1. The question which the Court has to consider in this case is whether Section 32 of the Madras Marumakkattayyam Act, 1932, has altered the customary law to the extent of permitting a suit for accounts to be filed against a karnavan.
2. The appellant is a junior member of a tarwad of which the first respondent is the karnavan.. He sued in the Court of the District Munsiff of Chowghat for a decree granting inter alia the following reliefs : (1) Ordering the karnavan to produce in Court within a date specified the daily accounts, ledgers, counterfoil receipt books, and vouchers relating to the income and expenditure of the tarwad from the 1st Kanni 1117 to the 31st Chingam 1117 (that is from the 17th September, 1941 to the 16th September, 1942) and (2) directing the karnavan to render true and correct accounts of all the income and expenditure and generally of the management of the tarwad since he became the karnavan. The District Munsiff considered that a Suit of this nature could now be brought by reason of the provisions of Section 32 of the Madras Marumakkattayyam Act. The karnavan appealed to the Subordinate Judge of Ottapalam. The Subordinate Judge agreed with the District Munsiff that in the circumstances of the case the karnavan could be compelled to produce his books of account and relevant papers in Court, but disagreed with him on the question whether a suit for accounts lay. The Subordinate Judge was of the opinion that it did not and consequently modified the decree passed by the District Munsiff. The plaintiff has appealed to this Court. The karnavan accepts the legality of the finding so far as it directs him to produce his accounts in Court and we are informed that this part of the decree has been complied with.
3. Section 32 of the Act reads as follows:
The karnavan shall keep true and correct accounts of the income and expenditure of the tarwad. The accounts of each year shall be available for inspection at the tarwad house by the major anandravans once in a year throughout the month of Kanni following such year and any such anandravan may take copies of or extracts from such accounts.
Clause (b) of Section 50 says that nothing contained in the Act shall be deemed to affect any rule of Marumakkattayam law, custom or usage except to the extent expressly laid down in the Act.
4. It is common ground that before the Act was passed a junior member of a tarwad was not entitled under the customary law to bring a suit for accounts against the karnavan. If the karnavan had caused loss to the estate by reason of his own act of misfeasarice or fraud, a suit requiring him to make good the loss would lie at the instance of a junior member of the tarwad; but the suit had to be based on some specific act of misfeasance or fraud. If in the course of such a suit it was proved that the karnavan had been guilty of misfeasance or fraud, he could be removed. The customary law is concisely stated in the judgment of this Court in Manavadan v. Sridevi (1926) 52 M.L.J. 277 : I.L.R. 50 Mad. 431.
5. Therefore before the Act was, passed this suit would not have been maintainable even in so far as it directed the production into Court of the accounts. As we have indicated it is accepted that the section permits a suit to be filed by a junior member requiring the karnavan to produce the accounts into Court if he has failed to make them available for inspection at the tarwad house; but this does not mean that a suit for accounts will lie. The section does not contemplate such a suit. It merely contemplates the keeping of correct accounts and the production of them for inspect tion. Section 50 puts it beyond all doubt that the customary law is not altered except, to the extent of the express provisions in the Act. The customary law did not permit of a suit for accounts against the karnavan, and to hold that Section 32 contemplates such a suit would be doing grave violence to its wording. The section, of course, leaves untouched the right of a junior member to bring a suit to compel the karnavan to make good any loss caused to the estate by reason of his misfeasance or fraud and the right to sue for his removal on the ground of neglect of his duties or abuse of his powers. The plaintiff has succeeded in getting the accounts brought to Court, and if those accounts show that the karnavan has failed in the fulfilment of his duties the plaintiff has his remedy ufider the customary law.
6. The appeal is dismissed with costs in favour of the first respondent.