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T. M. Laksminarayana Ayyar and ors. Vs. Nallachi Ammal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1974)1MLJ424
AppellantT. M. Laksminarayana Ayyar and ors.
RespondentNallachi Ammal and ors.
Cases ReferredArumugham Chettiar v. Subramanian Chettiar
Excerpt:
- .....the act, can if at all be only in recognition of pre-existing rights of ownership. a ryotwari patta granted by the revenue authorities in respect of lands in a government village is not a title deed but is only a bill for rent.in ramamoorthy v. state of madras i.l.r.(1970) mad. 788, natesan, j., in dealing with the effect of section 3 (d) of the act has held, as found in the head-note, as follows:in effect both possession and title of person who is entitled to a ryotwari patta are saved from the effect of the notification under section 3 (b) of the madras estates (abolition and conversion into ryotwari) act. the interest of the ryot in land in the estate is separate and distinct, he being a co-owner or, as occasionally stated, a co-partner with the landholder. he is not given any.....
Judgment:

N. S. Ramaswami, J.

1. This Letters Patent Appeal is against the judgment of Alagiriswami, J. in Second Appeal No. 607 of 1963. Defendants 1, 2 and 5 are the appellants before the learned Judge as well as before us. The only question that falls for determination in this Letters Patent Appeal is whether the civil Court cannot go into the question of title in respect of the suit land in view of the fact that the land being part of an erstwhile estate, the Settlement Officer had decided the question as to who among the rival claimants was entitled to patta for the said land, under the provisions of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act (XXVI of 1948), hereinafter referred to as the Act.

2. The plaintiffs in the suit are the legal representatives of one Karian. The suit is one for declaration of title and for an injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with the plaintiffs' possession of the same. According to the plaintiffs, the suit land which, as already said, was part of an estate (Thathavalli Estate which has since been taken over under the Act) was ryoti land, that Karian owned the land and that the plaintiffs succeeded to his estate. The family of the first defendant was formerly the land-holder of the said estate. However, the estate is said to have been sold in Court auction prior to the coming into force of the Act and a third party had purchased the estate. After the abolition of the estate under the Act, the plaintiffs as Well as the first defendant claimed patta for the suit land Under Section 11 of the Act. The Assistant Settlement Officer issued patta to the first defendant and it was confirmed by the Settlement Officer. The plaintiffs' claim for patta has not been granted.

3. In the present suit, the Courts below have concurrently held that the plaintiffs have title to the suit property. The trial Court, however, held that the plaintiffs were not entitled to injunction on the ground that on the date of suit they were not in possession. The first appellate Court decided that the plaintiffs were in possession and, therefore, by virtue of their title to the property, they were entitled to the relief of injunction also. The suit was decreed as prayed for. Alagiriswami J., who heard the second appeal has concurred with the finding of the first appellate Court regarding the question of title and possession and that is no ponger in dispute.

4. However, Mr. A. Sundaram Iyer, the learned Counsel for the appellants (defendants 1, 2 and 5) raises the contention, which had been raised before the learned Judge who heard the second appeal and rejected by him, that by virtue of Section 56 of the Act, the decision of the Assistant Settlement Officer confirmed by the Settlement Officer that the first defendant was entitled to issuance of patta to him would debar the plaintiffs from maintaining the present suit in the civil Court. According to the learned Counsel, Section 56 (1) (c), should be read with Section 11 of the Act under which ryotwari patta is to be granted and once the settlement authorities grant a ryotwari patta to one of the rival claimants, that decision is final and the defeated claimants cannot go to the civil Court as in the present case. Section 56 which has since been omitted from the Act by Madras Act XXXIV 1958 ran as follows:

56 (1), Where after an estate is notified a dispute arises as to (a) whether any rent due from a ryot for any fasli year is in arrears or (b) what amount of rent is in arrears or (c) who the lawful ryot in respect of any holding is, the dispute shall be decided by the Settlement Officer;

(2) Any person deeming himself aggrieved by any decision of the Settlement Officer Under Sub-section (1) may, within two months from the date of the decision or such further time as the Tribunal may in its discretion allow, appeal to the Tribunal; and its decision shall be final and not be liable to be questioned in any Court of law.

