1. The plaintiffs in the suit, in which this appeal has arisen, sought to have their title as tenants under the defendants declared in regard to lands comprised in four plots, C.S. plots Nos. 111, 114, 117 and 136, on the allegation that they appertained to a tenancy held by them under the defendants. The plaintiffs' case was that they had been dispossessed by the defendants from plot No. 114, and accordingly they prayed for possession of the same. In regard to the other three plots, the plaintiffs' prayer in the suit was for confirmation of possession. The claim in suit was resisted by the defendants, who asserted that the lands in suit were outside the tenancy of the plaintiffs, held under a kabuliyat executed in the year 1269 B.S., which included only C.S. plots Nos. 112, 113, 115 and 116. The Court below has passed a decree in favour of the plaintiffs, negativing the defence of the defendants. The defendants have appealed to this Court.
2. In view of the main ground urged in support of this appeal, bearing upon the applicability of the rule of res judicata, it is necessary to mention at the outset that there were previous suits for rent instituted by the defendants in the present suit, in which the kabuliyat, on which the defence of the defendants is based was held to be a genuine document and it was decided on the basis of that document that the lands now in suit comprised in C.S. plots Nos. 111, 114, 117 and 136 were included in the tenancy of the plaintiffs in this suit as claimed by them. In connexion with the question of res judicata, as raised in this case, the Court of first instance observed in its judgment that the suit was not over-valued so as to escape the bar of res judicata, that according to the evidence the valuation certainly does not err on the side of over-valuation. There is no indication in the judgment of the Court of appeal below, as was suggested before us during the course of argument that the Courts of the Munsifs, which tried the suits for rent instituted previously, were competent at the time when the previous suits were brought to try the present suit for declaration of title and for possession, as subsequently to the institution of the suits for rent, by rise in the value of the property those Courts ceased to 'be the proper Courts. No such case was made out, and the view expressed by the Court of first instance, to which reference has been made, affords sufficient reason for holding that the principle followed in the case of Gopi Nath Chobey v. Bhagwat Pershad (1884) 10 Cal 697 cannot be applied to the case before us. It cannot be held in this case that the Munsifs, who tried the previous suits for rent, were competent to try the present suit, if then brought, although on a subsequent date, by rise in the value of the property, the Courts of the Munsifs ceased to be the proper Courts, so far as pecuniary jurisdiction was concerned.
3. The case before us is not a case in which the observation of Mitter, J., in Gopi Nath's case (1884) 10 Cal 697, that the resonable construction of the words 'in a Court of competent jurisdiction to try such subsequent suits,' contained in Section 11, Civil P C was that it must refer to the jurisdiction of the Court at the time when the first suit was brought could be applied. In our judgment the learned District Judge, in the Court below, directed himself rightly in stating that the decision in the previous suits for rent, although not operating as res judicata, should be taken into consideration, and that weight should be attached to the same. This is the principle, which underlies the decision of their Lordships of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the case of Run Bahadur Singh v. Lucho Koer (1885) 11 Cal 391. We are further of opinion that adopting the rule laid down by the Judicial Committee in the case referred to above, a judgment in a suit for rent should not generally be held to be conclusive in a suit for declaration of title to property consequent upon an adverse decision given in a suit for rent in which final decision on questions of title should be avoided as far as practicable. In the case of rent suits proper, the subject is narrowed down to the function of rent Courts to the decision of whether rent is due for a particular period, for what lands, and at what rate. It appears to us that the learned Subordinate Judge, in the Court of first instance, approached the case before it from a correct standpoint, when he observed that
there has been no finding as to the points involved in the present case, in any of the previous suits for rent, which might operate as res judicata. The question of genuineness or other wise of the kabuliyat of 1269 was considered and it was undoubtedly decided adversly to the plaintiff in the previous suit, (referring to Rent Suit No. 1300 of 1921, to which special reference has been made before us), but the finding on that question, arrived at in previous litigation, does not prevent a re-agitation of the same qusetion in this suit.
