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(Sri) Chidambara Sivaprakasa Pandara Sannadhi Vs. Somasundaram Pillai and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1930Mad422
Appellant(Sri) Chidambara Sivaprakasa Pandara Sannadhi
RespondentSomasundaram Pillai and ors.
Cases ReferredNaina Pillai v. Ramanathan A.I.R.
Excerpt:
.....which does not here arise) a mahant is incompetent to create any interest in respect of the mutt property to enure beyond his life. 6. the aforesaid dictum of the privy council in accordance with what their lordships have stated to be the settled law, is in my opinion clearly applicable to the present case. as pointed out already the permanent lease in question granted by the plaintiff as head of the mutt in respect of the suit land which is only part of the general properties of the mutt, would therefore enure for his lifetime and would be good to that extent. it is unnecessary to discuss the question of limitation in the present case, as i have held on the authority of the decisions referred to above, that the plaint mentioned lease will hold good for the lifetime of the grantor..........which does not here arise) a mahant is incompetent to create any interest in respect of the mutt property to enure beyond his life.6. the aforesaid dictum of the privy council in accordance with what their lordships have stated to be the settled law, is in my opinion clearly applicable to the present case. in the plaint, the suit land is simply referred to as belonging to the mutt, of which the plaintiff is the head. this land is treated simply as part of the general properties of the mutt. there is absolutely no allegation in the plaint that the suit land is one granted to the head of the mutt for any specific purpose on a specific trust. as pointed out already the permanent lease in question granted by the plaintiff as head of the mutt in respect of the suit land which is only.....
Judgment:

Sundaram Chetty, J.

1. This second appeal arises out of a suit filed by the plaintiff-appellant for the recovery of possession of the plaint mentioned manai, together with arrears of rent, from the defendants, to whose ancestor this site was granted by the plaintiff under the registered lease deed Ex. A. It is dated 3rd July 1898. The plaintiff's case is, that he is the head of Sivaprakasa Swamigal Mutt, that the suit property which is situated in Madappuram village belongs to the aforesaid Mutt and that it was leased out to the father of defendants 1 to 3 who took it for erecting a house thereon for his occupation. Plaintiff's claim was resisted by the defendants on several grounds. It was urged that the lease granted by the plaintiff was a permanent lease, that no default was made in the payment of rent, that the plaintiff's suit was barred by limitation and that in case of eviction a sum of Rs. 1,000 should be paid as compensation for the house built on the suit site. Both the lower Courts have found that the lease granted under Ex. A was a permanent lease. The lower appellate Court has found that this permanent lease was not granted for any benefit or necessity of the Mutt, but, on a consideration of the case law on the point, held that the lease in question is good till the end of the plaintiff's lifetime, whatever may be the binding character of it so far as the plaintiff's successor is concerned. In this view the learned Judge dismissed the plaintiff's suit, confirming the decision of the first Court.

2. In this second appeal, the main contention urged before me is that the lower appellate Court is wrong in holding that the permanent lease under Ex. A granted by the plaintiff is valid for his lifetime. In order to decide this question, a brief review is necessary of the decisions which have dealt with the true status and position of a Matadhipathi or the head of a Mutt and his powers of alienation over the properties belonging to the Mutt. This question has been no doubt the subject of several decisions, but the real difficulty consists in understanding the true import thereof, on account of some passages in the several judgments containing observations which may at first sight seem to be difficult of reconciliation. In the case reported in Vidyapurna Thirtha Swami v. Vidyanidhi Tirtha Swami [1904] 27 Mad. 435 there is a very learned and exhaustive discussion of this question, and the opinion expressed by both the learned Judges is that the head of a Mutt is not a mere trustee as the dharmakartha of a temple, but he has an estate for life in the permanent endowments of the Mutt and an absolute property in the income derived from offerings, subject only to the burden of maintaining the institution. The Matadhipathi is considered to have a beneficial interest in the usufruct and the surplus income belongs to him which he could dispose of at his will. In the judgment of the Privy Council in Srinivasachariar v. Evalappa Mudaliar A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 325, which was delivered by Lord Shaw, the distinction which was recognized in the case in Vidyapurna Thirtha Swami v. Vidyanidhi Thirtha Swami [1904] 27 Mad. 435 between the head of a Muth and the dharmakartha or trustee of a temple is referred to with approval, and the particular passage at p. 581 is as follows:

The position of dharmakartha is not that of a shebait of a religious institution, or of the head of a Mutt. These functionaries have a much higher right with larger power of disposal and administration, and they have a personal interest of a beneficial character.

