M.M. Ismail, J.
1. The first respondent in these six Writ Petitions filed applications against the petitioners in these Writ Petitions under Section 9 of the Madras Cultivating Tenants (Payment of Fair Rent) Act, 1956, on 12th January, 1963 for fixation of fair rent in respect of the lands in Kalaiyoor Inam Village. While proceedings were pending, the village was notified and taken over by the Government under Madras Act (XXVI of 1963). Thereafter, the petitioner in these Writ Petitions filed applications before the Tahsildar, Paramakudi (Rent Court) praying that the enquiry need not be taken up and the entire proceedings have to be dropped till the main question that the lands are iruwaram lands of the first respondent is decided by the Settlement Court before which the petitioners (petitioners in the Writ Petitions) and the respondent (the first respondent herein) have filed applications and the question whether the lands are pannai or not can be decided only by the Settlement Officer and that no other civil Court has jurisdiction over this matter. This question was argued as a preliminary point before the Rent Court and the Rent Court on 30th April, 1966 passed a common order in all the petitions to the following effect:
The application for fixation of fair rent was filed before the Act (XXVI of 1963) was passed. There is no bar in proceeding with the enquiry in this Court as the period for which the fixation of fair rent is sought for relates to the period prior to the passing of Act (XXVI of 1963). This Court of course,, has no jurisdiction to decide whether the lands are kudiwaram or iruwaram as contended by the Advocate for the petitioner. This Court is to decide whether the respondents were cultivating tenants under the petitioners and if so, the fair rent to be paid by respondents to the petitioner is to be fixed. I therefore reject the application of these respondents and order that the enquiry will be proceeded.
2. It is to quash this common order, passed in the said petitions filed against the petitioners herein, the present writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution of India have been filed.
3. Certainly when a Rent Court is called upon to fix the fair rent payable in respect of a holding, incidentally it may have to decide a number of controversies arising between the parties, one such controversy being whether the relationship of landlord and tenant subsists between the parties to the petition or not. As far as the provisions of Madras Act (XXVI of 1963) are concerned the relationship of landlord and tenant between a landholder and a tenant will exist only with reference to those lands for which the landholder is entitled to get a patta and with reference to those lands for which the ryot is entitled to get a patta, the question of the landholder being a landlord subsequent to the notification does not arise. Therefore, for the purpose of deciding whether the relationship of landlord and tenant subsists between the petitioners herein and the first respondent, the Rent Court incidentally has to decide whether the lands in respect of which the fair rent is sought to be fixed are lands to which the first respondent is entitled to a patta as a private land or the petitioners are entitled to patta as ryoti lands. Undoubtedly that question has to be determined by the authority constituted under the Act and no other Court will have jurisdiction. But when that question incidentally arises for determination for the purpose of discharging a statutory duty imposed on an Officer or authority, that officer or authority cannot escape his obligation by stating that the jurisdiction is vested exclusively in some other Tribunal. The vesting of exclusive jurisdiction in some other Tribunal will have certain other legal consequences such as finality and res judicata and those consequences may not be available to that officer or authority which decides the very same question as a jurisdictional or incidental question.
4. Nonetheless, it cannot be said that the officer or authority has no jurisdiction at all to decide the question. Consequently I am of opinion that the Rent Court in this case was wrong in saying that it had no jurisdiction to decide the question about the nature of the land with reference to which there was a prayer for fixation of fair rent, whether it is private land to which the first respondent is entitled to patta under Madras Act (XXVI of 1963) or ryoti land to which the petitioners are entitled to patta under the provisions of the said Act. The Rent Court has to decide that question as incidental question to the determination of the main question of the fixation of fair rent. This conclusion of mine is supported by a Bench decision of this Court in Ramaswami Goundan v. N.S. Krishnaswami Iyengar : (1957)2MLJ369 . There in a petition filed under Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act, Madras Act (XXV of 1955),the question arose whether the village was an estate governed by the Madras Estates Land Act, in which case the ryot was entitled to a permanent right of occupancy or not and whether the Revenue Court under that Act had jurisdiction to decide that question as an incidental one or not. Dealing with this point, the learned Judges pointed out : page 1228;
The first of these questions is, has the Tribunal created under Act (XXV of 1955),jurisdiction to determine whether a village in which the lands are situated is an estate or not. In our judgment this has to be answered in the affirmative. If as we have held, the territorial extent of the Act extends even to the areas which are estates under the Estates Land Act, the jurisdiction of the officer cannot be held to be ousted merely because one of the parties affirms that the land is in an estate governed by the Estates Land Act. The enactment defines the rights of landlords and cultivating tenants within the area to which the Act extends and it necessarily follows that the officer is vested with jurisdiction to adjudicate into the disputes between such parties to determine whether the relationship is such as would attract his jurisdiction preliminary to the exercise of such jurisdiction, there might be a necessity to determine the tenure of the village. Whatever finality might attach to any adjudication by the officer as regards the tenure of the village, the officer would certainly have jurisdiction to determine that tenure for the purpose of conducting the enquiry which the statute imposes on him. In our judgment, the officer has an incidental power or jurisdiction to determine the tenure of the village as preliminary to the investigation of the relationship of the contending parties before him.
5. On these principles, the Rent Court in this case will have jurisdiction to determine the nature of the land as preliminary or incidental to his duty to determine the fair rent payable by the petitioners to the first respondent herein.
6. There is one other error in the order of the Rent Court. The Rent Court pointed out that the fixation of fair rent was in relation to the period prior to the passing of Act (XXVI of 1963). This is obviously erroneous.
7. Once fair rent is fixed, that fair rent will continue to prevail and govern the rights and liabilities of the parties for a period of five years. Therefore the question of fair rent being fixed for a particular year only does not arise under the provisions of this Act.
8. In these circumstances, the order of the Rent Court dated 30th April, 1966 cannot be sustained and it is quashed. The Rent Court will have to determine the nature of the land involved in the petitions filed before it by the first respondent herein as an incidental question for the purpose of determining whether the relationship of landlord and tenant exists between the first respondent and the petitioners in respect of such land and after he comes to the conclusion that such a relationship exists, then proceed to determine the fair rent. There will be no order as to costs in all these petitions.