(1) This civil revision petition is against the order of the learned District Munsif of Tiruvaiyaru in O. P. No. 25 of 1958, filed under S. 115 C.P.C. The facts are briefly these. The respondent in this civil revision petition filed an application under S. 19(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act, Act X of 1950, questioning the validity of the election of the respondent in the lower court as a member of the Panchayat board. The contention of the respondent before the lower court was that on the date of the nomination, namely, 6-5-1958, as well as on the date of election, namely, 7-5-1958, the petitioner in this civil revision petition was interested in a subsisting contract made by the panchayat board, Budalore in 1955 for constructing an overhead tank in the panchayat area.
The petitioner was the President of the Panchayat Board during the lease period and entered into a contract with the board in his own personal capacity to construct a water tank and not in the capacity of President. The work assigned to the said petitioner was still incomplete and he had received only part of the amount due to him. It was also alleged that the work was done for the benefit of the Panchayat Board, Budalore, that the contract was still subsisting even after the date of Act 10 of 1950. The further allegation in the petition was that the petitioner had undertaken to construct a building for the panchayat prior to entering into a contract with the board and that work was also still pending. Therefore, it was argued by the petitioner before the learned District Munsif that the petitioner had become disqualified to be a member of the panchayat, as he was interested in a subsisting contract made with the panchayat. The respondent, therefore, had prayed for a declaration that the petitioner was disqualified to be a member and consequently to be a president of the panchayat board.
(2) The petitioner in this civil revision petition on the other hand contended that he was in no way disqualified to be elected a member on the date of nomination or on the date of election. He was not interested in any contract, much less a subsisting contract with the panchayat board, Budalore, for construction of any work for the panchayat. There was no contract entered into by him with the board as alleged before the learned District Munsif. The Government of Madras, according to the petitioner, had undertaken the work of constructing a overhead tank in the village of Budalore and had sanctioned the sum of Rs. 33,600 under the local Development scheme.
That work was not entrusted to the Budalore panchayat. On the other hand it was entrusted to the petitioner, who entered into a contract with the Government of Madras for the construction of the overhead tank. It was the Government that had given him the work and the panchayat had nothing to do with the contract and so it could not be a contract with the panchayat, which alone would disqualify a person with either being nominated or elected as a president. He also contended that the work was not one, which was being done for the benefit of the panchayat, though no doubt the work was done for the benefit of the inhabitants of the village of Budalore and the adjoining villages.
The petitioner further contended that the work could not be deemed to be a work for the panchayat. So, the point urged by the petitioner was that the work was being done for the Government under a contract with the Government and should not bring him within the provisions of Madras Act 10 of 1950. He also contended that his executing the contract was not in conflict with his capacity as a president or as a member of the panchayat. Until the time the Government handed over the completed work to the panchayat, the panchayat had no interest or concern over the work. He also pleaded that the petition was the result of ill-feelings between himself and the respondent by reason of the fact that the respondent failed to get himself elected as president.
(3) The learned District Munsif framed the points for determination in the following terms:
" 1. Is the respondent disqualified to be a member and president? 2. To what relief is the petitioner entitled?"
(4) After considering the oral and documentary evidence in the case, the learned District Munsif came to the conclusion that the petitioner in the lower Court, the respondent before me, had made out a case against the present petitioner in the civil revision petition. He observed that the work was done for the panchayat and that it was certainly a work for the panchayat, though the work was down on a contract between the Government and the respondent, that is the petitioner. The panchayat in his opinion, the learned District Munsif observed, could not be dissociated with the work, because it was at the instance of the panchayat that the work was mooted out. Several resolutions had been passed by the panchayat in that connection to show that the panchayat was interested in the work. They had also contributed certain sums of money for the work. He also relied upon Ex. A.9. which disclosed that the panchayat had authorised the president-respondent to do the work in his individual capacity.