3. The question came up for decision again in this Court and was referred to a Full Bench: vide Kailasam Pillai v. Nataraja Thambiran [1910] 33 Mad. 265. According to the opinion of the Full Bench, it could not be predicated of the head of a Mutt, as such, that he holds the Mutt properties as a life-tenant or trustee, but the question must be determined in each case upon the conditions on which they were given or which may be inferred from the usage and custom of the institution. That even the head of a Mutt would be a trustee with respect to any particular property shown to have been granted on specific trust, whereas with respect to the general assets of the Mutt he would be a sort of beneficial owner and not a mere trustee, is to be carefully kept in view in order to avoid confusion. This distinction has been recognised by Wallis, J., (as he then was), as would appear from the following observation on p. 280 of the aforesaid Full Bench decision:

My answer is that heads of Mutts cannot be regarded as trustees of Mutt endowments except in so far as it may be shown that any particular endowment was granted to them on trust. It is unnecessary to discuss any other questions, but I desire to say generally that as at present advised I see no reason for differing from the conclusions arrived at in Vidyapurana Tirtha Swami v. Vidyanidhi Tirtha Swami (1), as to the position of the head of a Mutt with regard to Mutt properties as to which no specific trust is established in the manner already mentioned.

4. In Muthusamier v. Methanithi Swamiyar [1915] 38 Mad. 356, the position of the head of a Mutt has been held to be not that of a tenant for life, but he is in a certain sense owner in a fee simple, though in many respects he has only the powers of a tenant for life. It was also stated that an alienation by him would be analogues to an alienation by a Hindu widow. The same question arose for consideration in a case which went up to the Privy Council whose judgment is found in Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Ayyar A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 123. In that case, an exhaustive review of the aforesaid decisions, as also other decisions, has been made and the final conclusion arrived at by their Lordships is that the permanent lease granted by the Mathadhipathi over a part of the general property of the mutt could enure only for the grantor's lifetime and would be good till his death and would not bind his successor. In that case, the finding of both the Courts in India was that the lease was not made for necessity and that the land in suit was part of the general properties of the Mutt, not being subject to any special trust. On the basis of this finding of fact, the ultimate conclusion of their Lordships in that case rests. In dealing with the Full Bench decision in Kailasam Pillai v. Nataraja Thambiran [1910] 33 Mad. 265 their Lordships state thus at p. 845 of Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Ayyar A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 123:

All three Judges agreed in thinking that if any specific property was specifically entrusted to the head for, specific purposes, he might be regarded a 'trustee' with regard to that property; but that in the absence of any such evidence, the superior was not a trustee in respect of any part of the endowment.

5. To the same effect is the view taken in Muthusamier v. Methanithi Swamiyar [1915] 38 Mad. 356, which was also considered by the Privy Council. As I have observed above, the land which was granted by the head of the mutt on permanent lease having been found to be part of the general endowments of the Mutt, and not to have been granted on any specific trust, the position of the mahant with respect to the land leased was taken to be not that of a mere trustee, but his position would be different, as stated in Kailasam Pillai v. Nataraja Thambiran [1910] 33 Mad. 265 and Muthuswamier's case [1915] 38 Mad. 356 referred to in the previous discussion. Now, the final conclusion arrived at by the Privy Council in that case, as stated in the following passage found on p. 855 (of 44 Mad.), would be intelligible;

He was let into possession by mahant No. 1 under a lease which purported to be a permanent lease, but which under the law could enure only for the grantor's lifetime. According to the well settled law of India (apart from the question of necessity, which does not here arise) a mahant is incompetent to create any interest in respect of the Mutt property to enure beyond his life.

