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Mahalakshmi Ammal Vs. V. Swaminatha Iyer and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1967)2MLJ158
AppellantMahalakshmi Ammal
RespondentV. Swaminatha Iyer and ors.
Cases ReferredMasi Moopan v. The Veeravalli Mariamman Temple Deity
Excerpt:
- - before a civil court could transfer a suit to the revenue divisional officer it has to be satisfied (i) that the defendant is a cultivating tenant, (ii) that he is entitled to the benefits of the act, and (iii) that on transfer the defendant would be in a position to obtain one or other of the statutory reliefs provided for under the act. he held that the expression entitled to the benefits of the act should be given its meaning and it is necessary that a civil court before transferring must be satisfied that the tenant is not merely a cultivating tenant but is also entitled to the benefits of the act......a court for possession or injunction in relation to a land that the defendant is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the act, the court is precluded from proceeding with the trial but shall transfer it to the revenue divisional officer to deal with the matter according to the provisions of the act. the effect of the amendment is that in any suit for possession of or injunction in relation to any land if it is established that the defendant is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the act, the suit shall be transferred to the revenue divisional officer.7. it was contended by mr. s. gopalaratnam, learned counsel for the respondent, that section 6-a was introduced to cover suits for possession against tenants which were pending on the date when the act came into.....
Judgment:

P.S. Kailasam, J.

1. The plaintiff in a suit for recovery of possession of the suit land with profits is the appellant in this second appeal. The plaintiff purchased the suit property in Court auction in execution of a decree in Small Cause Suit No. 371 of 1956, on the file of the District Munsif, Thanjavur. She obtained the sale certificate, Exhibit A-l on 10th July, 1958, and delivery was effected under Exhibit A-2 on 14th September, 1958. According to the plaintiff, she obtained delivery of possession of the property with the standing crops. The fourth defendant was in possession of the land as the lessee of the first defendant judgment-debtor. He agreed to execute a lease deed but later refused to do so. The plaintiff applied to the Rent Court, Kumbakonam, for fixing a fair rent. The fourth defendant contended before the Rent Court that he was not entitled to the benefits of the Fair Rent Act, as he was cultivating more than the extent permitted under the Act. The plaintiff did not press the fair rent application, but issued a notice Exhibit A-4 to defendants 1 and 4 demanding the lease amount due to her. Defendants 1 and 4 issued a joint notice Exhibit A-5.

2. Both the defendants denied the title of the plaintiff to the suit property. It was contended by them that the Court sale in favour of the plaintiff was nominal and that the plaintiff could not claim any right to or enjoyment in the property. As the fourth defendant denied title of the plaintiff and his liability to pay any rent, the plaintiff filed this suit against defendants 1 and 4 for possession and past profits before the District Munsif, Thanjavur.

3. The District Munsif found that the fourth defendant is a cultivating tenant within the meaning of Section 2 of Act XXV of 1955, but that he is not entitled to the benefits of the said Act. He also found that the Court auction in favour of the plaintiff was not benami for defendants 1 and 3. The trial Court gave a decree for profits. Regarding the relief for possession the trial Court held that as the 4th defendant was found to be a cultivating tenant, though not entitled to the benefits of the Act as he denied the title of the landlord the plaintiff had to apply to the Revenue Divisional Officer under Section 3(4) for eviction. The trial Court was of the view that a suit for eviction was barred under Section 6 of the Act, as only the Revenue Divisional Officer was empowered to deal with and determine the question of eviction.

4. On appeal by the plaintiff against the decision of the trial Court that it could not grant a decree for possession, the lower appellate Court confirmed the view of the trial Court that, when once the 4th defendant was found to be a cultivating tenant, the Court was not empowered to evict and that the plaintiff could get her relief only before the Revenue Divisional Officer. This conclusion of the lower appellate Court is challenged in this second appeal.

