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Madras High Court
Lakshminarayana Pantulu vs Venkatrayanam And Anr. on 15 December, 1897
Equivalent citations: (1898) 8 MLJ 43
Author: S Aiyar


Subrahmania Aiyar, J.

1. The plaintiff is a Zemindar and is, therefore, undoubtedly a landholder mentioned in Section 3 of the Rent Recovery Act (VIII of 1865). The defendants own a village in the plaintiff’s zemindari as mokhasa-inamdars and as such they have to pay kattubadi or fixed money rent annually to the plaintiff.

2. The Learned Counsel for the defendants urged that they being inamdars, ought not to be held to be, within the meaning of the Rent Recovery Act, tenants in any sense.

3. This contention is, however, opposed to the course of decisions since 1883. In Appasami v. Rama Subba I.L.R. 7 M. 262, it was held that an inamdar who paid quit-rent to a superior inamdar was in respect of that quit-rent liable at the instance of the superior inamdar to be summarily proceeded against under the Act as a tenant. In Subbaraya v. Srinivasa (Ib. 580) it was ruled that a permanent lessee of a village forming part of a mittah–though he was not an agricultural tenant–was nevertheless a tenant within the meaning of Section 12 of the Act and, therefore, entitled to institute a summary suit for damages sustained in consequence of his having been unlawfully ejected by the muttadar. In Bhaskarasami v. Sivaswami (I.L.R. 8 M. 196) the decision was that a zemindar could under the Act cause the interest of a permanent lessee (whose holding was similar in character to that of the lessee in the last case)–to be sold for arrears of rent due under the lease. And lastly in Suryanarayana v. Appa Rau (I.L. R. 16 M. 40) the Court upheld the contention that a zemindar could under the Act distrain for arrears of jodi payable by inamdars,

4. So far as I am aware, no doubt has hitherto been thrown upon the view of the law adopted in the above decisions and I believe that a considerable number of titles has been created under sales held upon the strength of that view of the law. In these circumstances it is I think too late to contend that the defendants are not tenants at all within the meaning of the Act.

5. Moreover, the present order of reference, as I understand it, assumes that the defendants are tenants under the Act for some purposes and only raises the question whether they are tenants falling within Section 3 of the Act and the other Sections relating to, the exchange of pattas and muchilikas.

6. Now the language of the leading Section, viz., 3, clearly points to tenants who are directly connected with land as cultivators. Unquestionably these are the persons who are sometimes spoken of as cultivating or agricultural tenants but more generally as ryots. It is this well known and very numerous body of people that the Legislature has all along taken special precautions to protect, for the simple reason that while the agricultural prosperity of the country so much depends on their well-being, they are peculiarly liable to be oppressed by zemindars or other landholders who have the right to collect rents from them. One of the measures adopted very early for ensuring the desired protection to ryots was the compulsory exchange of pattahs and muchilikas. In the earliest Regulation relating to the subject, XXX of 1802, the following passage occurs in the preamble “to the end that cultivators and under-tenants of land may have the benefit and protection of determinate agreements in their dealings with superior landholders and farmers of laud, and it being necessary to the security and comfort of cultivators and under-tenants that the terms of such agreements should be made specific to the end that cultivators and under-tenants being sensible of the advantage of such security may ‘ have recourse to them for the prevention of disputes; wherefore the following rules have been enacted for the execution of pattahs between proprietors or farmers of land, or amils, and under-tenants under farmers, or ryots.” And the opening words of the first Section of the said Regulation are “Proprietors and farmers of land shall enter into agreements with the inhabitants and cultivators of land on the terms on which they respectively occupy such land.”

And though when the law as to the recovery of rent was consolidated and amended in 1865, the cultivators or ryots were less liable to be subjected to exactions on the part of the zemindars than they had been in 1802, yet the needful continuance of the protection secured by the compulsory exchange of engagements had not materially diminished. Consequently the substance of the old law on the point was re-enacted with the important and stringent modification contained in Section 7 of Act VIII to the effect that the pattah tendered should be such as the tenant was bound to accept. It is scarcely necessary to add that certain circumstances connected with holdings of ryots render periodical adjustment of accounts between them and the zemindar necessary, and the annual exchange of engagements in their case is, therefore, of great practical importance.

