1. This civil revision petition is against the order of the learned Subordinate Judge of Madhurai directing the plaintiffs to pay enhanced court-fee consequent upon his finding on the preliminary issue, namely, whether the court-fee paid and the valuation of the suit were proper? Plaintiff 1 is the petitioner.
2. Fifteen plaintiffs sued for a decree setting aside the order of the Collector of Madhurai dated 17-10-1947 directing resumption of the plaint schedule lands and for declaring the order to be illegal and a nullity. According to the plaint, the cause of action in the suit arose on 17-10-1947 when the Collector of Madhurai confirmed the Order of the Revenue Divisional Officer of Usilampatti dated 4-4-1947 directing, the resumption of the suit lands. In the schedule attached to the plaint, the description of the properties in respect of which the resumption order was passed sets out nine different, inams with respective extents of the lands covered by nine title deeds. The entire extent of the land is stated to be 35.67 acres and for the purpose of jurisdiction the value of the suit lands is given as Rs. 5000.
3. It transpires that before the Revenue Divisional Officer nine separate applications were filed for resumption, each application relating to the properties covered by each one of the nine title deeds. But the Revenue Divisional Officer heard all the applications together and passed a single order directing the resumption of the lands appertaining to the said nine inam title deeds. The Collector who heard the appeals against this order also confirmed the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer by a single order of his which is now sought to be set aside.
4. In a prior suit (O. S. No. 104 of 1948) on the file of the Sub-Court of Madhurai filed by the very same plaintiffs against the Province of Madras and also two other parties who had applied for resumption of the suit lands on the ground that the alienations by the service holders were void, the contention of the plaintiffs was that the inam title deeds disclosed the inam grant to comprise only the melwaram and not the kudiwaram, and that in so far as the service was being properly rendered, the lands having been endowed by Hindu Rajahs as manibhams for the purpose of certain service in Sri Mulanathaswami temple at Thenkarai village of Nilakottah Taluk of Madurai district, the resumption was not legal. In that suit, however, the learned Subordinate Judge had held that the total valuation of the suit properties could not be said to be Rs. 10,000 or more. But in the present suit the learned Subordinate Judge relying upon the finding in the previous suit by his predecessor accepted the valuation given in the plaint at Rs, 5,000 especially in view of the fact that it would make no difference if the value of the property was Rs. 5,000 or above but did not amount to Rs. 10,000 or more.
5. After the filing of the plaint, the Court fee Examiner pointed out by means of a checkslip that the court-fee of Rs. 15 paid by the plaintiffs under Article 17(A)(1) of Schedule II, Court fees Act (hereinafter referred to as the Act) would be Rs. 100 and not Rs. 15. From the judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge, it appears that the plaintiffs conceded that that was the correct position, namely, that instead of Rs. 15, the legitimate court-fee payable on the plaint would be Rs. 100. In the checkslip put up by the Court-fee Examiner it appears that he further pointed out that the valuation of the suit lands totalling about 35.67 acres in extent at Rs. 5000 was grossly inadequate and that each acre would be worth Rs. 1000 and that under Article 17-A(1) of Schedule II. Court-fees Act Rs. 500 should have been paid as the court-fee as the total value would have exceeded Rs. 10,000 and more. In the written statement the defendant-respondent had pleaded that a single suit in respect of distinct subject which comprised nine different inams covered by nine inam title deeds wag not competent and that different suits should have been filed in respect of each one of the inams, that in any event the court-fee paid was grossly inadequate, that each inam should have been separately valued at the market value of lands, and that the court-fee should have been paid with reference to each, inam, and that a single court-fee of Rs. 15 paid by the plaintiffs was wholly insufficient in view of the provisions o the Act.