5. Section 6 of the Cultivating Tenants Protection Act (XXV of 1955), bars the jurisdiction of civil Courts, except to the extent specified in Sub-section (3) of Section 3 in respect of any matter, which the Revenue Divisional Officer is empowered by or under the Act to determine. Sub-section (3) of Section 3 of the Act provides for the deposit of the rent by the cultivating tenant in the civil Court which passed the decree or order of eviction. We are not now concerned with this provision. The jurisdiction of the civil Court, in respect of any matter which the Revenue Divisional Officer is empowered by or under this Act to determine is taken away under Section 6 of the Act. Section 3 provides that no cultivating tenant shall be evicted from his holding at the instance of the landlord whether in execution of a decree or order of a Court or otherwise. But this provision is not applicable to a cultivating tenant under certain circumstances which are enumerated in Clauses (a), (aa), (b), (c) and (d) of Sub-section (2) of Section 3. The relevant provision is Clause (d) which provides that the protection under Section 3(1) is not applicable to a cultivating tenant, who has wilfully denied the title of the landlord to the land. Sub-section (4) to Section 3 enables the landlord seeking to evict a cultivating tenant falling under any of the clauses of Sub-section (2) to Section 3 to make an application to the Revenue Divisional Officer. The effect of sub-sections (1), (2) and (4) of Section 3 is that the provision that no cultivating tenant shall be evicted is not applicable to cultivaing tenants falling under any of the clauses in Sub-section (2) and that the landlord is entitled to seek eviction of a cultivating tenant before the Revenue Divisional Officer if he falls under Sub-section (2). As the jurisdiction of the civil Court regarding matters which the Revenue Divisional Officer is empowered under the Act to determine is excluded, an application by the landlord to evict a cultivating tenant falling under Sub-section (2) can only be filed before the Revenue Divisional Officer. A landlord may file suits in the civil Court for reliefs, which do not tall under Section 3(4) of the Act.

6. There was an amendment to the Act, and Section 6-A was introduced by Act XIV of 1956. Under the amended section, if it is proved in any suit before a Court for possession or injunction in relation to a land that the defendant is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the Act, the Court is precluded from proceeding with the trial but shall transfer it to the Revenue Divisional Officer to deal with the matter according to the provisions of the Act. The effect of the amendment is that in any suit for possession of or injunction in relation to any land if it is established that the defendant is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the Act, the suit shall be transferred to the Revenue Divisional Officer.

7. It was contended by Mr. S. Gopalaratnam, learned Counsel for the respondent, that Section 6-A was introduced to cover suits for possession against tenants which were pending on the date when the Act came into force and that it is not applicable to suits that were filed after the Act came into force. According to the learned Counsel for the respondent, after the Act came into force the only forum in which the landlord could seek any relief for possession of or injunction in relation to the land is the Revenue Divisional Officer. Though the contention of the leaned Counsel that Section 6-A was introduced as there was no provision in the original Act for transfer of suits that were pending in the civil Courts on the date when the Act came into force to the Revenue Divisional Officer is plausible, the wording of Section 6-A does not lend support to his contention. Section 6-A cannot be construed as applicable only to pending suits. If it was the intention of the Legislature to confine the amended section to pending suits, it could have used specific words to that effect. The language of the section is wide enough to cover suits, to be filed for possession of or injunction in relation to a land after the Act came into force. The Act does not bar the filing of a suit for possession of or injunction in relation to a land in a civil Court if it does not fall within the provision of Section 3(4) of the Act. In a case which could not be filed before the Revenue Divisional Officer, recourse can only be had to the Civil Court, and in such cases where the relief asked for is for possession of or injunction in relation to a land, a duty is cast on civil Court to transfer the matter to the Revenue Divisional Officer, if it is established that the defendant is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the Act. Before a civil Court could transfer a suit to the Revenue Divisional Officer it has to be satisfied (i) that the defendant is a cultivating tenant, (ii) that he is entitled to the benefits of the Act, and (iii) that on transfer the defendant would be in a position to obtain one or other of the statutory reliefs provided for under the Act. In the case before me though the plaintiff treated the fourth defendant as a tenant in proceedings against him before the Fair Rent Court and gave notice for payment of arrears of rent, the stand that was taken by the fourth defendant was that the plaintiff had no title to the suit land and that he was not liable to pay any rent to the plaintiff. In Exhibit A-5, a joint reply given by defendants 1 and 4, the fourth defendant took the stand that the sale in favour of the plaintiff was benami for defendants 1 and 3, that the plaintiff never took possession and that the fourth defendant was not bound to pay any rent to the plaintiff. On this plea, the plaintiff was obliged to file the present suit before the civil Court. When such a suit is filed, it is for the defendant to establish that he is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the Act. Mr. S. Gopalaratnam, learned Counsel for the respondent, submitted that the civil Court is bound to transfer the suit when it finds that the defendant is a cultivating tenant and that it is for the Revenue Divisional Officer on transfer of such suit to determine whether the defendant is entitled to the benefits of the Act or not. To construe otherwise, learned Counsel submitted, would go against the spirit of the Act. According to the learned Counsel, the question whether a cultivating tenant has denied the title of the landlord and is, therefore, liable to be evicted has to be determined by the Revenue Divisional Officer under Section 3(4). If it is held that the civil Court has to determine not only that the defendant is a cultivating tenant but is not entitled to the benefits of the Act, in that he has denied the title of the landlord it was contended it would be encroaching on the jurisdiction of the Revenue Court. A similar contention put forward before this Court in Kuppuswami v. Subramaniaswami Devasthanam : (1958)1MLJ208 , was rejected by Balakrishna Ayyar, J. He held that the expression entitled to the benefits of the Act should be given its meaning and it is necessary that a civil Court before transferring must be satisfied that the tenant is not merely a cultivating tenant but is also entitled to the benefits of the Act. The same view was taken by a Bench of this Court in Veluchami Naicker v. Mouna Gurusami Naicker : (1957)2MLJ628 , Rajamannar, C.J., delivering the judgment summed up the position as follows:

If the Court decides that the defendants are cultivating tenants entitled to the benefits of the Act then it shall not proceed With the further trial of the suit but shall transfer it to the Revenue Divisional Officer. If, however, the Court, comes to the conclusion, that the defendants are not cultivating tenants, then it can proceed with the trial and pass such decree as it may deem fit.

The same view is expressed by another Bench of this Court in Ramachandra v. Kuppuswami I.L.R. (1961) Mad. 672, where it was held that three conditions must be fulfilled before a suit could be transferred by the civil Court. First the defendant must be a cultivating tenant; secondly he must be entitled to the benefits of the Act; and thirdly he must on transfer of the proceedings from the civil Court to the Revenue Divisional Officer, be in a position to obtain one or other of the statutory reliefs provided for under this Act. The contention of the learned Counsel for the respondent runs counter to the decisions of this Court, and, therefore, cannot be accepted.

8. Mr. S. Gopalaratnam, learned Counsel for the respondent, brought to my notice an unreported judgment of a single judge of this Court in Masi Moopan v. The Veeravalli Mariamman Temple Deity represented by Trustee and Manager K.S. Ramakrishna Iyer. Second Appeal No. 562 of 1959

9. In that case it was found by the lower appellate Court that the defendant was a cultivating tenant under a contract of tenancy, which was determined on 30th June, 1965. Between 30th June, 1955 and 15th July, 1955, it was found that the suit land was lying fallow. After 15th July, 1955, the land was in possession of the defendant, who trespassed into the property. The lower appellate Court also found that the defendant was disentitled to the protection against eviction, for the reason that the defendant wilfully denied title of the landlord. The learned Judge was not inclined to accept the finding of the lower Court that the denial of title of the landlord by the defendant was wilful, as it found that it was sufficient for it to state that the matter was not free from doubt. On the finding that it has not been proved that the defendant denied the title of the landlord the civil Court had no jurisdiction to try the case. The High Court also accepted the finding of the lower appellate Court that the defendant was a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the Act. There can be no dispute that if the Civil Court finds that the defendant is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the Act the matter has to be sent to the Revenue Divisional Officer under Section 6-A. The decision rendered in Masi Moopan v, The Veeravalli Mariamman Temple Deity represented by Trustee and Manager K S. Ramakrishna Iyer Second Appeal No. 562 of 1959 is, therefore, not helpful in deciding this case.

10. Finally, Mr. S. Gopalaratnam submitted that on the facts it cannot be found that the fourth defendant wilfully denied the title of the landlord, as he only joined the previous landlord, the 1st defendant in issuing the notice, Exhibit A-5. I am unable to accept this contention, for the intention of the fourth defendant who also joined the notice, is very clear and that his denial of title of the plaintiff is deliberate. The finding of the Courts below that there was a wilful denial of title has got to be upheld. In the result the Second Appeal is allowed with costs throughout.


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