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Venkateswara Sarma, Styled Gnanasivacharia Swamigal, Matathipathi and Guru of Perur Mel Mutt, for Himself and on Behalf of the Mutt Vs. S.N. Venkatesa Aiyar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLimitation
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported in(1941)1MLJ644
AppellantVenkateswara Sarma, Styled Gnanasivacharia Swamigal, Matathipathi and Guru of Perur Mel Mutt, for Hi
RespondentS.N. Venkatesa Aiyar and ors.
Cases ReferredProsunno Kumari v. Golab Chand Baboo
Excerpt:
- - 4. on the face of it article 134-b applies to a case like the present one. moreover, the privy council has itself pointed out that equitable considerations are out of place when construing the limitation act and the strict grammatical meaning of the words is the only safe guide--nagendra naik de v. article 144 says that the period of, limitation shall start from the date when the possession of the defendant becomes adverse to the plaintiff and in a case like the present one, the judicial committee has declared that adverse possession starts from the death, resignation or removal of the mahant responsible for the alienation. at liberty to dispose of the property of a math during the period of his life and that grant purporting to be for a longer period, was held to be 'good to the.....alfred henry lionel leach, c.j.1. this full bench has been constituted to decide the following questions:(1) where a manager of a hindu religious institution makes an alienation of the property of the institution for valuable consideration and the succeeding manager seeks to impeach that alienation by suit, will article 134-b apply when there is an interval of time between the death, resignation or removal of the previous manager and the election or appointment of the subsequent manager?(2) if such succeeding manager happens to be a minor at the date of his election or appointment, will he be entitled to the benefit of section 6 of the limitation act?(3) if article 144 be held applicable to the case, when does adverse possession commence? is it from the date of the election or appointment.....
Judgment:

Alfred Henry Lionel Leach, C.J.

1. This Full Bench has been constituted to decide the following questions:

(1) Where a manager of a Hindu religious institution makes an alienation of the property of the institution for valuable consideration and the succeeding manager seeks to impeach that alienation by suit, will Article 134-B apply when there is an interval of time between the death, resignation or removal of the previous manager and the election or appointment of the subsequent manager?

(2) If such succeeding manager happens to be a minor at the date of his election or appointment, will he be entitled to the benefit of Section 6 of the Limitation Act?

(3) If Article 144 be held applicable to the case, when does adverse possession commence? Is it from the date of the election or appointment of the succeeding manager or from, the date of the death, resignation or removal of the previous manager who effected the alienation?

2. The reference arises out of Appeal No. 26 of 1937, which was preferred from a decree of the Subordinate Judge of Coimbatore. The suit was instituted by the Mahant, or Matathipathi, of the Perur Math to recover possession of certain immovable properties belonging to the math which had been alienated by his immediate predecessor, one Sivasubramania Swamigal. The last alienation took place in 1910. Sivasubramania Swamigal died on the 15th July, 1918, and the suit was not instituted until the 12th April, 1934. The appointment to the office of mahant rests with the disciples of the mathy but they did not appoint a successor to Sivasubramania Swamigal until the 7th June, 1922, nearly four years after his death. The defendants raised the plea that the suit was barred by limitation their contention being that Article 134-B of the Limitation Act applied. The plaintiff maintained that the appropriate article was Article 144 and that time only began to run from the date of his appointment. He was a minor at the time of his appointment and did not attain his majority until the 6th May, 1931. It was in these circumstances that it was said that Section 6 of the Limitation Act had application. The Subordinate Judge decided against the plaintiff and he appealed to this Court. The appeal came before Venkataramana Rao and Abdur Rahman, JJ., who were inclined to take different views on the question of limitation and both have set forward their reasons for making this reference. They have discussed all relevant authorities and an elaborate examination of them is not called for. It will be sufficient to examine the questions which arise and to refer merely to the governing factors.

3. Article 134-B which falls in Part VIII of the Schedule to the Limitation Act states that the period of limitation for a suit by the manager of a Hindu, Mahomedan or Buddhist religious of charitable endowment to recover possession of immovable property comprised in the endowment which has been transferred by a previous manager for a valuable consideration shall be twelve years and that time shall begin to run from the death, resignation or removal of the transferor. Article 144 is the residuary article in Part VIII of the Schedule. It prescribes a period of twelve years for a suit for the possession of immovable property or any interest therein not otherwise specially provided for in the Act, the period of limitation starting from the time when the possession of the defendant becomes adverse to the plaintiff. Article 134-B was inserted in the Limitation Act by the amending Act of 1929. It is accepted by both sides that the object of its insertion was to put an end to judicial conflict. The conflict was whether in a suit by a manager of a math for possession of immovable property belonging to the endowment which had been transferred by his predecessor time began to run from the date of the alienation or from the date of the death of the alienor. By inserting Article 134-B the Legislature has made , the starting point the death, resignation or removal from office of the transferor. Independent of the amendment of the statute the Privy Council in 1933 in its judgment in Mahant Ram Charan Das v. Naurangi Lal (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 also decided that this should be the starting point. There the Privy Council held that where a mahant has alienated math property the possession of the alienee does not become adverse during the tenure of office of the mahant and limitation only begins to run from the time when the mahant ceases to hold office. The question was whether Article 134 or Article 144 applied and the decision was that the proper article was Article 144. The appeal in Mahant Ram Charan Das v. Naurangi Lal(1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 was heard after the amendment of the Act in 1929, but the suit had been instituted before the amendment and therefore Article 134-B had no application. A mahant is not a trustee in the English sense, as was pointed out by the Judicial Committee in Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Aiyar (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346 : L.R. 48 IndAp 302 : I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 . He has the right to the enjoyment of the properties during his lifetime, subject, of course, to the necessities of the math, and that is why in that case and in Mahant Ram Charan Das v. Naurangi Lal (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : I.L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 , the Privy Council held that the starting point of limitation was the date when the mahant vacated the office, and no doubt similar considerations operated when the Legislature decided to insert Article 134-B in the Limitation Act.

4. On the face of it Article 134-B applies to a case like the present one. This is a suit by the manager of a Hindu religious endowment to recover possession of immovable properties comprised in the endowments which were alienated by his predecessor for valuable consideration and the starting point of the period of twelve years is the date of the death of his predecessor. It is contended, however, that the Legislature only intended the article to apply in a case where the full period of limitation could run. In other words, unless the terms of the endowment provide for immediate succession on the death of the mahant responsible for the alienation the article cannot apply. In answer to a question put to him in the course of the arguments, Mr. Govinda Menon, on behalf of the appellant, said that the article would have application in this case if the disciples had elected a successor to Sivasubramania Swamigal as soon as the breath left his body, but if they delayed for a moment Article 134-B would not apply and the case would be governed by the residuary article, namely Article 144. This is going to great lengths and to lengths which I certainly am not prepared to go. When the Legislature places upon the statute book a provision in terms which are entirely without ambiguity, as is the case here, it is the duty of the Court to give effect to the provision.

