1. This revision petition raises a question of the interpretation of Sections 56 and 57 of the Madras Local Boards Act(XIV of 1920) a matter involved in some difficulty because of the loose drafting of the language of the sections.
2. The petitioner, who was the President of the Taluk Board of Palladam, failed for three consecutive months to attend the meetings of the Board. Section 56 says that in such a case, 'subject to the provisions of Section 57,' he shall cease to be a member of the Board. The three months expired on 21st September, 1925. Section 56(4) says:
In the case of a person Who has ceased to be a member in consequence of failure to attend meetings, the matter shall be reported by the President at the next meeting of the Local Board which may at that meeting restore such person to office.
3. In the present case the Acting President did not report the matter and therefore the petitioner has not been restored to office under that sub-section. Section 57 permits an application to the District Judge in cases of doubt under Section 56, on which the District Judge shall make an enquiry and determine whether or not the member is disqualified under Section 56, and his decision shall be final. Sub-section (3) of that section says:
Pending such decision the member shall be deemed to be qualified.
4. The petitioner relies upon this Sub-section (3). As I understand his case, it is that, since Section 56 has to be read subject to the provisions of Section 57, the former section does not come into operation by itself, but only in conjunction with and after an enquiry under Section 5.7, and that therefore no member ceases to hold office under Section 56 unless and until the District Judge has been moved and has held an enquiry under Section 57 and has so declared, and that until such declaration he remains by force of Sub-section (3) a member. It is true that in the present case the District Judge has under Section 57 declared that the petitioner has ceased to be a member; but the petitioner pleads that the District Judge has come to that conclusion through an error of law and misinterpretation of the sections, considering himself too strictly bound by the terms of Section 56. It is, however, obvious that it was the primary duty of the District Judge, in an enquiry under Section 57, to determine whether under the terms of Section 56 the petitioner has ceased to hold office. That the District Judge did and has held that he did so cease. His decision under Section 57 is final unless his order was without jurisdiction or in an irregular exercise of jurisdiction.
5. It is contended (1) that as the petitioner was elected President on 5th October, 1925, the Board had in effect restored him to office, and (2) that the District Judge was wrong in holding that he had ceased to hold office because by the force of Section 57(3) he remained a member pending the decision of the Judge and therefore had not ceased to be a member. I do not think that either of these contentions is well founded. As to (1) the Board could restore him as a member only under Section 56(4). That procedure was not adopted. No doubt it seems an anomaly that no member can compel the President to report such a matter to the Board. But that is how the law runs, and if the President does not choose to report the matter to the Board, then the Board under the law has no power to restore him.
6. It is contended that the language of Section 56(4) ' who has ceased to be a member' is not happy, and it means something else than 'ceases to be a member.' The language seems to me definite and clear and must be taken to mean what it says. In this connection reference may be made to the judgment of Ramesam, J., in S.K. Devasingamany v. M.R. Sethurathnam Aivar (1924) 87 I C 363
7. As to the second point it seems to me clear that Section 57(3) was not intended to mean that a member who had failed to attend three consecutive meetings nevertheless remains a member until and unless there is an adverse decision against him under Section 57. If it were so, Section 56(4) would have no point. The Board could not restore one who had not ceased to be a member. There are two ways in which a member who has -prima facie ceased to be a member can be restored. (1 ) The Board can restore him under Section 56(4), and (2) The District Judge may declare under Section 57 that he never ceased to be a member. Obviously, these are independent and not interdependent. In most cases there would not be time to get a decision under Section 57 before the next meeting at which alone Section 56(4) can be invoked. Therefore the operation of Section 56(4) does not have to await the declaration by the District Judge under Section 57 that the member has ceased to be a member That means that the member has ceased to be a member even before Section 57 can be invoked. Again Section 57(3) does not say that he remains a member. It says that he shall be 'deemed to be qualified.' That was intended, I have no doubt, to prevent the proceedings of meetings in which a member who on an enquiry under Section 57 has been declared to have ceased to be a member had continued to attend and take part being invalidated by his having taken part, and is similar in intention to Section 35. There is no justification in the language of Section 57 for holding that the mere presentation of an application under Section 57 has the effect of restoring pro tem to office one who has ceased to hold office.
8. Prima facie then, the petitioner ceased under Section 56 to be a member. If no application had been put in under Section 57 and he is not restored under Section 56(4), then his cessation con-tinues. If an apnlication was nut in under Section 57 and the Districrt Judge decided that he did cease to be a member, then he did cease to be a member from the date fixed in Section 56, but for the purpose of saving the validity of proceedings in which he may have taken part after he had ceased to be a member be is deemed to be qualified during that period.
9. From another point of view the same result is indicated. There is no limitation for an application under Section 57 and one might never be put in at all. This does not mean, for exam-ple that a person of unsound mind deaf mute, a leper, a convict, an insolvent, etc., remain members until some one takes out an application under Section 57 to the District Judge. These persons cease inso facto to be members, as Section 56 states, and the proviso to Section 56, 'subject to the provisions of Section 57' car only mean that in cases where an application under Section 57 is put in, the operation of Section 56 is not final, but is subject to the decision of the District Judge under Section 57.
10. Another contention has been put forward, viz., that failure implies a voluntary act, i. e. that the non-attendance should not be due to matters not within the control of the member. I can see no warrant for this view. If it had been so intended, it would have been easy to use the phrase 'Voluntarily absents himself' instead of 'fails'. This point was not raised before the District Judge.
11. I must hold therefore that the District judge has not acted without jurisdiction or in an irregular exercise of jurisdiction. He has decided, and had jurisdiction to decide, that the petitioner ceased to be a member on 21st September, 1925, and his decision is final.
12. I must therefore dismiss this petition with costs.