1. This application relates to the office of the Karnam of Tangutur village, Ongore taluk, Guntur District. One RamKrishnayya was the holder of this office till 23rd Nov-ember 1922 when he died. He left behind him two sons. The first respondent Venkatappa was then a major and the petitioner Purushotham a minor. The first respondent renounced his right to the office by a letter addressed to the Revenue authorities and the petitioner was recognised as the Karnam of the village by an order of the Sub Collector dated 4th February 1923. As he was a minor he was registered as Karnam with his paternal uncle as deputy. He attained majority in due course and took charge of the office in 1927 and ever since that date he has been discharging the duties of his officer. While 60, on 6th March 1950 the Government passed an order purporting to be in the exercise of the powers conferred by Section 2(c) of the Madras Restoration of Village Officers (Validation) Act, Madras Act XVIII of 1939 directing that the first respondent be appointed as Karnam in the place of the petitioner, the existing incumbent. The petitioner seeks to have this order of Government quashed.
2. Madras Act XVIII of 1939 was passed for the purpose of validating the restoration of village officers who had lost their offices by reason of their association or connection with political movements. The Government thought that it was desirable to restore the position which would have obtained if the officers or their heirs had not lost their offices or their right thereto because of their association or connection with political movements, Section 2 of the Act runs thus,
' 2 Notwithstanding anything contained in the Madras Proprietary Estates' Village Service Act, 1894, or in the Madras Hereditary Village Offices Act, 1895, or in any decree or order passed in any suit, appeal, application or revision or other proceeding, (whether instituted, made, or taken under the Acts aforesaid or not) every order which has been, or which may hereafter be, passed by or on the direction of, the Provincial Government
(a) restoring a village officer, who, by reason wholly or partly of his association or connection with any political movement had been removed or dismissed from his office, or had resigned therefrom, or had otherwise in any manner whatsoever ceased to hold the same; or
(b) appointing to the office or registering as entitled thereto the heir of any such village Officer or of any person who in the ordinary course of events would have succeeded to the office or been registered as entitled thereto; or
(c) appointing to a village office any person who, by reason wholly or partly of his association or connection with any political movement, had declined to accept the office or had been declared ineligible therefore; or
(d) appointing to a village office or registering as entitled thereto, the heir of any such person or of any other person who in the ordinary course of events, would have succeeded to the office or been registered as entitled thereto; or
(e) directing the removal of any person from a village office in consequence of an order of the nature referred to in Clause (a), (b), (c) or (d) above,
shall be valid and be given effect to according to its tenor, and no such order shall be called in question in any Court of law'.
Section 3 lays down that if the Provincial Government declare that any order passed by them is of the nature referred to in Section 3, such declaration shall be conclusive proof thereof and all Courts shall take judicial notice of the same. In this case the order of the Government was passed under Section 2 (c), that is to say, the Government were of the opinion that the first respondent had by reason wholly or partly of his connection with the political movement of the day declined to accept the office to which ordinarily he would have become entitled on the death of his father. The petitioner attempted to challenge the validity of the Government Order firstly on the ground that the order was not justified on the facts and circumstances of the case, and secondly on the ground that the Act itself became void after me Constitution came into force, in as much as its main provisions were inconsistent with the fundamental right declared by Article 19(1)(f) and also because it was inconsistent with Article 14 which conferred the right of equal protection of the laws on every person.
3. In our opinion, the petitioner is not entitled in this case to urge the first ground. We are also of the view that even if he is entitled to attack the order of the Government on the ground that it was vitiated by 'mala fides', we have ample material on which to hold that the order of the Government cannot be impugned as being in any sense 'mala fide'. Under Section 3 the declaration of the Government that the order passed by them is of the nature referred to in Section 2 is conclusive proof thereof. It was decided in 'Lakshminarasimha v. Province of Madras' I.L.R. (1945) Mad 398 that this section was 'intra vires' the Madras Legislature and that it was a valid provision of law and was not in conflict with the provisions of Section 4 or of any other section of the Indian Evidence Act. Leach C. J. observed construing the section
'If Section 3 had not been inserted in the Provincial Act, it might have been open to the appellant to contend that the case did not fall within the four corners of Section 2.'