So, he could not accept the respondent's case that the work was not done for the panchayat. On these facts the learned District Munsif proceeded to find that the petitioner in this civil revision petition as interested in the work, which was proved by the admitted fact that the work was still incomplete and was pending and was being done by the respondent petitioner and that admittedly the petitioner had received a part payment of the amount due in respect of the contract, that the petitioner was no other than the president of the panchayat board and he was certainly interested in the work because he got money from the Government under the contract, Ex. A. 1 in the case. The learned District Munsif felt convinced that the petitioner had interest in a work done for the panchayat and therefore he declared that the petitioner was not qualified to be a member of the panchayat or to be elected as president.
(5) Against this order of the learned District Munsif the respondent in the original petition has preferred this civil revision petition.
(6) When the civil revision petition was taken up for arguments, Mr. Jagadisa Aiyar appearing on behalf of the respondent-petitioner in the original petition raised a preliminary point to the effect that this civil revision petition was not competent on the ground that the judicial authority appointed to enquire into such petitions was not a Court but was only an officer acting as a persona designata and therefore this civil revision petition was not maintainable against his order. Under the Madras Village Panchayat Act, 10 of 1950, S. 19(1) the authority to decide question of disqualifications of members is described to be the prescribed judicial authority whose decision shall be final. While prescribing the judicial authority under S. 19(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act, the Government of Madras issued notification No. 6. The date of this notification is not clear. Anyhow, the rule issued is to the following effect:
"Judicial authority to decide questions relating to disqualification of members: The Judicial authority to whom applications under S. 19(1) of the Act may be made shall be the District Munsiff having territorial jurisdiction over the place in which the office of the panchayat concerned is situated or if there is more than one such District Munsif, the Principal District Munsif."
The second part of the rule provides as follows:
"Provided that the District Judge shall have power to transfer any such application to any other District Munsif in the District."
On the basis of this rule, Mr. Jagadisa Aiyar, contends that the judicial authority is only the District Munsif and not the District Munsif's Court. In so far as the District Munsif's Court has not been made the judicial authority, but only the District Munsif as such, that is to say, the Munsif who is presiding over the Court having territorial jurisdiction over the place in which the office of the Panchayat concerned is situate, it cannot be claimed that the Munsif's Court is meant by the rule prescribing the judicial authority to enquire into the questions of disqualifications under S. 19(1) and not the District Munsiff as such.
The learned counsel further points out that it is only the District Munsif as such and not the Court that was intended to act in matters arising under S. 19(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act is made clear by the further fact that in the latter part of the first paragraph of the rule it is mentioned that if there is more than one such District Munsif, it should be the Principal District Munsif, who should deal with such enquiries. If it were the intention of the rule-making authority it should be the Munsif's Court only, then this clarification was not called for, is the argument advanced by the learned counsel for the respondent; because in the case of more than one Court in the same territorial jurisdiction the question of different jurisdictions does not arise and therefore it was sought to be made clear that it was the principal District Munsif that should hold the enquiry under S. 19(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act and not the Court itself.
(7) A further point was also urged by the learned counsel for the respondent that the proviso also makes it clear that it was intended that the prescribed judicial authority should act only as a persona designata and not as a Court; for in the proviso the Dist. Judge as such is given power to transfer any such application made under S. 19(1) of the Act to any other District Munsif in the District. The contention is that if it was a Court that was intended to deal with such applications, then it was quite unnecessary and uncalled for that a special provision should be made to the effect that a District Judge should have the power to transfer any such application to any other District Munsif in the District.
For if it was only the Court that was to deal with such applications, the District Munsif's Court would be subordinate to the District Judge's Court and if it was the Court that was intended in both the cases, then a special provision of the type made under this rule was quite redundant and unnecessary when the District Court will have the power under the C.P.C. to transfer any proceedings before a District Munsif's Court without any such special power being vested in the District Court or the District Judge as such. He urged that this was a clear indication that what was intended to be done by the rule was merely to appoint a person or an officer to act in his capacity as a persona designata and not the Court, presided over by him that was to function in relation to such applications. The learned counsel for the respondent, therefore, argued that in so far as the learned District Munsif was acting in his capacity as a persona designata, he could not be said to be a Court subordinate to the High Court and powers of the High Court under S. 115 C.P.C. could not be invoked.
