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Sri Raja Inuganti Venkata Rajagopala Rama Suryaprakasa Rao Garu and Another Vs. Maharaja of Pithapuram and Another - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtPrivy Council
Decided On
Case NumberPrivy Council Appeal No. 54 of 1944 (From Madras)
Judge
AppellantSri Raja Inuganti Venkata Rajagopala Rama Suryaprakasa Rao Garu and Another
RespondentMaharaja of Pithapuram and Another
Advocates:C.S. Rewcatlle and J. Chinna Durai, for Appellants; Sir Herbert Cunliffe, P.V. Subba Row and B. Sen, for Respondents. Solicitors for Appellants, Hy. S.L. Polak and Co.; Solicitors for Respondents, Chapman Walkers.
Excerpt:
madras estate land act ([1] 1 of 1908) -section 3(5) and section 67 and rules under section 3 - .....the maharaja held a decree pronounced in his favour by the district judge of rajahmundry but the present plaintiffs had appealed against it to the madras high court. while that appeal was pending, the maharaja on 10th november 1923, applied to the collector of godavari to be recognized as the landholder of the estate for the purposes of the madras estates land act subject to the ultimate result of the litigation then pending. after sundry procedure not germane to the present issue the collector on 12th january 1924, made an order under s. 3 (5), madras estates land act, by which he recognised the maharaja as the landholder for the purposes of the act. the maharaja accordingly entered into possession of the estate and collected the rents and profits. the litigation pending between him.....
Judgment:

LORD NORMAND:

These are consolidated appeals from a judgment of the High Court of Judicature at Madras modifying a preliminary and a final decree of the Subordinate Court of Cocanada. The question for determination is whether or to what extent the Indian Limitation Act affects the plaintiffs' claim against the Maharaja of Pithapuram for payments of sums amounting to Rs. 7,38,000 received by him as rents from the zamindari estate known as Gollaprolu during the period from 12th January 1924, to 7th September 1935.

[2] The facts so far as material to the issue are as follows. In 1923 there was pending a litigation between the Maharaja and the plaintiffs in the present suit in which the Maharaja claimed that he was the nearest reversioner entitled to succeed to the estate of Gollaprolu. The Maharaja held a decree pronounced in his favour by the District Judge of Rajahmundry but the present plaintiffs had appealed against it to the Madras High Court. While that appeal was pending, the Maharaja on 10th November 1923, applied to the Collector of Godavari to be recognized as the landholder of the estate for the purposes of the Madras Estates Land Act subject to the ultimate result of the litigation then pending. After sundry procedure not germane to the present issue the Collector on 12th January 1924, made an order under S. 3 (5), Madras Estates Land Act, by which he recognised the Maharaja as the landholder for the purposes of the Act. The Maharaja accordingly entered into possession of the estate and collected the rents and profits. The litigation pending between him and the present plaintiffs was protracted and was not finally brought to an end till the Order in Council of 15th July 1935, the effect of which was to find that the present plaintiffs were entitled to the estate. On 7th September 1935, the Collector of Godavari cancelled his previous order of 12th January 1924, and recognized the present plaintiffs as the landholders of the estate.

[3] The plaintiffs brought the present suit in October 1935, for recovery of the rents and profits received by the Maharaja during the period of his possession and management of the estate. The Maharaja pleaded that he had been in wrongful possession of the estate during the whole period and that the suit for mesne profits for more than three years from the date when the profits were received was barred by the Limitation Act, Sch. 1, Art. 109. The trial Judge held that the Maharaja's possession of the estate under the order of 12th January 1912, had not been wrongful, and that he had collected the rents and profits as a quasi - trustee for the benefit of the plaintiffs and was bound to account to them for the rents and profits received in the full period of his possession. By a preliminary decree he directed the Maharaja to render accounts; and after the accounts were taken he granted a final decree on 25th March 1938. Appeals were preferred to the High Court which, agreeing with the trial Judge, held that the Maharaja's possession had not been wrongful and consequently that Art. 109 of Sch. 1, Limitation Act did not apply. But, differing from the trial Judge, the High Court held, that a right to sue the Maharajah had accrued to the plaintiffs each time he had received the rents and profits. Accordingly the High Court disallowed the plaintiffs' claim to recover rents and profits received more than six years before the commencement of the suit, as being barred by Art. 120, Sch. 1, Limitation Act. In the argument addressed to their Lordships the plaintiffs supported the finding of the trial Judge and the High Court that the Maharaja's possession and his collection of rents and profits had not been wrongful, and therefore that the present suit was not within the terms of Art. 109, Limitation Act, a suit "for the profits of immoveable property belonging to the plaintiffs which have been wrongfully received by the defendant." They also maintained that no right to sue accrued while the order of 12th January 1924, was in force, and therefore that the six years limitation provided by Art. 120, Sch. 1, Limitation Act barred no part of their claim. The Maharaja cross - appealed and relied on Art. 109 and the three years' limitation therein provided. Alternatively he maintained that the judgment of the High Court should be affirmed.

