1. In Second Appeal No. 506 of 1912.
2. This appeal arises out of a suit under Section 77 of the Madras Estates Land Act, which was instituted before the Special Deputy Collector of Ramnad for rent for Faslis 1318 and 1319. The plaintiff claims to be the sub-lessee of the village of Peerkangurichi and alleges that the defendant is a ryot occupying lands in the said village. The defence is not quite easy to understand from the written statement and the learned Pleader who appeared for the defendants had some difficulty in interpreting it.
3. The issues raise the question whether the lands are inam lands and whether the Court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit. The real question between the parties seems to be whether the right to receive the melvaram is now vested in the plaintiff or whether it has been acquired by a third party through whom the defendants claim to hold the lands, and the argument before us proceeded on the basis that what had to be decided was whether the plaintiff is the land-holder Within the meaning of Section 3(5) of the Madras Estates Land Act and whether the Revenue Courts have any jurisdiction to try a suit in which it is disputed that the plaintiff is the land-holder.
4. The suit being under Section 77 of the Madras Estates Land Act, it can lie before the Revenue Courts only if the plaintiff establishes that, he is the land-holder within the definition of that term in Section 3(5). The second sentence of that sub-section is in the following terms: 'Where there is a dispute between two or more persons as to which of them is the land-holder for all or any of the purposes of this Act or between two or more joint land-holders as to which of them is entitled to proceed and be dealt with as such land-holder, the person who shall be deemed to be the land-holder for such purposes shall be the person whom the Collector, subject to any decree or order of a competent Civil Court, may recognise or nominate as such land-holder in accordance with rules to be framed by the Local Government in this behalf.' It was argued in the first instance that the dispute referred to in this sentence must be between two or more persons who are parties to the suit. But there is nothing to warrant such a construction of the clause. On the other hand, it is admitted that in the present case there is no person that the Collector has recognised or nominated as such land-holder in accordance with rules framed by the Local Government in this behalf. The Act is silent on the question as to what is to be done in such a case, though it provides for the converse case, namely, where the Collector has already recognised or nominated a landholder. There is no express provision to the effect that no suit shall proceed under the Act unless the person whose title to be a landholder is questioned, has been recognised or nominated as land-holder by the Collector in accordance with Sub-section 5 of Section 3 of the Act, It would, therefore, seem that the suit could not have been rejected by the Deputy Collector on that ground.
5. The next question is in what manner the Act requires it to be determined whether or not the plaintiff is a 'land-holder' in a case where no person has been recognised or nominated as such under Section 3(5). Reference was made to Section 191 of the Act. But that section cannot in terms apply to the present suit, as here the ryots do not admit that rent is due from them. In such circumstances it is difficult to apply Section 194 and to require the ryots to pay into Court the amount claimed by the plaintiff.
6. It is, by no means, easy to determine what is the procedure laid down by the Act under such circumstances. But it is clear that where the ryot disputes the title of the plaintiff to collect rent, 110 decree can be passed for the rent until that question has been decided in favour of the plaintiff. How is that question to be decided in cases that are not covered either by Section 194 or by Section 3, Sub-section 5?
7. Where in a suit for rent the plaintiff has not been recognised or nominated as landholder under Section 3(5), and his title to be deemed the land-holder is disputed by the defendants, then it would seem that the Court has various alternatives open, and that it may choose that one which may seem to be the most suitable to the particular circumstances. First, it may itself determine the question in the course of the suit as to whether or not the plaintiff is the land-holder. Secondly, it may require the plaintiff to apply to the Collector under Section 3(5) for being recognised or nominated as the land-holder. Thirdly, it may apply, as nearly as possible, the provisions of Section 194 and for that purpose determine, in the first instance, whether as a matter of fact rent had been paid by the ryots to the third person alleged by them to be the land-holder, and if it is found that the rent has not been paid, may give them the option of paying the rent into Court so that they may not have to risk the liability to pay it over a second time nor be unnecessarily brought in as parties to a dispute between two rival claimants to be deemed land-holders. In any event the Court would have to exercise its discretion as to which of these alternatives should be chosen in any particular case; and in doing so it would take a course which would on the one hand discourage frivolous denials of title on the part of the tenaats who wish to avoid paying any rent, and on the other, prevent real disputes as to the title to land being brought up for decision in a suit for rent under Section 77. In the present case we think the most suitable course would be that the question should be decided in the suit itself, in accordance with the first alternative to which we have referred.
8. There is no doubt a finding of the lower Appellate Court that the plaintiff is the landholder, but we cannot accept that finding. The learned District Judge seems to have omitted to notice, that the plaintiff might have lost his right to the melvaram in the lands in question by limitation and that some third person might have acquired it by adverse possession. The suit will, therefore, be remanded to the lower Appellate Court for recording findings on the following issues:
9. (1) Whether the plaintiff is the landholder of the lands referred to in the plaint;
10. (2) whether the plaintiff is entitled to any, and if so what, rent from the defendants.
11. The parties will be at liberty to adduce fresh evidence if they desire to do so. The findings will be submitted within six weeks and seven days will be allowed for filing objections.
12. The Second Appeals Nos. 507 to 510 of 1912 will follow this judgment.
13. In compliance with the above Order of this Court, the District Judge of Ramnad submitted the following
15. 1. Finding on issue 1. In the result I find this issue against plaintiff.
16. 2. Finding on issue 2. Plaintiff is not, therefore, entitled to any rent for suit lands. If, however, he is held to be the land-holder, he will be entitled to rent as sued for; the rent claimed in each suit being on the basis of the Baki Jabitas, Exhibits L, series and defendants having no evidence contra.
17. These second appeals coming on for final hearing after the return of the findings of the lower Appellate Court upon the issues referred by this Court for trial, the Court delivered the following.
18. Judgment.--We accept the findings, set aside the decrees of the lower Appellate Court and restore those of the Special Deputy Collector. Appellants will get their costs from the respondents in this and the lower Appellate Court.