6. The learned Subordinate Judge who tried the preliminary issue and heard arguments in, respect thereof also took into consideration the check slip prepared by the Court-fee Examiner in which the question of valuation and court-fee had been raised. No evidence, however, was adduced by either of the parties with reference to the valuation, and, as already observed, the learned Subordinate Judge proceeded on the basis of the finding of his predecessor in regard to the valuation of the properties and on a consideration of the material available before him, came to the conclusion that since the valuation was under Rs. 10,000 the proper court-fee to be paid would be Rs, 100 for the suit. But on the question, as to whether the suit comprised nine distinct subjects within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act or whether it was a single subject that was comprised in the plaint, the learned Subordinate Judge held, agreeing with the contention of the respondent that each one of inams covered by the title deeds was a distinct subject within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act and that the mere fact that the Collector for the sake of convenience passed a single order and the further fact that the suit was similarly, instituted as one suit instead of nine suits, would not exempt the plaintiffs from their obligation to pay court-fee on nine declarations as they were bound to pray for a declaration in respect of each of the nine inams comprised in the nine title deeds and the lands appertaining to them. Having come to this conclusion, the learned Subordinate Judge directed amendment of the plaint to incorporate separate declarations of the same kind in respect of each of the nine inams and also directed the payment of court-fee of Rs. 100 in respect of each of the nine declarations and that Rs. 15 having already been paid, a further sum of Rs. 885 was made payable, within the date stipulated by the order of the learned Subordinate Judge. It is against this order that plaintiff l petitioner has now preferred this revision petition.
7. There can be no question in this case that Section 17 of the Act would govern the case and the only question then is as to what is the correct interpretation of Section 17 of the Act with reference to the facts of the present case. Section 17 of the Act is to the following effect : "Where a suit embraces two or more distinct subjects, the plaint or memorandum of appeal shall be chargeable with the aggregate fees to which the plaints or memoranda of appeal in suits embracing separately each of such subjects would be liable under this Act," This section relates to court-fee payable in respect of multifarious suits. But unfortunately in the whole of the Act the word "subject" has not been defined. Whereas in Ss. 7 and 13 of the same Act which relate to computation of fees payable in certain suits and fees paid on memorandum of appeal, the words used are "subject matter of the suit", in Section 17 of the Act, the words used are "suit embraces two or more distinct subjects". It is not, therefore, clear from the language of the section as such as to whether the word "subject" here means and" includes subject matter or whether it means something else. On a reading of the entire provisions of the Act as a whole I am inclined to the view that the terminology, namely, "distinct subjects" used in Section 17 of the Act should be interpreted to mean distinct subject matters only, and it should also be understood to mean such subject matters as are distinct but which can be clubbed together in a single suit. Otherwise if the words "distinct subjects" are to be construed as including distinct categories of subjects taking the word "subject" in a very comprehensive sense, then the meaning of Section 17 would become absurd; for distinct categories of subjects could not be embraced in a single suit. Obviously, the intention underlying this Section 17 seems to be to provide for suits which involve multifariousness and which do not offend against the other provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, such as mis joinder of causes of action and so forth.
8. The question then that arises for consideration is whether the present suit embraces different subject matters or whether it involves a single subject matter. The facts of this case disclose that there are nine inams granted to the original service holders for performing the service to the temple and each one of these nine inams has been comprised in separate inam title deed. The extent of each inam varies with the rest and the parties to whom these inams have been granted appear also to have been distinct individuals. Even so, at the time when the inam commissioner issued titles in favour of the respective service holders for the respective lands, he did so in favour of each one of the service holders for the respective lands, notwithstanding the recognition by the Collector of Madurai of the title of Kunjana Iyer who had purchased from the respective manibhamdars at some time prior to 1861. This Kunjana Abyar appears to be the ancestor of plaintiffs 2 to 4 and the predecessor-in-title of the other plaintiffs. At the time of the resumption proceedings before the Revenue Divisional Officer it also transpires that nine separate applications were filed. Only the Revenue Divisional Officer and the Collector contented themselves with passing a single order of resumption in respect of the nine separate service inams and separate title deeds. The reason why all the fifteen plaintiffs have combined in this suit is also obvious, for they want relief in respect of each of the inams comprised by a separate and distinct title deed It is not, however, the case that each one of the plaintiffs is interested in each one of the nine inams. Nor is it the case that all the nine inams belong to all the fifteen plaintiffs jointly or in common. So that it is fairly clear that the cause of action for each one of the aggrieved parties among the plaintiffs would be only in respect of the inam or the land covered by the inam title deed in which he is interested and he could not have a cause of action in respect of the rest of the items of inams comprised in the present suit. Therefore the construction sought to be put upon the terms "distinct subjects" occurring in Section 17 of the 'Act by the learned counsel for the petitioner does not seem to be sound. Whether the items involved in the suit are distinct subjects or one and the same