Judgement pronounced by F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla
1. This Special Tribunal Appeal has been filed against the order of the Inam Abolition Tribunal, Sivagangai, dated 18.7.1996 in C.M.A.No.4 of 1983 which confirmed the order of the Settlement Officer, Madurai, dated 27.3.1983 passed in S.R.20/CU/Srivalli/68-R.A.126 of 1974.
2. The land in question is situated in Padikasu Vatanpatti Village, Srivilliputhur taluk of Ramanathapuram District. It was covered by the title deed No.503 lying in S.No.78/2 covering a total extent 17.225 Hectors, of which, the claim is in respect of Ac.1.48 cents. The original claimant was one Late Sorimuthu Naidu and the present appellants are the legal heirs (wife and daughters) of the said Sorimuthu Naidu. The said Sorimuthu Naidu was examined as P.W.1, before the settlement officer. According to him, he purchased the land in question from one Subramaniya Pattar in the year 1949, that the father of Subramaniya Pattar by name Vidyanatha Pattar launched a suit against Nachiyar Kovil Madavaar Valagam Devasthanam, the respondent herein in O.S.No.932 of 1920, that in the said suit, a compromise decree came to be made in and by which, A' Schedule property comprised in the compromise decree was allotted to the respondent temple and B' schedule property fell to the share to the said Vidyanatha Pattar. The compromise decree made in O.S. 932 of 1920 was filed as Ex.P1. It was further contended that right from the days of Vidyanatha Pattar for nearly 100 years, the lands were in the enjoyment of the applicant and his predecessors in title, that Gazette Notification dated 2.6.1971 revealed that the title deed No,503 was a personal inam, and that the sale deed, by which applicant purchased the land from Subramaniya Pattar in 1949 was Ex.P4. It was claimed by the applicant that pursuant to the patta granted by the Devasthanam in the year 1933 to the Battars, the predecessor in title of the lands in question did have Kudivaram right, that the applicant improved the lands by digging a well and by putting up a pump sets for which he spent nearly Rs.5,000. It was therefore claimed that the applicant was entitled for a patta under Section 8(1) of Tamil Nadu Act 30 of 1963.
3. On behalf of the respondents, it was contended that by order dated 24.8.1967 in S.T.A.No.21 of 1961 etc., this Court having held that the Inam granted in T.D.No.503 being service inam for the temple consisting of both varams, there was no scope for holding that the said Inam consisted of Melvaram only. The respondent therefore claimed that patta should be granted in favour of Devasthanam alone. The Settlement Officer held that eventhough under Ex.P1 compromise decree, devasthanam issued Ex.P3 pattas and by virtue of the entries in Ex.P2, it is found that the Inam was a personal inam, having regard to the Judgment of the High Court in S.T.A.No.21 to 26 of 1961, dated 24.8.1967 which was also concerned with T.D.No.503, it had to be held that the Inam was granted in favour of devasthanam consisting of both the warams and not a personal inam. So holding the Settlement Officer granted patta in favour of respondent devasthanam under Section 8(2) of Tamil Nadu Act 30 of 1963. Aggrieved against the order of the settlement officer, the appellants herein preferred an appeal before Inam Abolition Tribunal, Sivagangai. The Tribunal too, by relying upon the judgment of this Court reported in Ayya Nadar and others v. Sri Vaidyanathaswami Koil Devasthanam, Madavar Villagam, Srivilliputhur through its Executive Officer and another : (1970)2MLJ129 which was rendered in respect of the very same title deed No.503 affirmed the order of the Settlement Officer. The orders of the Settlement Officer as well as that of the Tribunal was thus based solely upon the judgment of this Court.
4. In the judgment reported in Ayya Nadar and others v. Sri Vaidyanathaswami Koil Devasthanam, Madavar Villagam, Srivilliputhur through its Executive Officer and another, 1970 (II) M.L.J, 129, three contentions were raised by the alienees, who were the appellants therein and who purchased the lands comprised in T.D.No.503 from the service holders and the contentions were that the inams were personal grants burdened with service and not service inams, that the inams comprised only melvaram and not both the varams, and that prior proceedings under Section 44-B of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (II of 1927) operated as a statutory bar against the devasthanam from contending that the inams comprised of both the varams. The Division Bench of this Court held that the inams were service inams and therefore the resumption proceedings were properly instituted under Section 44-B of Act II of 1927, that the grant consisted of both the varams which is consistent with the inamdars being owners of kudivaram rights and the resumption proceedings of the Collector and his decision in respect of a question whether the inam includes kudivaram cannot be a bar to subsequent proceedings in a civil suit so as to preclude the Devasthanam from raising an issue as to the true scope and nature of an inam grant.
