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The Province of Madras, Represented by the Collector of Ramanathapuram Vs. Rao Bahadur O.A.P. Rm. Arunachalam Chettiar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1951)1MLJ254
AppellantThe Province of Madras, Represented by the Collector of Ramanathapuram
RespondentRao Bahadur O.A.P. Rm. Arunachalam Chettiar and ors.
Cases ReferredProvince of Madras v. Vedaranyaswami Devasthanam
Excerpt:
.....the provisions of the act have not been complied with, or the statutory tribunal has not acted in conformity with the fundamental principles of judicial procedure. 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......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, and to the district court, against an order directing the conversion of the land into government ryotwari or landholder's ryoti land.4. section 189(1) says:a district collector or collector hearing suits or applications of the nature specified in parts a and b of.....
Judgment:

Subba Rao, J.

1. This appeal arises out of a suit for a declaration of the title of the plaintiffs and the third defendant to the suit property. The plaintiffs 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 24th January, 1940 the Government issued a notification under Section 61(2) of the District Municipalities Act, 1920, withdrawing the site from the control of the Municipal Council. On 29th January 1944 the Collector of Ramanadhapuram made an order under Section 20A(1)(a) of the Madras Estates Land Act declaring that the suit site was no longer required for street purposes. On 30th May, 1944, the District Collector passed another order under Section 20A(1)(b)(ii) of the Act transferring the same as ryotwari land. The plaintiffs did not prefer appeals against either of those orders. The first defendant herein constructed a Birth and Death Register office on the site. On 26th July, 1945 the plaintiff filed O.S. No. 61 of 1945 on the file of the Court of the Suboridnate Judge of Devakottai for a declaration of title to and for possession of the suit property on the ground that the said site formed part of the Zamindari of' Sivaganga and that therefore the reversion vested in them. The first defendant is the Karaikudi Municipal Council. The second defendant is the Province of Madras. The defendants contended that the suit property was a pre-settlement communal poramboke, and 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 defendants and gave to the plaintiffs a decree as prayed for. The second defendant, the Province of Madras, preferred the above appeal.

2. The learned Government 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 he Provincial Government may prescribe in this behalf, the District Collector may on the application 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-clauses (a) and (b) of Clause (16) of Section 3 is no longer required for its original purpose; and

(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, and to the District Court, against an order directing the conversion of the land into Government ryotwari or landholder's ryoti land.

4. Section 189(1) says:

A District Collector or Collector hearing suits or applications of the nature specified in Parts A and B of the Schedule and the Board of Revenue or the District Collector exercising appellate or revisional jurisdiction therefrom shall hear and determine such suits or applications or exercise such jurisdiction as a Revenue Court. No civil court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall take cognizance of any dispute or matter in respect of which such suit or application might be brought or made.

5. The learned Government Pleader contends that a combined reading of these provisions indicates that a suit for a declaration of the plaintiffs' right is barred by reason of Section 189 of the Act. Before I proceed to consider his argument, it is as well that 1 notice some of the cases cited before me, which throw some light on the construction of the section. In Secretary of State for India v. Mask & Co. (1940) 2 M.L.J. 140 : L.R. 67 1.A. 222 : I.L.R. 1940 Mad. 599, the Judicial Committee observed:

It is settled law that the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts is not to be readily inferred, but that such exclusion must either be explicitly expressed or clearly implied. It is also well-settled that even if jurisdiction is so excluded, the Civil Courts have jurisdiction to examine into cases where the provisions of the Act have not been complied with, or the statutory tribunal has not acted in conformity with the fundamental principles of judicial procedure.

In Rajah of Sivaganga v. Venkatachalam Chetti (1934) 67 M.L.J. 268, Jackson, J., expresses the view on the construction of Section 189(3) as follows:

Under Section 189(3) of the Madras Estates Land Act, the decision of a Revenue Court on a matter within its exclusive jurisdiction shall be binding in any civil suit. That is to say that the Legislature has provided a cheap and speedy final settlement of such rent disputes as are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Revenue Court, but of course never intended that larger questions of title and so forth should be summarily settled in this fashion.

In Ckakrapani 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 court. The question of title is never within the exclusive cognizance of the revenue court.... It is always open to a landlord to bring a suit in a civil court that he is entitled to melwaram or agitate a similar question.

In. Province of Madras v. Sri Vedaranayeswaraswami Devasthanam : (1949)2MLJ454 , 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 20A(1)(b)(ii) of the Madras Estates Land Act assigning a street poramboke 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 poramboke 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 Court'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 and B of the Schedule is maintainable in a revenue Court. 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-clauses (a) and (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 to be expected of him, that he should decide any dispute inter se between the landholder and the Government in respect of the title to the property. Such questions are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Civil Courts, and I do not find any provision in the Madras Estates Land Act which expressly, or by necessary implication, ousts the jurisdiction of Civil Courts.

7. Another aspect of the case may also be adverted to Section 20A(1) presupposes the existence of a land set apart under Sub-clauses (a) and (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 24th January, 1940. Thereafter it may be assumed that it was either ordinary waste land or puntha poramboke. In either case it was not a land coming either under Subclause (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, and therefore Section 189 cannot bar the suit.

8. The next question is whether the reversionary interest in the puntha vests in the Zamindar or in the Government. Varadachariar, J. held in Maharajah of Pithapuram v. The Chairman, Municipal Council, Kakinada (1940) 2 M.L.J. 140 : L.R. 67 1.A. 222 : I.L.R. 1940 Mad. 599, 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 and of the trees spontaneously 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 and followed by Raghava Rao, J., in the Province of Madras v. Vedaranyaswami Devasthanam (1934) 67 M.L.J. 268. As the suit site ceased to be used as a street, following the aforesaid two decisions I hold that the plaintiff will be entitled to recover possession of the same.

9. The learned Government Pleader contends that in view of Madras Act XXVI of 1948 the question to be decided in this case is academic as the village in which the suit site is situated has been or will be taken by the Government. I am not in this appeal concerned with the rights of the parties under Act XXVI of 1948. My decision in this case will not in any way affect the respective rights of the parties under that Act.

10. In the result, the appeal is dismissed with costs.


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