6. The aforesaid dictum of the Privy Council in accordance with what their Lordships have stated to be the settled law, is in my opinion clearly applicable to the present case. In the plaint, the suit land is simply referred to as belonging to the Mutt, of which the plaintiff is the head. This land is treated simply as part of the general properties of the Mutt. There is absolutely no allegation in the plaint that the suit land is one granted to the head of the Mutt for any specific purpose on a specific trust. As pointed out already the permanent lease in question granted by the plaintiff as head of the Mutt in respect of the suit land which is only part of the general properties of the Mutt, would therefore enure for his lifetime and would be good to that extent. In the face of the clear pronouncement of the law by the Privy Council in Vidya Varuthi's case A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 123 (of 44 Mad.) the contention of the learned advocate for the appellant is unacceptable. If the distinction between the position of the head of a Mutt as regards any property shown to have vested in him on specific trust for a specific purpose, and his position as regards the general endowments of the Mutt, be carefully kept in view, there would be no confusion, in the matter of deciding his powers of alienation. As regards a property of the former Kind, he would only be a mere trustee and as such an absolute sale or a permanent lease effected by him would be utterly void. The cases relied on by the learned advocate for the appellant in support of his contention that the permanent lease in question in the present case is void, seem to me to relate to alienations made by a trustee of an idol or any religious or charitable institution, or a dharmakartha or manager of a temple, or a mutawalli of a wakf who is only a trustee or manager: vide Nagendranath Palit v. Rabindra Nath. Deb : AIR1926Cal490 , Sena Pena v. Chookalingam [1904] 27 Mad. 291, Yasim Sahib v. Ekambara Ayyar : (1919)37MLJ698 , Sivaswami Ayyar v. Tirumudi Chettiar A.I.R. 1930 Mad. 405, Gajendra Nath Dey v. Ashraf Hussain : AIR1923Cal130 and Rama Reddy v. Rangadasan A.I.R. 1926 Mad. 769. In such cases, it was held that the alienation would be void. But the principle of those decisions cannot be applied to the head of a Mutt in respect of an Alienation made by him of any part of the general endowments of the Mutt, as to which he is not a mere trustee but a functionary having a much higher right with larger power of disposal and administration and a personal interest of a beneficial character, as observed by the Privy Council in Srinivasachariar v. Evalappa Mudaliar A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 325. In the case of an alienation which would be void ab initio, the alienee usually pleaded adverse possession and limitation, but that plea prevailed in some cases and not in others. For instance, in the case reported in Rama Reddi v. Ranga Dasan A.I.R. 1926 Mad. 769, the view taken was that though the alienation was void, the possession of the alienee would not be adverse to the trustee who granted the permanent lease nor to the idol (the juridical person) which must be deemed to be in perpetual infancy. It is unnecessary to discuss the question of limitation in the present case, as I have held on the authority of the decisions referred to above, that the plaint mentioned lease will hold good for the lifetime of the grantor (the plaintiff). If the lease is good for the plaintiff's lifetime, the possession of the lessee cannot be adverse as against the plaintiff.

7. Some stress was laid on the appellant's side on the observations of their Lordships of the Privy Council in Naina Pillai Maracayar v. Ramanathan Chettiar A.I.R. 1924 P.C. 65. But that case related to an alleged alienation of the property of a Hindu temple by the trustee thereof. However, there are general observations on p. 352 to the effect, that the position of the shebait, the manager or trustee of a temple as regards the power to deal with the endowed lands of the temple is analogous to the position of a mahant of a Mutt to deal with the endowed lands of a mutt, It is stated that except in a case of unavoidable necessity, they have no power to sell or mortgage the endowed property or grant a permanent lease thereof. After making these observations, their Lordships proceed to state that the law on this subject is well established, quoting among others the decisions of the Privy Council, in Abhiram Goswami v. Shyam Charan Nandi [l909] 36 Cal. 1003, and Vidya Varuthi's case A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 123. But in these two cases, the alienation made by a mahant or head of a Mutt was not held to be void ab initio, but was held to be good for the lifetime of the grantor. What was specifically decided in Vidya Varuthi's case A.I.R. 1922 P.C. 123 and Abhiram Goswami's case [l909] 36 Cal. 1003 with the recognition of the distinction between the position of the head of a Mutt in respect of specific trust property and his position in respect of the general properties of the Mutt cannot be deemed to have been abrogated by the general observations made in Naina Pillai v. Ramanathan A.I.R. 1924 P.C. 65.

8. For all the foregoing reasons, I am of opinion that the plaint mentioned lease will enure for the lifetime of the present plaintiff, the grantor, and will be good till the end of his lifetime. The present suit brought to eject the defendants is therefore unsustainable. In the result, the Second Appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.


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