Sir Dinshah Mulla:
The principal respondents in this appeal are the archakas of the temple of Sri Krita Kritya Rameswara Swami Varu in a place known as Gudimala Khandrika which forms part, as would appear from a survey map presently to be referred to, of the village of Rameswaram, situated in the Godavari District. Years ago a grant was made of certain lands in Gudimala Khandrika to the temple as inam, but the grant is lost and its origin is not known. In 1860 the grant was confirmed by the Inam Commissioner, subject to the payment of a quit-rent of Rs. 20 per year, and a title deed was issued to the temple which however is not forthcoming. The main question in the appeal is as to the extent to which the grant was confirmed.
It is usual to divide inams into two classess, namely, (1) major, and (2) minor. Technically a major inam is a whole village or more than one village, and a minor inam is something less than a village. A khandrika means a small hamlet. It is a large block of land granted as inam, less than a village, but much larger than an ordinary inam: see Mr. Maclean's Manual of the Administration in the Madras Presidency, Vol. 3. The first regular revenue survey in the Godavari District began in 1858. Demarcation and classification were completed in 1860-61, and field measurements in 1862. The survey map of the Rameswaram village was completed in 1862, and the total area of the village is stated on the map to be 3,860 acres. It would appear from the bhubaud accounts of the Rameswaram village that before the survey of 1858 the extent of the village, as well as of Gudimala Khandrika, was expressed in putties, a local measure, the extent of the village being 307 odd putties and that of Gudimala Khandrika 70 odd putties. There is nothing to show the extent of the village or of the Khandrika in acres before that date, nor is there any direct evidence as to the rate of conversion from putties into acres prevailing at that time.
In 1860 when the grant was confirmed, the extent of Gudimala Khandrika was specified in the Inam Register both in putties and in acres, the extent in putties being 70 and a fraction as in the bhuband accounts, and that in acres being 560.79. It would appear from these figures that the rate of conversion then adopted by the Inam Commissioner was 8 acres per putti. But the temple has been in possession at least since 1860 of the whole of Gudimala Khandrika, and it paid only Rs. 20 per annum for the whole land in its possession until 1917. As has already been stated, the extent of the Khandrika in local measure was 70 putties odd. At the survey and resettlement of 1900-01 it was found, excluding Government poramboke, to be 1,837.40 acres. If 70 putties odd be regarded as equivalent to 1,837'40 acres, the rate of conversion would be 27'35 acres per putti, and not 8 acres per putti, which was the rate adopted by the Inam Commissioner. The main question in the appeal is as to the extent to which the inam was settled in 1860, whether it was 560.79 acres as stated by the appellant, or 1,837'40 acres as claimed by the respondents. This involves a subsidiary question whether the proper rate of conversion is 8 acres per putti as alleged by the appellant, or 27'35 acres per putti as contended by the respondents. The respondents say that the Inam Commissioner erroneously converted putties into acres at the rate of 8 acres per putti.
The inam consists partly of wet and partly of dry land. As in the case of the inam, so in the case of wet land, the extent in the Inam Register is described both in putties and in acres, the extent in putties being 51, and that in acres 400 which obviously is a mistake for 412. Here again the rate of conversion adopted by the Inam Commissioner was obviously 8 acres per putti. If the rate were taken at 27:35 acres per putti, the extent in acres would be 1,408. One of the questions in the appeal is whether the temple is entitled to hold 412 acres only free of water cess as is the case for the appellant, or 1,408 acres as claimed by the respondents.
No demand was made by the revenue authorities of any assessment or water cess against the temple until 1917. In that year the Board of Revenue passed a resolution to the effect that what was settled by the Inam Commissioner was not a whole but a minor inam, that the extent of the inam so settled was 560'79 acres only and that the excess in the possession of the temple should be charged with full assessment. By the same resolution it was determined that the extent of wet land included in the inam was 412 acres only, and that irrigation by the temple of any area in excess thereof should be charged with water-cess. The Board, in fact, took their stand on the extent as expressed in the Inam Register in acres. Effect was given to this resolution by the Collector of Godavari, and the respondents had to pay the assessment and water-cess imposed by the Collector.
Thereupon the respondents brought two suits out of which the present appeal arises against the appellant (who was the principal defendant in them both) on 24th October 1919, in the Court of the Subordinate Judge of Rajahmundry one for a declaration that the whole village of Gudimala Khandrika was settled as inam, and not 560'79 acres only, and the other for a declaration that the extent of the wet land was 1,688 acres (being the extent given in the Adangal account of the Khandrika for 1901), and not 412 acres only. The respondents is asked in each suit for an injunction and other relief. The appellant filed a written statement in each suit, repeating in substance the resolution of the Board of Revenue of 1917.
The Subordinate Judge heard both the suits together, and delivered one judgment in both. He held that what was settled by the Inam Commissioner was not a whole bat a minor inam, that the extent of the inam was 560'79 acres, and that of the wet land was 412 acres, and he passed a decree in each suit dismissing the suit with costs. On appeal the High Court at Madras reversed the decrees of the Subordinate Judge. They held that the whole village of Gudimala Khandrika was settled as inam, and that the extent of the inam was 1,837'40 acres. As to wet land they held that its extent was 51 putties, as given in the Inam Register, and that it should be converted into acres at the rate of 27'35 acres per putti, and that the extent so converted was 1,408 acres. Accordingly, they passed a decree in each suit in favour of the plaintiffs-respondents. The defendant-appellant has appealed from these decrees to His Majesty in Council, and the appeals have been consolidated and heard as one appeal.
It was argued before their Lordships on behalf of the appellant that the extent of the inam as given in acres in the Inam Register was conclusive, and that the learned Judges of the High Court erred in referring to the area in putties and in converting it into acres at the rate of 27'35 acres per putti. It must be recognized that there is no direct evidence of the rate of conversion, but the extent of the inam having been given in the Inam Register both in acres and putties, there is no reason why the extent in putties should be disregarded and the case decided with exclusive reference to the extent in acres. Their Lordships consider that the real question for determination is, whether what was intended to be settled by the Inam Commissioner in 1860 was a whole inam or a minor inam only ; in other words, whether it was the whole village of Gudimala Khandrika that was then settled, or only 560'79 acres in it. (Their Lordships after discussing the evidence in the case held.) Upon a consideration of the documents mentioned above, their Lordships are of opinion that the whole village of Gudimala Khandrika was settled as inam and they are in complete agreement with the High Court in all the conclusions reached by them. Their Lordships will therefore humbly advise His Majesty that the appeal should be dismissed. The appellant will pay the respondents' costs of the appeal.