4. As has been noticed already, the decision in the suit for rent brought in the year 1921, on which great reliance is placed on behalf of the plaintiffs appellants, was on the basis of the genuineness of the kabuliyat of the year 1269 B.S. The question whether the decision in a rent suit on the question of genuineness of a document was conclusive between the parties in a suit for ejectment received the consideration of a Full Bench of this Court in the year 1873 in a ease, which was referred to the Full Bench by Louis Jackson and Dwarkanath Mitter, JJ. In that case a tenant brought a suit against his landlord for recovery of possession of lands claiming to hold the land under a patta and the landlord impugned the document as spurious ; upon trial the patta was found to be genuine in a subsequent suit by the landlord to eject the tenant from the lands. The question referred to the Full Bench, whether the previous decision as to the patta was conclusive between the parties, was answered in the negative: Chunder Coomar Mundul v. Nunnee-Khanum (1873) 11 BLR 434. The opinion expressed by Dwarkanath Mitter, J., in the order of reference is worthy of special notice. The learned Judge observed:
The patta is a mere matter of evidence, and it is beyond all question that a mere matter of evidence cannot be put in issue. A disputed state of facts might legitimately form the subject-matter of an issue. But it would be just as improper to put in issue documents which the parties have filed in support of their respective allegations as it would be to put in issue the veracity of the witnesses who are summoned to depose to those allegations. The ovidence of a witness as to the existence of a particular state of facts is just as much a matter of evidence as a corresponding document; and I do not, therefore, think that we ought to make any distinction between them in framing the issues.
5. The learned Judge then proceeded to state that
the issue of tenancy was, no doubt, raised in the previous suit, and the patta might have been put in for the purpose of proving the affirmative of that issue. But the opinion of the trying Court' on the genuineness of the patta can no more be treated as the decision of an issue directly raised upon the point than the opinion of that officer upon the veracity of the witnesses examined.
6. The above opinion expressed by Dwarkanath Mitter, J., was accepted by Couch, C. J. in his judgment, the learned Chief Justice stated the point thus:
It was necessary to find whether the alleged lease was genuine; but the real judgment in the suit was that the plaintiff was a tenant, the patta being the proof of it.
7. In consonance of the view expressed by Couch, C. J. and Dwarkanath Mitter, J., in the case mentioned above, we are of opinion that the decision on the question of genuineness of the kabuliyat of the year 1269 B.S. in the previous rent suits could not be treated as conclusive on the question of title as raised in the present-litigation For the reasons stated above the rule of res judicata or the rule of finality or previous judgments does not apply to the decisions in the previous suits for rent. The Court below has properly dealt with all the materials on the record, and its decree in favour of the plaintiffs in the suit, based as it is on findings of fact leading to the conclusion that the plaintiffs have title to the lands comprised in C.S. plots Nos. 111, 114, 117 and 136 as tenants, must be affirmed. A point was made in support of the appeal, that proper weight has not been attached to the decisions in the previous suits for rent, specially the decision in rent suit of 1921. The contention advanced in this behalf is not supportable, is view of the position that the learned Judge in the Court of appeal below has in his judgment clearly indicated that weight should be attached to the decisions in the previous litigations, and has rightly observed that
if it is to be postulated that, merely because those previous decisions exist, the evidence adduced by the plaintiffs is to be wholly rejected, then in effect the previous decisions have operated as res judicata.
8. The learned Judge has, in our opinion, given proper weight to the previous decisions in the suits for rent, and has arrived at his conclusion upon the entire evidence adduced in the present litigation by the parties concerned; and it cannot be said that there was any misdirection in the matter of weighing of evidence in the case, keeping in view the previous decisions, which were relied upon by the plaintiffs in support of their case on the footing that these decisions were conclusive as to the rights of parties in the present litigation a case which must be negatived. In the result this appeal is dismissed with costs.