1. The appellants sued the Secy. of State for a declaration that they were entitled both to a small triangle of land for which penal assessment had been levied by the defendant; and also to a shed and its site lying between this land and their house. They described the suit property as lying within the village natham. It has been found that the small triangle lies in tank poramboka and cannot be claimed by plaintiffs, and in regard to that portion the appeal is not pressed.
2. The District Munsif found that the plaintiffs are entitled to the other portions (C and D in the plan Ex. 3). The lower appellate Court reversed that finding and dismissed the suit. In respect to this latter portion the plaintiffs appeal.
3. The title set up in the plaint is that plaintiffs and their ancestors had been enjoying the property for more than a 100 years. The lower Courts have found that plaintiffs did not prove enjoyment for more than 30 years. That finding is not disputed; but plaintiffs contend that their 30 years enjoyment raises a presumption that they hold the property by immemorial right, and the burden rests upon the defendant to rebut that presumption. It cannot be said that any such presumption arises in the case of village site poramboke.
4. As explained in Collector of Godaveri Dist. v. Rangayya  4 M.L.T. 440 according to the common law of the country the control of gramanatham vests in the revenue authorities, and they are at liberty to grant portions of it at their discretion to persons who apply for it for building purposes; Government has the right at any time to appropriate it for any public special purpose. Again in Madathapu Ramayya v. Secy. of State  27 Mad. 386 Bhashyam lyengar, J., observed on p. 393:
The lane is a portion of the 'grama natham' or village site and presumably the free hold in the soil is in the Government.
5. In Seshachela Chetty v. Chinnasami  40 Mad. 4l0, Ayling, J., has collated the authorities which support
the general presumption of the common law of India that the ownership of all unoccupied land vests in Government.
6. That being so, a person who has occupied such land must prove in order to support his title either that he has received the land by grant, or that he has enjoyed adverse possession for 60 years so as to defeat the title of Government. There is no question now of adverse possession, and the plaintiffs have never pleaded, and certainly have never proved that they obtained a grant. Any pre-sumption that can be drawn from the bare fact of 30 years occupation is rather against the plea of a grant, because within that period the revenue authorities have been fully alive to their responsibilities-and any one occupying village site may be presumed either to have a document authorizing his occupation, or to have encroached.
7. It has been argued that unless the plaintiff's contention is upheld the Government will be at liberty to put every village householder to the proof of his title, and to eject those who have no documentary proof. As Government administer these village sites through the revenue department for the purpose of providing suitable house sites for the villagers it is inconceivable that they would attempt to turn out the present occupants merely in order to install others in their place. But in cases where a person appeared to be enjoying more than his proper allotment, it is quite conceivable that Government might take act-ion in the interests of the villagers,, as a whole; and no one but the encroacher himself would have cause to complain. In the present case the plaintiffs seem to have thought their title to their shed not to stand upon the same footing as their title to their house, and they themselves took the initiative in having it tested. Therefore it hardly lies in their mouth to accuse Government of art unjust inquisition into title. The case has been correctly dealt with by the learned Subordinate Judge and this appeal must be dismissed with costs.
8. This appeal, so far as it has been pressed before us, relates only to plots C and D in Ex. 3, which are admittedly registered as grama natham poramboke, i.e., village house site poramboke For the plaintiffs it is urged before us that, though this is poramboke, it is not Government poramboka It is possible that there is poramboke which is not Government poramboke, and the mere entry in the Goverment registers' that a piece of land is poramboke is not by itself enough to prove that no private party has any title to it. But here the case has proceeded in the lower Courts on the basis that the two plots, C and D, are parts of the immemorial grama natham. Then who is the owner of this natham? The only alternatives suggested are the Crown and the village community. But it is not suggested that at any period of which there is record the village community has exercised or asserted any right to distribute or dispose of the natham. On the contrary it is admitted that the right to distribute and dispose of vacant natham is in the Government. In my opinion the proper inference from that is that the title to gramanatham except so far as it has been lost by grant or adverse possession is with the Crown. That is quite apart from the provisions of the Madras Land Encroachment Act, 1905, which is of little importance in this case as the plaintiffs' possession of plots C and D has been found to go back beyond the date of that Act. Mr. Krishnamachariar indeed does not dispute that the title to any piece of gramanatham which is now unoccupied is in the Crown. But he contends that, when we find a piece of gramanatham to be occupied, we cannot say that the title of any private party to it must depend on some grant from or prescription against the Crown, but that on the contrary in regard to any piece of gramanatham now occupied it is for the Crown to show that it ever had title and, if so, that it has not been lost. Behind this contention appears to lie a theory, not fully developed before us, that gramanathams in this part of the country were occupied by members of the village communities long before the British Government or any of its predecessors came upon the scene, and that, when they did come on the scene, all they got title to, was such parts of gramanatham as were then unoccupied.
9. That may be an attractive theory. But it is of no use to the plaintiffs in this case. The plaintiffs are suing for a declaration of their title to these plots. It is admitted that they have no grant. It is admitted that for centuries, from time immemorial, the British Crown and its predecessors have had title to all unoccupied village natham. In these circumstances the plaintiffs cannot say that they have been squatting on these plots for a day or a year or for 30 years, as in this case, and that at once throws on the Crown the burden of proving that they have not been there for 60 years and that they are not entitled to the declaration for which they pray. The briefest possession may be a good defence against the attack of a party who can prove nothing better. But when a plaintiff comes to Court for a declaration of his title against the Crown a title which can have arisen at any time within at least the last two centuries-only by grant or prescription, he can call to his aid no presumption that his possession has extended a day longer than he can prove. He must prove that this possession has extended to 60 years adversely to the Crown and can- succeed only by the strength of his own case, not. by casting the burden of proving the contrary on the Crown. That elementary doctrine was applied by their Lordships of the Privy Council in Secy. of State v. Chellikani Rama Rao A.I.R. 1916 P.C., and is beyond discussion. In the present case the plaintiffs can prove neither a grant nor adverse possession for 60 years and therefore are not entitled to the declaration for which they pray. I agree that this appeal must be dismissed with costs.