(8) The further point raised by Mr. Jagadisa Aiyar was that S. 19(1) provided also that the decision of the prescribed judicial authority shall be final. That also indicated that it was the intention of the rule-making authority and the legislature also that the decision of the District Munsif should not be liable to any appeal and that there should be some finality with regard to the decision made by the District Munsif. If it were the intention that the term "District Munsif" was to be understood as "District Munsif's Court", then the provision is S. 19(1) of the Act that the judicial authority's decision shall be final will be in violation of the rights of a party to take matters on appeal, or revision, to a superior Court when he is aggrieved by decisions of subordinate Courts.
(9) As against these contentions Mr. Gopalaswami Aiyangar, the learned counsel for the petitioner, has invited my attention to the rules made by the Government under the same Madras Village Panchayats Act, 10 of 1950, for decisions of election disputes. Those rules provide that all election petitions shall be presented in accordance with the rules to an election commissioner as defined in Rule 2 of the said rules and they also provide for the procedure to be followed in the presentation of such petitions to the election commissioner. Those rules are framed under the powers given by the Act under S. 114(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act, Act 10 of 1950. Defining the election commissioner in the said Rule 2, it is stated:
"Where the Government so direct, whether in respect of Panchayats generally or in respect of any class of Panchayats or in respect of panchayats in the same district or taluk, such officers or officer of Government as may be designated by the Government in this behalf by name or by virtue of office; Provided that an election petition may, on application, be transferred-
(a) if presented to a District Munsif under cl. (i) by the District Judge concerned to another District Munsif within his jurisdiction;
(b) if presented to an officer of Government under cl. (ii), by the Government to another officer of Government.
Where an election petition is transferred to any authority under the foregoing proviso, such authority shall be deemed to be the election commissioner."
(10) Then follows Rule 3, on which emphasis has been laid by the learned counsel for the petitioner. It is in the following terms:
"An Election Commissioner exercising jurisdiction under these rules shall be deemed to exercise such jurisdiction as a persona designata and not in his capacity as a Judge or other officers of Government as the case may be."
The learned counsel for the petitioner contends on the basis of this rule that if really it was the intention of the Government, the rule-making authority, the District Munsif holding enquiries under S. 19(1) of the Act were to act as a persona designata, a similar provision would have been made in that rule to the same effect as contained in R. 3. The absence of a similar provision in the rules framed for enquiries into matters covered by S. 19(1) would point to the fact that, though the term 'District Munsif and District Judge' was used in these rules, it was only intended that the District Munsif's Court and District Judge's Court should function and that it was not intended that these presiding officers should act as persona designata.
The rules framed for the decision of election disputes was a pointer to the fact that the rule making authority could not have intended the District Munsif to be anything other than the District Munsif's Court over which he presided. It was also pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner that the further term used in the rules, namely the District Munsiff having jurisdiction over the territory in which the panchayat was situated would be meaningless, unless it were interpreted as though it was the Court that was meant and not the officer presiding over the Court. The officer presiding over the Court generally has no territorial jurisdiction but only the Court has jurisdiction and therefore it should be inferred that what was intended by the rule for enquiries under S. 19(1) was only that the District Munsif should function as a Court and not that the District Munsif should function as a persona designata.
(11) The learned counsel on both sides have invited my attention to several decisions in support of their respective contentions. Mr. Jagadisa Aiyar cited before me a decision in Lakshmanan Chettiar v. J.S. Kannappar, ILR 50 Mad 121: (AIR 1927 Mad 93), by a Full Bench of this Court where it was held that the Chief Justice of the Small Cause Court appointed to make enquiries into election petitions or questions of validity of nominations etc., was only functioning as a persona designata and not as a Court. He point out that this Full Bench decision distinguished the earlier Full Bench decision cited in Parthasarathi Naidu v. Koteswara Rao, ILR 47 Mad 369: (AIR 1924 Mad 561) which held the contrary view, namely, that when it was named as a District Judge or a Subordinate Judge the District Judge or Subordinate Judge was not acting merely as a persona designata but also was acting as a Court.
