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Munawar Ali Khan and anr. Vs. the Punjab Province Through Collector and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtPunjab and Haryana
Decided On
Reported inAIR1949P& H33
AppellantMunawar Ali Khan and anr.
RespondentThe Punjab Province Through Collector and ors.
Cases ReferredManager of Hampi Sri Virupaksha Swami Temple v. Lambani Golya
Excerpt:
.....appealed to the district judge, have now preferred these second appeals. now section 17 of the act provides that no decision passed' or act done by the collector under this act shall be called in question by any civil court, and no suit or other proceeding shall lie against him for anything done in good faith in exercise of the powers hereby conferred......is the suit competent in the present form?2. can the finding of the collector that the property in suit is a treasure trove be challenged in the civil court?the first issue was found in the plaintiffs' favour but the second was decided against them and as a result the suits were dismissed. nawabzada munawwar ali khan and mt. shahidan begam, after having unsuccessfully appealed to the district judge, have now preferred these second appeals.5. it was first of all urged before us by the appellants' counsel that the second issue was wrongly decided against the appellants. now treasure as defined in section 3 of the act means any thing of any value hidden in the soil, or in any thing affixed thereto. section 5 of the act lays down that when the collector receives notice under section 4, after.....
Judgment:

1. This appeal and Appeal No. 1159 of 1945 are connected and will be disposed of by one order.

2. The facts giving rise to these appeals are as follows: On 22nd March 1943 the District Magistrate of Karnal was informed by the police that a buried treasure had been recovered from the house of one Nawabzada Munawwar Ali Khan. The District Magistrate deputed the City Magistrate to take hold of the treasure and after this had been done, the District Magistrate issued a notification under Section 5, Treasure-trove Act (VI [6] of 1878) calling upon persons claiming the treasure or any part thereof to appear before him. The following four persons appeared be-fore the Collector and laid claim to the treasure: (1) Mt. Sami-ul-Nisa, (2) Mt. Shahidan Begam, wife of Nawabzada Munawwar Ali Khan, (3) Nawabzada Mimawar Ali Khan, and (4) Nawab-zada Ejaz Ali Khan.

3. Nawabzada Munawwar Ali Khan and his wife, Mt. Shahidan Begam even denied the allegation that the treasure had been recovered buried in the house. On the other hand, they contended that it had been recovered from a locked box which belonged to them. The Collector after holding the enquiry came to the conclusion that the treasure was a treasure within the meaning of the Act and had been recovered buried from the ground. He rejected the allegations of Nawabzada Munawwar Ali Khan and his wife that it had been recovered from a locked box belonging to them. Accordingly he directed all the four claimants to establish their title to the treasure in a civil Court.

4. The suits out of which these appeals have arisen were instituted by Nawabzada Munawwar Ali Khan and Mt. Shahidan Begam. The first point taken by them was that the treasure in question had not been recovered buried from the house but had been taken out of a locked box that belonged to them. They further contended that they were the owners of the treasure. The Punjab Province, which was one of the defendants, contested the suit and raised preliminary objections which were made the subject-matter of the following two issues:

1. Is the suit competent in the present form?

2. Can the finding of the Collector that the property In suit is a treasure trove be challenged in the civil Court?

The first issue was found in the plaintiffs' favour but the second was decided against them and as a result the suits were dismissed. Nawabzada Munawwar Ali Khan and Mt. Shahidan Begam, after having unsuccessfully appealed to the District Judge, have now preferred these second appeals.

5. It was first of all urged before us by the appellants' counsel that the second issue was wrongly decided against the appellants. Now treasure as defined in Section 3 of the Act means any thing of any value hidden in the soil, or in any thing affixed thereto. Section 5 of the Act lays down that when the Collector receives notice under Section 4, after making such an enquiry as he thinks fit, he shall publish a notification calling upon the persons claiming the treasure or any part thereof to appear before him and when the place from which the treasure appears to the Col. lector to have been found was at the date of the finding in the possession of some person other than the finder, then notice shall also be served upon him.

6. Section 7 lays down the matters which the Collector would enquire into after the persons to whom notices are issued under Section 5 appear before him. It says:

On the day notified under Section 5, the Collector shall cause the treasure to be produced before him, and shall enquire as to and determine: (a) the person by whom, the place in which, and the circumstances under which} such treasure was found; and (b) as far as is possible; the person by whom, and the circumstances under; which, such treasure was hidden.7. Section 8 lays down that if, upon an enquiry made under Section 7, the Collector sees reason, to believe that the treasure was hidden within one hundred years before the date of the finding by a person appearing as required by the said notification and claiming such treasure, or by some other person under whom such person claims, the Collector shall make an order adjourning the hearing of the case for such period as he deems sufficient, to allow of a suit being instituted in the civil Court by the claimant, to establish his right. In the present case there is no doubt that the Collector did hold the enquiry under Section 7 and he gave his finding op the relevant points. The concluding words of his order read as below:

For all these reasons I have no doubt in holding that the money seized from Munawwar Ali,Khan was. treasure within the meaning of the Treasure-trove Act and was taken out of earth on 22nd March 1943,. in the circumstances by Mt. Mohammadi Begam, Mt. Ulfat and Ghafoor.8. This finding in my opinion definitely negatives the contention of the appellants that the treasure was taken out of a locked box belonging to them inasmuch as it was held that the treasure was a treasure within the meaning of the Act. Now Section 17 of the Act provides that no decision passed' or act done by the Collector under this Act shall be called in question by any civil Court, and no suit or other proceeding shall lie against him for anything done in good faith in exercise of the powers hereby conferred. Since the Collectort has given a definite finding that the treasure; was a treasure within the meaning of the Act and he has also negatived the allegations of the plaintiffs in respect of the treasure being taken out of the locked box belonging to them, I have no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the case is governed by first part of Section 17 and; that the said finding of the Collector could not be challenged by the plaintiffs in the suit.

8. The learned Counsel for the appellants drew our attention to Manager of Hampi Sri Virupaksha Swami Temple v. Lambani Golya 31 Mad. 397 and urged that in view of the decision in that case the civil Court had jurisdiction to go into the matter in controversy, even if the Collector has given his finding, thereon. I cannot, however, understand how that case helps the appellants because there was no question of jurisdiction therein and it was never held that when a matter which the Collector is competent to decide under Section 7, has been decided by him, the finding of the Collector can be agitated in the civil Court.

9. The question now is whether the conclusive nature of the finding of the Collector regarding the treasure being a treasure-trove should have entailed dismissal of the plaintiffs' suits. As the words of Section 8, which I have reproduced above, go to show, when a person is called upon by the Collector to institute a suit, the scope of the Suit is to have that person's right to the treasure determined. In the suits with which we are concerned the plaintiffs did, raise the question of their right to the treasure though they also challenged the correctness of the finding of the Collector regarding the nature of the treasure and the place wherefrom it was recovered. The second point no doubt could not be gone into by the civil Court, but there was no reason why the civil Court should refuse to decide whether or not the plaintiffs have any right or title to the treasure. Accordingly I would allow the appeals, set aside the decrees and judgments of the Court below and remand the cases with the direction that issues be framed regarding the plaintiffs' right and title to the treasure in question and be decided after allowing the parties to adduce evidence. The costs will abide the event.

11. Parties' counsel have been directed to cause their respective clients to appear in the trial Court on 9th August.


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