1. This appeal arises out of a suit filed by the plaintiff to eject the defendants and recover arrears of rent from them, and the subject-matter is a certain land in the village of 'Dontamuru, measuring 5 acres in extent. That land was admittedly granted by the Zamindar of Kirlampudi in or shortly before 1862 to the predecessor-in-title of the plaintiff and the question at issue in this appeal is whether the transaction between the Zamindar and the plaintiff's predecessor-in-title amounted to the grant of an inam or to the grant of a permanent lease. If the land is an inam, the defendants have admittedly occupancy rights and cannot be ejected. If the grant was a permanent lease, it is equally clear that it is the plaintiff who can lay claim to occupancy rights and the defendants cannot resist the suit for eviction. The learned District Munsif of Peddapuram decreed the suit. In appeal, the learned Subordinate Judge held that the defendants had occupancy rights and therefore they could not be ejected, and that the suit for recovery of rent lay only in the Revenue Court. He accordingly directed the plaint to be returned for presentation to the proper Court. It is against this order that the plaintiff now appeals before me.
2. There are a number of documents which are of importance in deciding the appeal, but it may be mentioned at the outset that there is one point of law upon which the appeal has been decided and wrongly decided by the learned Subordinate Judge. After a discussion of the documents, he comes to the conclusion that they are ambiguous and afford no certain indications either way. He then holds that in the absence of any proof that there was a permanent lease granted to the plaintiff, it must be found that the grant was of an inam, in other words, that the burden of proof lay upon the plaintiff as the one who has instituted the suit and if he has not succeeded in establishing his title to evict, the suit must be dismissed. This is contrary to the law as laid down in a decision of the Privy Council reported in Ramayya v. Lakshminarayana (1934) 67 M.L.J. 1 : L.R. 61 IndAp 177 : I.L.R. 57 Mad. 443 (P.C.). At page 451, it is pointed out that the plea of defendants is a plea that the Civil Court has no jurisdiction to try the suit and in a plea of that nature, the burden of proof lies upon the defendants. It seems to me clear that if the learned Subordinate Judge had followed the proposition of law as laid down by the Privy Council in this decision, he would have decided the appeal differently.
3. I think also that the present appeal should be allowed on the interpretation of the documents. The learned Subordinate Judge was quite right in my opinion--and indeed in this matter he agrees with the learned District Munsif--in holding that Ex. F, which though not the title deed in itself recites what must have been the terms of the title deed, is inconclusive. It uses the expression, 'Nimebadi Kattubadi', which suggests that the land is an inam; it also uses the expression 'permanent patta', which suggests that the land was granted on lease. But when we come to an examination of certain accounts of recent years, which have been filed, to show in what way this land was regarded by the successor of the Zamindar of Kirlampudi, we find clear indications that the estate regarded it not as an inam at all but as a lease. The documents in question are Exs. H, J and K. In all these documents, the land in question is no doubt, described as land with favourable rate of cist (Rayiti cist bhumulu) and this is also undoubtedly a third classification of land--the first kind of land is jeroyithi land in which the ryot pays full cist on the estate; the second is dharmilla inam and we find in this village in the case of dharmilla inam, no kattubadi at all is payable; and this expression, land with favourable rate of cist, forms as I have said, a third classification. The learned Subordinate Judge thinks that as it is distinct from both jeroyithi and dharmilla inams, the ambiguity created by Ex. F still remains. The learned Subordinate Judge has overlooked certain columns in these documents which seem to me to be conclusive. In Ex. H for instance, which is the 'amarakam register' or rent-roll for the village, we find columns 8 and 9 deal with the amount of money which must be annually paid to the estate. Column 8 is headed kattubadi and column 9 jeroyithi cist, and it is under this column (9) that the amount due on the land in dispute has been entered. Having regard therefore to the payment of the annual dues, the estate does not recognise three kinds of payment but only two kinds, and although this land may be called 'with favourable rates of cist', when it comes to a decision as to whether it is kattubadi or cist which is payable, the documents make it clear that it is cist and not kattubadi. Similarly, in Exs. J and K, the amount due for this land, Rs. 8, is recorded in the column headed 'jeroyithi cist'. It seems to me therefore that the learned Subordinate* Judge might well have held that Exs. H, J and K were clear on the question of the treatment of this land by the estate, and might have rejected the contention that because as a matter of fact there was no payment on any of the lands specifically described as dharmilla inam, there might be dharmilla inams on which kattubadi was payable included by the estate under the heading of lands with favourable rates of cist.
4. I am of opinion, therefore, that both on the question of law regarding the burden of proof and on the issue of fact depending upon the interpretation of important documents, the learned Subordinate Judge was in error in allowing the appeal before him. This appeal is allowed and the decree of the learned District Munsif restored with costs throughout.