1. This appeal relates to a claim duly preferred to the Regulation Collector of the Uthumalai estate for a sum due to the claimant by the estate. The claim was made within six months of the publication of a notification under Section 30 of Regulation V of 1804 as amended by Madras Act IV of 1899, and at the time when it was made in December of ICOI its recovery by suit in a Civil Court was not barred by the Limitation Act.
2. A Collector, for the purpose of executing decrees which were in force against the estate, generally called a Decree Collector, as opposed to a Regulation Collector, was appointed on the 20th September 1901.
3. A new Regulation Collector was appointed on the 30th October 1901, and, as already stated, the present claim was made to the Regulation Collector on the 1st December 1901. On the 17th September 1902 the Decree Collector called on the Regulation Collector under Rule 3 of the rules framed under the Act ' to furnish him with full particulars of all claims notified to him under Section 30.' It was the duty of the Regulation Collector to ' thereupon furnish the (Decree) Collector with such particulars' and to state in regard to such claim whether it was allowed or disallowed in whole or in part.
4. This, however, the Regulation Collector did not do.
5. So far as appears from the record he kept the claim pending before him until 1904, and then refused to pay it on the ground that a suit for its recovery had become barred at the end of 1903, though admittedly a sum of Rs. 255-8-0 was legally due and recoverable when the claim was made in 1901. His decision was upheld by the Court of Wards, and the Regulation Collector then reported to the Decree Collector that he had disallowed the claim as time-barred.
6. The Decree Collector then, under Rule 7, referred the. matter to the Civil Court for decision, and both the District Munsif and the District Judge held that there was no bar by limitation. It is against this order of the Courts that the present appeal is made.
7. The construction of the Act and of the rules framed under it are not free from any difficulty, but we think it is clear that there is no bar by limitation in this case.
8. This is not a case in which no Decree Collector was appointed but only a Regulation Collector. In such a case, if the claim was disallowed by the Regulation Collector and the Court of Wards, the claimant would have no remedy except to file a suit in the Civil Court as contemplated in Section 40 of the Act. II' such a suit were instituted, no doubt, Section 4 of the Limitation Act would bar it unless it were instituted within the time allowed by law, and the time during which the claim was pending before the Regulation Collector could not be excluded since there is no provision in the Act for the exclusion of such time, and Section 14 of the Limitation Act cannot be relied on to justify the exclusion, since it cannot be said that the Regulation Collector is ' a Court which from defect of jurisdiciion was unable to entertain ' the claimant's suit. Provision for the exclusion of such time seems to be obviously required for the protection of both wards and claimants, for in the absence of such a provision each prudent claimant will have to file a suit in the Civil Court before his claim is barred even though the Regulation Collector may be eventually prepared to discharge it.
9. The present, however, is not a case of this kind. There is no suit in the Civil Court, and there is no need for any such suit in order to obtain the decision of the Court on the validity of the claim. Here both a Regulation Collector and a Decree Collector were in existence before the claim was made. The claim was, therefore, bound to be placed before the Civil Court for decision unless the Decree Collector was prepared to pay it. The only question in regard to limitation that could properly be placed before the Civil Court was whether the claim at the time that it was made to the proper authority under the Act was or was not one that was irrecoverable at law. If it was not irrecoverable when made, and if the sum was then other wise legally due, it was the duty of the Decree Collector to admit the claim and to discharge it to the extent of assets in his hand and with due regard to the provisions of the Act relating to the discharge of proved debts. If the Decree Collector was in doubt, or if the Regulation Collector, on behalf of the estate, disputed the claim, it was the duty of the Decree Collector to refer the matter for the decision of the Civil Court and. to be guided by its decision. The reference by the Decree Collector to the Court is not to be regarded as the institution of a suit in the Court by the claimant as plaintiff, against the Regulation Collector as defendant. It is a reference made to the Court under a special provision of law and, therefore, Section 4 of the Limitation Act has no application. The question that could properly be referred is whether the claim was legally enforceable at the time when it was made to the Regulation Collector, not whether it was legally recoverable on some subsequent date arbitrarily fixed by the Regulation Collector. There is no ground for the contention that it is open to the Regulation Collector to keep the claim pending before him until a suit on it would be barred and then to refuse to pay it on the ground that it had become barred.
10. We dismiss the appeal with costs.