5. The argument for ignoring Article 134-B is that it is a general principle of the law of limitation that limitation can only be deemed to run from the date when the cause of action accrues, and a cause of action cannot exist unless there is a person capable of suing. Granted that this is so it does not mean that the Legislature cannot make an arbitrary starting point, irrespective of whether there is a person capable of suing or not. It is to be observed that there is a vast difference between the : wording of Article 134-B and Article 120. Under Article 120 the period of limitation commences when the right to sue accrues, which is plainly not the case so far as Article 134-B is concerned, where the starting point is definitely from the date on which the manager of the endowment ceases to hold office. As Venkataramana Rao, J., has been at pains to point out in his referring order the Legislature has made an arbitrary starting point, and I agree with him. In my opinion there is here no room for the application of any principle, which, if applied, would mean the overruling of the plain words of the statute. What is so often lost sight of is that the plain words of a statute must be given effect to, unless by doing so it is obvious that it would lead to an absurdity. That is not the position here. Moreover, the Privy Council has itself pointed out that equitable considerations are out of place when construing the Limitation Act and the strict grammatical meaning of the words Is the only safe guide--Nagendra Naik De v. Suresh Chandra De (1932) 63 M.L.J. 329 : L.R. 59 IndAp 283 : I.L.R. 60 Cal. 1 . And that case was concerned with the interpretation of Article 182 of the Limitation Act.

6. In considering whether Article 134-B or Art, 144 applies in this case we have two important factors. The first is that the Legislature intended to make the starting point of limitation the death, resignation or removal from office of the mahant responsible for the alienation and that irrespective of the statute the Privy Council has laid down the same rule. The second is that there can be no equitable construction of the Limitation Act and effect must be given to the plain meaning of the words used. If these factors are borne in mind it seems to me that all difficulties disappear, and Article 134-B is the only Article which can be applied. The contention that this will cut down the period of limitation, if there is not an automatic appointment of a successor to the mahant responsible for the alienation is really beside the point. The Legislature could not be expected to legislate in this connection for a situation where those responsible for the appointment of a successor choose to neglect their duty. If they do so theirs must be the responsibility. In the present case the disciples of Sivasubramania Swamigal could have elected his successor immediately after his death had they so desired. Because they neglected their duty in this respect the Court, in my opinion, is certainly not called upon to ignore the very emphatic words of Article 134-B and allocate the case to a category to which it does not belong. I agree entirely with the observations of my learned brother Venkataramana Rao. J., on this question, and consequently the answer which I would give to the first question is in the affirmative.

7. The answer which I would give to the third question has been indicated in what I have already said in discussing the first question under reference. In view of the decision of the Privy Council in Mahant Ram Charan Das v. Naurangi Lal (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 601.A. 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 , it appears to me that even if Article 144 does apply the date of the starting point of adverse possession is the date of the death, resignation or removal of the manager who effected the alienation, and not the date of the election or the appointment of his successor. Article 144 says that the period of, limitation shall start from the date when the possession of the defendant becomes adverse to the plaintiff and in a case like the present one, the Judicial Committee has declared that adverse possession starts from the death, resignation or removal of the mahant responsible for the alienation. Therefore the answer I would give to the third question is that even if Article 144 be applicable adverse possession started to run from the death of Sivasubramania Swamigal.

8. The second question does not call for much discussion. It has been said on behalf of the appellant that his appointment to succeed Sivasubramania Swamigal should be deemed to date back to the latter's death, in which case the appellant would be entitled to the benefit of Section 6 of the Limitation Act. If his appointment were to be deemed to date back to that period there is no doubt that the suit would be in time, but unfortunately for the appellant's argument here there is no warrant that the appointment should be deemed to be antedated. It was made on the 7th June, 1922, and there is nothing in the Limitation Act or in any other enactment which gives it retrospective effect. The argument that it should be given this effect is one which has only to be stated to be rejected. When the appellant was appointed the period of limitation had started to run. It had in fact been running for nearly four years and once having started nothing could stop it. My answer to the second question is that if the appellant's appointment had automatically followed Sivasubramania Swamigal's death, the appellant being a minor would have been entitled to the benefit of Section 6, but inasmuch as his appointment was made after the period of limitation had started to run the section does not help him.

9. The costs of this reference I would make costs in the cause.

Venkataramana Rao, J.

10. I agree.

Horwill, J.

11. I agree.

Abdur Rahman, J.

12. Nothing was said by learned Counsel for the respondent before the Full Bench that may induce me to alter my opinion. It is not difficult to follow the interpretation placed by him on Article 134-B of the Indian Limitation Act. It is too simple in fact not to be understood and that in my judgment is about its only merit. Had it not led to a great injustice in a given set of circumstances, it would not have been difficult to agree with him. But an apprehension of the consequences that would result from that interpretation led me to examine the language of the Article more closely in order 10 ascertain whether it was the only construction, as claimed on behalf of the respondent, that could be put on the language of the Article or whether the Article was meant, if properly understood, to apply to a different and perhaps a limited class of cases but not to cases such as the present one.

13. When the language of the Article is plain, the task of a Judge is easy. He has to concentrate on the words used in the statute and to give them their plain and ordinary meaning : This is what is meant by a literal or a grammatical construction. Since there is no ambiguity in the words or phrases used in the Article that we are called upon to construe, it is unnecessary to consider the circumstances when it would have been permissible to depart from that method of construction. It is our duty in this case to give full effect to the words as they appear in the statute without altering their sense or meaning with the variation of circumstances or facts and decide whether the Article can be made applicable to the present case.

14. To come to Article 134-B. It declares that a suit by 'the manager of a Hindu etc., religious or charitable endowment to recover possession of the immovable property comprised in the endowment which has been transferred by a previous manager for valuable consideration' may be instituted within 'twelve years' from 'the death, resignation or removal of the transferor'.

15. Since the word 'manager' has been used in juxtaposition with the words 'previous manager' in the same column, it may be safely inferred that the legislature, by employing the word manager, intended to convey 'the following or succeeding manager' regardless of the fact whether the latter manager was de jure or de facto. A suit, to attract this Article, has to be instituted by a manager alone and by none else. if brought on behalf of a religious or a charitable endowment, such as a math is, through any one else, it would not fall within the scope of this Article. The period of limitation provided for a suit which falls within its period is twelve years. The manager must, therefore, have twelve years from the event specified in the third column. He can have no more and should have, according to me, no less. If we are obliged to give a lesser period to a manager under any set of circumstances for a suit covered by this Article, we are committing an inroad which is not, in my opinion, justifiable. Are we entitled to interpret the Article in such a way as would lead to the curtailment or abridgment of the period of limitation provided in the second column? My learned brother, Venkataramana Rao, J., foresaw this difficulty and felt that it could not be helped. But, is that the correct method of interpretation? Would it be right for us to construe the Article in such a way as to reduce the prescribed period of limitation? I submit not. It may be said, however, that the suit has to be brought within 12 years of the occurrence of the event mentioned in the third column and this period is not reduced. This is undisputed and in fact, indisputable. By whom then is the question? and the answer can only be, by the manager. But if no manager was in existence on the date when the event mentioned in the third column occurred, how could he be said to have the period prescribed by this Article? Article 134-R could not be obviously applied to an alienation made by a previous manager if the following or succeeding manager was not in existence for a period of twelve years after the death, resignation or removal of the former (i.e., the last manager). Two methods of treatment were possible in the circumstances,. one of which was suggested by my learned brother and is now adopted by the majority of the Full Bench and the other which I ventured to propose. According to the view taken by the majority, limitation must be held to have started whether the person answering to the description given in the first column was in existence or not at the time when any of the events mentioned in the third column occurred and the article according to them, should be applied to any suit instituted by a person of that description regardless of the fact whether that person would get the full or even any period provided for by the section or* not. This is the first method. The second method is to hold that this Article should be held to be inapplicable, unless the manager was in existence on the date from which the prescribed period of limitation was to run. This would limit the application of this Article only to that class of cases where the following or succeeding manager was brought into existence as-in cases of hereditary succession or by nomination or election either prior to or on the day when 'the previous manager' died, resigned or was removed. As this interpretation would entail in some cases, if the Article is to be held applicable, the necessity of nominating or appointing a manager on the very day on which the previous manager might have died and when his corpse might have been, as suggested at the hearing, lying to be disposed of or even when his ashes had not even grown cold, it was characterised by my Lord the Chief Justice as astounding. But with very great deference to him, I see nothing so startling in it. We are asked to find whether Article 134-B would apply in these circumstances. He and those of my learned brothers who agree with him are prepared to give the answer in the affirmative. I am, in all humility, of a contrary opinion. According to me, this Article can be held to apply only to those cases where a manager was in existence on the date on which, one of the events mentioned in the third column occurred. This, to my mind, is the only way, in which an inroad on the first or the second column of the Article can be avoided. This is the only manner, in my opinion, in which limitation can be saved from running, so to say, in vacuo. There is no other method of treatment, I submit and I say so with very great deference, which is logical and brings out the ordinary meaning of every word in Article 134-B.

