1. The only question in these appeals is whether the jurisdiction of the civil courts to try a suit for possession and other incidental reliefs based on title is ousted by Section 56 (1) of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1948. These appeals have been posted before a Division Bench because Ramaswami Gounder J., considered that there was a conflict between the decision in Chidambaram Chettiar v. Muhammad Aliar Rowther W.P. No. 670 of 1955, C. R. P. 340 of 1956 and State of Madras v. Swaminathan, 1955 2 MLJ 178. Section 56 (1) of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, which will be referred to in the course of this judgment as the Act, runs thus:
'Where after an estate is notified, a dispute arises as to (a) whether any rent due from a ryot for any fasli year is in arrear or (b) what amount of rent is in arrear or (c) who the lawful ryot in respect of any holding is, the dispute shall be decided by the Settlement Officer.' To understand the implication of this section, it is necessary to refer to other sections of the Act. Section 3 (b) provides that with effect on and from the notified date and save otherwise expressly provided in the Act, the entire estate notified shall stand transferred to the Government and vest in them, free from all encumbrances. Under Clause (c) of the same section all rights and interests created in or over the estate before the notified date by the principal or any other land-holder, shall as against the Government cease and determine and under Clause (d) the Government may, after removing any obstruction that may be offered, forthwith take possession of the estate and all accounts etc., relating to the estate. There is a proviso to Clause (d) which is important. It runs thus:
'Provided that the Government shall not dispossess any person of any land in the estate in respect of which they consider that he is prima facie entitled to a ryotwari patta -- (i) if such person is a ryots pending the decision of the Settlement Officer as to whether he is actually entitled to such patta; (ii) if such person is a land-holder, pending the decision of the Settlement Officer and the Tribunal on appeal, if any, to it, as to whether he is actually entitled to such patta;' Clause (e) makes it clear that no person shall be entitled to any rights and privileges except those which are recognised or conferred on him by or under the Act. Under Section 11 every ryot in an estate is entitled to a ryotwari patta in respect of all ryoti lands which immediately before the notified date were properly included or ought to have been properly included in his holding and which are not lands of a particular description.
Section 12 confers rights oh the land-holder to obtain a ryotwari patta in respect of private lands and other lands falling under Clause (b) (i), (ii) and (in) which it is not necessary to quote. Section 13 deals with lands in an inam estate in which the land-holder is entitled to a ryotwari patta. The Settlement Officer is the authority to examine the nature and history of all lands in respect of which the land-holder claims a ryotwari patta under Sections. 12, 13 or 14.
Section 58 occurs among the miscellaneous provisions of the Act. Though in terms Section 56 confers on the Settlement Officer the power to decide a dispute as to who the lawful ryot of any holding is, there is no corresponding provision expressly taking away the jurisdiction of the civil court. Section 65 no doubt bars the jurisdiction of courts in certain cases; but that is more in the nature, of an immunity section.
2. Having regard to the material provisions of the Act and having regard to the express languages of such provisions and without referring to any decided authority we are of opinion that Clause (c) in Section 56, Sub-section (1) of the Act refers Only to a dispute as to rights under the Act, that is, the right to obtain a ryotwari patta. The decision of the Settlement Officer would be necessary in case of a dispute to work out the right conferred under Section 11 on every ryot in an estate to obtain a ryotwari pattain respect of ryoti lands which were included or ought to have been included in his holding.
The proviso to Section 3 (d) which has been quoted earlier in this judgment prevents Government from dispossessing any person of any lands in an estate in respect of which they consider that he is prima facie entitled to a ryotwari patta, if such a person is a ryot pending the decision of the Settlement Officer as to whether he is actually entitled to such a patta. It follows, therefore, that if a person has been in possession of ryoti land and another person has trespassed on his holding and no ryotwari patta has actually been granted to either of the persons, there is nothing prima facie in any of the provisions of the Act which prevents a civil court from entertaining a suit for possession by a person who had been in possession and who had been dispossessed.
Such a dispute would not necessarily mean that the successful party would be eventually entitled to a patta. To give one instance, if the person in possession was a sub-tenant from a ryot for a fixed period and during that period he had been dispossessed by another, the sub-tenant could maintain a suit for possession and even obtain possession; but eventually the patta may be granted only to the ryot in respect of the holding and not to the subtenant, who might have succeeded in his suit for possession against the trespasser.
Clause (c) in Section 56 (1) should be read along with other provisions of the Act and the rights and privileges which can be recognised and conferred y or under the Act. So understood there is no conflict between the jurisdiction of a Settlement Officer and the jurisdiction of a civil court.
3. The suits out of which the above appeals arise were all suits simpliciter for recovery of possession on the ground that the plaintiff is entitled to the concerned land and that the defendant or defendants are trespassers. Section 56 (1) cannot by implication take away the jurisdiction of the civil court to try such suits.
4. We shall now examine the decisions which made Ramaswami Gounder J., refer the appeal; for decision by a Division Bench. In W. P. No 670 of 1955 (Mad), the question of jurisdiction of a civil court to try a suit for possession did not fall to be decided. That case dealt with the jurisdiction of an Estate Manager to decide's dispute as to registration of lands in the land register. Certain rules made by the Government under the Act were relied upon in support of such a jurisdiction
It was held by Rajagopala Aiyangar J., that the Estates Manager has no jurisdiction to entertain an application to register lands in the name of any particular person. The only observations of the learned Judge which have, if at all, any relevancy are the following:
'The only question for determination was who among the rival claimants was entitled to the gran of a patta. The determination of the dispute was specifically entrusted by the provisions of the enact merit to the Settlement Officer under Section 56 (1) (c which necessarily means that the decision of such ; dispute was excluded from the competence of other authorities, for it would be most illogical to construe the enactment as clothing the Estates Mana ger to decide the same dispute and give a decision as to what prima facie the rights of the parties are leaving it to the Settlement Officer to decide the same matter so as to be finally binding on the parties.'
