1. The first question in this appeal is whether the defendants were ryots in possession of the suit land, which must be taken to be ryoti land, on the 1st July 1908 when the Madras Estates Land Act came into force, so that they acquired occupancy rights therein by virtue of Section 6. They had held as ryots, that is to say, persons holding for the purpose of agriculture ryoti land in an estate on the condition of paying to the landholder the rent which is legally due [Section 3(15)] under a Muchilika, Exhibit C, which bound them to vacate on the 1st June 1908, and it is contended for the appellant that they had ceased to be ryots on 1st July 1908 when the Act came into force. Evidence was given that the estate was watched during that period by plaintiff's witnesses Nos. 9 and 11 who were servants of the late Zemindar, and it was argued that this showed a resumption of possession on behalf of the estate. The Subordinate Judge, in our opinion, has rightly disbelieved this evidence. At this time the Court of Wards was in management of the whole estate on behalf of the late Zemindar's minor son, including the suit lands which were subsequently handed over to the present plaintiff under the Will of the late Zemindar. From March (see Exhibit VI) negotiations had been going on with the Court of Wards for a renewal of the tenancy. It is not usual for ryots in the position of the defendants to go cut of possession of their own accord at the termination of the tenancy even when it is a yearly one, and it is still more unlikely they should have done to when they were negotiating with the Court of Wards for a further term and the Court had no desire to evict them.
2. It is then argued that, even if they were in possession on July 1st, 1908, they were not in possession as ryots as defined in Section 3(15), because they were not holding 'on condition of paying rent to the landholder.' The landholder, it is contended, here means the true owner, the present plaintiff, and not the minor Zemindar on whose behalf the Court of Wards was managing the estate. We cannot agree with this contention. The defendants had been holding under Exhibit C on condition of paying rent to the late Zemindar who was the landholder, and they must be deemed to have continued after his death to hold with the same intention, even though they may have laboured under a mistake as to who was entitled to the position of landholder in succession to the late Zemindar. The Legislature cannot have intended to make the statutory status of a ryot which it conferred upon all ryots in possession on July 1st, 1908, dependent on the question whether they knew who was entitled to the position of landholder in respect of their holdings.
3. The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs, except as regards trees of the kinds reserved to the Zemindar in the previous Muchillika Exhibit C. Under Section 12 the plaintiff is entitled to trees of these descriptions standing on the land on 1st July 1908. We remand the case to the lower Court with a direction to ascertain, by further evidence and by issuing a commission if necessary, the number, description and locations of the trees in question and to pass a supplemental decree giving the plaintiff possession of them, and providing for the costs of the further enquiry.