1. All these second appeals arise out of a common judgment rendered by the learned District Munsif of Pattukottai in O. S. Nos. 784, 786, 788 and 790 of 1967 and the appeals arising therefrom on the file of the Court of the District Judge, West Thanjavur, Thanjavur. The appellant in all these second appeals is one and the same, namely, the State Wakf Board, Madras, represented by its Secretary. The suits were instituted for recovery of the properties involved in these suits. According to the appellant, the properties were Wakf properties; they have been alienated by one Sheik Dawood illegally and unauthorised, and therefore the appellant was entitled to recover possession of those properties. The defence put forward by the various defendants are reflected in the following issues framed for trial by the trial Courts:
(1) Whether the suit properties are part of the Wakf properties belonging to Asarpakkiri Thaikkal?
(2) If the suit properties are Wakf properties whether the defendants have perfected their title by adverse possession
(3) Whether there is merely a charge for Rs. 27/- every year on the income from all the Wakf properties?
(4) Whether the suit is not maintainable after the supersession of the State Wakf Board?
(5) To what relief, if any, is the plaintiff entitled?
2. The learned District Munsif, who tried the suits, hold that the suit properties were Wakf properties and further held on issue No. 3 that it was not, merely a sum of Rs. 27/- per year that was charged on the properties in question. He also held that the suits were maintainable. But he dismissed all the suits only on the ground that they were barred by limitation. On appeals preferred by the appellant herein, the learned District Judge of West Thanjavur, Thanjavur confirmed the findings of the trial Court on all the points and dismissed the suits only on the ground of limitation again. It is against these judgments and decrees that the present second appeals have been preferred by the plaintiff in the suits.
3. The learned counsel for the appellant contends that the Court below erred in holding that even on the application of Article 96 of the schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963, the suits are barred by limitation. According to the Courts below, it is Article 96 of the Limitation Act, 1963, which has replaced Arts. 134-B and 134-C of the First Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1908 that applied to the case and even on the application of that Article, the suits were barred by limitation, because the vendor who sold the suit properties died in 1953 and the suits were instituted only in 1967 after the expiry of more than 12 years. The learned counsel for the appellant contends that this conclusion of the Courts below is erroneous and for this purpose relies on two judgments of this Court and two judgments of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. Before I refer to the judgments relied on, it is easier to extract the relevant articles of the limitation Act applicable to the present case. Article 134-B of the Limitation Act, 1908 related to recovery of possession of immovable property comprised in an endowment, while Article 134-C was concerned with recovery of possession of movable property comprised in an endowment. Since we are concerned in the present suits only with immovable properties, the relevant Article of the First Schedule to the Limitation Act, 1908, is Article 134-B and the same reads as follows:
DESCRIPTION OF SUIT PERIOD OF LIMITATION: TIME FROM WHICH PERIOD BEGINS TO RUN:
By the manager of a Hindu, Muhammadan or Buddhist religious or charitable endowment to recover possession of immovable property comprised in the endowment which has been transferred by a previous manager for a valuable consideration. Twelve years. The death, resignation or removal of the transferor.
It is Articles 134-B and 134-C that have been replaced by Article 96 of the schedule to the Limitation Act, 1963 and the same is as follows:
DESCRIPTION OF SUIT PERIOD OF LIMITATION TIME FROM WHICH PERIOD BEGINS TO RUN:
By the manager of a Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist religious or charitable endowment to recover possession of movable or immovable property comprised in the endowment which has been transferred by a previous manager for a valuable consideration. Twelve years The date of death, resignation or removal of the transferor or the date of appointment of the plaintiff as manager of the endowment whichever is later.