5. According to the learned Counsel, the decision of the Assistant Settlement Officer confirmed by the Settlement Officer granting ryotwari patta to the first defendant is one made Under Section 56 (1) (c) of the Act and that decision has become final Under Sub-section (2) of Section 56, and therefore, not liable to be questioned in the civil Court. The learned Counsel contends that the fact the section, namely Section 56, has been repealed by Act XXXIV of 1958 is of no avail to the plaintiffs inasmuch as the decision of the Assistant Settlement Officer and the Settlement Officer was prior to such repeal of the said section. In this connection the learned Counsel referred to Section 6 (b) of the General Clauses Act which says that the repeal of any enactment, unless a different intention appears, shall not affect the previous operation of any enactment so repealed or anything duly done or suffered there under.

6. The learned Counsel referred to three decisions of this Court, two by Rajagopala Ayyangar, J. and one by Ramaswami, J. in support of his contention. In Arunachala Chettiar v. Narayanan Chettiar (1957) 70 L.W. 291 : (1957) 2 M.L.J. 183 and Chidambaram Chettiar v. Muhammad Aliar (1957) 70 L.W. 489 Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., has proceeded on the footing that the question as to who was entitled to the grant of a ryotwari patta is one falling Under Section 56 (1) (c) of the Act and the claim has to be tried by the Settlement Officer under that provision. In Pachaiammal v. Anguswami Gramani : (1958)2MLJ439 Ramaswami, J. has held that a suit filed after the coming into force of the Act which was in substance and in effect one based on the grant of title in respect of occupancy rights and issue of patta by the Zamindar for the land and the adjudication asked for was in essence nothing more than the determination as to who is the lawful owner with regard to the land, is not maintainable in the civil Court by reason of Section 56 (1) (c) of the Abolition Act. The learned Judge has proceeded on the footing that the question as to who was entitled to ryotwari patta Under Section 11 of the Act is one falling Under Section 56 (1), (c) of the Act. In that case the suit was for a declaration of title and for an injunction in respect of the lands in dispute and the learned Judge construed the suit as one in substance and in effect only for the determination as to who is the lawful ryot, and that the mere addition of certain prayers which could be granted only by the civil Court would not oust the jurisdiction of the special tribunal, namely the Settlement Officer.

7. These decisions, no doubt help the learned Counsel to a great extent, but we are clearly of the view that on a proper construction of the provisions of the Act and also by virtue of the number of decisions rendered by this Court subsequently, the view expressed in the above said three cases cannot be held to be good law.

8. On a proper construction of the provisions of the Act it is clear to us that Section 56 (1) (c) is not to be linked with Section 11 of the Act. It is Under Section 11, provision is made for grant of ryotwari patta to a ryot. Under Sections 12 to 15, there is provision for the grant of ryotwari patta to the erstwhile landholder. Section 15 of the Act says that the Settlement Officer shall examine the claim of the landholder for a ryotwari patta Under Sections 12, 13 or 14 as the case may be and decide in respect of which land the claim should be allowed. There is provision in this section for an appeal to the Tribunal and the section says that the decision of the Tribunal on any such appeal shall be final and not liable to be questioned in any Court of law. A provision similar to Section 15 which deals with claims Under Sections 12, 13 and 14 of the Act is not found as far as Section 11 of the Act is concerned. Sections 11 to 17 are under the heading 'Grant of Ryotwari Pattas'. While the Legislature has enacted Section 15 providing that the decision of the Tribunal regarding claims Under Sections 12, 13 and 14 by the land-holder is final and not liable to be questioned in any Court of law, it has not made a similar provision in respect of claims by ryots for ryotwari patta Under Section 11.