subject may also be tested by the fact as to whether, if one of the plaintiffs alone had filed a suit or if a few of the plaintiffs alone had filed the suit and a decree passed therein in favour of such plaintiffs, it would enure to the benefit of the rest of the plaintiffs who have not been parties to the suit. Unless and until the scope of the suit is made comprehensive enough to include all the nine items and unless all the parties interested in each of the subject matters of the suit are before the Court, any decree or order passed by the Court would not be of any avail to set the matters in dispute at rest, as regards the other claimants. The effect of such a procedure adopted actually is that instead of each one filing a separate suit for a declaration in respect of the inam in which he is interested, all the interested parties have combined to file a suit in respect of the nine items involved, so that in effect it means that there are nine suits in respect of nine inams by the parties who are respectively entitled to the same and who want to assert their claim in respect of it and seek a relief from the Court by way of a declaratory decree that the resumption ordered by the Revenue authorities ought not to stand. In other words, each one of the parties who is interested in the inam is claiming a relief in respect of that particular subject matter in which he is interested, and seeks a decree from the Court to nullify the effect of the resumption so far as it operates against that particular subject matter to which he has a claim. It may be convenient for all such people who claims a similar relief on a similar cause of action to combine and file a suit and such a suit would not amount to a single suit comprising a single subject matter. On the other hand, it is a suit of this type that can be called a multifarious suit and it is suits of such a type that are sought to be provided for by Section 17 of the Act, Because it is possible to avoid multiplicity of suits by combining causes of action and parties without offending against the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, it cannot be contended that such suits ceased to be multifarious, or that they became suits for a single cause of action or they embrace a single subject or subject matter. In this view, I think, each one of the subject matters, namely, the inam comprised by a separate title deed in respect of which there has been an order of resumption should be considered to be a distinct subject and the provision contained in Section 17 of the Act would attract itself to such a suit.
9. The learned counsel for the petitioner, however, invited my attention to the decision reported in "Arunachsla Pillai v. Ponnuswami Naidu, (A), where it has been held that a suit filed by a landholder against the ryots of a village under Section 193, Madras Estates Land Act does not comprise "distinct subjects" within the meaning of Section 17, Court-fees Act and that where such a suit is dismissed and the landholder appeals, the court-fee payable is on the total of the annual rents of the immoveable property to which the suit relates and not on the aggregate of the court-fees separately payable in respect of the rent of the holding of each particular ryot calculated in accordance with Section 7(xi)(b) of the Act. In this decision Ananthakrishna Aiyar J. has considered the question as to whether a suit under Section 193 of the Madras Estates Land Act embraced distinct subjects and has come to the conclusion that since the word subject has not been defined, it would not be unreasonable to hold that a suit under Section 193 did not comprise distinct subjects, and that the suit of the landholder to enhance the rent upon the particular conditions mentioned in that section which should all exist before a suit under that section can be instituted did not embrace distinct subjects within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act. Though two other Full Bench decisions of this Court and one other Full Bench decision of the Calcutta High Court have been referred to by the learned Judge in the course of his judgment, I do not think these decisions throw much light on the question at issue in this petition. But one thing is clear, namely, the judgment of Ananthakrishna Aiyar J. is authority only for the proposition that a suit filed under Section 193, Madras Estates Land Act, by a single landholder cannot be said to comprise distinct subjects, and cannot come under the. purview of Section 17 of the Act. The learned counsel for the petitioner has also invited my attention to another decision reported in "Thangasami Pillai v. Dhanabagiammal" (B). In that suit that plaintiff
had sued for possession of several properties and the prayer in the plaint was that the plaintiff should be put in possession of the "undermentioned" properties through the process of Court and free from obstruction of the defendants who came into possession under different titles from defendant 1 who in violation of a trust had alienated them. On the question as to whether what the proper court-fee payable was, Krishnaswami Nayudu J. held that on the allegations in the plaint and taking the substance of the plaint also into consideration that the suit did not embrace distinct subjects but only one subject as claimed in the prayer in the plaint and as such Section 17 of the Act was not applicable to it. I do not think that the decision in this case applies to the facts of the case under revision. A single plaintiff suing for possession of different items of land in the hands of various defendants has been rightly held to be not coming within the scope of Section 17 of the Act. But in the present case, as already stated, there are fifteen plaintiffs who are not all of them interested in every one of the items of the property but are interested in distinct items comprised in distinct inam title deeds. The only commonality which can be postulated in respect of these distinct subjects is that the Revenue Divisional Officer and the Collector passed a single order of resumption as a matter of convenience. This act of passing a single order for purposes of administrative convenience cannot be .said to take away the distinctness of each one of the subjects comprised in the suit filed by the plaintiffs for a declaration that that order should not be held to be operative against each one of the items of the inam. I do not think that the decision has any bearing on the facts of the present petition.