A further decision reported in Abdul Wahid Sahib v. Abdul Khader Sahib, 1947-1 M LJ 207: (AIR 1947 Mad 400) was also cited by Mr. Jagadisa Aiyar wherein Yahya Ali J. held that any officer designated by name, though he might hold the position of a judicial authority was still acting only as a persona designata and not as a Court, following the decision of the Full Bench in ILR 50 Mad 121: (AIR 1927 Mad 93). Another decision relied upon by Mr. Jagadisa Aiyar was Chinniah Thevar v. Badsha, 1948-1 Mad LJ 314: (AIR 1948 Mad 439) where Clark J. has agreed with Yahya Ali J. that where a judicial officer named was only acting as persona designata and not as a Court following several decisions on the point that were cited before him including the decision of the Full Bench in ILR 50 Mad 121: (AIR 1927 Mad 93).
(12) As against these decisions Mr. Gopalaswami Aiyangar has invited my attention to two decisions in Ramaswami Goundan v. Muthuvelappa Goundan, ILR 46 Mad 536: (AIR 1923 Mad 192) and Ahamad Thambi Maracayar v. Basava Maracayar, ILR 46 Mad 123: (AIR 1923 Mad 254) wherein it has been held that a Judge hearing an election petition before him under the rules issued by the Local Government, whether under the Local Boards Act or under the District Municipalities Act, was acting not merely as a persona designata but also as a Court in the exercise of his ordinary jurisdiction extended for that purpose.
As already stated this was the tenor of the decision in ILR 47 Mad 369: (AIR 1924 Mad 561) (FB). In addition to this Mr. Gopalaswami Aiyangar also invited my attention to the decision of the Privy Council in Adaikappa Chettyar v. Chandrasekhara Thevar, ILR 1948 Mad 505: (AIR 1948 PC 12), which he stated had application to the facts of the present case. The decision in this authority cited by the learned counsel for the petitioner is that where a legal right is in dispute and the ordinary Courts of the country are seized of such dispute, the Courts are governed by the ordinary rules of procedure applicable thereto and an appeal lies, if authorised by such rules, notwithstanding that the legal right claimed arises under a special statute which does not in terms confer a right of appeal.
(13) In Appaya Gounder v. Sheik Dawood Sahib, 1927 Mad WN 842, relied upon by the learned counsel for the petitioner, it was held that the High Court had jurisdiction to interfere with the decision of a subordinate Court, even though it was functioning as a persona designata.
(14) Another decision relied upon by the learned counsel for the petitioner is the one in Rajam Bharati v. Damodaran Naidu, . In that decision Balakrishna Aiyar J. held that the order of the Court of Small Causes, notwithstanding the fact that it was said to be final, was subject to revision if the order was without jurisdiction.
(15) The latest decision to which my attention has been invited by the learned counsel for the petitioner is the one reported in Nookamma v. Election Commissioner, 1958-1 Andh WR 241. In that decision the question that arose for consideration was whether under the rules framed for decision of disputes regarding elections to the village panchayat the District Munsif or the Election Commissioner had power to condone the delay in the presentation of an election petition. A Bench of the Andhra High Court held that since the election commissioner was acting only as a persona designata he had no general jurisdiction to condone the delay in the presentation of petitions under the Limitation Act.
(16) A few other decisions were also relied upon by Mr. Jagadisa Iyer namely R. S. Navalkar v. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, AIR 1923 Bom 421 and also Deivanayagam Pillai v. Diwan Mohideen Rowther,44 Mad LJ 39: (AIR 1923 Mad 169). I do not think that it is necessary for us to refer to these decisions in detail.
(17) I have heard the arguments of the learned counsel on both sides and after a consideration of the import and significance of all the decisions, that have been cited before us, in my judgment, the rule issued by the Government under S. 19(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act prescribing the judicial authority to be the District Munsif having territorial jurisdiction in the area, wherein the panchayat is situated, could not have intended the munsif's court as such but only the officer presiding over the Court and having jurisdiction over the territory in which the panchayat is situated. If it were the Court that was intended by the rule that was framed for the purpose, nothing could have been difficult for the authority to state that it was the District Munsif's Court that was to function in such matters.