7. Now before proceeding to consider whether the provisions in the present law relating to pattahs and muchilikas extend also to the case of inamdars such as the defendants, I should make a few observations with reference to the assumption made in Section 3 that in the case of tenants mentioned therein there was an existing relation of landlord and tenant which would warrant the application by either party for a written agreement, inasmuch as the learned vakil for the plaintiff, if I understand him correctly, seemed to suggest that that assumption was scarcely true of cultivators or ryots above referred to But that the assumption in question has all along been true in respect of the holdings of ryots generally admits of no doubt as will be seen from Second Appeal No. 766 of 1896 where the true origin and character of holdings of ryots were recently considered. The authorities cited there that ryots are neither tenants-at-will nor tenants from year to year but possess in the lands under their occupation a far more lasting interest and in fact they are peasant proprietors being entitled to what is known as the kudivaram right as opposed to the melvaram right or the right of the State. That such was the view adopted by the framers of the Rent Recovery Act is clear from the final report, dated the 21st December 1864, submitted by the Select Committee on the Bill which became the Rent Recovery Act. After referring to the Proceedings of the Board of Revenue, dated the 2nd idem, in which the entire history of the relation between zemindars and ryots was reviewed, the Committee in paragraphs 4 and 5 of their report observe “without going so far as to hold that zemindars are only farmers or assignees of the public revenue and not proprietors of their estates, they (the Committee) unanimously concur with the Board (of Revenue) that the Regulations of 1802 were intended to protect the rights of occupants of land under zemindars by fixing the maximum rent demandable from them and forbidding their ejectment as long as that rent was paid. The Committee further hold that Regulations IV and V of 1822 were passed for the increased protection of such occupants of land, in consequence of the passages in the Regulation of 1802 which spoke of a proprietary right being conferred on zemindars having led to doubt and misapprehension. No alteration is, therefore, necessary in the principle of this Bill which was framed on the above view of the rights of occupants of land under zemindars.” (5 Madras Revenue Register at pages 116 and 117).

8. The above extract furnishes the clue to the assumption which is made in Section 3 and on which stress was laid on behalf of the plaintiff as if it somehow detracted from the view that Section 3 referred only to tenants in the position of ryots and in my opinion that assumption is perhaps the strongest argument in favour of that view. For the assumption is not true in respect of any other description of tenants of zemindari lands.

9. Turning now to the case of inamdars in the position of the defendants, it is obvious that they do not strictly come within either the strict letter or the spirit of the provisions in question. In the first place the inamdars are, it is conceded, not occupants of land but possess only the right to receive rents due by such occupants. Secondly, the inamdars form a comparatively very small class fairly able to look after their own interests in their relation with zemindars or other superior landholders. Thirdly and lastly, the amount of quit-rent or (kattubadi, jodi, poruppu or by whatever other name it might be known) payable by them to zemindars or others under grants creating the inams being mostly fixed permanently, there is little or no necessity for periodical revision and settlement such as are required between zemindars and ryots. Consequently, exchange of pattahs and muchilikas between zemindars and inamdars cannot serve any realty useful end.

10 On the contrary though the exchange of such documents between those persons would in truth be nothing more than an idle formality, yet the neglect of it would so far as zemindars are concerned lead to the serious consequence of loss of rent.

11. For these reasons, I think that the provisions contained in Section 3 and the Sections which specially refer to it were not intended to apply to inamdars in the position of the defendants.

12. It remains only to observe that even if a different construction were possible, this Court would be precluded from adopting such a construction by the decision of the Privy Council in Ramasami v. Bhaskarasami I.L.R. 2 M. 67. There it was held that a lease of a village granted by a zemindar to a banker was not a pattah within the meaning of the Rent Recovery Act. In the course of their judgment their Lordships observe “Section 3 seems to, be confined to the relation of tenants who are cultivating the land and their immediate landlords. The whole Act may not be confined to that class, but the intention appears to be by Section 3 and the Sections which specially refer to it to regulate the relation of landlords and tenants of that description” (at page 72). These observations were not obiter dicta, but were necessary for the decision of the case [see also Rama v. Venkatachalam, I.L.R. 8 M. 577].

13. I would, therefore, answer the question submitted in the negative.

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