1. The suit out of which this appeal arises was filed by the Maharaja of Pithapuram to recover possession of a piece of land measuring about 40 acres, which, with buildings upon it, formed part of a maintenance grant made by the late Raja of Pithapuram to his adopted son, Ramakrishna Rao, father of defendants 1 to 4. Particulars of the litigation which arose out of that grant have been summarized in the judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge and it is enough to say here that so far as the nature and legal effect of the grant are concerned it has been decided that it was for the maintenance only of Ramakrishna Rao, that it lapsed at his death and that the property is recoverable by the plaintiff as his father's heir. While adopting this position however the lower Court has given the plaintiff a decree only for the melwaram interest in the land, and it is against the decree so limited that the plaintiff appeals.
2. The primary question arising depends upon the provisions of the Madras Estates Land Act, whether the land is raiyati and as defined in that Act or whether it is private land. The learned Subordinate Judge has found that prior to the maintenance grant, which took place in 1882, the land was private land. But he thinks that owing to certain statements made, and orders passed at the time (19th February 1913) that a Record of Rights was prepared of the Pithapuram estate, it came to be treated as raiyati land and must be so regarded. Under Section 185 of the Act, land in an estate shall be presumed not to be private land until the contrary is shown. They show that it was private land; the plaintiff has produced certain records, Ex. C series, and has examined two witnesses, P. Ws. 1 and 2. The records cover the years 1874 to 1878 and consist of estate correspondence relating to the care of this land and the buildings upon it. They undoubtedly show that the land was not during that period under cultivation or in the hands of raiyats, but afforded a site and compound for certain buildings belonging to the Rajah. In all these records the land is referred to as Suryaraopet haveli. It is contended that the word 'haveli' is the local equivalent of pannai or home-farm lands and therefore to be included in 'private land' as defined in Section 3(10) of the Act. Brown's Dictionary gives 'mansion, palace' as the English equivalent of this word. In Maclean's Manual of the Administration of the Madras Presidency (1893) the glossary contains the word 'havelly' which it translates as 'environs' and defines as
the tract of country adjacent to a capital town and originally annexed to it for the supply of public establishments: afterwards came to signify lands under direct Government management; of 'home-farms.
3. Under 'home farms' we find reference to the villages round the area comprising the original grants for building: Fort Saint George, such as Chetput, Egmore, Nungambakkam, etc. These authorities do not throw much light on how this word should be understood when used in relation to zamindar's estates. But it may perhaps be taken that it was intended to denote by its use that the lands were reserved for the zamindar's personal use and were not available for grant in the ordinary way. The witnesses speak to the previous existence of buildings upon this land, and there can be no doubt that during the period to which they refer it afforded no more than a large compound for these buildings. Doubtless because it contained a suitable house, it was given by the previous Raja to his adopted son for his residence. Father and son however fell out; the adopted son went away and spent the remainder of his life in Madras and a good many years ago the buildings fell down or were demolished, and the land was divided into two portions, each cultivated by a tenant. That was the condition of affairs when the Record of Rights already referred to was prepared. The procedure for the preparation of such a record is laid down in Ch. 11 of the Act. It provides opportunities for landholders and raiyats to represent their claims and to present objections. When this land came up for registration an objection statement (Ex. 2) was made on behalf of the Raja by one of his thanedars. It appears that in the draft record the land had been described as poramboke and the objection was made that it was not poramboke but was raiyati land:
It was given to the adopted son of the late Raja free of rent and it is now being used for cultivation purposes. Prays that it may be registered as subsequent inam.
4. The Revenue Officer who prepared the record upon this passed orders (Ex. 3) in the course of which he stated that an examination of the azmoish chitta showed that the land in question correspond to azmoish Nos. 100, 101 and 102 which were raiyati lands, that the building which it once contained had disappeared and that the land was being cultivated with dry crops by the tenants of Ramakrishna Rao. It was accordingly registered in these terms as raiyati land with Ramakrishna Rao as landholder and with the two tenants as his raiyats, being specifically described as dharimilla inam. It appears very difficult for the plaintiff, in the face of this record, to contend that the land is or has ever been anything but raiyati land. The statement, Ex. 2, was made by his accredited agent who must be supposed to have had knowledge of all the facts, and in formal proceeding involving permanent consequences. The facts appear to me to be reconcilable not with the view of the learned Subordinate Judge that the land which had been private land became converted by this action into raiyati land, but that the estate never had any intention of permanently reserving the land for private purposes. It must be presumed, because the contrary has not been shown, that prior to the period to which Ex. C series relate the land had been treated as raiyati land, and clearly enough it was again treated as raiyati land after the Raja's adopted son had abandoned it. In these circumstances I think that the only conclusion to be drawn is that from the point of view of the Madras Estates Land Act, it had remained raiyati land throughout, although it was temporarily devoted to a purpose more characteristic of private land.
5. The next question is, assuming the land to have been throughout raiyati land, who, after its grant in 1882 to Ramakrishna Rao, occupied the position of landholder with respect to it. Section 3(5) of the Act runs thus:
Landholder' means a person owning an estate or part thereof and includes every person entitled to collect the rents of the whole or any portion of the estate by virtue of any transfer from the owner or his predecessor-in-title or of any order of a competent Court or of any provision of law.
6. Where there is a dispute between two or more persons as to which of them is the landholder for all or any of the purposes of this Act or between two or more joint landholders as to which of them is entitled to proceed and be dealt with as such landholder, the person who shall be deemed to be the landholder for such purposes shall be the person whom the Collector, subject to any decree or order of a competent civil Court, may recognise or nominate as such landholder in accordance with rules to be framed by the Local Government in this behalf. It is not disputed that an owner of a life estate will be a 'landholder' within this definition, whereas no such status will be acquired by a person to whom the mere right of residence upon the property has been accorded. The question thus is: What was the extent of the right conferred upon Ramakrishna Rao in respect of this land by the terms of the maintenance grant? The material portion of the grant (Ex, B) has been extracted in para. 8 of the lower Court's judgment. The Raja says that whereas he has agreed to give him a house at Cocanada to reside in he covenants to put him in possession and to allow him to reside peaceably in the house. This may perhaps be read in two ways: either as giving a right of residence upon the property and no more, or as giving the property itself, for so long as the grant of maintenance was in force, the reference to residence being merely a recital of the occasion of the grant, I have come to the conclusion that the latter is more probably the true construction, that a life-estate was given to the adopted son in this property and not a mere license to occupy. ''I have agreed to give a house at Cocanada to reside in' does not merely mean 'I have agreed to allow you to reside in my house at Cocanada.' There is no provision for disfeasance in the event of the property being put to any other purpose. And if there is ambiguity in the document, extrinsic evidence will be admissible in explanation of what the parties intended; and we have in Ex. 2 the unequivocal declaration of the successor to the grantor, who may be presumed to have known his father's intentions, that the grant amounted to a dharimilla inam. I conclude accordingly that the interest conveyed to Ramakrishna Rao was sufficient to constitute him landlord within the meaning of the Madras Estates Land Act.
7. If that be so, it is not disputed that he admitted the two tenants to the land so that, under Section 6 of the Act, they acquired a permanent right of occupancy. Whether or not that right was conveyed to defendant 1 under Exs. 4 to 6 is a question which need not be decided in this appeal. Wherever the occupancy right may reside, upon the above findings the plaintiff will be entitled only to the melvaram, and this is what the lower Court has decreed to him. I would accordingly dismiss the appeal with costs.
Sundaram Chetty, J.
8. I concur.