Chinnamuthu Gounder & Ors Vs.
P.A.S. Perumal Chettiar  INSC 22 (16 February 1970)
16/02/1970 GROVER, A.N.
CITATION: 1970 AIR 1197 1970 SCR (3) 704 1970
SCC (1) 451
Madras Cultivating Tenants Protection Act (Mad. 25
of 1955), ss. 3(2)(d) and 6A--Scope of.
The respondent, who was the occupancy ryot of
an in am village, filed a suit for eviction of his lessees, the appellants (who
were the cultivating tenants), and for possession of the land. The appellants
set up occupancy rights in themselves as a defence. The lower courts and the
High Court found that the appellants wilfully denied the title of the
respondent. and decreed the suit.
On the question of the jurisdiction of the
civil court to try the suit,
HELD : Under s. 6A of the Madras Cultivating
Tenants Protection Act, 1955, the civil court is bound to transfer a suit for
possession to the Revenue Divisional Officer only if the defendant proves that
he is a cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits under the Act, that is, if
he prove,-, the existence of both the conditions, namely : (a) that he is a
cultivating tenant, and (b) that he is entitled to the benefits under the Act.,
Under s. 3(2)(d) of the Act, however, a tenant cannot claim the benefits under
the Act if he wilfully denies the title of the landlord. Therefore, as the
appellants became disentitled to the benefits under the Act, the civil court
was competent to try the suit. [706 D- F] The fact that the civil court has to
decide initially some questions within the jurisdiction of the Revenue Court does not affect the interpretation of s. 6A. [706 F-G] V. Kuppuswami &
Ors. v. Sri Subramaniaswami Devasthanam at Thiruvidakkazhi by its Trustees
Kanakasabhai Pillai and Muthuramalinga Chettiar & Ors. (1958) 1 M.L.J. 208,
M. S. Ramachandra Sastrigal v. Kuppuswami
Vanniar,  1 M.L.J. 335, referred to.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeals
Nos. 11 16 to 1118 of 1966.
Appeals by special leave from the judgment
and order dated September 2, 1965 of the Madras High Court in Second Appeals
Nos. 299, 335 and 346 of 1961.
S. Mohan, Kumaramangalam and R.
Gopalakrishnan, for the appellants (in all the appeals).
D. Narsaraju, G. Narasimham and K. Jayaram,
for respondent (in all the appeals).
705 The Judgment of the Court was delivered
by Grover, J. These three appeals by special leave arise out of three suits
filed by the plaintiff for declaration of his title to the lands described in
the schedules attached to the plaints and for possession of those lands as also
for arrears of rent and for mesne profits. The suit lands -are situate in an
inam village which is an estate within the meaning of the Madras Estates Land
Act (Act 1 of 1908) as originally enacted. The plaintiff claimed that he and his
predecessors in title were ryots under the inamdars of the village and that the
defendants were lessees and were only under-tenants. The defence of the
defendants who are appellants before us was that the plaintiff and his
predecessor in title were land-holders and not ryots and that the defendants
had occupancy rights by long possession and by virtue of the provisions of the
The trial court, the lower appellate court
and the High Court have negatived the contentions of the appellants. It has
been concurrently found that the plaintiff and his predecessors were ryots
under the inamdar and that the appellants were only under tenants under leases
granted by the predecessors in title of the plaintiff. In other words it has
been held that the plaintiff is the occupancy tenant and that the defendants
were mere cultivating tenants. In order to determine the point which has been
pressed before us it is unnecessary to state other facts.
The sole question on which arguments have
been addressed is whether the civil court had jurisdiction to decree the suit
in respect of possession in the presence of the provisions of the Madras
Cultivating Tenants Protection Act 1955 (Act XXV of 1955) hereinafter called
Section 2(a) defines "cultivating
tenant" to mean a person who carries on personal cultivation on any
land-under a tenancy agreement and includes any person who continues in
possession after the determination of the tenancy agreement as also the heirs
of such person. According to the provisions of s. 3 no cultivating tenant shall
be evicted from the holding at the instance of the landlord whether in
execution of a decree or order of a court or otherwise; but that is subject to
sub sec. (2) which contains the various contingencies in which the tenant
cannot claim the protection of the Act. Clause (d) which appears in the
exceptions reads "who has wilfully denied the title of the landlord to the
land". According to Explanation I a denial of the landlord's title under
the bone fide mistake of fact is not wilful within the meaning of the aforesaid
clause Sections 6 and 6-A are material for our purpose and may be reproduced :
L8SupCI/70-15 706 S. 6 "No civil court
shall, except to the extent specified in section 3(3), have jurisdiction in
respect of any matter which the Revenue Divisional Officer is empowered by or
under this Act to determine and no in- junction shall be granted by any court
in respect of any action taken or to be taken in pursuance, of any power
conferred by or under this Act." S. 6A "If in any suit before any
Court for possession of, or injunction in relation to, any land, it is proved
by affidavit or otherwise that the defendant is a cultivating tenant entitled
to the benefits of this Act, the Court shall not proceed with the trial of the
suit but shall transfer it to the Divisional Officer who shall thereupon deal
with and dispose of it as though it were an application under this Act and all
the provisions of this Act shall apply to such an application and the
applicant." The clear import of s. 6A is that in any suit before any civil
court for possession if the defendant proves not only that he is a cultivating
tenant but also that he is entitled to the benefits of the Act the civil court
is bound to transfer it to the Revenue Divisional Officer and cannot proceed to
try and dispose it of itself. In the present case it has been found by the High
Court as also. by the trial court that the appellants had wilfully denied the
title of the respondent who is the landlord. They thus become disentitled to
the benefits under the Act.
Consequently the civil court had jurisdiction
to proceed with the trial. and there was no question of its transferring the
suit to, the Revenue Divisional Officer.
There has been a consistent course of
decisions of the Madras High Court that in order to attract the applicability
of s. 6-A both the conditions must co-exist, namely, the defendant must be a
cultivating tenant within the meaning of the Act and he should be entitled to
the benefits of the Act. If both these conditions are not satisfied no question
of any transfer under s. 6-A will arise. The civil court may have to determine,
for the purpose -of coming to the conclusion, whether a suit has to be
transferred under s. 6- A, certain questions which are within the jurisdiction
of the revenue court under the Act. But that cannot affect the interpretation
of the words "cultivating tenant entitled to the benefits of the
Act". In V. Kuppuswami & Others v. Sri Sabramaniaswami Devasthanam at
Tiruvidakkazhi by its Trustees Kanakasabhai Pillai and Muthuramalinga Chettiar
& Others(') this view was clearly expressed by the Madras High Court. In a
later Bench decision in M. S. Ramachandra Sastrigal v. Kuppuswami Vanniar(2)
the existence of a third condition was also (1) (1958) 1 M. L. J. 208.
(2) (1961)1 M. L.J. 335.
707 emphasised. It was said that s. 6-A would
become applicable if the defendant is a cultivating tenant and is entitled to
the benefits of the Act and further he must show that on a transfer of the
proceedings to the Revenue Divisional Officer he would be in a position to
obtain one or the other statutory reliefs provided for in his favour under the
It is unnecessary, in the present case, to
deal with the third requirement mentioned in the judgment of the division
bench. The appellant have been clearly found to have wilfully denied the title
of the landlord. That disentitled them to the benefits of the Act by virtue of
the provisions contained in s. 3 (2) (d). The trial of the suit was thus
competent in the civil court which had complete jurisdiction to dispose of the
The appeals fail and are dismissed but in
view of the entire circumstances there will be no order as to costs in this
V.P.S. Appeals dismissed.