1. This appeal arises out of a suit for a declaration of the title of the pltfs. & deft. 3 to the suit property. The pltfs. are the proprietors of the village of Karaikudi, which formed part of the Zamindari of Sivaganga. The suit site is within the geographical limits of the said Zamindari. In 1918 in the survey plan it was shown as part of Koppudayanayagi Amman Sannadhi. Street. In 1935 on re-survey also it was demarcated as a public street. On 24-1-1940 the govt. issued a notfn. under Section 61 (2), District Municipalities Act, 1920, withdrawing the site from the control of the Municipal Council. On 29-1-1944 the Collector of Ramanadhapuram made an order under Section 20-A (1) (a), Madras Estates Land Act declaring that the suit was no longer required for street purposes. On 30-5-1944 the District Collector passed another order under Section 20-A (1) (b) (ii) of the Act transferring the same as ryotwari land. The pltfs. did not prefer appeals against either of those orders. Deft. 1 herein constructed a Birth & Death Register office on the site. On 26-7-1945 the pltf. filed O. S. No. 61 of 1945 on the file of the Ct. of the Subordinate Judge of Devakottai for a declaration of title to & for possession of the suit property on the ground that the said site formed part of the Zamindari of Sivaganga & that therefore the reversion vested in them. Deft. 1 is the Karakudi Municipal Council. Deft. 2 is the Province of Madras. The defts. contended that the suit property was a pre-settlement communal poromboke, & that it never vested in the Zamindar. They also pleaded that the order of the Collector under Section 20-A was a bar to the maintainability of the suit. The learned Subordinate Judge rejected the contentions of the defts.. & gave to the pltfs. a decree as prayed for. Deft. 2, the Province of Madras, preferred the above appeal.
2. The learned Govt. pleader contended that Section 20-A was a bar to the maintainability of the suit. The relevant provisions of the Madras Estates Land Act read:
'20-A Subject to such rules as the Provincial Govt. may prescribe in this behalf, the Dist. Collector may on the appln. of the landholder, a ryot or any other person interested......
(a) declare that any land or any portion of any land which is set apart for any of the purposes referred to in Sub-clause (16) of Section 3 is no longer required for its original purpose; &
(b) by order in writing direct
(i) that any such land or portion in respect of which such declaration is made be used for any other specified communal purpose, or
(ii) if such land or portion is not required for any communal purpose, that it be converted into ryotwari land or landholder's ryoti land according as the reversionary rights in such land vest under the terms, express or implied, of the land, title deed or other grant in the Crown or in the landholder.'
3. Under part B to the Schedule of the Act an appeal lies to the Board of Revenue against a declaration that the land is not required for its original purpose, or an order directing that the land be used for any other communal purpose, & to the Dist. Ct., against an order directing the conversion of the land into Govt. ryotwari or landholder's ryot land.
4. Section 189 (1) says:
'A Dist. Collector or Collector hearing suits or applns. of the nature specified in Parts A & B of the schedule & the Board of Revenue or the Dist. Collector exercising appellate or revisional jurisdiction therefrom shall hear & determine such suits or applns. or exercise such jurisdiction as a Revenue Ct. No civil Ct. in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall take cognizance of any dispute or matter in respect of which such suit or appln. might be brought or made.'
5. The learned Govt. pleader contends that a combined reading of these provisions indicates that a suit for a declaration of the pltfs' right is barred by reason of Section 189 of the Act. Before I proceed to consider his argument, it is as well that I notice some of the cases cited before me, which throw some light on the construction of the section. In 'Secretary of State v. Mask & Co , the Judicial Committee observed:
'It is settled law that the exclusion of thejurisdiction of the Civil Cts. is not to be readilyinferred, but that such exclusion must either beexplicitly expressed or clearly implied. It is alsowell settled that even if jurisdiction is so excluded,the civil Cts. have jurisdiction to examine intocases where the provisions of the Act have notbeen complied with, or the statutory tribunal hasnot acted in conformity with the fundamentalprinciples of judicial procedure.'In 'Rajah of Sivaganga v. Venkatachalam Chettiar : AIR1934Mad551 ,Jackson J. expresses the view on the constructionof Section 189 (3) as follows:
'Under Section 189 (3), Madras Estates Land Act, the decision of a Revenue Ct. on a matter within its exclusive jurisdiction shall be binding in any civil Ct. That is to say that the legislature has provided a cheap & speedy final settlement of such rent disputes as are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Revenue Ct., but of course never intended that larger question of title & so forth should be summarily settled in this fashion.' In 'Chakrapani Rao v. Venkatadri Apparao : AIR1937Mad303 , Venkataramana Rao J. adopts the same view. The learned Judge says:
'Section 189, Madras Estates Land Act can be a bar on a matter which Is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the revenue Ct. The question of title is never within the exclusive cognizance of the revenue Ct........It is always open to a landlord to bring a suit In a civil Ct. that he is entitled to melwaram or agitate a similar question.'
