1. This Civil Revision Petition raises a nice question under Section 4, Clause (c) of the Madras Agriculturists' Relief Act of 1938 read with certain provisions of the Madras Local Boards Act. The respondent has unfortunately not been represented but I have the advantage of hearing Mr. T.R. Venkatarama Sastriar who has placed before me all the relevant provisions of the Acts relating to the matter under consideration.
2. The only facts that need be stated are that under Section 63 of the Madras Local Boards Act the administration of the Mukthambalpuram Chatram at Orathanad was made over by the Board of Revenue to the District Board. The defendant is a lessee of certain properties, part of the trust, and a decree has been obtained against him by the District Board of West Tanjore in respect of arrears due under the lease. The defendant calls in aid the provisions of the Madras Agriculturists' Relief Act. It is conceded that he is an agriculturist within the meaning of that Act but the petitioners rely upon the provisions of Section 4, Clause (c) which, they say, places the respondent outside the protection of the Act. Section 4 reads as follows:
Nothing in. this Act shall affect debts and liabilities of an agriculturist falling under the following heads:
(c) any tax or cess payable to any local authority or any other sum due to them, by way of loan or otherwise.
3. It will be seen that Clause (c) of Section 4 is worded as comprehensively as possible and seems to me to comprehend any money due to a local authority, bu,t the learned District Munsif has taken the view that the respondent is entitled to the protection of the Agriculturists' Relief Act because, to put it shortly, the amount due from him is not money due to a local authority but money due to this Chatram itself. The learned Munsif has dealt with the matter with the utmost care but I am unable to share the view which he has taken of this question.
4. The relevant provisions of the Madras Local Boards Act are as follows: - Section 63 provides for the Board of Revenue making over to Local Boards the management and superintendence of any charitable endowment in respect of which powers and duties attach to the Board of Revenue under the provisions of the Madras Endowments and Escheats Regulation, 1817, 'Thereupon' says the section, 'all powers and duties which attach to the Board of Revenue in respect thereof shall attach to the Local Board as if it had been specially named in the said Regulation, and the Local Board shall manage and superintend such endowment'. Section 64 says:
A Local Board may accept trusts relating exclusively to the furtherance of any purpose to which its funds may be applied.
5. So it would seem that under Section 63 there is power given to the Board of Revenue to make over to the Local Board the management and superintendence of any charitable endowment. Under Section 64, a Local Board can accept trusts relating exclusively to the furtherance of any purpose to which its funds maybe applied. Section 112 sets out the purpose to which local funds may be applied and under Clause (in), Sub-section 1 of that section one of those purposes is for the construction and maintenance of choultries. Section 114 says:
There shall he constituted for each district a district fund and for each village a village fund.
Section 115 states:
The rules embodied in Schedule V regarding...district funds respectively, and regarding the administration of those funds, shall be read as part of this chapter.
6. The provisions of the schedule are of the utmost importance in arriving at a decision in this petition. It will be seen at the top of Schedule V that first the words appear 'it shall be the duty of every Local Board to provide for the payment of' and then a number of matters are set out. Under I-B:
A District Board shall have power to make such provision as it thinks fit for carrying out the requirements of the District in respect of the following matters. (c) the establishment and maintenance of choultries in the District classified as District choultries.
7. And it is well to recall that Section 112, as I have pointed out, states that the funds received under the Act may be applied for the purpose of choultries among others. Under the heading 'District funds' is found item 9 'Income from endowments and trusts under the management of the District Board'; and Mr. Venkatarama Sastriar has naturally relied very strongly on that provision because obviously if these charitable funds are made part of the income of the District Board, it should necessarily follow that all the provisions for the recovery of that income should be opened to the District Board itself.
8. Now those are the provisions and of course at this stage there has yet been no decision on the matter at all. The only decision that has been referred to is in Neelayathakshi Ammal v. The Taluk Board, Mayavaram : (1910)20MLJ885 , which is of interest because it will be seen that the Bench consisting of Benson and Krishnaswami Aiyar, TJ., took the view that when a charity was handed over to a local authority the local authority was absolved from the actual provisions of the deed dedicating the charity. That of course is no direct authority but it seems to convey to my mind the notion that when these charities are handed over they to a large extent lose their identity and become part of the local authority at least to this extent that it was held it was not necessary that accounts should be made accessible to all persons as would have been the case if it had not been handed over. At p. 336, the Bench uses these words:
The duty to keep and give inspection of accounts is part of the function of management. When it is transferred by a special law to a statutory body, we must look to that law.and not to the instrument of trust for the duties of the manager.
9. The reason why the lower Court in this case decided agains the petitioner can, I think, be shortly stated. The learned Judge takes the view in paragraph 9 that there is a distinction between funds receivable under Section 64 of the Local Boards Act and Section 63. The learned Judge also takes the view that:
Under Section 64 of the Local Boards Act, a Local Board can accept a trust if its income can be utilised exclusively for the purposes laid down in the Act. If the donor wants to endow the Local Boards with an endowment with the object of utilising its funds for purposes other than the purposes: for which the Local Board's own income can be utilised, then the Local Board cannot accept such an endowment. There the case laid down under Section 63 is different from the one in Section 64.
10. I have endeavoured to indicate that in my view the only-difference between Sections 63 and 64 is that Section 63 provides for the transfer of trusts by the Board of Revenue; Section 64 enables the local authority to accept trusts provided that they relate exclusively to the furtherance of any purpose to which its funds may be applied. Of course, a choultry would come under that provision because one of the things which the Local Board may do is to provide choultries. But the learned Judge has distinguished between funds derivable under transactions under these two sections although he seems to concede that if the funds, the subject of this case, come under Schedule V (9) then the respondent would have been unable to invoke the Agriculturists Relief Act. It seems to me clear that income from endowments and trusts under the management of a District Board comprise income from endowments and trusts whether derived by reason of the operation of Section o3 or Section 64. That income is the District fund. It is recoverable and must be recoverable only by the local authority. I cannot see how it can be possibly said that that is not a sum due tq them, namely, the local authority. It seems to me that for all relevant purposes the identity of the chatram is merged in the local authority and I can imagine nothing more inconvenient than that the position should be that for the purpose of recovering this particular item of the Board's funds the Board should be placed in one position but in respect of amounts due to them from the public in another. In view of the facts I think that the order of the lower Court should not be allowed to stand. The learned Munsif obviously withheld jurisdiction vested in him and in consequence his order will be set aside.
11. The petition is allowed with costs.