1. This is a revision petition asking this Court to revise the order passed by the District Judge of West Tanjore on an application presented to him under Section 84 of the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act. The point raised in the case has been decided by Cornish, J., adversely to the Board, in another case Rajagopala Chettiar v. Hindu Religious Endowments Board (1933) 40 L.W. 288, as the correctness of that decision was challenged on behalf of the petitioner, this case has been directed to be posted before this Bench for determination of the question.
2. The Hindu Religious Endowments Act of 1927 defined an 'excepted temple' in certain terms in Clause 5 of Section 9. By an Amending Act of 1930 a new definition has been substituted. Some time in 1927, the temple, to which this application relates, was held by the Board to be an 'excepted temple' within the meaning of the definition as it stood in the Act of 1927. After the Amending Act of 1930 had been passed, the Board has held that according to the new definition this temple is not an excepted temple. Against this latter decision of the Board the trustees of the temple filed the application out of which the present revision petition arises. The learned District Judge set aside the order of the Endowments Board on the grounds (1) that the former decision of the Board has become final and (2) that the Amending Act IV of 1930 cannot take away the right acquired by the trustees under that decision as there are no words expressly declaring the Act retrospective.
3. The argument that the former decision has become final could not be and was not seriously pressed. In the nature of things, the Board could have given a decision in 1927 only with reference to the definition as it then stood and the finality attached by Section 84 to such a decision can also have relation only to that definition. Properly understood, the decision merely means that the institution was an excepted temple within the meaning of Act II of 1927. It cannot be suggested that it is not open to the legislature to vary that definition. On such variation, the question for determination will be whether the institution is an excepted temple within the meaning of the new definition. A decision that an institution satisfies a particular definition cannot certainly mean a decision that it must satisfy the new definition.
4. On behalf of the respondents, more serious reliance has therefore been placed upon the argument that by reason of the former decision the trustees had acquired a vested right which could not be affected by the amendment of the law, in the absence of words in the Amending Act making the amendment retrospective in its operation. It is this contention that receives support from the decision of our learned brother Cornish, J., in Rajagopala Chettiar v. Hindu Religious Endowments Board (1933) 40 L.W. 288. The matter has been argued at some length on behalf of the respondents and we have carefully considered the decision of the learned Judge. We have come to the conclusion that there is no scope here for the application of the rule against retrospective operation, because there is really no question of any interference with a vested right or impairing obligations which have come into existence under a previous state of the law.
5. There is nothing like a recognised legal right or category of right known to general jurisprudence that is connoted by the expression 'excepted temple'. It was merely a grouping or classification adopted by the Legislature in 1925 as a convenient method of referring to a certain class of temples with a view to lay down certain rules in relation thereto in the body of the Act. No doubt, as long as the Act stood in that form, temples which fell in the category of excepted temples were intended to be dealt with in a particular way and temples comprised in the category of non-excepted temples were intended to be dealt with in another way. But it does not seem to us reasonable to suggest that there was a kind of guarantee that, once the Legislature has thought fit to say that a particular temple will be dealt with in a particular manner, it should never afterwards be dealt with in a different manner. There is no question in the present case calling for the determination of the rights and liabilities of parties in respect of any acts done already, i.e., during the time the old Act was in force. The question is merely what is to be the method of supervision over the particular temple after the amendment has come into force and what are its liabilities in the future in the matter of contribution and so on? The cases referred to in the judgment of Cornish, J., namely, Lemm v. Mitchell (1912) A.C. 400, The Delhi Cloth and General Mills v. Income-tax Commissioner, Delhi (1927) 53 M.L.J. 819 : L.R. 54 IndAp 421 : I.L.R. 9 Lah. 284 , as well as the decisions in Ramakrishna Chetty v. Subbaraya Aiyar (11912) 24 M.L.J. 54 : I.L.R. 38 Mad. 101 and Thirumalaisami Naidu v. Subramanian Chettiar I.L.R.(1916) 40 Mad. 1009 which were cited in the course of the arguments before us, are not in our opinion applicable here. They clearly relate to rights which had accrued to parties under the previous state of the law and we have no doubt that the general principle of construction in such cases is that a vested or accrued right is not prima facie affected by a change of the law in the absence of express words or necessary implication to the contrary. But, as we have endeavoured to show, there is really no question of vested right in any sense known to the general law here but only a grouping of temples in one manner at a particular stage of legislation and in a different manner at a later stage of legislation.
6. We are accordingly unable to follow the decision in Rajagopala Chettiar v. Hindu Religious Endowments Board (1933) 40 L.W. 288. We are of opinion that the learned District Judge was in error in thinking that the order of the Board was erroneous on the grounds given by him in paragraph five of his judgment. The order is accordingly set aside and the case remanded to the District Court to be dealt with on the merits. The costs of this revision petition will be costs in the cause.