1. This is a defendant's appeal arising out of a suit for the recovery of a sum of money.
2. The facts are not in dispute. The defendant's father Khem Ram filed a suit in the village panchayat court against the present plaintiff Budhu. This suit was decreed ex parte for the sum of Rs. 48-11-0. Budhu applied to the Collector under Section 71, U.P. Village Panchayat Act, for vacation of the decree on the ground that the son of the plaintiff in that suit was one of the panchas. The Collector accepted the application and vacated the decree. Khem Ram objected that the information given to the Collector was incorrect, and ultimately the Collector, having ascertained that the plaintiff's son was not in fact one of the panchas who decided the suit, restored the decree. In execution of the decree the present defendants realised the decretal amount from the present plaintiff.
3. The plaintiff thereupon instituted the suit out of which this appeal arises for a declaration that the Collector had no power to review his order vacating the decree and for the recovery of the decretal amount.
4. The defence was that the Collector had jurisdiction to review his order and that the suit was not cognizable by the civil Court. Both the Courts below have found against the defendants and have decreed the plaintiff's suit.
5. The defendants have come to this Court in second appeal. In support of the appeal it is contended by the learned Counsel for the appellants: (1) that the Collector was perfectly competent to review his order vacating the decree and, (2) that the civil Court had no jurisdiction to entertain the present suit.
6. In my opinion, both these contentions are well founded. Section 71, U.P. Village Panchayat Act, gives power to the Collector to cancel any order or decree passed by a panchayat. It seems to follow that the Collector has power to review his order in the same way as any other Court has power to review its own order particularly when there is no statutory bar drawn to such review. It would be wholly anomalous if the Collector had power under the U.P. Village Panchayat Act, to pass an order and was powerless to review that order when any mistake or misrepresentation was brought to his notice. In my opinion, therefore the order of the Collector reviewing his decree was not ultra vires.
7. A perusal of the U.P. Village Panchayat Act, shows that the object of the legislature has been to exclude the jurisdiction of the civil Court except where it is especially provided that the civil Court shall have such jurisdiction. Section 32 provides:
No Court shall take cognizance of any suit which is cognizable under this Act by a panchayat unless or until the Collector has passed an order in writing under Section 71.
8. Section 52 provides:
Except as provided by Section 71 no order or decree of a punchayat shall be called in question in any Court on the ground it was passed without jurisdiction.
9. Section 53 provides:
There shall be no appeal from any decree or order passed by a panehayat in any suit under this Act, and except as provided in Sections 49 and 74 no Court or au thority shall have power to revise any such decree or order.
10. Section 71 provides that the Collector may at any time, whether on a reference by a panchayat under Section 51 or of his own motion, by order in writing (a) cancel the jurisdiction of a panchayat with respect to any suit or case, or (b) quash any proceedings of a panchayat at any stage, or (c) cancel any order or decree passed by a panchayat. The section further provides that when an order has been passed by the Collector under Sub-section (1) in respect of any suit, the plaintiff may institute a suit for the same relief in the civil Court.
11. It would thus seem that the jurisdiction of the civil Court in respect of cases before a panchayat court is restricted to those cases provided for in Section 71 of the Act. It is contended by the learned Counsel for the respondent that it is not the decree and order of the panchayat that has been called into question by the civil suit, but an order of the Collector. In my opinion however the proceedings of the Collector in exercise of the powers with which he is vested under the Act must be deemed to be proceedings of the panchayat. In my view the suit was outside the jurisdiction of the civil Court. The result is that I allow the appeal, set aside the decree of the Court below and decree the plaintiff's suit with costs throughout.