1. The plaintiff's contention seems to be that the area of his land has been wrongly estimated by the Revenue authorities and that they therefore arrived at a wrong figure in regard to the assessment due by him/ The trial Court dismissed his suit on the ground that a Civil Court was prohibited by Section 58 of the Revenue Recovery Act from considering the question raised by the plaintiff and that decision was upheld in appeal.
2. There is no doubt in my mind that the lower Courts were right. In disputing the area of his land the plaintiff is disputing the amount of the assessment; for the assessment is calculated on the basis of the areas of wet and dry lands. It is realised by the learned advocate for the appellant that to some extent Section 58 acts as a bar; but the plaintiff is now willing to forego his claim to a refund of what he alleges to be an excess assessment and is prepared to confine his appeal to his right to a declaration that the area of his land is 25-35 acres and not 27-91 acres as shown in his patta. Section 58 does not merely prohibit the passing of a decree with regard to assessment; but also prohibits a Civil Court from taking into consideration or deciding any question as to the amount of assessment fixed. In considering whether the area is 25-35 acres or 27-91 acres, the Court is necessarily deciding a question with regard to the amount of assessment. After all, what the plaintiff is interested in is not so much the area of the lands shown in his patta as the amount of assessment that he has been called upon to pay.
3. Even if Section 58 does not operate as a bar to the granting of a declaration as to the area, it will be clearly improper for a Civil Court to exercise its discretion and give a declaration which will have the effect of circumventing the provisions of Section 58 of the Revenue Recovery Act.
4. The learned advocate for the appellant has quoted several authorities which he considers to be helpful; but I will only refer to the two upon which he lays most stress. The first is Madathapu Ramayya v. Secretary of State for India in Council (1903) 14 M.L.J. 37 : I.L.R. 27 Mad. 386 , which was a case in which the Revenue authorities taxed a man for encroachment of his pial on a public road. It was there held that the Government had no right to assess such encroachment and that a Civil Court was entitled to say so. The remark in the judgment of Bashyam Aiyangar, J., is relied upon:
Civil Courts have jurisdiction to decide whether or not the land or person is at all under liability to be assessed for land revenue.
5. That is true; if in the present case the wrong area were due to the fact that the Government had insisted on including some item of land in his patta which was not his at all, then the plaintiff would no doubt have some cause of action in a Civil Court. Secretary of State for India in Council v. V.K. Ramanujachariar : AIR1925Mad355 is a decision of Devadoss and Jackson, JJ., which has been overruled by their Lordships of the Privy Council and is not therefore of much value as an authority. In so far as that judgment referred to the effect of Section 58 of the Revenue Recovery Act, their Lordships of the Privy Council said that they expressed no opinion. Devadoss, J., said on that point:
Such assessment being illegal and ultra vires, the plaintiff is not debarred from bringing this suit by the provisions of Section 58 of the Revenue Recovery Act.
6. If the revenue authorities had acted ultra vires, by assessing some property on which they had no right to levy assessment - such as was found to be the case in Madathapu Ramayya v. Secretary of State for India in Council (1903) 14 M.L.J. 37 : I.L.R. 27 Mad. 386 - then no doubt a Civil Court can say so.
7. The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.