9. Now, turning to Section 56, we have to first note the heading under which that section appears. It is under the heading 'Miscellaneous'. The first section under this heading is Section 55 which provides for the collection of arrears of rent which accrued before the notified date. Section 55-A which was introduced in the year 1956 is regarding the apportionment of amount collected Under Section 55. Section 56 itself, as already noticed, speaks of the Settlement Officer deciding whether any rent due from a ryot for any fasli year is in arrear or what amount of rent is in arrears Under clauses (a) and (b) of Sub-section (1) thereof. It is after the abovesaid two clauses, clause (c) in that sub-section which relates to the question who the lawful ryot in respect of any holding is, occurs. The context in which this provision occurs makes it clear that the question, who the lawful ryot in respect of any holding is, is related to the question of arrears of rent. This has nothing to do with the question as to who among the lawful claimants was entitled to a ryotwari patta Under Section 11 of the Act. If the intention of the Legislature is that the decision of the Settlement Officer regarding the question as to who was entitled to a ryotwari patta Under Section 11 is final and the same cannot be questioned in any Court of law, it Would have stated so Under the heading 'Grant of Ryotwari Pattas', as has been done in Section 15 relating to the claims Under Sections 13, 13 and 14. That the Legislature did not intend Section 56 (1) (c) to relate to Section 11 of the Act is clear from the objects and reasons stated while deleting Section 56. The statement of objects and reasons to the Bill published at page 461 of the Fort Saint George Gazette, dated 25th September, 1958 in Part IV-A says:

Section 55 of the Abolition Act deals with collection of arrears of rent due to the landholder and Section 56 was clearly intended to deal only with disputes relating to such arrears of rent; and if so what the amount is and from whom it is due as the lawful ryot in respect of the holding. One of the Estates Abolition Tribunals has however taken the view that Section 11 is not self-contained in regard to grant of ryotwari pattas in respect of ryoti lands and that, if there is a dispute as to who among two or more claimants is entitled to ryotwari patta for a particular ryoti land, the Assistant Settlement Officer should deal with the case Under Section 56 (1) (c) and that against the order of the Assistant Settlement Officer there is an appeal to the Tribunal. Section 11 was intended to be a self-contained provision in regard to grant of ryotwari pattas in respect of ryoti lands in the occupation of ryots and the Tribunal's view will imply that there is some overlapping between Sections 11 and 56. Orders passed by the Tribunal in pursuance of its view have led to unnecessary litigation Under Section 56 and consequential delays...Hence Section 56 is proposed to be omitted.

Under these circumstances, we think it is incorrect to link Section 56 (1) (c) with Section II.

10. Alagiriswami, J., who heard the second appeal is right when he says that the observation of the Division Bench in Adaikalathammal v. Chinnayan Panipundar : AIR1959Mad447 that Section 56 (1) (c) of the Act relates to disputes regarding right to obtain a ryotwari patta is only obiter and that the learned Judge is not bound by the same. In that case, the Division Bench, as a matter of fact, held that the jurisdiction of the civil Court to entertain a suit for possession in which the question arose as to who was entitled to ryotwari patta was not ousted. The question whether Section 56 (i) (c) of the Act is linked with Section 11 of the Act did not specifically fall for consideration in that case and as a matter of fact it has not been considered.

11. If Section 56 (i) (c) is not to be linked with Section 11 of the Act, then the basis of the contentions of Mr. Sundaram Iyer, learned Counsel for the appellants, fails. The contention has been that as the Settlement Officer has already decided the question as to who was entitled to ryotwari patta and that decision has become final by virtue of Section 56 of the Act, the parties are bound by the same and it is not open to the civil Court to go into that question afresh. From the foregoing discussions it will be clear that the grant of patta by the Settlement Officer to the first defendant is not an order coming Under Section 56 (1) (c), and thereby the order becoming final Under Sub-section (a) of that section.

12. Even assuming that Section 56 can be linked to Section 11 regarding the grant of patta to ryotwari lands, still we are of opinion that the decision of the settlement Officer can be only for the purpose of the Act and that it would not debar a civil Court from deciding title and possession.

Assuming that the grant of patta by the Settlement Officer Under Section 11 to one of the claimants and refusal to grant such patta to another amounts to a final decision as to who was entitled to a ryotwari patta and the same is not liable to be questioned in any Court of law, it would not mean that the person to whom the ryotwari patta has been issued alone has title to the land and the same cannot be challenged. The question of title has necessarily to be gone into by the civil Court and certainly is not a matter within the jurisdiction of the Settlement authorities. Mr. Sundaram Iyer contends that when the estate was taken over under the Abolition Act, all lands vested in the Government, which means, title to all the lands was with the Government and that when the Settlement authorities issued ryotwari pata to a particular claimant negativing the claim of the others the defeated parties cannot be heard to say that they have title to the lands. This is too broad a proposition which we cannot accede to. In State of Madras v. Parisutha Nadar (1961) 2 M.L.J. 285 a Division Bench of this Court to which one of us was a party, at page 290 has observed:

The terms of the proviso to Section 3 (d) of the Act are clear and mandatory. Any person in possession of any land in the estate claiming to be a ryot or a landholder shall not be dispossessed if it were to be found that such a person is prima facie entitled to a ryotwari patta under the Act. Sections 11 to 14 are equally mandatory enabling the ryot or the landholder to claim ryotwari patta in accordance with the terms of the said sections. The immunity from dispossession as vouchsafed under the proviso to Section 3 (d) in favour of persons in possession of parcels of land in the estate is part and parcel of the vesting of the entire estate in favour of the State Government, and it cannot be said that to the extent to which this right of immunity has to be recognised the operation of the vesting itself has to be limited. The Act does not create new rights of ownership and the grant of ryotwari patta under the Act is not a conferment of rights by way of grant or conveyance. The obtaining of ryotwari patta by the persons entitled to such patta under the Act, can if at all be only in recognition of pre-existing rights of ownership. A ryotwari patta granted by the Revenue authorities in respect of lands in a Government village is not a title deed but is only a bill for rent.

In Ramamoorthy v. State of Madras I.L.R.(1970) Mad. 788, Natesan, J., in dealing with the effect of Section 3 (d) of the Act has held, as found in the head-note, as follows:

In effect both possession and title of person who is entitled to a ryotwari patta are saved from the effect of the notification Under Section 3 (b) of the Madras Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act. The interest of the ryot in land in the estate is separate and distinct, he being a co-owner or, as occasionally stated, a co-partner with the landholder. He is not given any compensation, as his ownership of the kudiwaram is not affected by taking over the estate. On the abolition of the estate, his rights of occupancy in the land are not extinguished and transferred to the Government but continued in him. Under the Act, he is entitled to be granted ryotwari patta for his former ryoti holding as the Act makes him a ryotwari proprietor of the holding. Obtaining of ryotwari patta by the persons entitled to the patta under the Act can, if at all, be only in recognition of preexisting rights of ownership.

We respectfully agree with the above view. The vesting contemplated Under Section 3 of the Act is not meant to extinguish title to the land. That being the position, even if Section 56 (1) (c) is linked with Section 11 or, in other words, the grant of ryotwari patta Under Section 11 is an order coming within the mischief of Section 56 (1) (c) and thereby the order of the Settlement Officer becomes final and not liable to be questioned in a Court of law, we fail to see how it can be rightly contended that the question of title to the land cannot be agitated in the civil Court. Even under the above circumstances, the grant of patta by the Settlement authority to a particular party may at best be only one piece of evidence regarding the question of title to the land. So it cannot be said that once the settlement authorities grant a patta to one of the rival claimants, the jurisdiction of the civil Court to go into the question of title to the land is taken away. This is the position even if we assume that grant or refusal of patta Under Section 11 is an order Under Section 56 (1) (c) of the Act. But, as we already indicated, Section 56 (1) (c) has nothing to do with the grant of patta Under Section 11 and therefore even under the scheme of the Act, the order of the Settlement Officer granting or refusing to grant patta Under Section 11 is not final and one which cannot be questioned in any Court of law as contemplated Under Section 56 (2) of the Act.

13. That being so, Section 64-C of the Act would not bar the jurisdiction of the civil Court in this case. As a matter of fact, Mr. Sundaram Iyer, learned Counsel for the appellants proceeded on the footing that only if the order of the Settlement Officer in this case comes Under Section 56 (1) (c), the civil Court's jurisdiction would be barred and he never contended that even if Section 56 (1) (c) is not applicable, the suit is not maintainable by virtue of Section 64-C. The learned Counsel is right in taking such a stand because it is well settled that Section 64-C cannot be invoked to bar the jurisdiction of the civil Court except in respect of matters to be determined for the purpose of the Act and there is a machinery under the Act. If Section 56 (1) (c) has no application to the grant of ryotwari patta Under Section 11 as we hold now, it is clear that the Act has not provided any machinery to determine a dispute between rival claimants for ryotwari patta Under Section 11. Section 11 itself does not provide such machinery.