10. The learned Counsel for the respondent however, invited my attention to a decision in "Haru Bepari v. Kshiteeshbhooshan" AIR 1935 Cal 573' (C). The ruling in that decision in my view applies in all its bearings to the facts of the present case. There several plaintiffs joined in a suit and prayed for declarations affecting the title to their respective notes and for the removal of cloud upon their titles occasioned by one compromise decree. It was held that proceedings of such a kind embrace as many distinct subjects as the titles affected within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act and separate court-fee must be paid for each of them. I think that the reasoning contained in this judgment of a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court is in full accord with the facts that obtained in the present petition. This decision reviewed the decisions referred to by Ananthakrishna Aiyar J. in 'AIR 1950 Mad 404 (A)'. The learned Judges have observed:
"The expression 'causes of action' may be capable of definition. Indeed, definitions have been formulated in the past although the terms of one definition have not always been identical with those of another, the elements varying to suit particular exigency which evoked the attempt. Be that as it may, we are of opinion that the word 'subject' in Section 17, Court-fees Act covers a multitude of matters which cannot be confined within the precise formula. We find it difficult to see how distinct causes of action can ever be one subject within the meaning of Section 17. But the converse does not necessarily hold good; for it may well be that a suit based on one cause of action alone may nevertheless embrace more than one subject within the meaning of Section 17, Court-fees Act."
In 'Lachmi Narayan v. Bhupendra Prasad', AIR 1943 Pat 356 (D), a co-sharer landlord instituted a suit for rent and paid court-fee on his share of rent. He impleaded the remaining co-sharer as 'pro forma' defendant, but alleged that his share of rent was only due. The 'pro forma' defendant disclosed that his share of rent had also not been paid and that he be added as a plaintiff and a decree for his share of rent also be granted. This was allowed on his paying court-fee on his claim. The suit was decreed in favour of both. The tenants preferred an appeal. In the appeal it was held by Rowland J. that the claim of the added plaintiff was not on the same cause of action and was not within the same subject as the. claim preferred by the original plaintiff and that his claim was a separate and distinct subject within the meaning of Section 17 of the Act. The learned Judge held further that the court-fee payable on the Memorandum of Appeal, therefore, was equal to the total of the court-fee paid by the plaintiff and the added plaintiff in the Court below. Though this decision does not refer to the earlier decision in 'AIR 1935 Cal 573 (C)' still it throws considerable light on the question as to what the word "subject" in Section 17 of the Act means and what is meant by "cause of action". Agreeing with the views expressed in the aforesaid two decisions reported in 'AIR 1935 Cal 573 (C)' and 'AIR 1943 Pat 356 (D)', I am inclined to hold that in the present form in which the suit stands, the decision of the learned Subordinate Judge that the plaintiffs should be deemed to have asked for nine separate declarations of the same kind in respect of each of the nine mams, that the suit as framed embraces distinct subjects and that the court-fee payable is governed by the provisions of Section 17 of the Act is justified. His further direction that the plaintiffs should pay court-fee of Rs. 100 in respect of each one of the nine declarations is also correct, so long as the frame of the suit remains what it is.
11. This petition is, therefore, dismissed with costs.