16. If Article 134-B is held to be inapplicable to a case such as the present one, the only other Article that would apply is Article 144. This necessitates the determination of the time when the period of limitation is to start and has led my learned brother to formulate the third question in his order of reference. The decision of this question again bristles, on account of the various decisions of the Privy Council, with difficulties. The argument advanced by learned Counsel for the respondent was that inasmuch as the math was the real plaintiff and the manager, who was a minor in this case on the date of his appointment, was only an agent or guardian on its behalf--the adverse possession should be held, under Article 144 to start from the date when the possession of the defendant became adverse to the plaintiff, that is, to the math and not to the manager who is suing on its behalf. This is claimed to be in accordance with the grammatical construction of the words of that Article and the question to decide is whether the contention is, although quite plausible, sound. The first difficulty that one encounters in agreeing with this interpretation is that the period of adverse possession would have to be held to start from the very date on which the alienation was effected by the 'previous manager'; and if he happened to live beyond the statutory period of twelve years, the alienee's title to the property would be held to be completed--although the alienation might not have been of the math itself or did not purport to have been made adversely to the math. This cannot be denied that in view of the decisions of their Lordships of the Privy Council and of Courts in India, limitation in the two cases mentioned in the preceding sentence would start on the date of the alienation. See Damodar Das v. Lakhan Das (1910) 20 M.L.J. 624 : L.R. 37 IndAp 147 : I.L.R. 37 Cal. 885 , Mahant Ram Charan Das v. Naurangi Lal (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 , Subbiah Pandaram v. Mahomed Mustapha Maracayar (1923) 45 M.L.J. 588 : L.R. 50 IndAp 295 : I.L.R. 46 Mad. 751, Dehendra v. Nhaharmal : AIR1930Cal673 , and Alam Khan Sahib v. Karuppanaswanii Nadar : AIR1938Mad415 . But the same cannot be said of cases where a manager has alienated the property for the apparent necessity of the math although it is subsequently found to have been made in excess of his powers and for his private needs alone. In such cases, it has been held by their Lordships that the period of limitation would start from the date when the manager who effected the alienation died or ceased to function. It was pointed out by their Lordships in Mahant Ram Charan Das's case (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251

The operation of the proposed grant is effective and endures only for the period during which the mahanth had power to create an interest in the property of the math.

17. Mahant Rampal Das who had in the first instance granted a permanent lease of certain lands in December, 1909, to Naurangi Lal and conveyed them later to Mt. Sampat Kaur in February, 1911, died in or about July, 1913. A suit for the recovery of possession by a succeeding chela brought in May, 1924, was not held to be barred by limitation under Article 144 and the decision of the High Court of Patna holding that the period of limitation ran from the date of alienation was reversed as the mahanth was held to be:

at liberty to dispose of the property of a math during the period of his life and that grant purporting to be for a longer period,

was held to be 'good to the extent of the mahanth's life interest'. See also Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Aiyar (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346 : L.R. 48 IndAp 302 : I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 . Subbiah Pandaram v. Md. Mustapha Maracayar (1923) 45 M.L.J. 588 : L.R. 50 IndAp 295 : I.L.R, 46 Mad. 751 . But the argument now put forward on behalf of the respondent would go against these decisions. If the math is the real plaintiff, there would be no justification for holding that the limitation is to remain suspended during the period that the alienating manager continued to function as such. This would bring us in conflict with the Privy Council decisions and the principle that although a juristic personality and thus capable of holding the property in the legal sense, a math is unable to know or capable of taking any action itself for protecting its rights.

18. There are two lines of cases which must be reconciled if this conflict has to be avoided. There are cases such as Jagadindranath Ray v. Hemanta Kumari Debt , where it was held by their Lordships that the right of suit vested in the manager alone or in other words, it was only the manager (be he de facto or de jure) who was entitled to intercede on behalf of the math and could speak or act on its behalf. The other line of cases is to the effect that temples and maths have juristic personalities and their property is not vested in their managers but in the idols or institutions. See Jodhi Rai v. Basdeo Prasad I.L.R.(1911) All. 735 , Pramathanath Mullick v. Pradyumna Kumar Mullick (1925) 49 M.L.J. 30 : L.R. 52 IndAp 245 : I.L.R. 52 Cal. 809 and the observations in Ponnanibala Desikar v. Periyannan Chetti (1936) 71 M.L.J. 105 : L.R. 63 IndAp 261 : I.L.R. 59 Mad. 809 and Nagappa Chettiar v. Zamindar of Sivaganga : AIR1940Mad532 . If this argument is adopted, limitation must be held to start from the date of the alienation irrespective of the non-existence or incapacity of the manager. But this contention was repelled by their Lordships in Jagadindranath Ray v. Hemanta Kumari Debi . The facts of that case were that Jagadindranath Ray brought a suit for (possession as shebait of an idol. It was found by the Courts in India that the dispossession on which the cause of action was based had taken place during the plaintiff's minority but the suit was brought within three years of his attaining majority. The trial Court had decreed the claim but the suit was dismissed by the High Court as barred by limitation on the ground that the title was in the Thakur and Braja Sundara Achi, .who was the guardian of her minor adopted son, the shebait, could bring a suit during his minority on behalf of the Thakur. In other words, the ratio decidendi of their decision was that the limitation had started against the Thakur and the shebait's minority would not entitle him to bring a suit within three years of the attainment of his majority. This reasoning was not accepted by their Lordships in the following words:.that the possession and management of the dedicated property belongs to the shebait. And this carries with it the right to bring whatever suits are necessary for the protection of the property. Every such right of suit is vested in the shebait, not in the idol.

19. The pronouncement of their Lordships is very clear. The fact that somebody else could bring a suit during the minority of the shebait was immaterial--the Thakur itself being ex necessitate ret unable to do so. It could only act through a human agency and that agency can be no other than that of a manager, whatever name be given to him and whether he be de facto or de jure. If limitation had started against the Thakur and the plaintiff was acting merely as an agent, as appears to be the contention in this Court, limitation would have run on irrespective of the plaintiff's minority and run out on the expiry of twelve years from the date of dispossession. But it was not so held. How could Section 6 of the Limitation Act be held to be applicable if the math were regarded to be independent and .capable of acting without its manager? It was so held as the idol had no power to bring a suit except through the trustee who was a minor. What about Lord Buckmaster's observation then in Subbaiya Pandaram v. Mohomed Mustapha Maracayar (1923) 45 M.L.J. 588 : L.R. 50 IndAp 295; I.L.R. 46 Mad. 751 , when referring to two earlier decisions in Ishwar Shyam Chand Jiu v. Ram Kani Ghose (1910) 21 M.L.J. 1145 : L.R. 38 IndAp 76 : I.L.R. 38 Cal. 526 , and Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Aiyar (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346 : L.R. 481.A.302 : I.L.R. 44 Mad. 83, which were decided under Article 144, he observed that:

The statute would only run against him (the succeeding trustee) as from the time he assumed office.

