1. The question in this case is whether a licensee under the holder of a Dharimalla inam, in a zemindari, for a period of ten years with a right to tap date trees is a tenant within the meaning of Section 73 of the Madras Act V of 1884, so as to be liable to his licensor for the land-cess payable by the latter under the Act. The plaintiff is an intermediate landholder and had under decree Exhibit B to pay Rs. 131-2-6 to his landlord as land-cess for Faslis 1324 to 1326 plus costs of suit and he seeks to recover half of that sum from the licensees the defendants.
2. The word 'tenant' in the Act is defined to include all persons who occupy lands under a landholder. This definition is not illuminating, and considerations of the meaning of the word as used in other enactments do not afford much assistance either. It has no doubt been held e.g., that the ryotwari holder of a tree patta is an occupier of land within the meaning of Section 6 of the Madras Forest Act (see Reference under Section 39 of the Madras Forest Act 12 M.P 203 : 1 Weir 758 : 4 Ind. Dec. (N.S.). 492 It would be unsafe to infer from that that a licensee of the right to tap date trees in a zemindari inam is a tenant within the meaning of the definition in Act V of 1884.
3. I think the question has to be looked at from a different point of view. The tax which plaintiff has to pay to the zemindar is a 'tax on the annual rent value of land.' It is calculated under Section 64(3) of the Act 'on the annual rent payable to the land-holder by his tenants' and the landholder is bound to furnish the Collector under Section 65, with a statement of the annual rent value of the lands occupied by his tenants or by himself. The word 'rent' is not defined in the Act, and it is not clear whether or not it is intended to mean only the rent payable by an estate tenant as defined in the Madras Estates Land Act. I think it may be taken that the Local Boards Act does not contemplate any radical difference between the method of calculation of the rent value on ryotwari land and of the rent value of land held under any other tenure. Now on the case of ryotwari lands it is clear that the rent value is based on the assessment payable to Government for the land. Every one knows what that is, and I do not think it could be seriously argued that, if a ryotwari holder leased out date trees on his holding for tapping, the amount of that lease could be taken into account for the purpose of calculating the rent value of the land under Section 64(1) of the Act. A ryotwari holder is bound so long as he holds the land and therefore so long as he holds the right to lease out the trees upon it to pay the assessment on the land. It is that and not the lease amount on which the tax will have to be calculated.
4. I do not see why any different principle should be applied to lands in an estate. The lease of trees on these lands does not abolish the rent payable on the lands to the land-holder and it is not suggested in this case that the land rent has been abolished. It is asserted that the lands are uncultivable, but only because of a tradition that people who cultivate them do not prosper. The assessed land rate then still remains to provide the basis on which the tax leviable under this Act shall be calculated and the tax can be calculated legally on nothing else. If, as a matter of fact, the tax has been calculated on any other basis then the landholder himself will have to take action to have the mistake rectified.
5. It follows then that the amount payable under a license for tapping date trees on land which is already subject to land rent is not a proper basis for calculation of the rent value of the land, and is not 'rent' as used in Section 64 of the Act. Even if a licensee be, in a manner of speaking, the tenant of the licensor, the latter cannot recover from the tenant anything not taken legally from him by the Collector and, as set out above, the Collector cannot to my mind, legally collect from the landholder as tax under Section 64 of the Act any tax based on the amount of the license.
6. I, therefore, agree with the District Munsif that the suit must fail and dismiss the revision petition with costs.