1. This suit came on for settlement of issues, when it appeared that several issues of fact and several issues of law arose on the pleadings. But before the other issues could be usefully tried, it became necessary to determine whether, on the plaint, any case was shown entitling the plaintiff to a decree.
2. The plaint shows that, on the 6th of June 1868, the late Prosunno Coomar Tagore executed a deed, by which he conveyed a house, upon certain trusts, for the benefit of the first two defendants and their issue, all of which trusts, the plaintiff contends, are invalid, except those which give life-estates to the first two defendants.
3. The plaint then shows that, under the will of Prosunno Coomar Tagore, the defendant, Maharaja Jotendro Mohun Tagore, takes a life-estate in the residuary estate of the testator, the remission in fee being in the testator's son Ganendro Mohun Tagore; and that, in 1879, the plaintiff, for a nominal money-consideration, and in further consideration of some covenant, the nature of: which does not appear, obtained a conveyance from Ganendro Mohun, of his interest, if any, in the house, without any warranty of title.
4. The plaintiff shows also that the first two defendants have dealt with the house in question in a way which he alleges marks a forfeiture of their life-interests under the terms of the trust-deed.
5. On these allegations he asks for various declarations as to his rights. He also asks: [His Lordship read the prayers of the plaint (d), (e), (f), and (g) as above, and continued].
6. The first question is, whether the plaint shows any title to relief other than a mere declaration.
7. The only such relief specifically asked for is the appointment of a new trustee of the trust-deed. But the plaintiff is a total stranger to the trust, and has, therefore, no right to ask for this.
8. It was further urged, though not very strenuously, that the plaint shows the property to have been in some way endangered by the acts of the present; tenants for life, so as to entitle the plaintiff as reversioners to some relief. But I fail to see any such injury or danger disclosed.
9. The main question remains, whether, on the facts alleged in the plaint, the plaintiff shows that he ought to have a declaratory decree apart from any right to other relief.
10. Prior to the Specific Belief Act it was the law in this country, as in England, that a declaratory decree could not be made unless a right to consequential relief were shown. Any doubt upon this point was set at rest by the decision of the Privy Council in Kathama Natchiar v. Dora Singa Tevar L.B. 2 I.A. 169; s.c 15 B.L.R. 83 But the Specific Relief Act (I of 1877), Section 42, contains provisions different from those previously in force. It enacts that--'Any person entitled to any legal character, or to any right as to any, property, may institute a suit against any person denying, or interested to deny; his title to such character or right, and the Court may, in its discretion, make therein a declaration that he is so entitled, and the plaintiff need not in such suit ask for any further relief. Provided that no Court shall make any such declaration where the plaintiff, being able to seek further relief than a mere declaration of title, omits to do so.'
11. I am not aware that there has been any authoritative determination of the principles upon which the discretion of the Court under this section ought to be exercised: and I do not propose to attempt to lay down any general rule, beyond this, that I think the discretion ought to be exercised with great caution. I have no doubt, however, that the present case is not one in which a declaratory decree ought to be given. To hold otherwise would be to lay down that any one who claims any interest in property, present or future, ought to be allowed to ask the Court to give him an opinion on his title, and it cannot, I think, have been the intention of the Legislature to lay down any such rule. Beyond the fact that he obtained a conveyance of a reversionary interest, the plaintiff shows no single circumstance which ought, in my judgment, to lead the Court to interfere. On the other hand, to give a declaratory decree in such a case would be to offer direct encouragement to speculative purchasers of doubtful titles.
12. One other point I notice, because stress was laid upon it in argument. It was said that, in respect of the alleged forfeiture of the first two defendants' life-estates, some decree might be given. I cannot agree with this. Even assuming that the plaintiff's contention is correct, and that the ultimate reversioner can enforce a forfeiture which the immediate reversioner does not insist upon, (a proposition which it would require stronger reasons than I have yet heard to convince me of), still the most that could be given now would be a mere declaration on the subject, and in addition to the general reasons I have given, for not giving a declaratory decree in the case, there is as to this point the additional reason that the question is one in which the plaintiff can have no interest except in the one contingency of the Maharaja Jotendro Mohun Tagore dying before the first life-tenants. The suit is dismissed with costs.