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Musafkanni Ravuthar and ors. Vs. Doraisingam and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Decided On
Reported inAIR1927Mad931
AppellantMusafkanni Ravuthar and ors.
RespondentDoraisingam and ors.
Cases ReferredIn Jagan Mohan Sarkar v. Brojendra Kumar Ghakravarthi
- therefore liable at least to the extent of his share. the further question is whether they are jointly liable and not merely severally liable for their respective shares. no doubt, in 1861, the payments must have been made jointly. but at that time they were tenants-in-common and were in joint possession and have, as will be shown lower down, been jointly liable for the poruppu. on this ground, they must have paid the poruppu been jointly, but since then the wet lands have been divided into separate shares and there is no joint possession. the petitioner's vakil, mr. sesha iyengar, contends that even as to the dry lands they are not jointly and severally liable. he relies on certain observations in venkatasubramniam v. rajah of venkatagiri [1920] 11 m. l. w. 523 specially the.....

Ramesam, J.

1. The finding of the Subordinate Judge is accepted. The finding is to the effect that the wet lands are divided between the several sharers and each sharer is in enjoyment of his specific share. As to the dry lands, half of them are enjoyed by the sharers as tenants-in-common by being held through permanent lessees and the other half similarly through occupancy tenants. The sharers are not in physical possession of the dry lands and practically there is little chance of their getting into physical possession. They have to collect the rent and divide it according to their respective shares. It is also clear that at the time of the inam register, Ex. IV, that is, in 1864, all the lands were undivided and were being held jointly. The poruppu for the chatram portion must have been paid jointly by all the sharers though it was separated from the dues on the dharmsanam portion. The question that now arises is what is the principle of law applicable to the liabilities of the shareholders?

2. We start with the fact that the original agraharamdars were all Brahmins and there is none now among them and even in 1864 most of them, perhaps all relating to the chatram portion, were alienees. It is clear now that they are all alienees. The liability of the assignee of a lessee is primarily by reason of the privity of estates: see Monica Kitheria v. Subraya Hebbera [1907] 30 Mad. 410 Each sharer is therefore liable at least to the extent of his share. The further question is whether they are jointly liable and not merely severally liable for their respective shares. No doubt, in 1861, the payments must have been made jointly. But at that time they were tenants-in-common and were in joint possession and have, as will be shown lower down, been jointly liable for the poruppu. On this ground, they must have paid the poruppu been jointly, but since then the wet lands have been divided into separate shares and there is no joint possession. The petitioner's vakil, Mr. Sesha Iyengar, contends that even as to the dry lands they are not jointly and severally liable. He relies on certain observations in Venkatasubramniam v. Rajah of Venkatagiri [1920] 11 M. L. W. 523 specially the observations of Krishnan, J. The point was not actually decided in that case. The contention based on the fact that some of the defendants were assignees was not raised there in the first Court and in the High Court the decision proceeded on the assumption that all the defendants were the heirs of the original lessees. The observations of Krishnan, J., in favour of the assignees were therefore obiter dicta. When we examine the cases referred to, none of them is quite conclusive, though the inclination in these cases is in favour of the assignees. In the first English case Gamon v. Vernon [1679] 2 Lev. 231 the suit itself was for the proportionate share. In the other case Stevenson v. Lambard [1802] 2 East 575 the defendant was evicted from a certain share by the paramount title of a prior lessee and it was held that the rent may be apportioned. Both these two cases were discussed at length by Green, J., in United Diaries v. Public Trustee [1923] 1 K. B. 469 He is of opinion that the matter was not really decided by the English authorities. He is inclined to agree with the opinion of Kenny, J., in Dooner v. Odium [1914] 2 I. R. 441 It is also the trend of opinion of the text writers: see Foa on Landlord and Tenant. 469. In Jagan Mohan Sarkar v. Brojendera Kumar Chakravarthi : AIR1925Cal1056 B. B. Ghose, J., seems to take the same view. The decision in Kunhi Sou v. Molluli Chathu [1915] 38 Mad. 86 deals with apportionment in the matter of time and it is not clear that the Judges were discussing the case of tenants-in-common in joint possession. I adopt the view of Green, J., in United Diaries v. Public Trustee [1923] 1 K. B. 469 and that of Kenny, J., that is, if the assignee of a share holds his share in 'physical severalty he is separately liable for his share and if they are jointly in possession as tenants-in-common of the whole (even if such possession is through sub-tenants) they will be jointly liable though it will be open to them to cut down their liability by division. The acceptance of joint liability in 1864 is attributable to this principle and would not prevent the assignee-tenants from cutting down their liability by a later division.