20. It cannot be denied that it was a case of a specific trust and for that reason Article 134 might have been, but for the transfer by the trustee not being voluntary, held applicable. It is true that their Lordships held that:

There was little difference in principle between a transfer under an adverse execution and a sale by the trustee himself;

21. They however added:

But disregarding that Article (134), Article 144 covers the exact case.

22. Since the limitation was held in that case to start from the 22nd March, 1898, that is, the date of the alienation, it may be said that the period under Article 144 was, in spite of what their Lordships had observed before when referring to Ishwar Shyain's and Vidya Vruthi's cases, counted from the date of alienation. The answer to this apparent conflict is to be found in the fact that the vendee, in that case had purchased the property in violation of the trust and he was, in virtue of the exception to Section 10 of the Limitation Act, held entitled to show in answer to the claim for the recovery of possession of trust property that he had bought it for valuable consideration and held it adversely. The vendee was found to have been within the terms of the exception and consequently not prevented from relying on the provisions of the statute which limit the time for the institution of the suits brought for recovery of possession. In so far as the alienation was in breach of specific trust, it was held to be void ab initio, as the transfer of the math would have been according to Damodar Das's case (1910) 20 M.L.J. 624 : L.R. 37 IndAp 147 : I.L.R. 37 Cal. 885, and limitation was held to start from the date of alienation. The Matalhipathi had, in the present case, on the other hand, liberty to dispose of the property during his life although the alienation made by him was only to the extent of his own life interest. It would follow, therefore, that possession during the last manager's life could not be adverse and that upon his death, it would run against the succeeding trustee, that is, the present plaintiff from the time that he assumed office with the extended period of limitation under Section 6 as he was a minor at the time from which the period of limitation was to be counted. It is interesting to observe that the passage quoted above from Jagadindranath Ray's case I.L.R.(1904) Cal. 129 : L.R. 31 IndAp 203 including the sentence with reference to Section 144 was cited by Sir George Rankin in Ponnambala Desikar v. Periyanan Chetti (1936) 71 M.L.J. 105 : L.R. 63 LA. 261 : I.L.R. 59 Mad

23. Then there is the observation in Ponnamabala's case (1936) 71 M.L.J. 105 : L.R. 63 IndAp 261 : I.L.R. 59 Mad : 809,

the right of each successive Manager to authorize, create, or continue a new tenancy for the period of his managership must be taken in the case of a public temple or a family idol to be the same as in the case of a math,' since it was held by their Lordships in the preceding page,

' that for the present purpose it is necessary to recognise any difference in the consequences which flow from a permanent lease or complete alienation of the debutter property in the Case of a math or temple or family idol.

24. This observation can only be justified on the, principle laid down in Jagadindranath's case I.L.R.(1904) Cal. 129 : L.R. 31 IndAp 203 that the only person competent to act or sue on behalf of the math was the manager and limitation could not run against the math or temple unless it was also running against the succeeding manager after the manager who had originally alienated the property ceased to function--and this not on account of

the notion of personal bar as regulating the validity or invalidity of the transaction

but because,

the offence lies entirely in the unnecessarily great interest which has been parted with:

25. The manager like a Hindu widow, has power to act for his lifetime or during the period in which he holds the office; but the effect of his act beyond that period would depend on the validity of the necessity for the alienation in the interest of the math or the temple. If this is the correct principle, how can it be urged that the limitation would start against the math from the date of the alienation regardless of the existence of the succeeding manager, whether de facto or de jure, simply because a juristic personality has been held or recognised in an inanimate institution like a Mutt on account of religious custom of the Hindus? It may have a juridical status with the power of suing and liability of being sued; but it cannot be denied that it is an artificial person after all and is incapable of acting except through its manager. There are other decisions of this Court which have taken the same view. See Manikkam Pillai v. Thanikachalam Pillai (1916) 4. L.W. 369, Palaniyandi Malavarayan v. Vadamalai odayan (1915)2 L.W 723, Annamalai Desikar v. Govinda Rao : (1923)44MLJ318 , Ranga Dasan v. Latchuma Dasan (1924)48 M.L.J. 114. and Rao Bahadur Govinda Row v. Chinnathurai Pillai : AIR1926Mad193

26. The only method of reconciling the two lines of cases represented by Jagadindranath's case I.L.R.(1904)Cal. 129 : L.R. 311.A. 203 on the one hand and Pratnathanath's case (1934)49 M.L.J. 30 : L.R. 52 IndAp 245 : I.L.R. 52 Cal. 809 on the other thus is that while the property and the capacity to sue or being sued may be held to vest in a juristic person like an idol or the institution of a math, the right of action or suit on behalf of the math or the idol must be confined to the manager of these inanimate objects of worship or charity.

27. Three decisions were relied on by Mr. Sitarama Rao in support of his contention that adverse possession would start against the math even if there is no manager at the time of the death of the alienating manager. The first decision was that of Vithalbowa v. Narayana Dasji Thite I.L.R.(1893)Bom. 507. The facts of that case are that Krishnaji who was a manager of a math sold the miras tenure of certain lands appertaining to the math to one Baxarbai in 1860. Krishnaji died in that year and was succeeded by Ramakrishna as manager who sued Baxarbai in 1864 to set the sale aside but the suit was dismissed against him in the following year as he asserted to be a perpetual tenant under the sale and his right was confirmed. Gopal brought a suit against Ramakrishna subsequently asking for a declaration that he was the legal manager of the math. This was decreed in 1871 and Raniakrishna was ordered to be removed as he was held to have had no title to the office. The decree was confirmed by the High Court in 1875 and Ramakrishna removed in consequence. On a suit being brought by Gopal for possession of the property sold to Baxarbai in 1887, he was met with a plea of limitation by Baxarbai's alienee. This plea prevailed and if I may say so with respect, rightly. Ramakrishna was in possession of the math property between 1860 and 1875 and was a manager of the math de facto if not de jure. Sir Charles Sargent, C.J., who delivered the judgment observed,

If the defendant's possession was adverse to the ownership of the math during the twelve years after Krishnaji's death, the operation of the Act cannot be affected by the circumstance that there was no legal manager of the math during that period.

28. In spite of the finding that the mirasdar in Inam estates in Bombay Presidency is a tenant at a quit rent or a reasonable rent not subject to ejectment as long as. he pays it, it was held that since Baxarbai asserted his mirasi right in 1864 when he was sued by Ramakrishna and twelve years had passed from that day the plaintiff's right as representing the math to recover immediate possession was barred.

29. This decision does not support the contention advanced by learned Counsel for the respondent. Ramakrishna who was the manager de facto in 1864 brought a suit against Baxarbai and failed. He continued to remain in possession till 1875 when he was followed or succeeded by Gopal. The mutt was thus being continuously represented by Ramakrishna and Gopal.

