1. The appellant sued as trustee for recovery of trust property alienated to the respondent. The first Court dismissed the suit, holding that the appellant had failed to prove that he was a de jure trustee and that he could not succeed merely as a de facto trustee. The lower appellate Court substantially agreed with the District Munsif; but held that if the appellant was a de facto trustee, he could be given a declaratory decree that the alienation was not binding on the institution. The lower appellate Court, however, refused a decree for possession. Hence this appeal. The learned Subordinate Judge in holding that the appellant . was not entitled to possession as a de facto trustee purported to follow Vedakannu Nadar v. Singikulam Annadana Chatram A.I.R. 1938 Mad. 982. a decision in which a Bench of this Court held that a de facto trustee was a trustee de son tort and was in no better position than a trespasser. Mr. Sundaralingam argues that this decision is wrong; because the Privy Council has twice held that a person who holds an office can sue, even though he may not have legal title to the office. The earlier case was Ramacharan Das v. Naurangilal . There, upon the death of a mahant, the plaintiff succeeded him and held office. It was objected that he had not been legally appointed a mahant; and their Lordships said:
Their Lordships, however, are not concerned with any question of title, because both the Courts below had found that the plaintiff was the person in actual possession of the Paliganj Math and as such entitled to maintain a suit to recover property not for his own benefit but for the benefit of the math.
In the later case Mahadeo Prasad Singh v. Karia Bharti , two rival claimants, R and K, to the office of mahant, entered into a compromise whereby R was to become installed as mahant and K was to be nominated as his successor. K was however a minor; and when he attained majority he repudiated this agreement. Another compromise took place in which R agreed to put K into possession of the math and in pursuance of this agreement K thereafter managed the affairs of the math. It was objected, however, when he sought to recover some property wrongfully alienated by K, that R had not actually relinquished the office of mahant. All that their Lordships said on the question of the rights of K to maintain a suit was:
As observed by the Board in Ramacharan Das v. Naurangilal . a person in actual possession of the math is entitled to maintain a suit to recover property appertaining to it, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the math.
There is no discussion of the principles involved; and I do not think that their Lordships can be understood in these two cases as laying down the principle that any person who obtains possession of an office-still less' of the property of a trust-is entitled to maintain a suit for possession of property alienated. I am bound by the decision in Vedakannu Nadar v. Singikulam Annadana Chatram A.I.R. 1938 Mad. 982. which lays down a principle of general application. The plaintiff here claims to have acquired the office by virtue of a will and a transfer; and it would seem to be wrong that he should be permitted to maintain a suit without proving that he had acquired a right to the office of trustee which would entitle him to represent the institution. In the Privy Council cases above referred to, there was no question about who should hold the office or as to who was the person entitled to bring the suit. The persons who filed the suits could alone have represented the institution and brought the suits. There was nobody else to do so. The lower appellate Court was therefore right. The appeal is dismissed with costs.