5. The learned Judge was not called Upon to decide if Section 56 (1) (c) barred the. jurisdiction, of a civil court to try a suit for possession in respect of a holding in an estate which had been taken over by the Government.
(5a) The decision of Mack J., in 1955 2 MLJ 178, has, in our opinion no direct bearing. In that case the plaintiff filed a suit for declaration that particular lands were his ryoti lands and for a permanent injunction restraining the Government from in any way interfering with his enjoyment. In that case there was no dispute inter se as between the two persons as regards possession of ryoti land.
The learned Judge held that the Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryolwari) Act, XXVI of 1948, cast upon all applicants, who considered themselves entitled to a ryotwari patta, to make an application to the Settlement Officer. The learned Judge stated;
'It is the Settlement Officer in the first instance, who should decide in accordance with the statutory requirements of the new Act whether a person is entitled to a ryotwari patta. I do not think that the Act can be circumvented by a plaint such as this, which is filed for a declaration that these two survey numbers in respect of which plaintiff really wants a ryotwari patta under the new Act are ryoti lands .....
The plaint is dismissed as not maintainable in a civil court and plaintiff referred to his remedy by way of an application under Section 11 before the Settlement Officer, who will doubtless give the fullest consideration to his case a point of considerable importance being whether the plaintiff has, in fact, himself cultivated these lands since 1923 as he now claims without any further objection from the revenue authorities.'
6. It is obvious that in that case the rights which were claimed by the plainfiff were rights as against the Government and in substance he wanted the grant of a ryotwari patta to him. Obviously such a right could be enforced only by the Settlement Officer. So neither of these decisions is an authority for excluding the jurisdiction of a civil court to try a suit for recovery of possession of land situated in an estate, by a person claiming to be the ryot from a person alleged to be a trespasser.
The decision in C. R. P. No. 340 of 1956 which was rendered by one of us is directly in point as it arose out of a suit for recovery of possession and mesne profits. The plaintiff claimed title to the land and alleged that the defendants had trespassed. An objection was taken on behalf of the defendants that the civil court had no jurisdiction to try the suit. But that plea was overruled.
It was held that there was no substance in the preliminary plea that the civil court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit, which was a suit for recovery of possession and mesne profits on the basis that the defendants had trespassed on the properly belonging to the plaintiff. There was however no discussion of the question. In a recent case -- Soosai Udayar v. Andiappa Ambalam, 71 MLW 857, Ramachandra Iyer J., had to consider this question.
The learned Judge after a discussion of the provisions of the Act, and decided cases held that the civil court had jurisdiction to try a suit for possession filed on the ground that the plaintiff possessed kudiwaram rights in the lands and the defendants had trespassed on the lands and that Section 56 of the Act did not oust the jurisdiction of the civil court to try such a suit. The learned Judge considered that the jurisdiction conferred on the Settlement Officer was only for the purpose of working of the Act, i. e,, to enable the grant of patta etc.
The object of Section 56 being to enable an adjudication of a dispute for the purposes of the Act, exclusion of the civil court's jurisdiction cannot by im-plication be held to be more than what is necessary for working out the rights created by the statute, We are in entire agreement with this decision of Ramachandra lyer J. We agree that
'If the relief claimed in a civil court is not what is created or granted by the Act, e. g., the right to obtain a patta, but a civil right the jurisdiction of the civil court which always existed, cannot be held to be ousted as the statui'e does not either expressly or impliedly extinguish such rights.' We accordingly hold that the right of the civil court to entertain and decide the suits out of which I these appeals arise is not taken away by Section 56 (1) of the Act.
7. Since the appeals were heard, our attention was drawn to a very recent enactment, namely, Act XXXIV of 1958, an Act to further amend the Madras- Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryot-wari) Act and other Acts. Section 9 of this Act is as follows:
'Section 9 (1): Section 56 of the Principal Act (Act XXVI of 1948) shall be omitted.
(2) Any legal proceedings pending by virtue of the said Section 56 immediately before the date of the commencement of this section, whether before the Settlement Officer or the Tribunal shall by virtue of this section abate on the date of such commencement.'
Henceforward the question has really become academic because with the disappearance of Section 56, there can be no basis for the plea that the jurisdiction of the civil court has been ousted. Subsection (2) of Section 9 prevents any contention that in spite of the repeal of Section 56 proceedings pending when the Amendment Act came into force would be saved. Actually there was no proceeding pending under Section 56 in any of the cases before us. It is obvious that even if we had held that the jurisdiction of the civil court had been ousted by Section 56 of the Act, nevertheless having regard to Section 9 of the Amendment Act, such a plea would no longer be maintainable, and even if proceedings had been taken under Section 56 before the Settlement Officer, such proceedings would automatically end.
Though Section 9, Sub-section (2) of the Amendment Act declares that all proceedings before tho Settlement Officer shall abate, there is no indication as to what should happen to suits which had been originally instituted in a civil court but had been transferred to the file of the Settlement Officer, or plaints which had been returned by the Civil Court to be presented to the Settlement Officer. Presumably such suits and proceedings would be sent back to the respective civil courts in which the original suits and proceedings commenced.
8. In the result S, A. Nos. 171 and 172 of 1955 will be allowed and the suits will be remanded for trial on the merits to the District Muasif's Court, Pattukottah. Second Appeal No. 487 of 1955 will be allowed and the appeal will be heard on the merits, by the learned District Judge of West Tanjore. The court-fee paid on the memorandum of second appeals will be refunded. C. M. A. No. 46 of 1956 will stand dismissed. There will be no costs in any of these matters.