14. State of Madras v. Ramalingaswamigal Madam : (1969)2MLJ281 is a case where the dispute was whether the lands in question were ryoti lands or communal lands. The plaintiffs, in that case had been agitating for a patta tinder Section 11 of the Act, but the same had been refused by the Settlement authorities on the ground that the lands were communal lands. The plaintiffs filed suits in the civil Court to establish their title. There were two suits of similar nature which came UD in second appeal before Natesan, J. The question agitated in these two matters was whether the civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suits inasmuch as the Settlement authorities had held that the suit lands were communal poramboke and that the plaintiffs were not entitled to patta. The two second appeals were ultimately heard by a Division Bench on a reference made by Natesan, J., and the Division Bench held that the finality Under Section 64-C of the Act is only in respect of matters to be determined for the purpose of the Act, that there is no machinery in the Act to determine whether a land in the estate is ryoti land or communal land, that even in respect of an enquiry for the grant of a ryotwari patta Under Section 11 read with Section 3 (2) of the Act, a decision as to question of title by the statutory authorities is only an incidental matter which would not preclude a civil Court independently enquiring into it in a properly constituted suit and that therefore Section 64-C of the Act cannot be held to be a bar to the maintainability of the suit. The learned Judges also pointed out that unlike in Sections 12 to 14 of the Act for the grant of ryotwari pata to a landholder in respect of private lands, there is no similar express provision for any enquiry for grant of ryotwari patta to a ryot in respect of ryoti land and that it is only by reading Section 11 in the light of the proviso (1) to Section 3 (d) of the Act that an inference could be made that a Settlement Officer is enabled to grant a ryotwari patta to a ryot. Mr. Sundaram Iyer tries to distinguish this case on the ground that in that case the dispute was not between rival claimants both claiming patta Under Section n, but the dispute was between a claimant Under Section 11 and the State. But this distinction between the two cases has nothing to do with the present question. In both the cases the claim is for a patta under section 11, though in the reported case there was no other person similarly claiming patta. The point to be noted is that regarding a claim for patta Under Section 11 of the Act, there is no provision for an enquiry making the decision of the settlement authorities final.

15. Even in respect of a ryotwari patta to the landholder, the enquiry contemplated does not cover disputes between two rival claimants and hence such a dispute which relates to title can be entertained by the civil Court and Section 15 read with Section 64-C of the Act would not oust such jurisdiction. Arumugham Chettiar v. Subramanian Chettiar (1970) 83 L.W. 580 is directly to the point. There the suit was for declaration of title and for permanent injunction, and the dispute was between two rival claimants claiming patta Under Sections 12 to 14 of the Act. As already noticed, Section 15 of the Act says that the decision of the Tribunal relating to matters coming Under Sections 12 to 14 shall be final and not liable to be questioned in any Court of law. Section 64-C of the Act says that any order passed by the Government or other authority under the Act in respect of matters to be determined for the purpose of the Act shall, subject only to any appeal or revision provided by or under the Act, be final. After considering these provisions, Natesan, J., held that the sections do not provide for, and are not intended to give an adjudication as to the ownership of pannai land between rival claimants, that the decisions of the Tribunal to which a finality is given Under Section 15 (b) is with reference to the determination provided for in Section 15 (b) and that the effective determination Under Section 15 in respect of claims for patta under sections 12 to 14 is confined to the classification of the category of the land. The learned Judge has further observed that there is no provision in the Act providing for the determination of claims inter se between rival landholders to patta in respect of pannai lands.

16. To sum up we hold, that Section 56 (1), (c) has nothing to do with the grant of patta Under Section 11, that Under Section 11 there is no machinery to decide rival claims for patta, that the grant of patta to one and refusal to another under that section is not final regarding the question as to who among the rival claimants is entitled to patta and that even otherwise a suit for title and the relief of possession or injunction would not be barred, for patta can be used only as one piece of evidence in establishing title.

17. From what we have said it is clear that the present suit out of which this Letters Patent Appeal has arisen is not barred either by virtue of any of the provisions contained in the Act or under the principles of res judicata.

18. The Letters Patent Appeal fails and it is dissmissed with costs.


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