1. The third respondent herein filed an application before the second respondent for relief under S. 5 (1) of the Tamil Nadu Act 13 of 1980, in respect of certain gold articles said to have been pledged by him with the petitioner. The petitioner resisted the said application on the ground that there was no pledge at all and that the receipt produced by the third respondent was not true and genuine. Having regard to the controversy, the second respondent held that since the existence of the debt as well as the pledge is disputed by the petitioner, who is stated to be the creditor, the matter has to be agitated before the civil court. However, when the matter was taken to the appellate authority, the first respondent herein, held that the authorities constituted under the Act can go into the question, as to whether there was in fact a pledge or not and that on the basis of the evidence adduced by the third respondent, that there was a pledge, the third respondent is entitled to a direction for the return of the alleged pledged articles under Section 5(2)(a) of the Act. Aggrieved against the order of the appellate authority, the petitioner has filed the present writ petition.
2. According to the petitioner, the debtor himself has filed a suit for the return of the alleged pledged jewels on the ground that he is entitled to the benefits of Act 13 of 1980, that in the suit the existence or otherwise of the pledge can be gone into, that the Tahsildar, the second respondent herein, who is functioning under the Act cannot go into the disputed question as to whether in fact there was a pledge or not, and that only in cases where the pledge is admitted, the second respondent can go into the question of its discharge. We are inclined to agree with the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner. Where a debtor alleges the existence of a pledge and claims relief under the provisions of the Act and the other party contends that there is no pledge at all, and no amount is due to him under the pledge, such controversy between the parties cannot be gone into by the Tahsildar. It is only in cases where the pledge is admitted, the Tahsildar can go into the question as to whether the debt for which the pledge has been made has been discharged or not. As in this case, where the existence of the pledge itself is in dispute, the matter has to be agitated by the so called debtor before the civil court in a regular suit. As a matter of fact, in this case, the third respondent has filed O. P. 97 of 1980. Sub Court, Tiruchirapalli, for permission to sue the petitioner in form a pauper is for the return of the pledged jewels and in that petition he has been directed to pay the necessary court fee. The third respondent, can therefore, agitate the question relating to the existence of the pledge in those proceedings by paying the necessary court fee. Even if O. P. 97 of 1980, has been dismissed for non-payment of court fee, the third respondent can approach the court with an offer to pay the court fee and have that suit restored for getting a decision from a civil court on the question of the existence of the pledge.
3. The writ petition is, therefore, allowed and the order of the appellate authority is set aside. There will be no order as to costs.