3. Mr. Kutti Krishna Menon for the respondents contends that as a specially well-known incident of the agraharam tenure in Southern India all are jointly and severally liable even if there is division. He referred to several cases such as Zamindar of Ramnad v. Ramamany Ammal [1879] 2 Mad. 234 Sundaram v. Sankara [1886] 9 Mad. 334 and Ellaiya v. Collector of Salem 3 M. H. C. R. 59. In some of these cases it is not clear that the tenants were assignees. In none of them the point arose directly and the point seems to have been assumed or conceded without any argument. It cannot be said by reason of cases of this kind that a customary incident has been established in Southern India modifying the general principle of law. I must therefore hold that each defendant is only separately liable in respect of the wet lands in his possession. The shares of the defendants are already known. As to the dry lands they are jointly liable. The only question that has to be determined now is: What is the proportion of the poruppu payable on the wet lands and on the dry lands?

4. The materials on record are not enough to determine this. The Subordinate Judge will now find on the question, how is the poruppu to be proportionately distributed between wet lands and dry lands? He must do this with reference to the assessment of the wet and dry lands and their market value. When he determines this he will then divide the assessment of the wet lands between all the sharers for the three faslis in suit. He will notice in the written statement of the defendants that the shares of sharers Nos. 1 to 8, 10, 12, 13 and 15 are the same for all the three faslis and the proportions differ for the three faslis only in respect of sharers 11, 14 and 16. He will consider then the several receipts filed in the case by the defendants and allow the defendants to appropriate the payments under these receipts as they like for the dry or wet portion in each man's share and ascertain the balance due by each defendant for each fasli. A tabular statement for each of the three faslis for all the sharers would be convenient.

5. He will then pass decree accordingly for the respective amounts against the several defendants. The suit will be remanded for disposal according to law with reference to the above directions.

6. In the High Court, each party will bear his own costs. In the Court below the plaintiff will get from each defendant proportionate costs with reference to the decree he obtains against that defendant. But the plaintiff need not pay any costs to any defendant.

Reilly, J.

7. It is admitted that the village with which this suit is concerned has been held under the local Rajh or zamindar for a very long time in 21 shares. It appears from Ex. IV, which contains a descriptive report of the village made by the Inam Commissioner and an extract from the Government inam register of 1864, that 6 of these shares were granted as dharmasanam on a favourable rent or poruppu to some Brahmins by Mahabalivan Raja at an unknown date and that the remaining 18 shares were granted in 1794 by Marudappa Servakaran to certain persons on poruppu in connexion with the endowment of a chatram at Chudiyur; whether the profits of the 18 shares were to be the endowment of the chatram, or only the poruppu was to be the endowment is not clear. But it appears that about 1835, the Zamindar of Sivaganga, the plaintiff's predecessor, became the trustee of the chatram, and from that time at any rate the poruppu of the 18 shares was treated as the endowment. The chatram part of the village is stated in Ex. IV to be distinct from the dharmasanam part. This suit is concerned only with the 18 shares of the chatram part, and the plaintiff sues as trustees of the chatram for the recovery of the balance of poruppu for 3 faslis. The defendants are the present holders of the 18 shares. The plaintiff contends that the defendants are jointly and severally liable for the whole poruppu on the 18 shares. The defendants contend that each of them is liable only for the poruppu on the share or shares held by him.

8. From Ex. IV it appears that the 18 shares were equal but that the land covered by them was not then divided. There is also a remark in Ex.IV:

poruppu is paid on the number of vrithies equally and permanently.

