1. This Second Appeal by the plaintiff raises the question of jurisdiction of the civil Court to decide whether the land of which possession is sought to be recovered in the suit, is ryoti in character. It is not in dispute that the village of Kaduveli in which the suit land is situate, is a post-1936 estate and that it has been notified in 1950 under the provisions of the Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Act, 1947 (Madras Act XXX of 1947). The plaintiff claimed that he had purchased the land on 25th September, 1945, and that it had since been in his pannai cultivation along with his other lands. He set up an agreement, dated 17th July, 1955, under which he sold to the defendant for a certain sum the plantain crops he had raised, and averred that the defendant, contrary to the terms of the agreement, defaulted to surrender possession of the land after removing the standing crops and continued to be in unlawful possession setting up title in himself. On the other hand, the defendant pleaded that the land is not private land but ryoti in character, that the plaintiff and his predecessor-in-title had only the melwaram right therein, that the defendant's brother was in possession and enjoyment of the property as ryoti land, and that he having died in 1953, leaving a widow, he (defendant) was admitted to possession in December, 1953. The defendant denied the agreement set up by the plaintiff and maintained that he had permanent occupancy rights in the land. He also contended that in view of the Madras Amending Act XXIX of 1956, the civil Court had no jurisdiction to try the issue as to whether the land was ryoti in character.
2. It appears that by agreement between the parties, the question of jurisdiction was tried as a preliminary issue. Both the Courts below have come to the conclusion that Madras Act (XXIX of 1956), barred the jurisdiction of the civil Court to decide the character of the land and have, in that view, dismissed the suit and the appeal arising therefrom. Hence this Second Appeal.
3. In order to decide the question of jurisdiction, it is necessary, first of all, to notice the salient provisions of the Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Act, 1947. That is an Act to provide for the reduction of rents payable by ryots on lands in estates governed by the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908, approximately to the level of the assessments levied on similar lands in ryotwari areas in the neighbourhood and for the collection of such rents exclusively by the State Government. The Act applies to all estates as defined in Section 3, Clause (2) of the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908. Section 2 of the Act provides for the .appointment of a Special Officer and determination by him, in respect of each village in an estate, the average rate of cash rent per acre prevailing at the commencement of the Act, for each class of ryoti land in the principal village selected for the purpose of comparison and the average rate of assessment per acre prevailing at such commencement in respect of each of the said classes of land in the nearest ryotwari area, in which conditions are generally similar to those obtaining in the principal village taken for purposes of comparison. The same section lays down the procedure for comparison of the two average rates and fixation of the extent to which the rates of rent payable for each class of ryoti land in the village taken up for comparison should be reduced and the rates of rent payable for each such class of land after such reduction. Section 3 lays down that after considering the recommendations ,of the Special Officer, the State Government shall, by order published in the Fort St. George Gazette, fix the rates of rent payable in respect of each class of ryoti land in each village in the estate. The other provisions of Section 3 direct that after the order of the Government has taken effect, the rents from the village in the estate shall be collected by the Government in the manner and subject to the conditions provided therein. After the order, the landholder shall not be entitled to collect the rents. Section 7 provides for power to make rules to carry out the purposes of the Act. Rule 3 framed under that section enables the Collector to fix the rent payable for each holding with reference to the notified rate applicable to a particular class of land in the village. Where the character of the land as to whether it is ryoti or not, is raised, neither Madras Act (XXX of 1947) nor the rules framed thereunder authorised the Collector or any other officer to decide that question. It was evidently to provide for filling up the lacuna that the Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Amendment Act, 1956 (Madras Act XXIX of 1956) was enacted. Section 3A introduced by the Amendment Act, provides for a special forum, the procedure and the time-limit for applications for determination of the question whether any land in a village is or is not ryoti land. Sub-section (1) of Section 3A reads:
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908 (Madras Act I of 1908), or any other law for the time being in force, if any question arises whether any land in a village is or is not ryoti land it shall be determined by the Collector.
