1. Some of the principal defendants are the appellants in this appeal which has arisen out of a suit which was instituted by the plaintiff for recovery of khas possession of certain lands on declaration of his jote right thereto. The plaintiff's case was that such right had been acquired by him by inheritance and by virtue of his possession for over 12 years. His case was that the defendants were the landlords of the lands in suit together with other lands and that they had dispossessed the plaintiff.
2. The plaintiff further alleged that upon such dispossession there were proceedings under Section 144, Criminal P.C., in the course of which a compromise was entered into between the parties but that eventually the said compromise was not given effect to by the defendants, with the result that the plaintiff was obliged to institute the present suit. Some of the defendants contended that they had no connexion whatsoever with the suit land and they did not contest the plaintiff's claim. The contesting defendants however alleged that the plaintiff's predecessor was a chakran tenant in respect of the lands for a long aeries of years and used to hold the suit lands as tenant at a nominal rent. The plaintiff's title as tenant was disputed and it was further alleged that the lands had been abandoned and that thereafter possession had been taken by the said defendants. Several issues were framed one of which was whether the plaintiff had his alleged title to the lands in suit and another was whether the plaintiff was entitled to get khas possession. There were other issues also on the question of limitation, estoppel, maintainability of the suit and on other matters. The Courts below have decreed the suit declaring the plaintiff's right of occupancy in the suit lands and ordering that he would recover khas possession of the same on eviction of the defendants. In the appeal which the defendants have filed the only ground that has been urged is the question of limitation. It has been argued that in view of the provisions of Section 27, Act 8, B.C. 1869, the suit must be regarded as barred inasmuch as it was a suit to recover the occupancy of a land instituted by a tenant against his landlord. The Courts below, it may be said, have overruled this contention. The grounds upon which the said Courts have overruled the said contention were somewhat different, the trial Court holding that the suit was taken out of the purview of that section for three reasons: Firstly, because the landlords contested about the origin of the plaintiff's tenancy and that they denied in their defence the plaintiff's allegation of acquisition of title by inheritance from his predecessors; secondly, that although the defendants had admitted the plaintiff's possession they denied his occupancy; and thirdly, that the defendants in their written statement had raised a contention that the suit lands and some other lands did not form one holding as was alleged in the plaint. The trial Court held that the case was one in which the declaration of plaintiff's title was necessary before it could be held that he was entitled to succeed in recovering possession from the defendants. The Subordinate Judge differed from the Munsif as regards the grounds on which it should be held that the suit was not to be governed by the provisions of Section 27, Act 8, B.C. of 1869, but held that upon the authorities it was clear that the section aforesaid will apply only to possessory suits and not to suits in which a question of title was involved. He therefore disagreed with the Munsif in so far as the other reasons which the latter had given were concerned but held that the suit nevertheless was not barred because it could not be regarded as a mere possessory suit.
3. Several decisions have been cited on behalf of the appellants in order to establish the position that the present suit was a suit for recovery of occupancy of land which the plaintiff had instituted as against the defendants who were the landlords. It had been argued that what was alleged on behalf of the defendants was that the plaintiff, though previously he had been a tenant in respect of the land, had abandoned it and the defendants therefore came to be in occupation of the same. These being the facts it has been argued that the suit comes well within the words of Section 27, the said words being
all suits to recover the occupancy of any land, from which a tenant has been illegally ejected by the persons entitled to receive rent for the same, shall be commenced within the period of one year from the date of accruing of the cause of action, and not afterwards.
4. I am reading only that part of the section which is at all relevant for the purpose of the present suit. Now, it must be conceded that if the words to which I have just referred be treated as laying a rule of limitation analogous to what is to be found in Sch. 3, Article 3, Ben. Ten. Act, which says:
Suits to recover possession of land claimed by the plaintiff as a raiyat or an under-raiyat have to be governed by two years' limitation running from the date of dispossession.
5. Then the appellants have a very strong case. In other words, if it can be maintained that any suit, no matter on what ground it may be based, the object of which is to recover possession from a defendant who is the landlord and which is instituted by the plaintiff who is a tenant, must be instituted in all circumstances, within one year from the date of the cause of action, then the present suit, it is obvious, should be regarded as having been instituted beyond the time the law has prescribed for it. That however does not seem to me to be the interpretation that is to be put upon Section 27, Act 8 of 1869. It is not necessary for the purpose of the present case to consider the other part of the section and to find out whether a suit relating to such reliefs as the other part of the section contemplates, if it is not instituted within one year from the date of the cause of action, will be maintainable or not under the general law. Probably, such suits would not be maintainable and would be treated as being entirely barred, because it is difficult to conceive of grounds other than those that are set out in the section itself as forming grounds for the reliefs which are dealt with in such other parts of the section. But so far as the recovery of occupancy land is concerned, it is quite clear that a claim thereto may be based entirely upon an allegation of an illegal ejectment by a person entitled to receive rent and it is also conceivable that apart from such illegal ejectment the tenant may plead his own title and on the strength of that ask that he should be put back in possession. The view that has been taken by this Court, all along as regards the meaning to be attributed to the words quoted above, seems to be this: that where a suit is based upon an allegation of illegal eviction and for that reason the suit stands on very much the same footing as a suit instituted under Section 9, Specific Relief Act, it is a suit of summary character and such a suit is saved from the limitation provided in Section 27, Act 8, B.C. of 1869. The necessary consequence of this interpretation would be that even though no such suit is instituted as is contemplated by Section 27, the tenant who has been dispossessed may well rely on his own title and on the strength of that sue to recover possession of the lands under the provisions of the general law, just in the same way as a person who has been dispossessed may institute a suit to recover possession under the general law without taking recourse to the summary procedure provided by Section 9, Specific Relief Act. The reported decisions to which my attention has been drawn seem to me to suggest that this is the view that should be taken of Section 27, Act 8 B.C. of 1869. So far as the present suit is concerned the tenant has not made the forcible eviction which he alleged in his plaint, his sole ground for the relief which he asked for in the suit. He relied on his title by inheritance, he relied on possession for 12 years as conferring on him a title to be in occupation of the land and on the strength of these two assertions, as also on the allegation that he has been wrongfully and illegally dispossessed, he sought to recover possession. I cannot see how it can be said that such a suit was not maintainable or was time-barred even though it was instituted beyond a year from the, date of dispossession. In this view of the matter I am of opinion that the Courts below were right in holding that the suit as framed was not barred by limitation. The result it that in my opinion the appeal fails and must be dismissed with costs.