Even otherwise we consider that the Government was justified in concluding that the case fell within Section 2(c) of the Act. The counteraffidavit of the first respondent sets out the circumstances under which he renounced the office. He had discontinued his studies and was doing Congress work. He was convicted and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for a period of five months, and he served his sentence from 17th February 1922 to 15th July 1922. His father died a few months later in November 1922. After his renunciation he has been on active Congress work, was a touring secretary of the Andhra Provincial Congress Committee and had suffered six convictions from 1922 to 1942 and was in prison for an aggregate period of more than six years. All these facts are not denied. In view of these facts it is highly probable that the first respondent did not wish to accept the office of Karnam because of his connection with the Congress. It is also highly probable that the members of his family should have compelled him not to assign the true reason for his refusal to accept the office, because thereby the family as a whole would lose the benefit of the emoluments of the office. His conduct in voluntarily relinquishing his office is then easy to follow. On these facts, the Government rightly thought that the first respondent will be entitled to the benefit of the provisions of the new Act. It cannot be said that the Government acted 'mala fide' in restoring the first respondent to the office.
4. Mr. Sundaram Aiyar's contentions as regards the invalidity of the Act were based on the assumption that the petitioner was entitled to a kind of property by reason of his appointment to the office in 1923; because obviously if the petitioner was not entitled to the office as property or as a right in and to property, Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution could not have any application. We do not think it necessary to spend much time over this point in view of the definite pronouncement of the Judicial Committee as regards the nature of the karnam's office in Madras in 'Venkata Jagannadha v. Veerabadrayya 44 Mad 643 Lord Shaw summed up the law on the point in the following manner;
'It is accordingly clear that since that time in Madras the Karnam of the village occupies his office not by hereditary or family right, but as personal appointee, though in certain cases that appointment is primarily exercised in favour of a suitable person who is a member of a particular family. It would accordingly appear, apart from the authorities, that lands held as appurtenant to the office so enjoyed should continue to go with that office and should accordingly be impartible'.
Earlier on in his judgment the reasons for that conclusion are fully and elaborately set out. The provisions of Madras Act III of 1895 and Madras Act II of 1894 are clearly inconsistent with the appointee for the time being treated as possessed of the office as property. The person in office can be dismissed from his office for proper reason and by virtue of that dismissal, he will lose all right to the office. This position is wholly Incompatible with all juristic notions of a right to property. The property which is contemplated by Article 19(1)(f) is obviously property which can be acquired, held and disposed of. The Karnam's office cannot be acquired and it cannot be disposed of, and so far as holding is concerned, the incumbent holds it so long as he is not lawfully removed from that office. The rights which Mr. Sundaram Aiyar could call in aid of the petitioner are an rights which can be traced to the statutory provisions or to other Government regulations. Such rights must needs be subject to amendments and repeals. Madras Act XVIII of 1939 must be deemed to have amended the original provisions of Madras Act III of 1895 and if the petitioner can invoke the provisions of the earlier Act in his support, he would be equally bound by the provisions of the later enactments which might curtail the rights which he had before. Mr. Sundaram Aiyar was not able to cite any authority to convince us that an office held in such circumstances as set out. above on a precarious tenure can be deemed to be 'property' as contemplated by Article 19(1)(f). We are, therefore, of opinion that this article has not been in any manner infringed.
5. There is very little substance in the contention based on Article 14 of the Constitution. It was urged that there was discrimination in favour of political sufferers. This we think is not the correct way of looking at the purpose of the enactment, Madras Act XVIII of 1939. It is not as if persons in office are removed and political sufferers are appointed to those posts. The persons to whom the offices are restored under the Act are persons who would not have lost their offices or their right, thereto but for their association with the political struggle in this country. The Act only purports to restore to persons who were justly entitled to the office what they had lost for political reasons. Such a policy of justice can never be said to be discriminatory. Madras Act XVIII of 1939 cannot be held to be unconstitutional on any of the grounds urged by Mr. Sundaram Aiyar.
6. In the result the application fails and is dismissed with costs.