1. These three Civil Miscellaneous Appeals arise out of three of a large number of applications made by; the Hindu Religious Endowments Board to the District Court of Kistna to enforce the payment of certain contributions leviable under Sections 69 and 70 of the Madras Religious Endowments Act. The District Court, proceeding under Sub-section (2) of Section 70 of the Act, has ordered that the properties specified in the schedules to the applications should be proceeded against for the realisation of these amounts. The appellants, who are persons in possession of these properties, raised a large number of objections in the Court below as to the validity of the Act itself and of the action of the Board, as well as a number of specific objections on the merits of each case. Some of these have been given up, including those relating to the validity of the Act.
2. Before turning to those which are still pressed we have to consider what are the limits of the powers of a Court in making an order under Section 70(2) for the recovery of a contribution. The section provides that:
The Court shall, on the application of the President of the Board or committee, recover the amount as if a decree had been passed for the amount by the Court against the religious endowment concerned.
3. It is accordingly reasonable to hold that the Court has the same powers, and is subject to the same limitations, as would be a Court executing an ordinary civil decree. The general principle is of course that the Court cannot go behind the decree into the merits of the claim; whether it is good or bad in law, or in fact, the Court must take it at its face value. How far this principle extends in the case of an ordinary decree has been the subject of a good many judicial decisions. We ourselves had occasion recently in Lakshmanan Chettiar v. Chidambaram Chettiar (1934) M.W.N. 1377 to consider, it is true obiter, the question and we approved a judgment of Jackson, J., in Govindan Nadar v. Natesa Pillai : AIR1932Mad7 , accepting the principle laid down by the Full Bench case, Gora Chand Haldar v. Prafulla Kumar Roy I.L.R. (1925) Cal. 166 namely, that it is only where the decree is made by a Court which apparently had not jurisdiction, whether pecuniary or territorial or in respect of the judgment-debtor's person to make the decree, that the executing Court is entitled to refuse to execute it. Our attention has now been drawn to a Full' Bench case of the Rangoon High Court 6'. A. Nathan v. S.R. Samson I.L.R. (1931)Rang. 480 (F.B.), which, we do not think was brought to our notice in the previous case, which goes a good deal further and considers that an executing Court is not entitled to question the validity of a decree even upon the grounds specified in the-Calcutta decision. And a single Judge of the Calcutta High Court itself, in Kalicharan Singha v. Bibhutibhushan Singha I.L.R. (1932)Cal. 191 has followed this decision. It is, we think, clear that the trend' of recent decisions is to incapacitate an executing Court from questioning the decree in any respect whatever, certainly in so-far as the merits of the subject-matter of the suit are concerned. The views expressed in Zemindar of Ettyapuram v. Chidambaram Chetty I.L.R.(1920)Mad. 675 : 39 M.L.J. 203 and Sami Mudaliar v. Muthiah Chetti : AIR1923Mad212 are not in conflict with this principle. In Venkatasomeswara Rao v. Lakshmanaswami I.L.R. (1928)Mad. 275 : 56 M.L.J. 175 the referring Judges differed on this question and the Full Bench to which it was referred found it unnecessary to decide it.
4. Our attention has been drawn to a certain other circumstances in which a Court has to enforce an order by some outside authority for the payment of money as if it were due under a decree. There are English cases, for instance, dealing with the powers of Justices in enforcing the collection of poor rates, such as Cheney v. Tallowin (1904) 2 K.B. 763 and Churchwardens of St. Stephen v. Great Northern and City Railway Co. (1902) 86 L.T. Reps. 390 We find that in those cases the Justices recognised that their powers to question the correctness of the claim which they were asked to enforce were not qualified. But it is impossible to say that the procedure in such cases is in any strict sense comparable with that of a Court executing a decree in this country and, accordingly, we cannot find that the analogy suggested is of much assistance. Another class of cases relates to the enforcement of demands under the Co-operative Societies Act in this country which a Court is empowered to execute as if they were embodied in a decree. Here, again, we think it is unnecessary to examine the several cases, for there is no doubt that the principle has been distinctly recognised that the limitations of a Court's power are similar to those of a Court executing an ordinary decree. In respect of the Religious Endowments Act itself a case has recently been decided by the learned Chief Justice and King, ]., in which this same point of a Court's powers arose, the specific question being whether the District Judge could examine the demand made by the Board upon its merits and could decide that no demand should have been made for more than three years' arrears of contribution. It was held that the District Judge would be in the same position as any other executing Court and would be precluded from deciding whether the demand was right or wrong. There is thus ample justification for the view that the Court must execute the demand made by the Board as it stands and cannot enter into questions of its validity or propriety. In particular, no inquiry can be made into the merits of the decision upon which the demand is based.
5. The application of this principle is, we think, sufficient to dispose of the only objections before us which might otherwise deserve serious consideration whether the Board has claimed contributions for periods for which it has no right to make such a claim. It is said that a demand for a period before the present Act came into force would not be legal inasmuch as Section 7 of the Act does not retrospectively validate such a demand. We do not think this is a question which, in enforcing the demand, the Court can go into, nor can it go into other similar questions of the same character, as for instance whether it is open to the Board at any time to assess arrears or whether it must assess for each year in the succeeding year itself.
6. The only further questions then are whether the Court can satisfy itself that the person to whom the notice has been addressed is a trustee and, further, whether the property which it is proposed to procee3 against in the execution proceedings is trust property. On this latter point we have no doubt that it is open to the Court to decide in any disputed case whether the property out of which it is proposed to realise the amount is a religious endowment within the meaning of the Act, because that clearly is a question which arises in execution itself, just as the liability of any property alleged to be that of a judgment-debtor for the satisfaction of a money decree would be a question arising in ordinary execution.
7. With regard to C.M. As. Nos. 322 and 324, the trustees were served with notice of demand in each case and they failed to pay. An execution petition was then filed before the Court embracing the archakas as well as the trustees, and it is the archakas who are the appellants before us. If the Court in those cases finds that the property in the schedule to these execution petitions is part of the religious endowment, it may clearly be proceeded against to satisfy the demand, and any person who may be interested in the property, such as these archakas may be, may bring into issue the question whether or not it is trust property. Of course, if it is trust property, they cannot resist the enforcement of the demand against it.
8. With regard to the remaining appeal, C. M. A. No. 323, it appears that notice was served upon the two archakas who are the appellants and it is stated that notice was not served upon any other person as trustee. Here, again, inquiry must be made, if the fact is disputed, whether the schedule property is part of the religious endowment and the archakas, if in possession of it, may be allowed to contest the issue; but we do not think that they have any right to dispute the validity of the notice served by the Board on the ground that it was not served upon the trustee. If, in fact, there is some other trustee of the religious institution who should have received notice to pay, it was for him, and may still be for him, if he elects to intervene, to object on this score, and not for persons who, if the property is trust property, have no right to resist the proceedings if, as they assert, they are not the trustees. This case, therefore, we consider, cannot on this ground be distinguished from the other two cases, and the procedure will be the same in all. Accordingly we think that the correct course will be to set aside the orders passed by the learned District Judge in each of these three cases and direct the Court to inquire whether the property forms part of the religious endowments of the specified temple and, if so, what steps should be taken to enforce the demand against it.
9. We observe from the B Diary that attachment of the immovable property has been ordered. It may be objectionable to effect sales of any portion of this property to meet these demands if they can be satisfied in any other way, as by the appointment of a receiver. We commend this point to the consideration of the Court below in making its final orders.
10. The costs in this Court will abide and follow the result.