Clause (a) of Sub-section (2) states that any person denying that any land in a village in respect of which an order under Sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the, main Act has been published is ryoti land, may file an application before the Collector within whose, jurisdiction the land is situate for his decision thereon. Clause (b) of Sub-section (2) prescribes a time-limit for making such an, application. Sub-section (3) lays down the procedure to be observed by the Collector in dealing with such an application and Sub-section (4), Clause (a) gives a right of appeal to a Tribunal against the order of the Collector in the application. Clause (b) of Sub-section (4) says that the decision of the Tribunal on appeal, shall be final and shall not be liable to be questioned in any Court of law. Section 3C deals with the disposal of pending applications and suits under the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908. The section states that applications pending under Section 183 of that Act on the date on which the Amending Act came into operation, other than Sections 4 and 7 thereof shall be deemed to be applications filed under Section 3A of the Act and be disposed of accordingly. It is also provided by the same section that suits instituted under the Proviso to Section 179 of the Madras Estates Land Act, 1908, pending on the date on which the provisions of the Amending Act, except Sections 4 and 7, came into force, should also stand transferred to the Tribunal constituted under the Act and be dealt with by it as if they were appeals preferred under the Act. Then comes Section 3D which lays down a rule of presumption, namely, that any land in respect of which an application has not been filed within the time prescribed under Clause (b) of Sub-section (2) of Section 3A or in respect of which an application is not admitted under the Proviso to that clause, shall be deemed to be ryoti land. Section 4A, introduced by the Amending Act provides:
No person in an estate cultivating any land, which is not ryoti land or which has not been decided to be private land under some prior proceedings or under the Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Act, 1947, as amended by the Madras Estates Land (Reduction of Rent) Amendment Act, 1956, shall be bound to pay a rent in respect of that land at a rate exceeding that payable in respect of similar land which is ryoti land in the neighbourhood.
4. The question for determination is, whether the provisions of the Amending Act above referred to oust the jurisdiction of the civil Court to determine the character of the land as ryoti or otherwise in a suit praying for recovery of possession. The suit is not for a declaration that the land is private land. But the question whether it is ryoti arises incidentally to the determination whether the plaintiff is entitled to recovery of possession. It is manifest that the prayer in the suit for recovery of possession is exclusively within the jurisdiction of the civil Court to grant. Whether there is anything in the provisions of Madras Act (XXIX of 1956), which in any way affects that jurisdiction, because in granting a prayer for possession, the civil Court has incidentally and necessarily to go into the quest ion as to the character of the land, has to be decided.
5. Sri V. Vedantachari, the learned Counsel for the appellant, contends that the jurisdiction vested in the Collector by Section 3A introduced by the Amending Act XXIX of 1956, to decide whether any land in a village is or is not a ryoti land, is a special jurisdiction created for the purpose of the main Act, namely, the reduction and fixation of rents for individual holdings in a village in an estate, and that it is not intended by the Amending Act to totally exclude the jurisdiction of the civil Court to determine the question as to the character of the land when it has got to be dealt with and decided incidentally for the purpose of granting a prayer within its purview. Considering the purpose and scope of the Amending Act, I am inclined to accept this contention. It is no doubt true that if any question arises whether a land in a village is or is not ryoti land, the Collector is vested with the jurisdiction to decide it. But it must be remembered that the object of the Amending Act is to assist the proper working of Madras Act (XXX of 1947). As already stated, that Act contained no provision authorising the Collector to determine the character of the land, as to whether it is ryoti or not, while fixing the liability to pay rent for the land in a particular holding. The object of the Amending Act was to rectify this defect and to vest the Collector with the necessary jurisdiction. If a question arises in connection with the fixation of rent for a particular holding in an estate, whether the holding constitutes ryoti land, that of course will be exclusively within the purview of the Collector, and the civil Court will have no jurisdiction to entertain and decide a suit solely for a declaration that the land is ryoti. But the suit out of which this Second Appeal arises, is not of that character but is one for recovery of possession. It seems to me that where only the civil Court has jurisdiction to grant the main prayer, like the recovery of possession, and in order to decide whether that prayer can be granted, it is necessary to decide incidentally the character of the land, the civil Court will not cease to have jurisdiction to decide that question, because the Collector under Madras Act (XXIX of 1956), has been entrusted with the jurisdiction for the purpose of Madras Act (XXX of 1947). There is nothing in the Amending Act to exclude the jurisdiction of the civil Court to decide matters incidental to the grant of the relief which is wholly and exclusively within its jurisdiction.
6. In fact, if the Legislature intended to oust the jurisdiction of the civil Court to decide matters even incidentally, it has expressly provided for it. For instance, Section 10 of Madras Act (XXX of 1956), has expressly barred the jurisdiction of the civil Court to entertain or adjudicate upon any question whether any non-ryotwari area is or is not an estate or part of an estate as defined by the Madras Estates Land Act or whether it is or is not an inam estate as defined by the Abolition Act, or in respect of any matter which the Tribunal or the Special Appellate Tribunal' constituted under that Act is empowered to determine. Section 11 of that Act requires that all suits, appeals or other proceedings pending at the commencement of the Act before any Court or Tribunal or Settlement Officer in which any question was in issue, whether a particular area is or was an estate as defined in Section 3,. Clause (2) of the Estates Land Act, or is or was an inam estate as defined in Section 2, Clause (7) of the Abolition Act, shall stand transferred to the appropriate Tribunal constituted under that Act for the determination of that question. Having regard to the fact that Madras Act (XXX of 1956), created an exclusive jurisdiction in the special forum created thereunder to decide the particular questions and expressly excluded the jurisdiction of the civil Court from entertaining and adjudicating upon such questions, this Court in Hariharamuthu v. Subbulakshmi : (1960)1MLJ232 , held that the civil Court had no jurisdiction to try the issue for the decision of which special forums have been created under that Act. The learned Judges in that case, after referring to Sections 10 and 11 in Act XXX of 1956, observed:
It will be noted that express words are used to oust the jurisdiction of every Court other than the Tribunals constituted under Section 5 or the Special Appellate Tribunal constituted under Section 7, when these two questions arise for determination.
