1. The plaintiffs in the suits out of which these appeals have arisen sued the defendants, as Trustees to the Estate of Sam Ranjan Chakravarty, for realization of arrears of rent due in respect of fourteen different jamas or tenancies, for the period from Kartie to Falgun of the year 1334 B.E. The claim as made in the fourteen suits was resisted by the tenant-defendant, who had acquired interest in the tenancies in the year 1325 B.E. (1918), by purchase from the previous tenants the Chongdars, who in their turn derived their interest from the Roys of Duarka, in whose favour the tenancies were created in the year 1289 B.E. (1882), by Maharaja Ram Ranjan Chakravarty, the predecessors-in-title of the plaintiffs, who are trustees in possession by virtue of a deed of settlement (or trust) executed by the said Maharaja in the year 1284 B.E. (1887). The right of the plaintiffs to realize rent at the rates mentioned in the kabuliyats creating the tenancies in 1882, was denied by the defendant, who asserted that in the year 1313 B.E. (1906), the Maharaja granted a reduction of the rates of rent payable in respect of the tenancies to the then holder, Giris Chandra Chongdar, by a document. The defendants asserted that there was a long continued payment of rent at the reduced rates, on the strength of the document of 1906, from 1316.to 1332 B.E. It was further asserted by the defendants that there was an oral agreement with the plaintiffs, the present trustees, in the year 1327 B.E. (1920), on payment of selami Ac, giving effect to the reduction, granted in the year 1906. The tenant defendant wholly repudiated the position that renb at the rates originally settled in respect of the tenancies in 1882, was recoverable from him by the plaintiffs.
2. On the pleadings of the parties various points were raised for determination in the suits. For the purpose of appeals to this Court, mention may be made of the main questions. The question was mooted as to whether Maharaja Ram Ranjan Chakravarty was competent to allow reduction of rent to the then tenant. The effect of payment of rent at reduced rates for a long period before the institution of the suits was to be considered; and the further question was raised on the pleadings and upon the materials placed before the Court, as to the position created by the plaintiffs by acceptance of rent at reduced rates, after the alleged agreement to reduce the rates of rent on the part of the landlords in the year 1920: whether the contract between the plaintiffs and the defendant as alleged by the defendant was performed in part, so as to create an equitable estoppel against the plaintiffs precluding them from claiming rent at the rate mentioned in original settlement of the year 1882.
3. The Court of first instance came to the conclusion that the reduction in the rates granted by the trustee in 1906, could not be held to bo binding on the plaintiffs, the present trustees: it was held on a construction of the deed of trust (or settlement), that a trustee could have no power to grant reduction of rent. It was further held that the document evidencing the reduction of rent in the year 1906, Ex. A-7 in the case, was without consideration and was 'not to the advantage of the trust property.' With reference to the agreements to reduce the rates of rent by the plaintiffs themselves in the year, 1920, the trial Court came to the decision that it could not stand as bar to the plaintiffs' realizing the kabuliyat rentals,' As to the payment at reduced rate of rent, the trial Court came to the conclusion that in the year 1325, as also in 1333, there were payments at the original rates, thus demolishing the case of uniform payment at reduced rates. In the above view of the case decrees were passed in favour of the plaintiffs, allowing their claims in the suits in full, negativing the defence raised by the tenant-defendant. On appeal by the defendant the learned Subordinate Judge of Birbhoom has reversed the decision of the trial Court, on all material points arising for consideration in the cases.
4. In regard to the reduction of rent granted in 1906 by the document Ex. A-7, it was held by the Court of appeal below that the deed of trust (or settlement) itself contemplated reduction of rent; that the Maharaja as the first trustee under the trust created by himself, acted for the benefit of the estate in granting reduction of rent, and it did not lie in the mouth of the Maharaja's successors, his sons and grandsons, the plaintiffs, to question the discretion exercised by the founder himself in the management of the trust estate, and that the plaintiffs themselves had realized rent at the reduced rates, for a long period. The lower appellate Court has definitely found that it was through a mistake that full rates were realized in the year 1325 B.E. and that the excess rent realized was credited to the rent realized at the reduced rates in the year 1327 B.E. With reference to the realization of rent at full rates in 1333 B.E. the Court below has observed that the material placed before the Court by the plaintiffs were not sufficient for the purpose of proving realization of rent at full rates in that year. According to the lower appellate Court, the plaintiffs in the suits ratified the old contract of 1906, and the contract of 1906 was superseded by a new con tract by the plaintiffs in 1920, on receipt of substantial selarni, whereby they agreed to execute pattas and accept kabuliyats at old reduced rates, subject to certain conditions about furnishing of security, and payment of cesses. The contract entered into in the year 1920, was according to the Court of appeal below, partly performed as there was acceptance of rent at reduced rentals up to the year 1332 B.E. and that even if the plaintiffs realized rent at the full rates in the year 1333 B.E. as alleged by them, their conduct at best might be construed as tantamount to refusal to execute pattas, as agreed to between the parties.
