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Govindan Nair Vs. Secy., CochIn Devaswom Board - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.P. Nos. 8 and 9 of 1955
Judge
Reported inAIR1957Ker188
ActsTravancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950 - Sections 113(2); Constitution of India - Article 14; Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1081
AppellantGovindan Nair
RespondentSecy., CochIn Devaswom Board
Appellant Advocate V.K.K. Menon and; T. Chandrasekhara Menon, Advs.; K.V. S
Respondent Advocate K. Atchutha Menon,; P.K. Krishnankutty Menon,; P.I. Ravi
DispositionPetitions dismissed
Cases ReferredIn Kuppuswami Gramani v. State of Madras
Excerpt:
.....devaswom board violates article 14 - difference between procedure available to ordinary jenm and devaswom board - article 14 forbids class legislation - in order to pass test of permissible classification two conditions must be fulfilled - classification should be based on intelligible differentia - differentia must have rational to object sought to be achieved - difference does not amount to discrimination or denial of equality guaranteed by article 14. - - it is now well established that while article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid 'reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation. namely, geographical, or according to objects or occupations or the like. it is also well established by the decisions of this court that article 14 condemns discrimination..........sustained by them in consequence of a breach of contract, may he recovered iu the same manner as arrears of land-revenue under the provisions of this act, unless the recovery thereof shall have been or may hereafter be otherwise specially provided for'.he said :'there cannot be any doubt that the impugned clause discriminates the state from any other person in the matter of realising a debt. but the question is whether the said act of discrimination can be justified on the basis of a reasonable classification'.dealt with the necessity for an expeditious collection in a welfare state, and answered the question in the affirmative.12. the arrears sought to be recovered fromthe petitioner by the devaswom board includeamounts claimed by way of renewal fees. mr.achutha menon, learned counsel.....
Judgment:

M.S. Menon, J.

1. Section 113(2) of the Travancore-Cochin HinduReligious Institutions Act, 1950, reads as follows:

'The provisions of the Devaswom Proclamation dated the 29th day of Makarom 1085 corresponding to the 11th day of February 1910 and the rules issued thereunder in respect of the procedure to be adopted and the mode of recovery of pattern, michavarom, renewal fees and other dues shall apply mutatis mutandis to the procedure and mode of recovery of pattom, michavarom, renewal fees and other dues relating to incorporated and unincorporated Devaswoms and to the institutions whose management has been assumed under the provisions of the Cochin Hindu' Religious Institutions Act, 1 of 1081, or is assumed under the provisions of Part II of this Act'.

and the contention before us in these two petitions is that the said sub-section in so far as they relate to Devaswoms 'assumed' under Act, I of 1081 is ultra vires of Article 14 of the Constitution whichprovides that:

''The State shall not deny to any person equality before the Jaw or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India'.

2. It is common ground that the Devaswom concerned -- the Thayankavu Devaswom -- was 'assumed' on grounds of mismanagement some time after 1100 under the provisions of Act, I of 1081. Paragraph 5 of both the petitions reads as follows:

'The Thayankavu Devaswom originally belonged to one Chiratamen Moosad of Olessa Deso:n, Ammanum Pakuthy of Kottayam District. He was the sole owner uralan. Subsequently in 1100 due to some act of in is management of the original owner uralan the Cochin Government placed it under a Trustee. Afterwards the Devaswom Department itself assumed management.'

3. O. P. No. 8 relates to survey plot No. 884/2of the Chundal Village. The petitioner's contention in that petition is that the property belongs tohim exclusively and that the Devaswom has nomanner of right over it. It was, however, agreedthat we need no decide the question and that asfar as those petitions are concerned we may proceedon the basis that he is not the owner but a kanomtenant.

4. O. P. No. 9 relates to survey plot Nos. 881/1, 843, 729, 891, 816/2 and 1381/2 of the ChundalVillage and it is filed by the petitioner in his capacity as the karanavan of his tarwad. It is admitted in his affidavit that the rights of his farwad in the said items of property are those of a kanom tenant.

5. The rules made under the Devaswom Pro-clamation of 1085 in respect of the procedure to be adopted and the mode of recovery of pattom, michavarom, renewal fees and other dues appear in Appendix VI-A of the Cochin Devaswom Manual. Rule 6 of the said rules provides how arrears are to be recovered:

'Arrears of rent, together with interest, if any, may be recovered by the Devaswom Superintendent, or any officer empowered by him in that behalf, by the sale of the defaulter's movable properly or by the placing of lands on Nadupattam or Sthirapattam'.

The expression 'placing a land on Nadupattam' and 'placing a land on Sthirapattam' are defined in Rule 1 (f) and (g) as follows:

'(f) 'Placing a land on Nadupattam' means taking possession by the Sirkar of such land from a defaulter and handing it over for a fixed number of years to a third parry who shall be called the Nadu-pattamdar,

(g) 'Placing a land on Sthirapattam' means taking possession by the Sirkar of such land from a defaulter and handing it over permanently to a third party, or if the land, is one already placed on Nadupattam, making the Nadupattamdar's possession of such land permanent'.