4 Their Lordships are of opinion that the decision of these appeals depends on the meaning and effect of the provisions of the Madras Estates Land Act and of the rules made thereunder, which are set but in the judgment of the High Court, and they desire to adopt the comment of the High Court on these provisions. The learned Judges say :

"It is manifest that the object underlying these provisions is to provide machinery for the smooth management of an estate pending settlement of disputes relating thereto by a competent Civil Court so as, on the one hand, to enable the rents falling due during the pendency of the disputes to be duly collected without being allowed to get time - barred and, on the other, to enable the tenants to obtain a valid discharge on payment of the rent, whichever party may ultimately succeed in establishing his claim in the civil Courts. For this purpose, the Collector is empowered to make a summary enquiry under the rules made in that behalf and recognize as landholder the person who is prima facie entitled to the present possession of the estate, and the person so recognized is authorised to demand and collect the rent giving a valid discharge therefor. In other words, the person who is 'recognised' by the collector as 'landholder' for all or any of the purposes of the Act becomes thereby clothed with full authority to do all acts required to be done for such purpose or purposes, and such acts are made binding upon whichever party is ultimately held by a Civil Court to be entitled to the possession of the estate."

Their Lordships agree with the learned trial Judge and with the High Court that, as the Maharaja had statutory authority for collecting the rents and profits during the whole period of his possession, it is impossible to hold that his receipt of them was wrongful. It follows that Art. 109, Sch. 1, Limitation Act, is inapplicable.

5 But their Lordships are further of opinion that the plaintiffs could not competently have sued the Maharaja for an account of rents and profits each time that rents or profits were received. What was said by counsel for the Maharaja was that the plaintiffs would have been entitled to sue as beneficiaries under a quasi trust. This is, however, not consistent with the Maharaja's right under S. 3 (5), Estates Land Act, to receive the rents and profits as statutory landholder. His interest as such landholder was adverse to the claims of the plaintiffs, and he did not collect the rents and profits as trustee for them. The High Court held that the proviso to S. 67, Estates Land Act, was in itself sufficient to support the contention that the plaintiffs might have sued the Maharaja as often as he collected the rents or profits. Section 67, makes the receipt for rents granted by a person recognized as the landholder under S. 3, a valid discharge in the hands of the person paying them. The proviso that nothing in the section shall affect any remedy which a third person may have against the landholder cannot preserve or restore to third parties remedies which are inconsistent with the landholders' rights and powers under S. 3 (5) of the Act. Their Lordships are therefore of opinion that the plaintiffs had no right of suit; for the rents or profits while the possession was under the order of 12 - 1 - 1924. It was only after that order was cancelled in consequence of the decision of this Board that a right of action to recover rents and profits accrued to the plaintiffs, and that right is preserved to them by the proviso to S. 67. The High Court's judgment recognizes that if suits had been brought each time that rents or profits were received they could have made no progress, but must have been stayed till the final determination of the question of title. In their Lordships' opinion one of the purposes of S. 3, Estates Land Act, is to regulate possession pendente lite and to prevent the multiplication of unnecessary suits. They will therefore humbly advise His Majesty that the appeal should be allowed to the effect that the paragraph numbered 1 of the decree of the High Court dated 11 - 12 - 1941, be deleted. The defendant in the suit must pay the costs of these consolidated appeals.

Appeal allowed.


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