30. The decision in the second case, the Administrator-General of Bengal v. Balkissen Misser I.L.R.(1924)Cal. 953 is not, with great deference to the learned Judge who decided that case, correct. While the learned Judge understood the effect of the decision in Jagadindranath's case I.L.R.(1904)Cal. 129 : L.R. 31 IndAp 203 correctly, be overlooked the fact that Damodar Das's case (1910) 20 M.L.J. 624 : L.R. 37 IndAp 147 : I.L.R. 37 Cal. 885 was a case in which the assignment was, being one of the math and its properties, void ab initio and passed no title with the result that the assignee's possession became adverse from the date of the assignment (3rd November, 1874) itself irrespective of the fact that the senior chela who had executed ekrarnama and transferred the math and its properties was living. This was how this decision was explained by their Lordships in Mahant Ram Charan's case (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251. Damodar Das's case (1910) 20 M.L.J. 624 : L.R. 37 IndAp 147 : I.L.R. 37 Cal. 885 is no authority for the proposition that time will begin to run against the idol even when the shebait is not in existence. Nor is it possible I venture to submit, to institute a suit in the name of the idol in cases where a shebait is not appointed. There is very little analogy between a public Company and an idol although both of them, it must be conceded, are clothed with a juristic personality by law. Under the provisions of Order 29, of the Code of Civil Procedure, however, it is only a secretary, director or other principal officer, able to depose to the facts of the case, and none else who can sign and verify the statements in the pleadings as a shebait, Matathipathi or a manager can do on behalf of the idol or math and none else. To say that persons other than those that I have mentioned in the last sentence, by whatever name they may be called, can bring a suit on behalf of the idol or math in their names where they are not appointed or functioning as managers etc., is to go against the express decision of their Lordships in Jagadindra's case.

31. The third case was that of Ponnambala Desikar v. Periyanan Chetti (1936) 71 M.L.J. 105 : L.R. 63 LA. 261 : I.L.R. 59 Mad. 809. The reflection in regard to this case that there was no manager between 1913 and 1917 is of no avail as Nataraja became a manager de facto in 1902 and continued to function as such until 1913 when he was removed by the High Court. If the period of limitation had once started, it could not be stopped by the subsequent removal of the manager. Moreover, the permanent cowle was in that case granted in 1865 and the conduct of the various managers showed that they had been recognising the transfer of the permanent cowle or lease as valid. In view of the existence of a manager de facto, the decision does not support the contention advanced by learned Counsel for the respondent. If the alienee's possession during the lifetime of the previous manager was not adverse to the math (a proposition to which no exception is taken in this case) and if an idol or a math is incapable of bringing an action without the intervention of a human agency and if that agency is to be confined in law to a manager de facto or de jure, by whatever name he be called, it is to my mind, impossible to conceive that they (that is the idols or the maths) can be described to be the plaintiffs within the meaning of that word as used in Articles 142 or 144 of the Indian Limitation Act. By using the word 'plaintiff in either of these Articles, the Legislature obviously intended to convey a person who was in existence capable of taking action, although on account of a disability like minority (real and not fictional as an idol or a math is at times described), insanity or idiocy, he may not be able so to do during the period that he continues to suffer from the disability. To say that a cause of action has not arisen is one thing; to say that a cause of action, although it has arisen, is, on account of a disability suspended after it has arisen, another. Since the right to maintain a suit cannot be said to be hanging in the air and must necessarily vest in somebody as soon as it arises, the word plaintiff in Articles 142 and 144 must be, in my opinion, so construed as to cover a plaintiff who is in existence, although he may not be, on account of a disability mentioned in Section 6 of the Limitation Act, capable of bringing an action at once. If a person who has the right to bring a suit for the recovery of possession does not happen to be in existence, limitation under these Articles cannot be said to have started. It can only start when he comes into existence.

32. Cases of this nature are very different from those which are covered by Section 17 of the Limitation Act. The language of this section makes it clear that the 'right to institute a suit of make an application' must be independent of the death of the person and must have been such as should have accrued during his lifetime if he had lived but did not do so on account of his death. This section does not seem to contemplate cases where the right of action is connected with or arises in consequence of, the death. But this is not the case here. The cause of action to set aside the alienation made by the previous manager, if it is not void ab initio, arises according to Article 134-B on his death, resignation or removal and would not have accrued earlier as this was all that was 'required to correct his failure to keep within acts of proper management.'

33. But it is argued that the suit must be held to be barred as the math was in existence on the date of the previous manager's death, as it had the capacity to sue and is actually a plaintiff in the present suit. The criticism that the right of suit can only arise when a person capable of suing is in existence, it is contended, has no application to a case like the present where the plaintiff who is capable of suing existed on that date. The answer to this contention is to be found in the two passages quoted by my learned brother Venkataramana Rao, J., in his referring order from Prosunno Kumari Debya v. Golabchand Baboo . If 'it is only in an ideal sense that property can be said to belong to an idol', if 'it still remains that the possession and management of the dedicated property belongs to the shebait' and if 'every such right of suit is vested in the shebait, not in the idol' or in the math, it would seem to follow that the temples or maths cannot be the plaintiffs by themselves without their shebaits or managers who must be in existence, and capable of exercising their right to bring suits which vest in them--subject of course to the provisions contained in Section 6 of the Limitation Act. If such shebaits or managers happen to be in existence on the date on which the adverse possession is started, limitation will continue to run not only against them but as against the temple or mutt of which they are the sole accredited agents and after the expiry of the statutory period, subject to such other extensions that may be possible to add under the provisions of the Act, the suit for possession would have to be dismissed as barred by Article 144. It is said that in construing the word 'plaintiff' in their Lordships' judgment in Mahadeo Prasad Singh v. Kama Bharthi (1934) 68 M.L.J. 499 : L.R 62 IndAp 47 : I.L.R. 57 All. 159. Sir Shadi Lal took it as referring to the institution and not to the manager of the same. But no such question was before their Lordships for their consideration then and even taking the limitation as running from the date of Rajbans' death, which occurred in 1916, the action which was commenced in 1926, was held to be within time. There was no necessity in that case to consider whether the word 'plaintiff' was not used by the Legislature so as to cover the case of a matathipathi or a manager when suing on behalf of a math or other charitable or religious institution. The language in Mahant Ram Char an Das v. Naurangi Lal (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251, is not, however, capable of that contention. The question that was formulated by their Lordships referred both to the math and the mahanth. That the math is a plaintiff (or perhaps a part of the plaintiff) cannot be doubted. Nor can it be, I venture to submit, denied that it was unable to protect itself or bring any action with that object. If the manager was the only human being who could bring a suit on behalf of the math and if it was not maintainable by any one else, the word 'plaintiff' cannot be used, in my humble opinion, for merely an inanimate juristic person which is unable to take any action itself. It is quite true that when a humnan being who is capable of maintaining an action is in existence, the period of limitation would not run against him alone but also against the institution as well. This is because in such cases the capacity to sue vests conjointly in two persons, one juristic and the other natural; the one being the complement of the other and thus filling the deficiency that either individually has in the other's absence. It would, therefore, follow that when the living person who could bring an action is not in existence, adverse possession cannot run against the institution, as one whole plaintiff, of which the inanimate and animate beings are two component parts, is not in existence but only, so to say, half the plaintiff and that an inanimate one.

34. The decision in Mahant Ram Charan Das's case (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251, it might be added, has no bearing to a case like the present where there was no manager in existence to challenge the action taken by the previous manager. If the math is unable to sue without the intervention of the human agency of its own manager, the limitation cannot be, in my opinion, held to run against the math either.

35. Stating in the Secretary of State for India in Council v. Debendralal Khan ., which was to the following effect:. the possession required must be adequate in continuity, in publicity and in extent, to show that it is possession adverse to the competitor.

and added:

The classical requirement is that the possession should be nee vi nec clam nee precario. Mr. Dunne for the Crown appeared to desiderate that the adverse possession should be shown to have been brought to the knowledge of the Crown, but in their Lordships' opinion, there is no authority for this requirement. It is sufficient that the possession be overt and without any attempt at concealment so that the person, against whom time is running, ought, if he exercises due vigilance, to be aware of what is happening.

