1. The respondent instituted a suit for recovery of salary for the period from 10-1-1958 to 26-4-1959. The basis of the claim by plaintiff was that his services as Headmaster were illegally terminated by the Panchayat Board with effect from 10-1-1958, and that the removal order was reversed on appeal and that consequently he was reinstated in service with effect from 27-4-1959. The suit was resisted by the appellant on the ground, among others, that it did not lie under Section 170 of the Madras Panchayats Act, 1958. This defence was accepted by the trial court which dismissed the suit. The respondent was, however, successful in his appeal. The Panchyat is the appellant in the second appeal. Kailasam J., who heard the second appeal, felt the applicability of the section to the suit raised an important question of construction thereof and it should, therefore, be decided by a Full Bench. The learned Judge was also of the view that the reference was necessary as he thought that Panchayat Board, Tiruvottiyur v. Western India Matches Co., 1939-1 Mad LJ 588 = (AIR 1939 Mad 421) (FB) in interpreting the scope and effect of Section 225 of the Madras Local Boards Act 1920, did not deal with the bearing and construction the words "Unless it is an action for the recovery of immovable property or for a declaration of title thereto'' inserted in the section by an amendment of 1900.
2. As we read. Section 170 of the Madras Panchayats Act, we find no difficulty in interpreting its scope as limited to suits for compensation as mentioned therein. The wide scope of "any act'' is limited by the words which follow, namely, "the amount of compensation claimed'', which clearly indicate that the act contemplated is tortious in charter. This is the interpretation which the predecessors of S. 170 had uniformly received in this court. But for 1939-1 Mad LJ 588 = (AIR 1939 Mad 421) (FB), it would have been necessary for us to notice the earlier cases. That case related to recovery of tax collected illegally. The learned Judges who made the reference to the Full Bench had no doubt that the collection of the tax illegally was an act within the meaning of Section 225 of the Local Boards Act, 1920. They referred, however the question for decision of the Full Bench as to whether the suit was of such a nature as would fall within the ambit of Section 225. The Full Bench held that the suit was not one for compensation and therefore, was not within the ambit of Section 225. In coming to that conclusion the Full Bench also pointed out that where the courts had consistently interpreted the law in a particular way for many years, it was for the Legislature and not the courts to effect change, if a change was desirable. This view of the section was adopted by one of us in Krishnaswami v. Panchayat Board, ILR (1965) 2 Mad 325 in construing S. 107 of the Madras Village Panchatyats Act. (1950), which is in pari materia with Section 170 of the Madras Panchayats Act, 1958. In our view, the fact that sub-section (2) of Section 170 saves from the scope of subsection (1) "proceeding for the recovery of immovable property for a declaration of title thereto'' does not have the effect of enlarging the scope of sub-section (1) as to the nature, of the suits contemplated by that provision. These words did not find a place in Section 156 of the Madras Local Boards Act 1884, but were inserted for the first time by the Amending Act VI of 1900 by recasting Section 156 and providing sub-section (3) of the section. But these words, as we said, did not make any difference to the interpretation of the scope of sub-section (1) of Section 156 of the 1884 Act, as amended in 1900. Even as the section originally stood, which did not use the words 'the amount of compensation claimed', it had been interpreted as applicable to only tortious acts. The words the amount of compensation which, as we said, were introduced in the section 1900, have been reiterate in the Act of 1920 as well as in the Panchayats Acts of 1950 and 1958. The point of construction is really controlled by the use of these words ''the amount of compensation claimed'', which unmistakably shows the nature or character of the claim made in the suit. One of us in ILR (1965) 2 Mad 325 made reference of Govindram Seksaria v. Edward Radon, ILR (1947) Bom 860 = (AIR 1948 PC 56) where the Privy Council dealt with the word "compensation'' and observed--
"Compensation for an advantage may appear to be a contradiction terms, since compensation connotes a measure of loss or damage and not the value of an advantage.''
It would be, in our opinion, inappropriate to describe the plaint in the instant case as one for compensation. The plaintiff was certainly not suing for damages for any injury caused to him or compensating for any loss that he had sustained by reason of the order of dismissal and restoration. The claim, as we read the plaint, was based on his service which no doubt was interrupted by the order. On a true view of the plaint, it seems to us that the claim is one for salary for the period of his compulsory absence from service and not as compensation.
3. Our answer to the question referred to us is that Section 170 of the Madras Panchayats Act 1958, like Section 107 of the Madras Village Panchayats Act 1950, is applicable only to suits for compensation and that the words in sub-section (2) of Section 170 "unless it is a proceeding for the recovery of immovable property or for a declaration of title thereto'' do not make any difference to the interpretation.
4. Reference answered.