1. The point for decision in these civil revision petitions is whether the village of Yellainaikanpatti of' which the petitioner is an inamdar, has been shown to be an estate under the' Madras Estates Land Act. This is a mixed question of fact and law.
2. The plaintiffs are tenants of the village and sued in the Revenue Court of the Sub-Collector of Tuticorin for pattas on the footing that they possess occupancy rights. That Court held that the village was. not an estate and dismissed the suit. The District Judge on appeal held that 'the village is an estate, and remanded the suits for hearing on the other issues. The defendant comes up in revision. His main contention is that the District Judge has not rightly understood the law on the matter, and has passed his judgment not on the evidence, but on unfounded surmises of his own.
3. The onus of showing that they are entitled to bring suits in the special Revenue Court lies undoubtedly on the plaintiffs. Both the lower Courts have found that the oral evidence is of practically no use in deciding the present point; and the only documents that have been relied upon before me on the one side or the other are Exs. UU, an Olagu ayacut account of 1803, and Ex. 49, an inam register of 1865. These are the only early documents which are available to show what was the nature of the inam. The original grant is not available. From 'Ex. 49, Col. 15 it appears that the inam was granted in 1775 for ' populating the village.' The natural inference from that entry is that the village was then direlict or waste, and that is the defendant's contention. Plaintiffs contend that the fact that the Olagu account, Ex. UU, mentions tenants, is evidence that there probably were tenants also in 1775. I am clear that no such inference can be drawn. The more reasonable inference is that the populating of the village for which the inam was granted in 1775, had been in some measure successful by 1803. The entry in Col. 8, Ex. 49, ' description of inam,' is for subsistence as charity. This does not carry the case any further, converting waste land into arable land might without any stretch of language be termed charity. No other form of charity has been suggested by the plaintiffs.
4. Finally the plaintiffs rely on the description of the village in Ex. 49 as a kattukuthagai village. The District Judge concludes from that term that the inamdar in 1775 was a renter or farmer of the melwaram right from Government, failing to see that such a conclusion puts the plaintiffs out of Court, for if the inamdar was merely renting or farming the melwaram, then there was no grant of the melwaram at all, and therefore the inam is not an 'estate.' Now Wilson's Glossary definition of kattukuthagai is ' land held on farm at a permanently fixed money rent which is usually light.' The Tinnevelly Gazetteer defines it as a form of lease in which a fixed rental is paid in money or in kind. The other authorities quoted in para. 42 of the District Judge's judgment do not alter the essential nature of the term. But when the District Judge concludes from them, that the kattukuthagai was a renter of the melwaram, I am quite unable to follow him. The kattukuthagai was in essence a lease or grant of land at a favourable rent.
5. The use of this term in the inam register only makes the plaintiffs' case worse, since it implies that the village lands were handed over to the original inamdar at a favourable rent. There is nothing in the term itself from which one is entitled to infer, that what was handed over was only the melwaram, and if the village was, as I am inclined to hold, waste at the time of the grant, there would be no melwaram to hand over. I think, so far as one can infer anything from the very meagre records, the correct inference is that the village as a whole was handed over to the inamdar at a favourable rent in order that it might attract cultivators and tenants, and that there was no grant of the melwaram only. Plaintiffs in any case have entirely failed to prove that the grant was of the melwaram only.
6. The existence of tenants with occupancy rights much later on will not help them. It may be remarked incidentally that the Olagu account of 1803 does not describe the tenants as occupancy tenants or use any word implying occupancy right. It is not till very much later that we meet any evidence from which it is possible to infer the existence of occupancy rights, and no document implying such and emanating from the inamdar, for example, patta or muchlika, has been so far filed.
7. This appears to me to be a case in which the District Judge has concluded in favour of the plaintiffs on no evidence whatever. The inam register and the Olagu account afford no support to the plaintiff's version as to the terms of the original grant, nor will a finding that some of the tenants have for Some years past exercised occupancy rights assist in proving that the village is - an estate, since it is not open to the Court to infer retrospectively from recent documents, that the original grant in 1775 was of the melwaram only: See the Privy Council case Naina Pillai Marakayar v. Ramanathan Chettiar A.I.R. 1924 P.C. 65.
8. The discussion about Swami Bhogam also is of no assistance on this point, as has been candidly admitted before me.
9. The District Judge's decision is therefore passed on no evidence and cannot be supported. It is hereby set aside. The Sub-Collector's decrees dismissing the suit are restored, but without prejudice to plaintiffs' rights to agitate their rights in the civil Court. The plaintiffs will pay the defendant's costs in all Courts up to date. A consolidated fee of Rs. 350, for the set, to be distributed among the suits is allowed. I regret the necessity for reversing the order of the District Court since it is now nearly 10 years since the plaints were filed. A great deal of delay occurred before the District Judge, and that will have to be explained in a separate reference.