1. The appellants are inamdars in the Palaiyapat village of Urkad in the taluk of Ambasamudram in the district of Tinnevelly. Their ancestors had held 9-72 acres of wet land as inam from before 1800, for the purpose of maintaining a 'Dwadasi Katlai Chattram' and feeding four Brahmans on every Dwadasi or the 12th day of every lunar fortnight. They since divided the inam, and a third share is now held by one Yegna Subba Ayyar, the remaining two-thirds being held by the appellants. It was asserted by the zamindar of Urkad that the inamdars entered into an agreement in 1850 that they were to pay the zamindar every year seven kottais of paddy for each kottai of land for the maintenance of the charity. In 1864, the tenure on which this inam was held was investigated by the Inam Commissioner, and, on the 18th August 1864, the title-deed D was issued by that officer on behalf of the Governor in Council. It purported to have been issued to the manager for the time being of Dwadasi Katlai Chattram in the Palaiyapat village, and acknowledged his title to a Dharmadayam or Choultry Inam held for the support of the above Chattram's Katlai, and then stated as follows: 'This inam is confirmed to you and your successors tax-free, to be held without interference so long as the conditions of the grant are duly fulfilled.' In the Inam Register VIII on which the title-deed was issued, the inam is entered as tax-free and permanent, and as held for the support of the Dwadasi Katlai Chattram at 'Urkad which was then kept up. It referred also to the accounts of Faslis 1210 and 1254 in which the inam was entered as Dwadasi Katlai inam, and further described the Urkad Dwadasi Katlai Chattram as then being in the charge of two individuals, Subbayyan and Ramasubbayyan. In the column of remarks, it was stated that, as few Brahmans were available on the Dwadasi day, the late zamindar directed the distribution of victuals to four Brahmans every day which is now maintained. Some time before 1873, the zamindari of Urkad came under the management of the Court of Wards, and, in 1873, the then Collector of the district resumed the inam on behalf of the zamindar, on the ground that it had been granted by one of the former zamindars of Urkad, and that the inamdars had failed to pay the zamindar seven kottais of paddy every year for the up-keep of the choultry according to the agreement of 1850. This led to Suit 14 of 1874, which ultimately resulted in the cancellation of the Collector's order as ultra vires, and the decision is conclusive on the question of the zamindar's title as founded either upon the alleged agreement of 1850 or upon the grant having originally been made by one of his ancestors. The Collector then suggested to the Board of Revenue that the inam might be resumed by Government under Regulation VII of 1817 on the ground that the conditions of the grant had not been fulfilled. Thereupon, the Board directed an inquiry as to the conditions of the grant and as to whether the inamdars complied with those conditions. The Collector reported that the conditions of the original grant could, not be ascertained, and, on the 29th June 1879, the Board of Revenue suggested to Government that the inam right might be resumed in the case of those inamdars who failed to fulfil the conditions of the grant, and that it might be re-granted in favour of the zamindar. On the 2nd September 1879, Government sanctioned this recommendation and passed an order in accordance with it. The appellants brought this suit to cancel this order of Government as contrary to law. The Subordinate Judge decreed the claim, and observed that the Board of Revenue had no right to interfere under Act XX of 1863, that a grant for the support of Dwadasi Katlai was a grant made for a purely religious purpose, and that the title-deed issued by the Inam Commissioner was legalized by 32 and 33 Vic. Cap. 29. On appeal, however, the District Judge held that the inam in the present case was a private endowment of a secular nature, and that the Civil Courts had no power to entertain the suit, and, upon this ground, he dismissed the suit without investigating the other issues recorded for decision. On second appeal, it is argued, inter alia, that the Courts had jurisdiction to entertain the suit, and that the District Judge was in error in declining to enter on the merits.
2. It appears to us that the nature of the claim and the principles on which it ought to be decided have been misapprehended.
3. The title-deed issued by the Inam Commissioner is final as to the conditions subject to which the appellants are entitled to claim the continuance of the inam right. By Regulation XXXI of 1802, power was reserved to Government of inquiring into the titles of persons holding lands free of tax under grants other than Bad-shayi or royal, and by Section 3 of that Regulation it was provided that where doubts may rise with respect either to the competency of a public officer to issue grants for exempted lands, or with regard to the authority of the public officer to resume and assess exempted lands, in cases to be tried under this Regulation, the same shall be determined by the decision of the Governor in Council only, and the said decision produced in the Courts of judicature shall regulate the judgment of such Courts. This power was not taken away either by Regulation VII of 1817 or Act XX of 1863.
4. It was delegated to the Inam Commissioner who, after inquiry, issued title-deeds on behalf of the Governor in Council prescribing the condition subject to which the inam right was to be continued. The question, therefore, of whether the inam right ought to be continued or not, depends for its decision not on the character of the endowment as religors or secular or as public or private, but on the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of the conditions on which the Crown agreed to forego its right to the assessment payable on the land. It would be unreasonable to contend that because Government: agreed to forego its claim, to revenue due upon an inam held for the benefit of a temple so long as the temple was maintained, it is not competent to Government to claim the assessment back even after the temple ceases to exist or to be maintained. It would be equally untenable to assert that, because the grant was made for a secular purpose or for the benefit of a few persons, the Crown is not bound by the terms of its own grant. The real question for decision on the merits is whether, under the conditions of the grant as defined in the title-deed issued by the Inam Commissioner, the inam right was properly resumed. Having regard to the nature of the inam in litigation, it is not of the description of inams mentioned either in Regulation IV or VI of 1831, and it seems to us that the Civil Courts are competent to entertain the suit and decide whether the resumption is contrary to the terms of the inam title-deed. We shall, therefore, remit for trial the following issues:
5. What are the conditions subject to which the inam right is to be continued according to the Inam Title-deed and the Inam Register?
6. Whether the appellants have failed to comply with those conditions?
7. The District Judge will try the foregoing issues upon the evidence already recorded, and upon such further evidence as the parties may adduce, and return his finding thereon, together with the evidence, to this Court, within six weeks from the date of receiving this order, when ten days will be allowed for filing objections.