The frame of the rule and also the proviso that has been attached to it, namely, that the District Judge shall have power to transfer any petition from one District Munsif to another District Munsif within his jurisdiction is also significant of the fact that what was intended was only the person or the officer that was being named to deal with the petitions under S. 19(1) and not the civil Court subordinate to the High Court. It is true that in the rules framed for decision of matters relating to disputes on elections they have been set out elaborately, and it has been made abundantly clear that the person designated is not the civil Court but only he has to act as a persona designata. A similar elaborate provision could have been made when the rules were framed for the purposes of S. 19(1) of the Act, but the lack of such elaborateness would not in any way detract from the tenor of the rule, namely, that it was only intended to be an officer named or designated that was to serve as the Tribunal to enquire into petitions under S. 19(1) and not the ordinary civil Court subordinate to the High Court.
Neither counsel had been able to point out to me any Division Bench's decision of this Court on this question, after the Full Bench decision in ILR 50 Mad 121: (AIR 1927 Mad 93). Both sides have only been able to lay their hands on decisions of Single Judges following the decision in ILR 50 Mad 121: (AIR 1927 Mad 93). The ruling of the decision in ILR 50 Mad 121: (AIR 1927 Mad 93) seems to make it clear that it did not choose to follow the previous Full Bench decision in Parthasarathi Naidu v. Koteswara Rao, ILR 47 Mad 369: (AIR 1924 Mad 561), but it really went to the extent of distinguishing that decision. With due respect, not only am I bound to follow the Full Bench decision in ILR 50 Mad 121: (AIR 1927 Mad 93), but I am myself in complete agreement with the view expressed therein. In that view I do not think this civil revision petition could be considered to be competent. The District Munsif having been named and designated as a judicial authority to enquire into the petitions under S. 19(1) of the Madras Village Panchayats Act is not a civil Court, which could be said to be subordinate to the jurisdiction of the High Court so as to be brought within the purview of S. 115, C.P.C.
It may be that as a Tribunal any election commissioner or any other judicial authority acting as the persona designata may be subject to the revisional jurisdiction of the High Court. But that right or remedy could be invoked only when there is want of jurisdiction in the order or the decision passed by the Tribunal. In this case it is not contended that the District Munsif acting as persona designata has acted without jurisdiction or even acted in excess of the jurisdiction. On the other hand, the point raised is only that in view of the fact that this District Munsif acting as the persona designata in regard to the enquiry in question is not subordinate to the civil Court, the High Court could not exercise any jurisdiction over it, unless it was positively established that there was lack of jurisdiction in the order passed.
(18) Mr. Gopalaswami Aiyangar, however, argued that even if it were to be held that no civil revision petition was maintainable against the order of the learned District Munsif, still Art. 227 of the Constitution had come into play and his client should be given permission to convert the revision petition into an application under Art. 227. In Hari Vishnu Kamath v. Ahmad Ishaque ,
cited by the learned counsel for the petitioner it was held that all election Tribunals are under the jurisdiction of the High Court and that such jurisdiction could be exercised by the High Court under Art. 227 of the Constitution.
(19) As against this Mr. Jagadisa Aiyar has invited my attention to a decision of the Allahabad High Court in Phul Kumari v. State, (S) , where the Court refused permission to convert a
civil revision petition into an application for a writ of certiorari or an application under Art. 227 of the Constitution. It has been conceded by the learned counsel for the respondent on this point that the proper remedy to be sought by the petitioner would be only under Art. 226 of the Constitution and not an application for converting this civil revision petition into an application under Art. 227. I agree with this contention of the learned counsel for the respondent. It is open to the petitioner to file an application for a writ under Art. 226 of the Constitution especially in view of fact that the bar of limitation does not affect the petitioner seeking such a relief in this High Court.
The District Munsif acting even as a persona designata is a Tribunal and the orders of that Tribunal could be questioned by means of writ application. I do not think that in such circumstances there is need for me to grant permission to the petitioner to convert this civil revision petition into an application under Art. 227 of the Constitution.
(20) In the suit the preliminary point raised on behalf of the respondent is upheld and this civil revision petition fails. I have not gone into the merits of the case and it is not necessary for me to do so in the view I have taken on the preliminary point. I do not think I need order costs in this petition. The petition fails and is dismissed without costs.
(21) Revision dismissed.