5. It has been pointed out by the Court below, that there was no time fixed for specific performance of the contract of 1920, and the plaintiffs were therefore to execute the pattas on demand; it has been found as a fact, that the defendant did not make any demand for getting the pattas from the plaintiffs, even up to the time of the institution of the suits. The defendant's right to get specific performance of the contract, i. e., for getting pattas executed by the plaintiffs, the trustees, at reduced rates, was still subsisting, at the date on which the suits were instituted. In the above view of the case before him, the learned Subordinate Judge, in the Court of appeal below, came to the decision that on equitable grounds effect was to be given to the doctrine of part performance of the contract of 1920, and that the plaintiffs were not therefore entitled to realize rent at full rates as claimed by them in the suits; but that they were entitled to realize rent at the reduced rates as shown in the document Ex. A-7. The arrangement for reduction of the rates of rent payable on account of the tenancies in question, come to in the year 1906, was agreed to by the plaintiffs themselves in 1920. The plaintiffs have appealed to this Court from the decision arrived at by the Court of appeal below, and the decrees passed by that Court, allowing the plaintiffs' claims in the suits only in part, in accordance to the reduced rates of rent shown in the document Ex. A-7.
6. It was argued in support of the appeals that the view taken by the Court below that the alleged agreement of 1920, could supersede the contract evidenced by the registered lease of the year 1882, was erroneous and unsupportable, and that the oral contract of 1920 set up by the defendant, was not capable of specific performance. The plaintiffs were therefore entitled to realize rent at the original rates settled in 1882. The questions thus raised are intermixed with each other and must be answered in accordance to the judgment pronounced by their Lordships of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in the case of Ariff v. Jadu Nath Mazuwdar on which very great reliance has been placed by the learned advocate for the plaintiffs appellants. To clear up the position of the parties as it stands, after the decision arrived at by the final Court of facts, it must be taken to have been established in these cases that there was an agreement in the year 1906, to reduce the rates of rent payable by the tenant according to the Original settlements of 1882. This agreement of 1906 was valid and operative. In consonance with the agreement of 1606, rents at reduced rates were realized till the agreement of 1906 was ratified and superseded by the oral contract in the year 1920, for reduction of the rates of rent. That there was realization of rent at reduced rates from 1316 to 1332 B.E., has been definitely found by the Court of appeal below on the materials before the Court, as a fact directly bearing upon the question of part performance of the contract evidenced by the document Ex. A 7, executed by Maharaja Ram Ranjan Chakravarty, the first trustee, and of the subsequent oral contract by the plaintiffs, the present trustees, in the year 1920.
7. It has also been found as a fact by the Court of appeal below, that the defendant did not make any demand for getting pattas from the plaintiffs up to the time of the institution of these suits, and it was held that even if there was realization of rent at full rates in accordance with the original kabuliyats of 1282 B.E. in the year 1333 BE as alleged by the plaintiffs, the conduct of the plaintiffs might be construed as a refusal to execute pattas as agreed between the parties, the effect of the conclusion thus arrived at being that the defendant's right to get specific performance of the oral agreement of 1920 was subsisting at the date of the institution of these suits for rent at higher rates than those shown in the document Ex. A-7 of 1906, and those agreed upon in 1920. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council after a consideration of the two previous decisions on the subject, in Mahomed Musa v. Aghore Ganguli AIR 1914 PC 27 and Lakshmi Venkayamma v. Venkata Narasingha, Appa Rao AIR 1916 PC 9, summarized the equitable doctrine of part performance of contract in these words:
In each case however the judgment contains statements to the effect that even if the contract in question had been incomplete, the acts of parties had been such that equity would in some way have bound the parties. Their Lordships do not understand these dicta to mean more than that equity may hold people bound by a contract which, though deficient in some requirement as to form, is nevertheless an existing contract. Equity does this, as before stated, in the case of a verbal contract which has been partly performed. Their Lordships do not understand the dicta to mean that equity will hold people bound as if a contract existed and where no contract was in fact made; nor do they understand them to mean that equity can override the provisions of a statute and (where no registered document exists and no registrable document can bo produced) confer upon a person a right which the statute enacts shall be conferred, only by a registered document.