4. The most important thing to notice is the entries in Col. 3 in the old Article 134-B and the new Article 96. In Article 134-B the time from which the period begins to run, as mentioned in Col. 3 therein, was "the death, resignation or removal of the transferor." As against this, Col. 3 in Article 96 relating to the time from which period begins to run is, "the date of death, resignation or removal of the transferor or the date of appointment of the plaintiff as manager of the endowment whichever is later." The most important change made in the third column in Article 96 of the new Act is the introduction of "the date of appointment of the plaintiff as manager" and the further provision, "whichever is later". The Courts below failed to pay any attention whatever, to this change in the third column in Article 96 in the new Act and proceeded as if the third column of Article 134-B of the old Act governed the present cases. It is with reference to this change, Natarajan, J., in Sornathammal v. Tamil Nadu State Wakf Board, S. A. No. 800 of 1972 Judgment dated 11-7-1975 (Mad) stated:
"The last contention on which considerable stress is placed by the learned counsel for the appellants is that in any event the suit had become barred by limitation on the date when the Wakf Board instituted the suit and consequently the suit must have been dismissed. In support of this contention it is pointed out that the Wakf Board had lost possession of the property even in the year 1929 when Ex. B-3 was executed and as no suit has been filed within the statutory period to set aside the alienation, the present suit for declaration and possession was not maintainable. This contention unfortunately overlooks many factors. As already stated, the Wakf Board itself was constituted in the year 1958 and the Wakf Act empowers the Board constituted under the Act to institute proceedings for recovery of the properties of a Wakf which had been lost to the trust by inadvertent action of the Muthavalli. Section 15 of the Act which specifies the functions of the Wakf Board inter alia provides under sub-clause 2(h) that the Wakf Board was empowered to take measures for the recovery of lost properties of any Wakf. Having been constituted only in the year 1958 the Board had a 12 year period to institute an action of the kind in hand for recovery of property lost to the Wakf and when admittedly the suit had been instituted in the year 1967 itself, the Board was well within time in filing the suit. Even otherwise, it is to be noted that Article 96 of the Limitation Act, 1963 has made a significant change in the period of limitation in respect of suit which are to be instituted by the Manager of a Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist religious or charitable endowment to recover possession of movable or immovable property comprised in the endowment which had been transferred by a previous Manager for a valuable consideration. While the Indian Limitation Act, 1908, under Article 134(c) had stated that the starting point of limitation for a suit of the kind referred to above would be the date of death or resignation or removal from office of the huq, Article 96 of the present Limitation Act has further added that the date of appointment of the plaintiff as Manager of the endowment would also be starting point of limitation and that the later event viz., the date of death, resignation or removal of the transferor or the date of appointment of the plaintiff as Manager of the endowment would govern the situation. Though the Wakf Board can not be deemed to be the Manager of the endowment in question, nevertheless by reason of the power given to it under Section 15(2)(h) of the Wakf Act the Board is empowered to step into the shoes of the manager and institute a suit as contemplated under Article 96. It is therefore futile for the appellants to contend that the suit was patently barred by limitation on the date it was filed."
5. The learned Judge in another judgment of his, namely, Thangiah Velar v. Tamil Nadu State Wakf Board, Madras through its Secretary, S. A. No. 456 of 1972-Judgment dated 29-7-1975 (Mad) took the same view. In both the judgments the learned Judge also referred to the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court, in C. J. Mutt. Tirupathi v. C. V. Purushotham, . That judgment elaborately dealt with the relevant articles of the old and new Limitation Acts, namely, Articles 134-B and 134-C of the old Limitation Act and Article 96 of the old Limitation Act and brought out clearly the changes effected by the new enactment. Natarajan, J., in the former of the two judgments referred to already has agreed with the following observations of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in the judgment referred to above:
"By virtue of this amendment, if the plaintiff had been appointed within 12 years from the date of the filing of the suit, he can question any alienation, which was not made for legal necessity or benefit to a mutt by a previous manager. The fact that 12 years have elapsed from the date of death, resignation or removal of the transferor manager would not stand in the way of the plaintiff in such a suit from recovering the property. That is clear from the last three words in the amendment 'whichever is later' purposely introduced by the Legislature. In view of this amendment the Court have got to apply the plain words of the statute to any action brought by any manager of a Hindu, Muslim or Buddhist religious or charitable endowment, to recover possession of the movable or immovable property of an endowment which was the subject of an alienation by a previous manager for valuable consideration. It is also clear that the transferor manager need not be the immediate predecessor of the plaintiff, that files such a suit. From a reading of Article 96, such a conclusion cannot be arrived at. It is enough if the alienation was made by a pervious manager. The first column does not say that it should be by the previous manager."
Thus, the decision of Natarajan, J., in this Court and the decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court with which Natarajan. J., agreed, fully support the contention of the appellant, namely, that even applying Article 96 of the new Act, the suits are within time, because the Wakf Board was constituted only in 1958, and the suits themselves were instituted in the presents cases in 1967 before the expiry of 12 years as provided for in Article 96 of the new Act.
6. However, the learned counsel for the respondent sought to counter the above position by putting forward the contention that the Wakf Board cannot be said to be a manager appointed within the meaning of the expression.
7. The argument of the learned counsel now is that only when the Wakf Board assumes direct management of the Wakf, it can be said to be a manager as contemplated by the third column in Article 96 of the new Act and that so long as there is no assumption of direct management, the Wakf Board cannot be said to be a manager. I am unable to accept this argument, from one point of view. Neither Section 42 nor Section 43-A of the Wakf Act on which reliance has been placed uses the word, "Manager". The word "Manager" in relation to a religious or charitable endowment is not a term of art. The said word denotes the person who is in charge of the administration of the endowment or manages the property or supervises the performance of the charity and the word is one of very wide and general import. As a matter of fact, the judgment of Natarajan. J., has referred to the provisions contained in Section 15(2) of the Wakf Act. Section 15(1) of the Wakf Act provides that subject to any rules that may be made under the said Act, the general superintendence of all Wakfs in a State shall vest in the a Board established for the State; and it shall be the duty of the Board so to exercise its powers under the Act as to ensure that the Wakfs under its superintendence are properly maintained, controlled and administered and the income thereof is duly applied to the objects and for the purposes for which such Wakfs were created or intended. Sub-section (2) of Section 15, without prejudice to the generally of the powers conferred by sub-section (1) by way of illustration, enumerates certain specified power so enumerated is contained in Section 15(2) (h)., which enables the Wakf Board to take measures for the recovery of lost properties of any Wakf Board to institute and defend suits and proceedings in a Court of law relating to Wakfs. The combined effect of Sections 15(1) and 15(2) of the Wakfs Act will certainly be sufficient to designate the Wakf Board as a manager for the purpose of recovery of possession of Wakf property and consequently it can certainly be termed as "Manager" contemplated by the third column to Article 96 of the new Limitation Act and if so construed, the constitution of the Wakf Board under the statute can certainly be construed to be the appointment of the Wakf Board as Manager of the Wakf in question, because even the word "appointment" just like the word "Manager" is not a term of art and therefore has to receive its ordinary, natural and normal meaning.