The above quotation was cited by their Lordships in Maharajah Srischandra Nandy v. Baijnath Jugal Kishore (1934) 68 M.L.J. 600 : L.R. 62 IndAp 40 : I.L.R. 14 Pat. 327 , and would show that to be effective, to use their words:

The person against whom time is running, ought, if he exercises due vigilance, to be aware of what is happening.

36. It was not only impossible for the math to be aware of what was happening, however, greatly it may have exercised its vigilance, but what is worse, there was no living person, capable of bringing an action, in existence at the time when adverse possession is said to have started, who could have been aware of what was happening. Adverse possession need not necessarily be brought to the actual knowledge of the person against whom it is to operate, but the rule is subject to. the qualification, as pointed out in the above case, that it is incumbent on those who plead and rely on adverse possession to show that the person against whom it was claimed ought to have been, by exercising due vigilance, aware that the property was being held adversely 'and if they failed to show this, their plea of adverse possession must fail apart from the question of whether their possession was adequate in continuity and extent. If the manager had not come into being till then, and it was the manager alone, being the only person entitled to sue on behalf of the math whose knowledge or rather whose capability of having knowledge was essential, it is fairly obvious that limitation or adverse possession could not start against the math either to his knowledge or what was capable of being known by him, on the date of the previous manager's death and before he was appointed. Viewed thus, adverse possession must be held to have commenced from the date of the plaintiff's election or appointment and not earlier. I agree that the costs of the reference should be made costs in the appeal.

Krishnaswami Aiyangar, J.

37. Of the question referred, it is the first alone which presents a difficult question of construction. Article 134-B with which we are primarily concerned was enacted for the first time in 1929, and during the eleven years that since elapsed, no occasion appears to have arisen for an authoritative pronouncement regarding the precise scope of the Article, must less on its applicability to the peculiar facts which are there present. The argument at the bar proceeded therefore, mostly on general principles. It is to be observed at once, that general principles rarely, if ever, occasion anxiety to Courts, but it is their application to concrete facts which often presents problems of considerable difficulty. One can readily grant in the abstract the soundness of the elementary rule that when the words of a statute are clear and unambiguous, the Court must give effect to their plain meaning, uninfluenced by considerations of possible hardship, inconvenience or even injustice in individual cases. For where the language is explicit, its consequences are for the legislature and not for the Courts to consider. It may also be conceded that what has been termed the rule of equitable construction, based on 'the equity of the statute' is an antiquated doctrine not favoured in modern times, and appears to have fallen out of use even in England at the present day (Craies on Statute Law 97). There is, it is not to be forgotten:

Another elementary rule that a thing which is within the letter of a statute will, generally, be construed as not within the statute unless it be also within the real intention of the legislature, and the words, if sufficiently flexible, must be construed in the sense, which if less correct grammatically is more in harmony with that intention.

38. The rule on the subject has been long ago laid down by such eminent authorities as Lords Blackburn and Halsbury, than whom I can desire no etter or safer guides. In River Wear Commissioner v. Adamson (1876-7) 2 A.C. 743, Lord Blackburn said:

In all cases the object is to see what is the intention expressed by the words used. But from the imperfection of language it is impossible to know what that intention is without inquiring further and seeing what the circumstances were with reference to which the words were used and what was the object appearing from those circumstances which the person using them had in view.

39. In Eastman Photographic Materials Co. Ltd. v. Comptroller-General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (1898) A.C. 571 Lord Halsbury said:. to construe the statute now in question it is not only legitimate but highly convenient to refer both to the former Act and to the ascertained evils to which the former Act had given rise, and to the later Act which provided the remedy.

40. The rules of construction set out above warrant a consideration of the state of the law as it was understood to be when the Amending Act of 1929 was passed. It is only by so doing that one can obtain a clue to the correct understanding of the scope and effect of Article 134-B, by a knowledge of the causes which led to the enactment. If we can be certain of the particular defect in the law, which the Legislature set out to remedy, whether it consisted of an evil to be removed, or a doubt to be resolved, we shall be better equipped to approach the construction of the language, used, than otherwise.

41. Up till the decision of the Privy Council in Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Aiyar (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346 : L.R. 48 IndAp 302 : I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 , the true legal relation in which the head of a Math or the Dharmakartha of a temple stood towards the properties in his charge had not been correctly understood in this country-Dattagiri v. Dattatraya I.L.R.(1902)Bom. 363, Behari Lal v. Muhammad I.L.R.(1898) All. 482 , Nilmony Singh v. Jagabandhu Roy I.L.R.(1896)Cal. 536, Baluswami Aiyar v. Venkataswami Naicker (1916) 32 M.L.J. 24: I.L.R. 40 Mad. 745. The dicta in some of the earlier decisions even of the Privy Council cannot be said to have been wholly free from ambiguity. The current of judicial opinion ran largely on the view that Section 10 and Article 134 applied indifferently to all cases of endowed property improperly alienated, whether that property belonged to a math or to a temple. Vidya Varuthi's case (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346 : L.R. 48 IndAp 302 : I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 , finally rejected this view and declared in a manner no more open to misapprehension, that neither of the two provisions was applicable to the holding of such a species of property. The head of a math and the she bait of a temple are not trustees in the legal acceptation of the word, and the property entrusted to their charge was not legally vested in or conveyed to them in 'trust. The result was the discovery of a casus omissus in the Limitation Act, regarding a well known and a rather frequent type of cases arising out of the malversation of temple or math properties by delinquent managers. The Legislature proceeded to supply the omission, instead of leaving such cases to be governed as theretofore by the residuary Article 144. In framing the new Articles specifically providing periods of limitation for suits to set aside alienation of endowed property, and recovery of possession, the Legislature merely followed the elucidation of the principles contained in the judgment of the Privy Council in Vidya Varuthi's case (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346: L.R. 48 IndAp 302: I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 . That judgment laid it down in clear terms that a permanent lease granted by the manager of a mutt was good during his lifetime though on his death his successor could recover back the property free of the alienation. Adverse possession began to run from the death of the alienating manager, on the happening of which event the succeeding manager had a cause of action to sue to recover the property. These principles which are of course common to all similar institutions were explained in the following terms at page 855:

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. With regard to Mahant No. 2, he was vested with a power similarly limited. He permitted the plaintiff to continue in possession and received the rent during his life. Such receipt was with the knowledge which must be imputed to him that the tenancy created by his predecessor ended with his predecessor's life and can, therefore, only be property referable to a new tenancy created by himself. It was within his power to continue such tenancy during his life, and in these circumstances the proper inference is that it was so continued, and consequently the possession never became adverse until his death.

42. It is plain that it was this passage which furnished the material for the drafting of Article 134-B whose language closely follows the view expressed there. There was no occasion for introducing a change in the law so declared and no necessity existed for legislative intervention except to give effect to the principles laid down.

