POLLAPALLI VENKATARAMA RAO AND ORS. Vs. MUSUNURU VENKAYYA AND ORS.
HIGH COURT OF MADRAS
Pollapalli Venkatarama Rao And Ors.
Musunuru Venkayya And Ors.
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Rajamannar, J. -
(1.) THESE revision petitions came up for hearing in the first instance before a Division Bench consisting of Govinda Menon and Basheer Ahmed Sayeed JJ. and they considered it was desirable that one of the questions involved in the petitions, namely, the construction and applicability of Sub -section (3) of Section 189 of the Madras Estates Land Act should be decided by a Full Bench.
(2.) THE facts necessary for the disposal of this reference are as follows: The plaintiffs are the proprietors of a village called Bommaluru in the Krishna district. They filed suits against the tenants in possession of holdings in the village for an injunction restraining them from removing the paddy heaps standing on the suit lands until a due division was made of the crop and until the rent in kind payable to the plaintiffs be paid by the tenants -defendants, for effecting a division of the paddy heaps, or in the alternative for payment of the value of the plaintiffs' shares of the crop. The suits were filed in the court of the District Munsif of Bezwada. The tenants pleaded 'inter alia' that Bommaluru was an estate within the meaning of the Madras Estates Land Act and they had occupancy rights therein.
Anticipating this plea, the plaintiffs alleged in their plaint that by reason of the prior decision of the Revenue Divisional Officer, Nuzwid, in M. P. No. 2 of 1938 that the said village was not an estate, which decision was confirmed by the District Collector and the High Court, the contesting defendants were precluded from raising this plea. One of the points for determination, therefore, was:
"Whether this decision in M. P. No. 2 of 1938 of the Revenue Divisional Officer of Nuzwid operates as 'res judicata' as between the parties on the question as to whether the suit land is an estate."
(3.) M . P. No. 2 of 1938 was a petition filed by 21 tenants in the village under Section 40 of the Madras Estates. Land Act for commutation of rent. In that petition, the present plaintiffs who were respondents therein, contended that Bommaluru was not an estate. The Revenue Divisional Officer decided that it was not an estate and dismissed the petition. There was a revision petition filed against the order of the Revenue Divisional Officer to the District Collector of Krishna who dismissed it. A civil revision petition was then filed to this court, but this court dismissed it on the ground that a revision petition would not lie to the High Court. The contention of the land -holder is that the above decision of the Revenue divisional officer is binding on the civil court. Reliance is placed on Section 189 (3) of the Madras Estates Land Act. Section 189 runs thus:
"189. (1) A District collector or Collector hearing suits or applications of the nature specified in Parts A and B of the schedule and the Board of Revenue or the District Collector exercising appellate or revisional Jurisdiction therefrom shall hear and determine such suite or applications or exercise such Jurisdiction as a Revenue court.
No civil court in the exercise of its original jurisdiction shall take cognisance of any dispute or matter in respect of which such suit or application might be brought or made.
(2) Decrees and orders passed in the suits and applications referred to in Sub -section (1) shall be subject to appeal as provided in the sixth column of Parts A and B of the schedule.
(3) The decision of a Revenue court or of an appellate or revisional authority in any suit or proceeding under this Act on a matter falling within the exclusive jurisdiction of me Revenue court shall be binding on the parties thereto and persons claiming under them, in any suit or proceeding in a civil court in which such matter may be in issue between them.
(4) The decision of a civil court on any matter falling within its jurisdiction shall be binding on the parties thereto and persons claiming under them In any suit or proceeding before a Revenue court or an appellate or revisional authority in which such matter may be in issue between them."
An application for commutation of rent under Section 40 of the Act is one of the applications specified in Part B of the schedule to the Act, A District Collector or Collector, therefore, has exclusive jurisdiction to hear the application as a revenue court. The question is whether the finding of the Revenue court that Bommaluru village is not an estate given by it in disposing of such application is binding on the parties in the civil court to which the same issue arises, because of the provision in Section 189(3).
The learned Judges referred to two decisions of two Division Benches, dealing with the applicability of Section 189(3) of the Act, as being in conflict with each other, namely, - - 'AIR 1920 Mad 558 (A)' and - - ' : AIR 1928 Mad 1122 (B)'. We may observe at the outset that neither of these decisions directly covers the present case. In the said two cases, the decision of the Revenue Court which was relied upon as 'res judicata' in the civil court was in a suit under Section 55 of the Madras Estates Land Act. But there are decisions of Division Benches to which we shall refer later which are directly in point in cases where the prior decision of the Revenue court was on an application under Section 40 of the Act just as in the case before us. In these cases, the learned Judges held that the prior decision would not be 'res judicata'. So far as we are aware, the correctness of these decisions has never been doubted. Therefore, a reference to a Full Bench was not strictly necessary. As the matter, however, is before us, and was fully argued, we think it is desirable to resolve the conflict.;
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