5. Though the compromise decree entered between the appellants predecessor in title and the Devasthanam made in O.S.No.932 of 1920 under Ex.P1 and the sale deed entered into between Sorimuthu Naidu and his predecessor in title under Ex.P4 were referred to by both the forums, the same were eschewed from consideration, inasmuch as, in the view of the Tribunal, the vendors of Sorimuthu Naidu namely Subramaniya Pattar himself did not possess the rights to dispose of the properties mentioned in A' schedule to the compromise decree. It is relevant to note that in O.S.No.932 of 1920, one Thiru Vidyanatha Pattar, i.e., father of the Subramaniya Pattar was the plaintiff and the Devasthanam was the defendant. As per the compromise decree in the said suit, it was agreed between the parties that the B' Schedule properties could be exclusively enjoyed by Thiru Vidyanatha Pattar, the father of Subramaniya Pattar, while Devasthanam retained its right of ownership in regard to the properties mentioned in A' schedule. Apparently, the failure of the Tribunal to notice the above said crucial factor has led to the passing of the order impugned in this Appeal. Therefore when the Devasthanam itself has recognized and confirmed the rights of Vidyanatha Pattar, the father of Subramaniya Pattar from whom, Sorimuthu Naidu purchased the lands in question, there is no scope for doubting his ownership right in respect of the lands involved in this proceedings. Merely by relying upon the judgment reported in Ayya Nadar and others v. Sri Vaidyanathaswami Koil Devasthanam, Madavar Villagam, Srivilliputhur through its Executive Officer and another, 1970 (II) M.L.J. 129, it cannot be held that the appellants were not entitled for patta under Act 30 of 1963. The judgment of this Court only confirmed the position that the Inam grant covered by T.D.No.503 consisted of both warams. The alienation made on behalf of the Inamdars was not in anyway affected or dealt with in the said Judgment. On the other hand, the ownership right in respect of the lands in question had been tacitly accepted to be that of the appellant's predecessors. In other words, when the ownership rights of Thiru Sorimuthu Naidu through his predecessor in title having been accepted and acted upon by the Devasthanam itself through the Civil Court proceedings which culminated in the form of a compromise decree in O.S.No.932 of 1920, it is too late in the day for the Devasthanam to come forward with a plea that irrespective of the said development, the Devasthanam still continue to retain its rights over the lands in question. In the circumstances, the Devasthanam having parted away its rights in respect of the lands involved in this proceedings as confirmed in the compromise decree in Civil Suit in O.S.932 of 1920, it is no longer open to the Devasthanam to take diametrically opposite claim at this distant point of time. In this context, the Judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court relied upon by the learned counsel for the Appellant can also be referred. It is reported in Sri Vedaranyasamy Devasthanam v, A.C. Dharma Devi and others, : (1996)7SCC467 , wherein it is stated thus-
'........The relevant entries clearly show that the original grant was made for the maintenance of Vedaranyasamy Devasthanam Temples. It was a permanent grant and no name of any individual is found in the relevant columns. It would appear from the record that the temple itself had treated the respondents and their predecessors in interest as those who had kudivaram right and the action taken was for the recovery of the arrears of the kist by way of a sale of the kudivaram right. Therefore the records would clearly indicate that the appellant had conferred kudivaram right in favour of the defendants and that what was collected from them was only a kist (revenue) and it is not by way of rent from them in exercising the kudivaram right of the appellant-institution......''
The appellants have established their rights to claim patta under Section 8 (1) of Tamil Nadu Act 30 of 1963. The appeal is allowed and the orders of the Assistant Settlement Officer as well as the Tribunal are set aside. The Settlement Officer is directed to grant patta in favour of the appellants as per the provisions of Tamil Nadu Act 30 of 1963.