43. In a later part of my judgment, I have adduced arguments in support of the view that Article 144 should not be understood as sanctioning the commencement of limitation at a time when there existed no manager. If that is a sound view, there is no reason for thinking that the Legislature intended to enact a different principle when it framed Article 134-B, Otherwise the Article will result in producing the startling consequences pointed out by my learned brother Abdur Rahman, J., that in a case where no successor happened to be appointed for a period of twelve years, the institution would stand to lose all its rights owing solely to the reason that no manager had been brought into existence to vindicate them on its behalf. It is, I consider with all respect, no answer to say that the blame rests with the electors who had neglected a duty incumbent on them to appoint a successor. The law enjoins this duty on the manager and not on the disciples of a math or the worshippers of a temple. The latter cannot sue for possession for themselves, though they may sue for the possession to be restored to a manager, if in existence or to one to be newly appointed : Muhammad Sahib v. Karim Bibi Ammal : (1914)27MLJ270 and Rangaswami Naidu v. Krishnaswami Aiyar (1922) 44 M.L.J. 116: 17 L.W. 147. Their position in this respect is not higher than that of relators in regard to charitable property improperly alienated,' Chidambaranatha Thambiran v. Nallasiva Mudaliar : AIR1918Mad464 . It is difficult to imagine that the Legislature contemplated the possibility of their taking action to protect the institution, and on. this footing fixed the starting point for limitation, irrespective of whether there was or was not a manager who could sue However that may be, the Article under consideration is designed to apply to suits for possession by the manager and considerations connected with the remoter rights of disciples and worshippers have no place in the construction of its language. Those rights are essentially different in character, and the remedies annexed to them are equally different.

44. These considerations incline my mind to the construction which has found favour with Abdur Rahman, J., which has the merit of avoiding what, I am satisfied, would be an unforeseen 'consequence of the wording found in Article 134-B. To apply it to cases where there is an interregnum, would mean the abridgment of the period limited, and where it is long enough, the extinction 0f the right altogether. There may be no help for it, if the language is sufficiently explicit, but in my opinion it is not. Prima facie there is much to be said for the view that when the Legislature fixed a period of limitation it means that the litigant should have it in full and not merely in part, much less, none, of it. The reason is plain, and really underlies every rule of limitation, in the absence of express words to the contrary.

45. The Indian Limitation Act as is the case with all other statutes of limitation, fixes a period of limitation for causes of action in existence, not for those to arise in the future. The statute in fact assumes the existence of a cause of action, Hurinath Chatterjee v. Mothurmohun Goswami and only aims at interposing a bar after a certain period, to a suit to enforce it. It has been repeatedly held that unless there is a completed cause of action, limitation cannot run; and there cannot be a completed cause of action, unless there is a person who can sue, and a person who can be sued, Gelmini v. Moriggia (1913) 2 K.B. 549, Dwijendra v. Joges, Palaniyandi Malavarayan v. Vadamalai Odayan (1912) 18 I.C. 373, . It is on this principle that Section 17 of the Act is based, though it is not exhaustive in this respect. It is again in this view only, that the decision of this Court in the cases of Palaniyandi Malavarayan v. Vadamalai Odayd (1912) 18 I.C 373, Manika Pillai v. Thanikachalam Pillai (1916) 4 L.W. 369, Subbiah Thevar v. Samiappa Mudaliar : AIR1938Mad353 could be supported. All these cases it is true were decided with reference to Article 120, 'which fixes a period of six years from the date when the right to sue accrues. My Lord, the Chief Justice, delivering the judgment of the Full Bench in the last of these cases, observed:

With regard to the second question it will be observed that Article 120 declares that limitation shall start to run when the right to sue accrues. There can be no cause of action until there is a party capable of suing, and until there is a cause of action there can be no question of the law of limitation coming into operation: see Murray v. East India Co. (1821) 5 B A 204 : 106 E.R. 1167 Meyappa Chetty v. Supramania Chetti (1916) L.R. 43 IndAp 113: 20 C.W.N. 833 Charu Chandra Pramanik v. Nahus Chandra Kundu I.L.R.(1922)Cal. 49 and Mst. Bolo v. Mst. Koklan (1930) 59 M.L.J. 621: L.R. 57 IndAp 325 : I.L.R. 11 Lah. 657 It follows that if a sole trustee of a public trust commits a breach of trust, the loss cannot be made good without voluntary action on the trustee's part, until there is a new trustee. The right to sue in such a case would have to lie in abeyance until a new trustee was appointed, in which case the period of six years' limitation would not commence until a new trustee had been appointed.

46. Here then is a qualification subject to which, Article 120 has been construed, though there are no express words to that effect to be found in this Article. Venkataramana Rao, J., is of opinion that this is not to be regarded as a general principle applicable to all articles without exception, but must be limited to cases where, without specifying the starting point by reference to particular events or facts, the Legislature has contented itself with fixing it by reference generally to the accrual of the cause of action. It cannot of course be disputed that the Legislature can by the use of apt words make limitation run, by fixing an arbitrary point of time irrespective of whether there is a completed cause of action or not in the sense explained. But the Legislature should not be presumed to have acted in an arbitrary manner, and as I read Article 134-B, it seems to me that in specifying the events mentioned in the third column, it was only attempting to give effect to the law as declared by the Privy Council. The choice of those events was made by way of describing the true cause of action as settled by the Privy Council, and there is not to my mind the slightest ground for importing the idea of arbitrariness in the fixation of the terminus a quo here. One has only to run one's eyes through the several articles to realise what an amount of care the Legislature has taken to fix the starting point with reference to the accrual of the cause of action.

47. If the charge of arbitrariness so far as this Article is concerned is unsustainable as I think it is, is there any reason why this Article should be regarded as not subject to the qualification, to which I have already referred? I have Examined the English and the Indian cases on the point, and I can find no authority which limits the operation of the qualification to those cases only where, the statute has adopted the date of the accrual of the cause of action stated in general terms, as the date from which limitation would commence to run. I regret that I am unable with great respect to share the view that such a salutary principle is necessarily to be excluded, for no other reason than that the Legislature has proceeded a step further and described the cause of action with some definiteness and particularity. Where an omnibus article intended to apply to a variety of suits, too numerous to specify, is to be framed, the Legislature cannot and nobody can, but be content to insert a general statement of the cause of action and leave it at that. That is precisely what has happened in the case of Article 120. I consider that the proposition stated in the following words at page 205 in Light-wood's Time Limit of Action is of general application, applicable as much to Article 134-B as to Article 120, and read in the light afforded by it, time cannot be held to run until the succeeding manager is appointed. The passage is this:

If at the time when a cause of action would arise there is no person capable of suing upon it, the statute does not commence to run. Until there is a person to sue, the cause of action does not fully accrue, and the operation of the statute is postponed accordingly.

48. The authorities cited by the learned author appear fully to support the statement of the law made by him. The only question is whether the language of Article 134-B is sufficiently clear to exclude its application. In my view it is not. There is also much force in the argument that the Article worded as it is could not in any event be applied to a case where the manager contemplated in the first column of the Article had not come into existence at the point of time fixed in the third. This aspect of the question has been so fully examined by Abdur Rahman, J., that it is unnecessary for me to say anything more than that I generally agree in his reasoning. If this Article is to be put aside as not applicable, we are necessarily thrown back on Article 144 to which resort must be had in all cases left unprovided for, by the more specific provisions of the Act.

49. The consideration of the true effect of Article 144 is comparatively a simpler question, and is capable of an easy answer, if it is remembered that the question is not when the possession of the defendant became adverse in a general sense, but when it became adverse to the plaintiff. Inasmuch as the possession of the defendant has not only to be adverse, but adverse as against the plaintiff, it is self-evident that until there is a plaintiff in existence the statute cannot run. We have not therefore to consider in connection with this Article, the applicability of the rule in Murray's case, Ramabrahma v. Kedar (1922) 36 Cal. L.J. 478 , approved by the Privy Council in Pramatha Nath Mullick v. Pradyumna Kumar Mullick (1925) 49 M.L.J 30 : I.L.R. 52 Cal. 809 , for the qualification laid down in that case is implicit in the words of the Article italicized above. There is still the controversy as to who in the case of maths and temples is to be regarded as the factual and not the nominal plaintiff in suits falling under the Article. Venkataramana Rao, J., is of opinion that it is the math or temple conceived as an artificial legal entity which is and must be regarded as the real plaintiff, so that in applying Article 144, the question that falls to be considered is not whether the possession of the defendant becomes adverse to the manager, but whether and when it becomes adverse to the math, that is, to the artificial legal person supposed to represent the math and own its properties. With the utmost respect, I must say there is no warrant for this view either on principle or on the authority of the decided cases.

