1. This suit was brought by the Mahant of the Thiruvannamalai Mutt to recover possession of certain lands sold by his predecessor in 1895 to the father of defendants Nos. 1 and 2. He alleged that the sale was for no necessity and that it was not binding on the Mutt. The suit was decreed in the Court of the District Munsif but, on appeal, the Subordinate Judge dismissed it as barred by limitation.
2. The questions raised in the second appeal are, first, whether the Mahant of a Mutt is a trustee or a life-tenant; secondly, whether Article 134 of the Limitation Act applies to this case; and thirdly, whether the alienation was void or voidable, it being suggested that if it was only voidable, the cause of action to set it aside would only arise on plaintiff's accession to the headship of the Mutt. On the first point, in Ram Pathash, Das v. Anand Das (1916) 1 M.W.N. 406and Basudeo Roy v. Jugalkishwar Das 45 Ind. Cas. 818 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council have laid it down that the Mahant of a Mutt is a trustee of the Mutt properties. In Baluswami Aiyer v. Venkitaswamy Naicken 40 Ind. Cas. 531 it was held that a Mahant was a trustee and not a life-tenant asiegards the properties of the Mutt. In Obla Venhatachalapalhi Aiyer v. Thirugnana Sambenda Pandara Sannadhi 42 Ind. Cas. 273 a doubt was raised whether this proposition had not been too broadly expressed in Baluswami Aiyer v. Venkitaswamy Naicken 40 Ind. Cas. 531 In Kailasam Pillay v. Nataraja Tambiran 5 Ind. Cas. 4 this question was again discussed and Benson and Wallis, JJ., said that it could not be predicated that a Mahant was a trustee in all cases, but it must depend on the constitution of the particular institution. Sankiran Nair, J. said that, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Mahant was not a trustee and that he was not a life tenant either. In Muthummier v. Sree Sree Methanithi Swamiyar 19 Ind. Cas. 694 : (1913) M.W.N. 581 it was said that the position of a Mahant was analogous in many ways to that of the estate of a Hindu female heir, and in Vidyapurna Tirtha Swami v. Vidyanidhi Tirtha Swami 14 M.L.J. 105 it was observed that the Mahant was not a mere trustee but was a corporation sole.
3. The last named authorities contain attempts to strictly define the position of a Mahant by comparing it to the position of Hindu females or corporations sole in English Law. But they do not show that, generally speaking, the Mahant is not a trustee. The learned Judges who decided these oases were careful not to say that the Mahant of a Mutt was not a trustee. I think that he is not the less a trustee, because his position has been in some respects compared to that of a Hindu female or to that of a corporation sole in English Law, On the whole, there is no good reason for distinguishing the case of this Mutt from those which came under the consideration of the Privy Council in their latest rulings. I hold that the plaintiff and his predecessor were trustees in law.
4. The next question is whether the suit property was 'conveyed or bequeathed in trust' within the meaning of Article 134 of the Limitation Act. Exhibit II is the document under which this property was conveyed by the perpetual lessees under the Devastanam. It is dated 28th July 1886 and the Mutt became the perpetual lessee from that date subject to an annual payment to the Devastanam. As the property was not conveyed to the Mahant for his personal use but sold to him for the benefit of the Mutt, there can be no doubt that the transaction was a conveyance in trust.
5. Lastly, the Privy Council case in Abhiram Goswami Mohant v. Shyatna Charan Nandi 4 Ind. Cas. 449 which is relied on for the appellant as showing that an alienation by a Mahant for a purpose not beneficial to the Mutt would be good for the lifetime of the Mahant for the time being, was the case of a lease in which the personal right of the Mahant was put forward. There would have been no injury to the estate of the Mutt by the granting of a lease for the Mahant's lifetime, but a permanent lease would have been an alienation beyond his powers, and in this sense the Privy Council must be understood as holding that the lease was only valid during the lifetime of the Mahant in office. Exhibit I being a document of out-and-out sale executed in October 1895, this suit brought in 1914 more than 12 years after the sale, was clearly barred and the Subordinate Judge was right in deciding this point in favour of the defendants.
6. The second appeal is, therefore, dismissed with costs,
Sadasiva Aiyar, J.
7. I entirely agree with the conclusions and reasoning of my learned brother in the judgment just now pronounced by him. I only wish to add with the greatest respect to the decision in Kailasam Pillay v. Nataraja Tambiran 5 Ind. Cas. 4 that it has always seemed to me a vary startling proposition that the ascetic head of a Mutt, who is supposed to have renounced the world and all its vanities, whose fall from a strict life of continence or Brahmacharya disqualified him' from holding the office of Matadipathi (which involves the initiation of others spiritually fitted into the holy order of Sanyasa) but who was (in degenerate mediaeval ages), however, allowed to be the manager and the trustee and thus the legal owner of properties dedicated to the support and advancement of religion and charity generally and of a particular school of monastic institution and doctrine specially, should be considered not to be a trustee of any institution at all, unless the person who alleges him to be a trustee proves that fact by evidence.
8. In the case in Muthusamier v. Sree Sree Methanithi Swamiyar 19 Ind. Cas. 694 : (1913) M.W.N. 581 I had, with great respect to the decision in Vidyapurna Tirtha Swami v. Vidyanidhi Tirtha Swami 14 M.L.J. 105 ventured to express serious misgivings about the soundness of the view conferring on the heads of these Mutts the status of corporation sole. had also expressed grave doubts of the soundness of the prevailing view that these heads could spend the income of their Mutt institutions in even immoral, extravagant and inappropriate ways without question and without liability to removal for any misconduct and even for patent unfitness (through a notoriously profligate and unascetic life) to hold the position of the head of a monastic institution.
9. However, I am clear that their Lord ships of the Privy Council have in their recent decisions, referred to in my learned brother's judgment, not accepted the view enunciated in Kailasam Pillay v. Nataraja Tambiran 5 Ind. Cas. 4 or Vidyapurna Tirtha Swami v. Vidyanidhi Tirtha Swami 14 M.L.J. 105 and that these decisions are therefore, no longer of binding force.
10. As regards Abhiram Goswami Mohant v. Shyama Charan Nandi 4 Ind. Cas. 449 both Miller, J., and myself considered it carefully in Muthusamier v. Sree Sree Methanithi Swamiyar 19 Ind. Cas. 694 : (1913) M.W.N. 581 and our opinion as to the exact scope of their Lordships' decision in that case is (I am glad to find) supported by the opinion of my learned brother.