8. In fact, there is a judgment of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh dealing with the same question in L. Machi Reddy v. Wakf Board of Andhra Pradesh, . In that judgment, the Andhra Pradesh High Court pointed out:
"In so far as the capacity of the Board to institute the present suit as manager is concerned, Section 15 of the Wakfs Act makes it abundantly plain that subject to any rules that may be made under the said Act. the general superintendence of all Wakfs in a State shall vest in the Board established for the State; and it shall be the duty of the Board so to exercise its powers under the said Act as to ensure that the Wakfs under its superintendence are properly maintained, controlled and administered and the income thereof is duly applied to the objects and for the purposes for which such Wakfs were created or intended. Thus, a very wide power is given to the Board not only to supervise the functioning of these Wakfs but to see that they are properly maintained, controlled and administered. The Board is specially charged with the duty to see that the income of the Wakfs is duly applied to the objects and for the purposes for which the Wakfs were created or intended. Apart from this general power which Section 15(1) confers on the Board, Clauses (h) and (I) of the sub-section (2) of that section specifically empower the Board to take measures for the recovery of the lost properties of any Wakf and to institute and defend suits and proceedings in a Court of law relating to Wakfs.
What must necessarily follow therefore is that the Wakf Board having supervisory powers and having special duties to perform is not only entitled to file the suit for recovery of the property lost to the Wakf but also can manage and administer the property or see that the properties are properly managed and administered and its income applied to the objects and for the purposes for which the Wakfs were created or intended. Keeping in view these statutory functions and the powers of supervision of the Wakf Board over the Wakfs, I do not experience any difficulty in homing that the Wakf Board is a manager within the meaning of Article 96 of the Limitation Act."
For these reasons already indicated by me, I am in entire agreement with the above reasoning and conclusion of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The result of this will be that the Wakf Board is a manager as contemplated by Article 96 of the new Act and the constitution of the Wakf Board under the Wakfs Act will constitute the appointment of the Wakf Board as manager of the wakfs in question. If so, the Wakf Board having come into existence in 1958 and the suits having been instituted in 1967, the suits are well within time according to Article 96 of the new Limitation Act and therefore the suits cannot be said to have been barred by limitation.
9. Having realised this position, the learned counsel for the respondents sought to sustain the judgments of the Courts below on a different point, namely, that Sheikh Dawood, who executed the sale deeds in question, was made an absolute owner of the properties under the original of Ex. A-2, the will executed by Ibrahim Bivi and that therefore he had the capacity to alienate the properties and hence the appellant cannot question the said alienations. Since this argument was an involved one, I asked the learned counsel for the respondents to state whether it was his contention that the properties were not Wakf properties at all and even then the learned counsel merely stated that it might amount to such an argument. However, the very document Ex. A-2 relied on by the learned counsel will completely negative this argument. Ex. A-2 itself does not proceed on the basis that the properties belonged to Ibrahim Bivi and that she was creating a wakf over the properties for the first time under that document. On the other hand, the terms of Ex. A-2 make it clear that the properties had become Wakf properties long ago and that they were being treated as Wakf properties from time immemorial. The language used in Ex. A-2 is:
"ADIYAR KANDA CHOTTUKKAL ENPURUSHANUDYA MUNNOR KALAMUDAR CIDAIKKAL ALLA KOILUKKU MANYAMAI VIDAPATTU."
These very recitals contained in Ex. A-2 make it clear that the properties had been endowed as Wakf properties by the forefathers of the husband of Ibrahim Bivi, the person who executed the original of Ex. A-2. If so, the question of the said Ibrahim Bivi conferring absolute powers on her son Sheik Dawood, who executed the sale deeds in question, cannot possibly arise.
10. No other point was urged before me.
11. Under these circumstances, the second appeals succeeded and they are allowed and the judgments and decrees of the Courts below are set aside and the suits instituted by the appellant herein will stand decreed. The parties will bear their respective costs throughout. No leave.
12. Appeal allowed.