (1916) 32 M.L.J. 63. There the suits related to the recovery of a cess claimed by a Zamindar from inamdars. The cess was payable annually. It was held that in cases where in a prior litigation the cess was held to be payable, that decision constitutes res judicata in litigation with respect to later years. The conclusion of the learned judges is this expressed:
Where a decision on a point of law, ' whether it be on the construction of a document or of a statute or on common law or on customary law, settles a question that arises directly out of conflicting views as to the rights of the parties, it is res judicata'.
7. The reason of the judgment may be expressed thus, namely, that the former litigation settles the terms on which the two parties are related to each other in the matter of the holdings provided the decision and the terms are confined to the actual object matter of the suit. The earlier decisions of this High Court in Parthasarathi v. Chinna Krishnan (1882) I.L.R. 5 Mad. 304, Mangalathammal v. Narayanaswami Aiyar (1907) 17 M.L.J. 250 : I.L.R. 30 Mad. 461 and Natesa Chetti v. Vengu Nachiar (1909) 20 M.L.J. 20 : I.L.R. 33 Mad. 102 were dissented from. In Maharajah of Jeypore v. Ramamurthy (1933) 65 M.L.J. 681 the same view was followed. An attempt to reopen the decision in Sree Rajah Bommadevara Venkata Narasimha Naidu v. Andavolu Venkataratnam (1916) 32 M.L.J. 63 based on the decision of the Privy Council in Broken Hill Proprietary Co., Ltd. v. Broken Hill Municipal Council (1926) A.C. 94 was made but failed. That attempt is again repeated before us, Mr. Rajah Aiyar contending that the decision in Sree Rajah Bommadevara Venkata Narasimha Naidu v. Andavolu Venkataratnam (1916) 32 M.L.J. 63 and Maharajah of Jeypore v. Ramamurthy (1933) 65 M.L.J. 68 should be reconsidered in the light of the Privy Council decision just mentioned. In the same volume we have got Hoystead v. Commissioner of Taxation (1926) A.C. 155 another decision of the Privy Council. The earlier decision relates to the valuation of land for rating purposes. The second decision relates to land-tax assessment and it was held that an admission on a fundamental matter in a prior case and a decision stands on the same footing, estops a different contention in a later case. At first sight it looks as if these two decisions are in conflict. Possibly the earlier decision may be explained on the footing that the valuation of land for purposes of rating for each year is so peculiar to that year and has to be made on considerations confined to that year and should be so uninfluenced by considerations that prevailed in prior years that no question should be considered as a general principle and what happened in one year-whether a matter of principle or a matter of detail-should not be used in another year and therefore the decision of one year is not res judicata for another year. If that decision is not to be explained in that way and should not be regarded as inconsistent with the decision in Hoystead v. Commissioner of Taxation (1926) A.C. 155. I prefer to follow the latter decision. This is practically the view accepted in Maharajah of Jeypore v. Ramamurthy : AIR1933Mad925 as to these two cases. These cases have also been considered in Sankaralinga Nadar and Brothers v. The Commissioner of Income-tax, Madras (1929) 58 M.L.J. 260 : I.L.R. 53 Mad. 420 (F.B.) and a similar view was taken there of the first case.
8. It is said that in cases under the Bengal Tenancy Act it has been held that a decision between landlord and tenant as to the rate of rent in a prior year does not constitute res judicata in later years when the question comes up. But even there it has been held that where the earlier decision decides a matter of general principle, it would be res judicata in later years, vide Gnanada v. Nalini Bala Debi (1925) 43 C.L.J. 146 and Sreemati Ayetonnessa Bibi v. Amjad Ali (1928) 48 C.L.J. 184. It is true that in Calcutta a view prevailed at one time similar to the decision in Mangalathammal v. Narayanaswami Aiyar (1907) 17 M.L.J. 250 : I.L.R. 30 Mad. 461, Alimunnissa Chowdhurani v. Shama Charon Roy I.L.R.(1905) 32 Cal. 749 but this decision has since been overruled by that Court in Tarini Charan Battacharya v. Kedar Nath Haldar (1928) I.L.R. 56 Cal. 723 (F.B.).
9. It is then argued by Mr. Rajah Aiyar relying on a passage in this last judgment that some exception should be made to the principle of res judicata in matters of jurisdiction, limitation or procedure on grounds of public policy. It is difficult to conceive how the question of res judicata can arise for the same object matter in later years with reference to questions of jurisdiction, limitation or procedure. But here we are not concerned with any such question. It is suggested that the rules of the Estates Land Act are based on public policy and some exception should be made in such matters. We are not referred to any principle or authority to support such a proposition and I am unable to accept this contention. But as already observed, the principle of res judicata should be confined only to matters which actually existed at the time of the former decision. If there are new areas in patta No. 54 which were not planted with cocoanut at the time of the former suit and in respect of which no claim for enhanced rate of rent was or could be made in the former suit, the matter is not res judicata in the present suit in respect of such areas. The respondent contended that even in respect of such areas the question of general principle is settled between the parties. There can be no res judicata laying down a wrong rule of law between parties for future guidance also. The decision must be confined to the matter to which it has been applied at the time of the former decision. Areas and trees to which it was not applied then will be governed by the correct principle of law. It is said by the respondent that this matter was not raised earlier. The appellant claims that he did raise it. However the consideration of this question and how far the matter may be allowed to be raised are points which we leave to the learned judge who would dispose of the second appeal in the light of the above observations, and if, in his discretion, he thinks fit, he can allow those points to be raised in second appeal. It is for him and not for the Full Bench to consider this question.
10. With these observations these cases are remitted to the learned judge for disposal.
Horace Owen Compton Beasley, Kt., C.J.
11. I agree.
12. I agree.