The two questions there referred to are whether the village is an estate or not, and whether it is an inam estate or not.
7. It is well-settled that ouster of jurisdiction of a civil Court in regard to matters that are generally within its powers to entertain, cannot be readily inferred and that such jurisdiction could be ousted by express statutory provision in that behalf or it should follow as a necessary implication from the provisions of the Act. Where the civil Court has jurisdiction to grant a particular prayer, which is not within the power of any other forum, the Court will have a right to decide all questions incidental to the grant of such a prayer, although a different forum has been constituted, to decide such questions for certain purposes contemplated by the relevant statute. In Soosai Udayar v. Andiyappan (1959) 1 M.L.J. 195, in which the plea was that Section 56 of the Abolition Act was a bar to the jurisdiction of the civil Court to determine matters mentioned therein, it was held by Ramachandra Iyer, J., that a civil Court's jurisdiction to entertain a suit in regard to a matter within its purview cannot be taken away merely because in deciding such matters the Court has to incidentally decide a matter which is within the jurisdiction of the Tribunals constituted under special Acts. The validity of this principle was recognised by a Division Bench of this. Court in Adakalathammal v. Chinnayan Panipunder : AIR1959Mad447 . My Lord the Chief Justice, delivering the judgment on behalf of the Bench in that case, observed:
The object of Section 56 being to enable an adjudication of a dispute for the purpose of the Act, exclusion of the Civil Court's jurisdiction cannot, by implication, be held to be more than what is necessary for working out the rights created by the statute. We are in entire agreement with this decision of Ramachandra Iyer, J., we agree that:If the relief claimed in a civil Court is not what is created or granted by the Act, e.g., the right to obtain patta but a civil right the jurisdiction of the civil Court which always existed, cannot be held to be ousted as the statute does not either expressly or impliedly extinguish such rights.
8. Sri R. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, the learned Counsel for the respondent, however, contends (1) that there is nothing in Madras Act (XXIX of 1956), to suggest that the jurisdiction vested in the Collector to determine whether a land is ryoti or not is only for the purpose of Madras Act (XXX of 1947) and (ii) that the scheme of the Amending Act showed that the jurisdiction of the Collector is exclusive and that the civil Court will have no jurisdiction even incidentally to decide that question. I cannot agree with either of the contentions. I have already referred to the object of the Amending Act, namely, to fill up the lacuna which was felt in administering the provisions of Madras Act (XXX of 1947). In that Act there was no provision enabling the Collector to decide the character of the land while applying notifications to particular holdings. It was to remove that defect, the Amending Act was enacted. The whole purpose of Madras Act (XXX of 1947), is to reduce the rents in estates to the comparative level of rents obtaining in ryotwari areas in the neighbourhood. It is in connection with the reduction and settlement of rent that the jurisdiction in the Collector to decide the character of the land, whether it is ryoti or not, has been vested. The fact that such a jurisdiction has been vested in the Collector does not mean that the civil Court, which is the forum to decide the grant or otherwise of a prayer for recovery of possession, has been deprived of the jurisdiction to decide incidentally at least a similar question. No doubt the Amending Act prescribes the procedure to be followed by the Collector in disposing of applications to determine the character of the land, prescribes also the limitation for such applications, transfer of certain suits and applications under Madras Act (I of 1908), appeals against the orders of the Collector and the finality of the orders passed by the Tribunal on appeal. But all this, in my opinion, does not detract from the jurisdiction of the civil Court to go into and decide incidental matters, such as whether the land is ryoti, in order to grant or refuse the prayer for recovery of possession of the land.
9. In my opinion, therefore, the Courts below were not right in their view that they had no jurisdiction to decide the incidental question whether the suit land is pannai or ryoti in character. The Second Appeal is allowed. The judgments and decrees of both the Courts below are set aside. The suit is remanded to the trial Court for disposal on the other issues in the light of the observations in this judgment. The cost of both the parties throughout will abide and follow the result of the suit. The Court-fee paid on the memorandum of Second Appeal will be refunded.
10. Leave granted.