1. This appeal arises out of a suit brought by the plaintiff, appellant, for a declaration of his jote right to, and for confirmation of his possession of, two plots of land on the allegation that the land had been wrongly entered in the name of the defendant in a record of rights prepared by the Revenue Officer under Chapter X of the Bengal Tenancy Act.
2. The defence was that the suit was barred by the principle of res judicata and also by limitation; and that the jote right in the land was with the defendant, and not with the plaintiff.
3. The first Court held that the pleas in bar were not valid, and that the plaintiff had made out his title, and accordingly gave him a decree. On appeal that decree has been reversed and the suit dismissed on the ground that the decision of the Revenue Officer operates as res judicata and is a bar to the present suit.
4. On second appeal it is contended for the plaintiff that the decision of the Lower Appellate Court is wrong; and we are of opinion that the contention ought to prevail. The Subordinate Judge in his decision relies on the case of Gokul Sahu v. Jadu Nandan Roy I.L.R. 17 Cal. 721, but that case is clearly distinguishable from the present. Here the question of right to certain plots of land is raised as between two persons, each of whom claims to hold them as a tenant, and there is no question now, nor was there any before the Settlement Officer, as between the landlord and the tenant; whereas in the case of Gokul Sahu v. Jadu Nandan Roy I.L.R. 17 Cal. 721, the question that was raised was one between the proprietor of the estate and a person who, according to him, held the land in dispute as his tenant, and whose case was that he was entitled to hold it without any payment of rent to the proprietor. That, then, was clearly a dispute between the landlord on the one hand and the tenant on the other. The facts of that case, moreover, were of a somewhat peculiar nature. There, though the person who was alleged to be the tenant on the land claimed the land as his rent-free property, he admitted that he came upon the land with the leave and license of the proprietor and claimed to hold it free of rent merely on the strength of a sanad granted to him by the proprietor. The decision in the record of rights proceeding was found to. be one as; between landlord and tenant, and was held to operate as res judicata in a subsequent suit between the same parties. That case, therefore, does not lay down any such broad proposition as is to be found enunciated in the headnote. The case was considered by a Full Bench of this Court recently in Secretary of State for India v. Nitye Singh I.L.R. 21 Cal. 38, and the decision of the Full Bench is to the effect that a Revenue Officer in preparing a record of rights under Sections 101 and 102 of the Bengal Tenancy Act is not competent to determine the validity of rent-free titles set up by persons occupying lands within the area under enquiry. So far, then, as the authority relied upon by the Lower Appellate Court goes, it does not support the view taken by that Court.
5. The question then remains whether the decision of any point raised before the Revenue Officer should, under Section 107 of the Bengal Tenancy Act, operate as res judicata in a subsequent suit in which the same question is raised. It is unnecessary in the present case to consider the effect of any such decision in a subsequent suit as between the landlord and the tenant. All we have now to determine is whether the decision by a Revenue Officer under Chapter X operates as res judicata in a subsequent suit between two persons, each of whom claims the land as a tenant. We think this question ought to be answered in the negative. If it had been intended by the Legislature that the decision of a Revenue Officer should operate as res judicata upon matters like this, the result would be to transfer to the Settlement Officer the jurisdiction to try all civil suits between tenant and tenant in regard to their rights in any land included in the area with reference to which the record of rights is made. It might happen that the person whose name the Settlement Officer records as the tenant may not be entitled to the land in respect of which his name is recorded, and another person may set up a conflicting title to the same land, claiming it on grounds which might render it necessary to determine complicated questions of inheritance or of construction of wills, or other questions of a similar nature. We do not think that such a condition of things could have been intended by the Legislature.
6. It was argued that the words of Section 106 which authorise the Revenue Officer to hear and decide disputes as to the correctness of entries made by him are unlimited in their scope; and that the Revenue Officer in this case was therefore authorised to decide whether the plaintiff or the defendant was the person entitled to the land in dispute; and that if he was so authorised by Section 106, his decision must have the force of a decree under Section 107 of the Act. We cannot accede to this contention. If we were to confine our attention to Section 106, possibly the words of that section might be taken to be unlimited in their scope; but we must regard it as one of a group of sections, the object of which is not to have questions of disputed right as between tenant and tenant conclusively determined, but only to enable the landlord to have a summary determination of the matters referred to in Section 102. That Section 106 must receive a limited construction is clear from the cases that have been decided by this Court with reference to what is the proper scope of an inquiry in a record of rights proceeding. We may refer to two of them, namely, Narendro Nath Roy Chowdhry v. Srinath Sandel I.L.R. 19 Cal. 641, Bidhu Mukhi Debi v. Bhugwan Chunder Roy I.L.R. 19 Cal. 643, and we may also refer to the case of Peary Mohun Mukerjee v. Ali Sheik I.L.R. 20 Cal. 249, relating to an analogous provision in the Bengal Tenancy Act, namely, that contained in Section 158. In this last-mentioned case it was held that the decision of the Revenue Officer upon any question such as that mentioned in Section 158, Sub-section (1) Clause (b), must be taken to be collateral only with reference to any question of right to possession.
7. For these reasons we are of opinion that the decision appealed against is wrong in law and must be set aside, and the case sent back to the Lower Appellate Court for a decision on the merits.
8. The appellant will have his costs in this Court. The other costs will follow the result.