In 'Province of Madras v. Sri Vedaranayeswaraswami Devasthanam', : AIR1950Mad95 , Raghava Rao J. had an occasion to deal with a question similar to the one that. falls to be considered by me. In that case, the Collector made an order under Section 20-A (b) (ii), Madras Estates Land Act assigning a street poromboke as a ryotwari land. The learned Judge held. that as the reversion in that land vested in the Zamindar the order of the Collector was without jurisdiction, as the provisions of the Act were not complied with. The learned Judge also held that a road poromboke was not communal property.
6. Bearing the aforesaid principles in mind I shall now proceed to construe the provisions of the relevant sections. Under Section 189 a civil Ct's jurisdiction in regard to a dispute or matter is ousted only, if in respect of such dispute or matter a suit or an application specified in Parts A & B of the Schedule is maintainable in a revenue Ct. The general scheme of the Act indicates that the Legislature conferred jurisdiction on revenue officers for speedy disposals of specified matters, as being men on the spot they were assumed to be better qualified to dispose of them expeditiously. But it cannot be the intention of the Legislature to confer on the revenue officers a jurisdiction to decide questions affecting title to properties. Under Section 20-A of the Act the Collector can declare that a land which is set apart for any of the purposes referred to in Sub-clause (a) & (b) of Clause (16) of Section 3 is no longer required for its original purpose. He may also assign such a land for any other specified communal purpose. If such a land is not required for any communal purpose, he may convert the said land into ryotwari or ryoti as the case may be. As the Collector is the person who is expected to know whether such a land is required for a purpose for which it is set apart or for any different purpose of a communal nature or whether it is not required at all for that purpose, the jurisdiction to decide that question is conferred on him. If he decides that the land in question is not required for any communal purpose, he is empowered to hand it over to the owner. For the purpose of ascertaining the ownership of the land he may incidentally look into the title deeds, but it is not intended, nor is it expected of him, that he should decide any dispute 'inter se' between the landholder & the Govt. in respect of the title to the property. Such questions are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Civil Cts., & I do not find any provision in the Madras Estates Land Act which expressly, or by necessary implication, ousts the jurisdiction of civil Cts. Another aspect of the case may also be adverted to Section 20-A (1) presupposes the existence of a land set apart under Sub-clause (a) & (b) of Clause (16) of Section 3 of the Act. Before the Collector can exercise jurisdiction under Section 20-A the land must be of one of the categories mentioned in the said sub-clauses. In this case the site was demarcated as a street in the survey register, but the Collector withdrew the same from the control of the Municipal Council on 24-1-1940. Thereafter it may be assumed that it was either ordinary waste land or puntha poromboke. In either case it was not a land coming either under Sub-clause (a) or Sub-clause (b) of Clause (16) of Section 3 of the Act, as it cannot be said that it was set apart for the common use of the villagers. In this view also Section 20-A has no application, & therefore Section 189 cannot bar the suit.
7. The next question is whether the reversionary interest in the puntha vests in the zamindar or in the Govt. Varadachariar J. held in 'Maharajah of Pithapuram v. The Chairman, Municipal Council, Cocanada : AIR1936Mad919 , that the title to such a street vested in the landholder.The learned Judge held that in the case of a puntha within a Zamindari, whether the puntha was in existence prior to the permanent settlement or came into existence after the permanent settlement, the Zamindar as the owner of the adjoining land will also be the owner of the soil of the puntha & of the trees sponteneously growing upon it, subject to the right of the public to use it as a highway. I respectfully agree with the view expressed by the learned Judge. This view was accepted & followed by Raghava Rao J. in 'Province of Madras v. Vedaranyaswaraswami Devastanam', : AIR1950Mad95 . As the suit site ceased to be used as a street, following the aforesaid two decisions I hold that the pltf. will be entitled to recover possession of the same.
8. The learned Govt. Pleader contends that In view of Madras Act XXVI (26) of 1948 the question to be decided in this case is academic ELS the village in which the suit site is situated has been or will be taken by the Govt. I am not in this appeal concerned with the rights of the parties under Act XXVI (26) of 1948. My decision in this case will not in any way affect the respective rights of the parties under that Act.
9. In the result, the appeal is dismissed withcosts.