Alfred Henry Lionel Leach, C.J.
1. This is an application for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash an order of the Collector of Coimbatore. The application arises out of a petition filed under Section 44-B of the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1926, asking for an order directing the resumption of certain Devadayam mam lands granted to the Kariakaliamman, Athanur Amman and Mariamman temples in the village of Alambadi. The petition was filed by the trastees of these temples. The petitioner now before us and six other persons were made respondents, as they were in possession of the lands as alienees. The respondents raised the contention that the section had no retrospective effect and this was accepted by the Revenue Divisional Officer. Consequently he held that the application filed by the trustees was not maintainable. Thereupon the trustees appealed to the Collector of Coimbatore under Section 44-B(2)(d)(i) which says:
Any party aggrieved by an order of the Collector under Clause (a) may appeal to the District Collector within such time as may be prescribed, and on such appeal the District Collector may, after giving notice to each of the persons and bodies mentioned in Clause (6) and after holding such inquiry as may be prescribed, pass an order confirming, modifying or cancelling the order of the Collector.
Without issuing notice to the respondents in the proceedings before the Revenue Divisional Officer and despite the fact that they had obtained an order in their favour, the District Collector directed the Revenue Divisional Officer to reopen the case and decide it on its merits. He disagreed with the opinion of the Revenue Divisional Officer that the section had retrospective effect.
2. In passing this order the District Collector acted without jurisdiction. He has power to reverse an order passed by the Revenue Divisional Officer under Section 44-B (2), but before he exercises this power he must serve notice on the respondents and give them an opportunity of being heard. In. other words, notice to the respondents is a condition precedent to his right to exercise jurisdiction in the matter.
3. The learned Government Pleader, as he must, concedes that notice should have been issued, but he suggests that a writ of certiorari should not issue as the order was substantially right. This is not the question. A party has a right to be heard and that right was denied to the respondents in the proceedings instituted by the trustees of these temples.
4. The District Collector has emphasised his disregard of the law in the affidavit which he has filed in opposition to the application for a writ of certiorari. In paragraph 4 of his affidavit he says:
As the appellate tribunal was of opinion that the first tribunal erred on a question of law, it was entitled in law to pass orders remanding the case for fresh disposal, without sending notices to the respondents and without holding am enquiry.
In paragraph 5 he says:
No fundamental principles of natural justice have been violated, in the course of the proceedings in L. Dis. No. 7652 of 1941. The powers of an appellate tribunal are wide enough to pass appropriate and suitable orders, according to the circumstances of each case.
Such an attitude cannot be allowed to pass without the strongest condemnation. The District Collector is there to administer the law and not to ignore it. His action in deciding the appeal made to him under Section 44-B(2)(d) without notice to the respondents was most high-handed and he aggravates the situation by claiming a right to act in this manner. The order of the District Collector will be set aside and he will be directed to hear the appeal after proper notice has been given to the respondents in the proceedings before the Revenue Divisional Officer.
5. The petitioner is entitled to his costs and so are the trustee-respondents. As the Collector has chosen to oppose the application the order for the payment of costs must be made against him as a public officer. The costs will be paid within two months.