Rules 7 to 25 deal with the attachment and sale of movable, property, rules 26 to 34 with the procedure relating to Nadupattam and Sthirapattam and rules 35 to 38 with the general provisions regarding the recovery of arrears of interest. Of these rules, rule 35 specifically provides for suits by persons aggrieved by proceedings under the rules:

'Nothing contained in these rules shall be held to prevent parties deeming themselves aggrieved by any proceedings under these rules, from applying to the Civil Court for redress, provided that no Civil Court shall take cognisance of any suit brought against any public servant by any person deeming himself aggrieved by any proceedings under these rules, unless such shall be instituted within six months from the time at which the cause of action arose'.

These provisions are the same as those embodied in the rules framed under Act I of 1081 (Appendix VI-B of the Cochin Devaswom Manual), the Act under which the Devaswom was 'assumed' and it follows that the tenants of the Devaswoms whose management was assumed by the Government were liable to the arrears being recovered by a similar process ever since the framing of the rules on the 9th March 1910.

6. The question, therefore, is only whether the availability of such a quick and coercive process to the Devaswom Board violates Article 14 of the Constitution. There is a difference no doubt-between the procedure available to an ordinary jenm and the Devaswom Board; but in the; background and the circumstances of the case We are not prepared to say that the difference amounts to discrimination or a denial of the equality guaranteed by Article 14.

7. It has also to be noted that resort to a speedier process is available even to ordinary jenmies under the Cochin Tenancy Act, XV of 1113. Section 48 of that Act provides for an application to the Tahsildar for the recovery of arrears and subsection (4) of that section is:

'If the Tahsildar is specified that the application has been duly presented, that the arrears are due from the tenant, that the applicant is entitled to recover them and that they are not more than one year old on the date of the application, he shall proceed to recover the amount of the arrears and interest and the fees paid under Sub-section (3) by the applicant as if they were an arrear of land revenue due to Government and the provisions of the Revenue Recovery Act IV of 1083, shall mutatis mutandis apply to all the proceedings''.

8. In Budhan Choudhry v. State of Bihar, (S) AIR 1955 SC 191 (A) a Full Bench of the Supreme Court surveyed the earlier decisions of that court relating to Article 14 of the Constitution and said:

'It is now well established that while Article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid 'reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation. In order, however, to pass the test of permissible classification, two conditions must be fulfilled namely (i) that the classification must be founded on an Intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from others left out of the group and (ii) that that differentia must have a rational relation to the object sought to be achieved by the statute in question. The classification may be founded on different bases; namely, geographical, or according to objects or occupations or the like. What is necessary is that there must be a nexus between the basis of classification and the object of the Act under consideration. It is also well established by the decisions of this Court that Article 14 condemns discrimination not only by a substantive law but also by a law of procedure'.

9. This passage was again treated as an adequate summary of the protection afforded by Article 14 against hostile and discriminatory legislation in Bidy Supply Co. v. Union of India, (S) AIR 1956 SC 479 (B). In that case Bose, J., in a separate but concurring judgment pointed out the difficulties in the way of evolving clear cut principles and a definite formula of classification. He said;

'The truth is that it is impossible to 'be precise, for we are dealing with intangibles and though 'the results are clear it is impossible to pin the thought down to any precise analysis.

Article 14 sets out, to my mind, an attitude of mind, a way of life, rather than a precise rule of law. It embodies a general awareness in the consciousness of the people at large of something that exists and which is very real but which cannot be pinned down to any precise analysis of fact save to say in a given case that it falls this side of the line or that and because of that decisions on the same point will vary as conditions vary, one conclusion in one part of the country and another somewhere else; one decision today and another tomorrow when the basis of society has altered and the structure of current social thinking is different. It is not the law that alters but the changing conditions of the times and Article 14 narrows down to a question of fact which must be determined by the highest Judges in the land as each case arises'.

10. Approaching the' problem before us in the flight of the principles laid down by the Supreme Court we feel no hesitation in holding that there is a rational basis for the differential treatment and that the provisions impugned do not in any way violate Article 14 of the Constitution.

11. In Kuppuswami Gramani v. State of Madras, AIR 1957 Mad 23 (C) Subba Rao, J., had to deal with the question as to whether the following portion of Section 52 of the Madras Revenue Recovery Act, 1864, was ultra vires of Article 14 of the Constitution:

'and all sums due to the Provincial Government, including compensation for any loss or damage sustained by them in consequence of a breach of contract, may he recovered iu the same manner as arrears of land-revenue under the provisions of this Act, unless the recovery thereof shall have been or may hereafter be otherwise Specially provided for'.

He said :

'There cannot be any doubt that the impugned clause discriminates the State from any other person in the matter of realising a debt. But the question is whether the said act of discrimination can be justified on the basis of a reasonable classification'.

dealt with the necessity for an expeditious collection in a Welfare State, and answered the question in the affirmative.

12. The arrears sought to be recovered fromthe petitioner by the Devaswom Board includeamounts claimed by way of renewal fees. Mr.Achutha Menon, learned counsel for the DevaswomBoard, proposes to seek the recovery of the saidamounts -- the arrears claimed by way of renewalFees -- by regular suits in the appropriate court andin view of that the contentions urged on behalf ofthe petitioner on the basis of the Kanom TenancyAct, 1955 'do not arise for consideration. Mr.'Achutha Menon, however, wants us to make it quiteclear that this will not in any way preclude theDevaswom Board from agitating in the future itscontention that the whole of the Kanom TenancyAct, 1955, is ultra vires of the Constitution, andwe do so.

13. In the light of what is stated above these petitions have to be dismissed and they are hereby dismissed though in the circumstances of the case without any order as to costs.


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