1. This appeal arises out of a decision given by the District Judge of West Godavari in O.S. No. 8 of 1944. That suit purported to be filed under Section 73 of the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act and related to the property of the Malleswaraswami temple at Relangi. This temple was notified by Government under Chapter VI-A of the Act and the first plaintiff was duly appointed the executive officer. Later, after the suit was filed, he was replaced by the second plaintiff. The defendants are said to be in possession of the temple lands and to have been at one time prior to the appointment of the plaintiffs de facto if not de jure trustees of the temple.
2. The plaint asks that the entire interest in the suit land--the properties of the temple--should be declared to be the endowment of the temple and be vested in the plaintiffs. Next the plaintiffs ask for an account of the income of the property and of the expenses incurred by the defendants for the yearly kalyanam and that the defendants be ordered to pay over the moneys remaining in their hands with interest. Thirdly, the plaintiffs ask for possession of the suit property.
3. The first issue framed in the suit related to jurisdiction. The learned District Judge nevertheless decided to consider fully all the other issues and only at the end of his judgment to deal with the first issue. He went into this issue with great care and came to the conclusion that the suit was not a suitable one to be filed under Section 73 of the Act and therefore that the proper Court should have been the Sub-Court at Narasapur, following the principle of Section 15 of the Code of Civil Procedure, viz., that every suit shall be instituted in the Court of the lowest grade competent to try it. It is a pity we think that he did not go on and decide the whole case himself because then the matter would have been ended once for all and it would not have been possible for the defendants to have canvassed the matter 'on appeal at any rate on the ground that there was want of jurisdiction. However, as the learned Judge felt bound to decide the question of jurisdiction and to decide it against the plaintiffs it is not for us or any one to criticise his scrupulousness in this regard.
4. The point that we have to determine is whether, in fact, this is the type of suit contemplated by Section 73 of the Act. That part of the section which may be applicable is as follows:
(1) The Board or any person having interest and having obtained the consent of the Board may institute a suit in the Court to obtain a decree for any of the following reliefs:...(d) directing accounts and inquiries in respect of the administration or management of a math, temple or specific endowment attached to a math or temple.
Having regard to the plaint in this case Sub-section (d) is the only one material. It has been said many times that Section 73 of the Act is to the same effect as Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure and its implications. Is this the type of suit contemplated by the section In our opinion it is not. Here the plaintiffs are the duly appointed trustees of this temple. They are endeavouring to exert their right to possession ; possession of the trust property--and to oust the defendants who by reason of the plaintiffs' appointment have become no more and no less than trespassers. It may be that the defendants are still endeavouring to carry out the functions as though they were still trustees and of course in so doing they will be answerable for their acts. But when the plaint uses the word 'accounts' it is not that they are being asked to account since the appointment of the plaintiffs as trustees although of course they may be compelled to give an account of their trusteeship upto the moment when it legally expired. The plaintiffs here are not persons ' having an interest' in the sense that they are members of the public who wish to see that the temple and the trust property are properly administered but they are persons who are in law bound to recover the property having been appointed trustees of it and if they do not seek to obtain possession they will be failing in their duty and committing a breach of trust. In our view the section is quite clear. It was never intended to give one claimant to the temple property, relief against another claimant, but to enable persons interested, members of the public, worshippers and the like to have an opportunity of seeing the accounts of a temple and ascertaining how efficiently or otherwise it is being managed, and in such case they may ask for a trustee to be removed and replaced by a more efficient man. They may also ask that the trust property shall vest in some particular person and get directions as to its management; but the section was never intended, as is said, to enable a person to recover his private rights.
5. A number of cases have been cited to us but we do not think it necessary to refer bo them in detail. One of us held in Padmanabha Kamath v. Vaikunta Bhatta : AIR1943Mad228 with regard to this section as we now hold today. From a perusal of other cases it appears to us that the decisions relating to Sections 92 of the Code can usefully be employed in considering the meaning of Section 73 of the Act, there being in essence no difference. In Thirumalai Thirupathi Devasthanams Committee v. Krishnayya : AIR1943Mad466 for example, the learned Chief Justice pointed out that Section 92 of the Code deals merely with the procedure to be adopted in a representative suit for a relief; and that there must be an apparent necessity for a direction of the Court with regard to the administration of the trust, not as to whether A or B is the rightful trustee. In that case too, certain trustees were held to have a normal right of action to recover from other trustees certain moneys collected on behalf of the temple and that such right was entirely independent of Section 92 of the Code. At page 653, the learned Chief Justice adds:
The respondents are in law bound to deliver to the plaintiffs the moneys and offerings in kind obtained....
So here the defendants are bound to hand over the trust property to the plaintiffs if the plaintiffs' claim is true and it is the latter's duty to enforce delivery.
6. For these reasons we think that the learned District Judge came to a correct conclusion and that this appeal must be dismissed with costs.