1. The substantial question in these second appeals is whether the provisions of Section 29 of the Bengal Tenancy Act control Sections 30 and 31. These are three sections included within the enhancement of Sections 27 to 37 inclusive.
2. The point arises in this way. The plaintiffs sought to enhance the money rent of the defendants, who are occupancy raiyats, on the ground that the rate of lent paid by them was below the prevailing ' rate paid by occupancy raiyats for land of a similar description and with similar advantages in the same village or in neighbouring villages. The last previous enhancement some 12 years ago, was from annas 13 odd to Rs. 1-4 per bigha, as admitted by the plaintiffs, that enhancement obviously contravened the second condition, imposed by Section 29, that the rent must not be enhanced so as to exceed, by more than 2 annas in the rupee, the rent previously paid by the raiyat.
3. It is urged by the plaintiffs-appellants that Section 23 must stand by itself, being the section which provides for enhancement of rent by contract, and that Section 30 and the following sections, which contemplate a suit, must be considered to be self-contained. In other words, the Court should have regard to the rates actually paid by the raiyats for land of a similar description and not to the rates of rent lawfully payable by them.
4. As I read the enhancement sections, it appears to me that the intention of the legislature is uniform throughout. In the first proviso of Section 29, there is a reference to the recovery of rent at the rate at which it has been actually paid for a continuous period of not less than three years, but it would be strange if the legislature intended that rent should be recovered on the basis of illegal exaction. The word 'actually' in this first proviso is replaced by the word 'generally' in Sub-section (a) of Section 31 which says that, in determining what is the prevailing rate, the Court shall have regard to the rates generally paid during a period of not less than three years before the institution of the suit. The suit under Section 30 must be subject to the provisions of this Act, including Section 29, and if we turn to the definition of rent in Section 3 Sub-section (5) the matter is placed beyond all doubt. Rent' is defined there to be whatever is lawfully payable by a tenant to his landlord on account of the use or occupation of the land held by the tenant. It is impossible to overlook this very distinct definition; and although I am mindful that inconvenience may arise in the determination of a question like this in the absence of numerous other parties, who might be interested to raise it, and in the absence of evidence as to the circumstances in which a general enhancement may have been effected, in apparent contradiction of Section 29, the suits giving rise to the present appeals cannot succeed.
5. No precedent has been cited one way or the other; but I have referred to the cases of Bipin Behari Mondol v. Krishna Dhone Ghose 32 C. 395 (F.B.) : 9 C.W.N. 265 (F.B) 1 C.L.J. 10 and Kristo Dhone Ghose v. Brojo Gobindo Roy 24 C. 895 (F.B.) : 1 C.W.N. 442 which are, so far as they go, authorities in favour of the principle to which I must give effect in deciding these appeals. The substantial contention, therefore, must be disallowed.
6. It is unnecessary to refer to three other arguments on behalf of the plaintiffs-appellants. They relate to the report of the Deputy Collector and to the omission of the lower appellate Court to consult certain Government Gazettes. It appears to me, there is no point of law which can be held to be involved in these further arguments, I am, accordingly, of opinion that they must also be overruled.
7. The appeals are dismissed. The plaintiffs must pay the costs of the answering defendants.