8. In the case before us, the verbal contract of 1920, was deficient in some requirement of form, inasmuch pattas and kabuliyats had not been executed and registered; but it was nevertheless an existing contract at the date of the institution of these suits as the defendant's right to obtain specific performance of the contract was not barred at that date under Article 113, Sch. 1, Lim. Act, there having been no demand for pattas by the defendant and there having been no refusal to execute the same before at least 1333 B.E. The verbal contract to realize rent at reduced rates had been partly performed, by realization of rent at reduced rates from 1316 to 1332 B, E. at least. The cases before us are not cases in which no contract was in fact made, or where no contract existed in view of the definite findings arrived at by the Court below that the contract was made for reduction of rates of rent in 1920, and that the contract was one which was a subsisting contract, at the date of the institution of these suits, regard being had to the provision contained in the Limitation Act, as to the institution of a suit for specific performance of a contract. Nor can it be said in these cases that the defendant's case before the Court was not sustainable on the ground that equity could not override the provisions of a statute, even on the footing that registered documents were required for the purpose of reducing the rates of rent as shown in the registered kabuliyats of 1882, seeing that the right to get registered pattas from the plaintiffs were subsisting at the date of the institution of these suits.
9. In accordance with the pronouncement of the Judicial Committee in Ariff's case which has been quoted above, the plaintiffs had no right to realize rent at the rates mentioned in the kabuliyats of 1882 creating the tenancies in respect of which rent was sought to be realized for the period Kartic to Falgoon of the year 1334 B.S. The question whether the plaintiffs will be entitled to realize rent at the rates mentioned in the kabuliyats of 1882, after the defendants right to obtain specific performance of the contract of 1920, is barred by limitation, is a question which does not require decision in these cases, and that question must expressly be left open. In the above view of the cases, the claim of the plaintiffs in the suits out of which these appeals have arisen, for rent at the rates mentioned in the kabuliyats of 1882 must be disallowed, as it has been disallowed by the Court of appeal below, and the plaintiffs are entitled in these suits to recover rent at the reduced rates as admitted by the defendant in view of rates of rent mentioned in the document Ex. A-7 of 1906.
10. It may be mentioned that the learned advocate for the plaintiffs-appellants wanted to make out that the agreement of 1906, evidenced by the document Ex. A-7, was not operative and binding on the plaintiffs. The deed of settlement or trust deed makes the position abundantly clear that by virtue of the terms contained in Clauses 4 and 21 thereof, the trustee for the time being had the right to grant reduction and remission of rent payable by tenants of the trust estate; and the findings arrived at by the Court below amply support the conclusion that the reduction of rates of rent made in 1906 by Maharaja Ram Ranjan Chakravarty, was binding on the trust estate: the action of the Maharaja in this behalf was followed up by the present trustees, the plaintiffs, in the suits by their own verbal contract in the year 1920. The contentions advanced on behalf of the plaintiffs-appellants by which attempt was made to go behind the agreements of 1906 and 1920, must be overruled, for the reasons stated above.
11. The learned advocate for the defendant-respondent during the course of his argument, wanted to support the decision arrived at by the Court of appeal below in favour of his client, on grounds other than those stated in the judgment of the Court below. It is not necessary to go into new grounds, seeing that on the facts found by the lower appellate Court, and giving full effect to the law laid down by their Lordships of the Judicial Committee in the case of Ariff v. Jadunath Mazumdar referred to above in detail, the defendant was entitled to resist the claim of the plaintiffs, as made in the suits out of which these appeals have arisen. It is wholly unnecessary therefore to go into those other points which were argued by the learned advocate for the defendant-respondent. In the result the appeals are dismissed with costs: one hearing fee of 5 gold mohurs is allowed for all these appeals.