9. But that remark appears to be made with reference to the two divisions of shares, viz., 6 dharmasanam shares and 18 chatram shares, and it will be noticed that the area of wet and dry land granted as dharmasanam is exactly 1/3 in each case of the area granted to the chatram. I do not agree with Mr. Sesha Iyengar who appears for the defendants that the remark means that poruppu was being paid to the zamindar on each of the 18 shares individually. I understand I it to mean that the poruppu was fixed permanently and was paid proportionately on the 6 dharmasanam shares and the 18 chatram shares. Ex. IV further shows that at its date the chatram 3/4 of the village to which the 18 shares relate was in the possession of eight persons, to whom the 18 shares had passed from the original grantees or their successors by sale. The defendants are the assignees or heirs of those nine persons. D. W. 1, the only witness examined for the defendants, states that the shares of those nine persons are not shown in the inam register because they were 'undivided' by which he can only mean that the land held by them was undivided, as some of them were Hindus and other Mahomedans. In Ex. IV doubt is thrown upon the right of the original grantees or their successors to sell the 18 shares; but there is no doubt that it was by purchase that the nine persons acquired the 18 shares which they held in different proportions. In these circumstances it is clear that the nine persons must have held the land covered by the 18 shares as tenants-in-common. That being so, I see no reason to doubt that they were jointly and severally liable for the whole poruppu on those shares. It is not suggested by the defendants that the nine persons were trespassers. On the contrary the defendant's case is that those nine persons were the lawful assignees of the original grantees, who held on a perpetual lease subject to a covenant to pay the favourable rent or poruppu. By the assignments privity of estate between the nine persons and zamindar as the trustee, to whom the poruppu had to be paid, had been established. As their tenancy-in-common ga e each of them an interest in every part of the of the village covered by the 18 shares the privity of estate between each of them and the zamindar must have extended to the whole of that area. If that view is correct, then the liability of each of them for the poruppu must have been equally extensive. It was only by privity of estate that they were liable to the zamindar for the poruppu, The liability of the assignee of a leasehold by reason of privity of estate to payment to the landlord arises with the assignment to him and ceases with the re-assignment by him and the liability and the privity extend to the whole of the premises covered by the assignment and no further. On principle the assignee of a lessee-tenant-in-common must be liable for the whole of the rent of the property to which his tenancy-in-common relates. In United Diaries v. Public Trustee [1923] 1 K. B. 469 Green, J, stated that he was inclined to this view, and he quotes the opinion of Kenny, J. in Donner v. Odium to the same effect. In Jagan Mohan Sarkar v. Brojendra Kumar Ghakravarthi : AIR1925Cal1056 the majority of a Bench of five Judges adopted this view as a step towards their decision in that case; one of the dissenting Judges explicitly agreed with them on this point, and the other learned judge contented himself with resting on a previous judgment of his own in which this point was not discussed.

10. On the case being sent back to him the Subordinate Judge has now found that the wet land in the chatram 3/4 of the village has been divided among the defendants and that they are in possession of separate plots of it, but that, so far as they are conferned, the dry land in the chatram part of the village is undivided. The Subordinate Judge has not found when the division of the wet land was made; but it is clear that it was done after the date of Ex. IV. The finding is not disputed before us; nor is it disputed that the division of the wet land was made by the defendants or their predecessor-in-title without reference to the zamindar and before the faslis to which this suit relates. When the defendants or their predecessors-in-title divided the wet land among themselves and took separate possession of separate plots according to the number of their shares, there was in effect reassignment to each sharers among them by all the other sharers of their interests in the land allotted to him. By that re-assignment the privity of estate with the zamindar of each sharer in respect of the whole wet land in the chatram 3/4 of the village other than that allotted to him came to an end and a new exclusive privity of estate between him and the zamindar arose in respect of the separate wet land allotted to him. From that moment his liability as a tenant-in-common to pay rent for the whole wet land ceased, and he became liable, so far as the wet land was concerned, only for the rent on the land allotted to him at the division. Had the defendants been heirs of original lessee-tenant-in-common they could not of course have shuffled off their joint and several liability for the whole rent in this way by division among themselves without their lessor's consent. But, as things stand, in respect of wet land for the faslis in question the zamindar is entitled to get from each of the defendants only the rent due on the particular holding. For the dry land on the other hand the defendants as tenants-in-common are still jointly and severally liable for the whole rent. The fact that no part of the dry land is in the actual possession of any of them, but that it is held under them by sub-tenants some of whom have occupancy right and others have a perpetual sub-lease, does not, as Mr. Sesha Iyengar has suggested, in any way affect the position of the defendants towards the zamindar as tenants-in-common of the whole of the dry land.

11. It should not be difficult now for the Subordinate Judge to dispose of the suit if he can determine how much of the whole poruppu is attributable to the wet land and how much to the dry land. If, as appears probably from the defendants' contentions, the separate plots of wet land held by them are proportionate in value to the shares or fractions of shares out of the 18 held by each defendant, the apportionment of the poruppu on the wet land among the defendants will be a simple matter of arithmetic. It is probable that each defendant will wish to appropriate what he has paid already, if anything, first towards what is due on his separate wet land. If so, whatever any defendant has paid in excess of the amount due on his separate wet land will go towards the amount due from all the defendants for the dry land. For any balance due on wet land the Subordinate Judge will make a decree against the defendants concerned individually, and for any balance due on the dry land he will make a decree against all the defendants.

12. I agree with the proposal of my learned brother that the suit should be remanded to the Subordinate Judge for fresh disposal on these principles and also with his proposal in respect of costs.

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