1. Plaintiffs sue for a declaration that the suit lands form part of the village of Velampettai of which defendant 1 is the landholder; and not of Thamarakulam of which defendants 2 to 5 are landholders. The District Munsif and Subordinate Judge decreed their suit and this Court on second appeal dismissed it finding that the question of ownership had already been decided in a rent suit by the Revenue Court (S.S. No. 91/21 R.D.O. Devakottah) between plaintiffs and defendants 2 to 5 and this constituted res judicata. Hence the Letters Patent appeal.
2. Under Section 189(3), Madras Estates Land Act, the decision of a revenue Court on a matter within the 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. No doubt in settling a rent dispute a revenue Court may have to consider a question of title. Its decision as regards the rent sued for will be final, but as regards the title, a matter which obviously is not within its exclusive jurisdiction, its decision will not be final. That it must be a matter exclusively within the revenue Court's jurisdiction has been ruled in an un-reported case Satrucharala Sivaskandamriyu v. Venkandhora Second Appeal No. 786 of 1919 which is approved in Sabhandri Apparao v. Venkataraju 1920 Mad. 558. In the case mainly relied upon by this Court in Houstead v. Commissioner of Taxation 1926 A.C. 155, there was no question of Courts of various jurisdiction such as a revenue and ordinary civil Court; for both cases came before the same Australian Court. Also in Mahomedd Karamat Ali Khan v. Ganeshi Lal 1927 All 552, both suits were cognizable by the revenue Court (see p. 660).
3. In Daulat Ram Munshi Ram 1932 Lah. 623, a single Judge has held that so long as the decision was within the jurisdiction of the revenue Court it would be res judicata in the ordinary Court, without considering whether it should or should not be within its exclusive jurisdiction. Possibly the Lahore law corresponding to Section 189(3) of our Act is different; if not in the light of the Madras rulings quoted above we should be unable to agree with this decision. Sethupathi v. Muthudayan Pillai 1928 Mad. 1122, is no departure from the other Madras rulings; because there the ratio decidendi is that because the decision as to occupancy right is on a matter falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of the revenue Court, therefore it is res judicata. Once it is found that the plea of res judicata fails, the decision of the Subordinate Judge which is on a matter of fact must prevail. The appeal is allowed with costs throughout.
4. I agree that the appeal should be allowed. I prefer however to rest my judgment on the ground that the point should not have been allowed to be raised in second appeal. It is a point of law bat the basis for the plea of res judicata was not laid by establishing the judgments relied upon as constituting the bar. The plaintiffs had impleaded as defendants both parties claiming title to collect rent, and defendant 1 in his written statement offered to be joined as plaintiff in the suit. If the point of res judicata had then been raised, he could either have been transposed as plaintiff or could have brought a separate suit. As it is the parties; have had the expense of contesting the suit on the merits, and it is only when they failed on these, that defendants 2 to 5 raise the belated plea of res judicata. In my view, they should not have been, permitted to do this as the basis there-for had not been laid in the lower Courts. In the absence of such a plea the suit dearly lay. I therefore agree that the appeal should be allowed with costs throughout.