50. The peculiar character and incidents which attach to Hindu religious institutions in this country have no parallel in any other system of jurisprudence. The doctrine that an idol is not merely symbolic of a trust,. but is a living sentient being, Rambrahma v. Kedar (1922) 36 C.L.J. 478 , Pramatha Nath Mullick v. Pradyumna Kumar Mullick (1925) 49 M.L.J. 30 : I.L.R. 52 Cal. 809 , capable of holding and owning property, is based on an article of faith sanctioned by Hindu religion, and recognised by the British Court's from very early times. The idol, to use the language of the law, is an artificial legal concept, a juridical entity in itself. In Maharanee Shibessouree Debia v. Mothornath Acharjo (1869) 13 M.I.A. 270 it was laid down by the Privy Council, that:

The rents constituted in legal contemplation its (idol's) property. The she bait had not the legal property but only the title of a manager of a religious endowment.

51. In Prosonno Kumari Debya v. Gulab Chand Baboo (1875) 14 B.L.R. 450 , their Lordships explained the position by observing:

It is only in an ideal sense, that property can be said to belong to an idol; and the possession and management of it must in the nature of things be entrusted to some person as she bait or manager. It would seem to follow that the person so entrusted must of necessity be empowered to do whatever may be required for the service of the idol, and for the benefit and preservation of its property, at least to as great a degree as the manager of an infant heir. If this were not so, the estate of the idol might be destroyed or wasted, and its worship discontinued, for want of the necessary funds to preserve and maintain them.

52. In Jagadindranath Ray v. Hemanta Kumari Debi , the question again fell to be considered, and the legal position was more fully analysed. Their Lordships said:

There is no doubt that an idol may be regarded as a juridical person capable as such of holding property, though it is only in an ideal sense that property is so held. And probably this is the true legal view when the dedication is of the completest kind known to the law. But there may be religious dedications of a less complete character....But assuming the religious dedication to have been of the strictest character, it still remains that the possession and management of the dedicated property belongs to the she bait. And this carries with it the right to bring whatever suits are necessary for the protection of the property. Every such right of suit is vested in the she bait, not in the idol.

53. The italics are mine. In Vidya Varuthi v. Balusami Aiyar (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346: L.R. 48 IndAp 302: I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 the Judicial Committee reiterated the same proposition in the following words:

Under the Hindu Law, the image of a deity of the Hindu pantheon is, as has been aptly called a 'juristic entity', vested with the capacity of receiving gifts and holding property. Religious institutions, known under different names, are regarded as possessing the same juristic capacity, and gifts are made to them eo nomine....When the gift is directly to an idol or a temple, the seisin to complete the gift is necessarily effected by human agency; called by whatever name, he is only the manager and custodian of the idol or the institution....In no case was the property conveyed to or vested in him, nor is he a 'trustee' in the English sense of the term, although in view of the obligations and duties resting on him, he is answerable as a trustee in the general sense for maladministration.

54. Lastly in Pramathanath Mullick v. Pradhyumna Kumar Millick (1925) 49 M.L.J. 30: L.R. 52 I A. 245: I.L.R. 52 Cal. 809 , Lord Shaw observed as follows:

A Hindu idol, is according to long established authority founded upon the religious system of the Hindus and the recognition thereof by Courts of law, a juristic entity. It has a juridical status with the power of suing and being sued. Its interests are attended to by the person who has the deity in his charge and who is in law its manager with all the powers which would, in such circumstances, on analogy, 'be given to the manager of the estate of an infant heir. It is unnecessary to quote authorities; for this doctrine, thus simply stated, is firmly established.

55. After these pronouncements it is purposeless to multiply authorities. The result is that an idol-the same is equally true of a math-is a legal abstraction, a juristic entity having only a notional existence but capable in theory of owning and holding property. This is but a fiction but its consequence in practice is to deprive the manager of legal title in the property, which he may only hold and possess on behalf of the institution not on his own. When he sues or is sued in a Court of law, the form to be adopted is that appropriate to the fiction that it is the idol or the math, and not the manager that is the owner. Hence the necessity for using the name of the deity or the institution as the formal party on the record: Jodhi Rai v. Basdeo Prasad , Nagappa v. Zamindar of Sivaganga : AIR1940Mad532 , in proceedings in Court. But the form is not to be mistaken for or confused with the substance. The substance of it is that the juridical possession is in the manager, and he alone can vindicate the rights appertaining to it. When a stranger usurps possession, it is he that is dispossessed not the institution and the right of action is his and not the idol's. Otherwise it will be impossible to understand the decision in Jagadindranath Ray v. Hemanta Kumari Debi I.L.R.(1904) Cal. 129: L.R. 31 IndAp 203 where the Judicial Committee gave to a minor manager the benefit of Section 6 of the Limitation Act in a suit by him as the she bait of an idol to recover possession of land belonging to it. The ground of the decision is contained in the following sentence at page 140:

The dispossession complained of has been found to have taken place after the date of the plaintiff's adoption, and therefore the cause of action in respect of it accrued to him, and to no one else, and it accrued according to the findings during his minority.

56. Language can scarcely be plainer. The party held to have been dispossessed was not the idol but its manager according to the decision, and hence it was that the cause of action was found to belong to him and to none other. It is impossible therefore in this type of cases, to hold that the idol can never be dispossessed; the only person who can be dispossessed is the person who has the possession in law, and that person is the manager. The subsequent decisions of the Board have no wise altered the view of law as conceived in this decision.

57. In Damodar Das v. Lakhan Das (1910) 20 M.L.J. 624: L.R. 37 IndAp 147 : I.L.R. 37 Cal. 885 the senior chela had during his lifetime by an ekrarnama executed in favour of the junior more than twelve years prior to suit, parted with the possession of a part of the math itself, in fact of the whole of a subordinate math, together with the properties annexed to it, and his successor's suit to recover it was held barred. It is to be observed that the Privy Council did not go back on its earlier decision in Jagadindranath Ray v. Hemanta Kumari Debi I.L.R.(1904) Cal. 129: L.R. 31 IndAp 203 in any respect. It did not make, and was not called upon to make any pronouncement on the question whether the cause of action which was held barred was one which was vested in the idol as distinct from the manager. The case only decided that the suit was barred, as from the date of the ekrarnama; the possession of the 'junior chela 'was adverse to the right of the idol and of the senior chela as representing that idol'. This decision and an earlier one in Gnanasambanda Pandarasannadhi v. Velu Pandaram (1899) 10 M.L.J. 29: L.R. 27 IndAp 69: I.L.R. 23 Mad. 271 have since been authoritatively explained by their Lordships in Mahanth Ram Charan Das v. Naurangi Lal (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 as having proceeded on the footing that in them unlike in the case before their Lordships, as in the case before us-the impugned alienation was void ab initio as it consisted of an assignment or disposition of the math and its properties, which 'was void and would in law pass no title with the result that the possession of the assignee was perforce adverse from the moment of the attempted assignment.' Where the alienation is not wholly void, but would stand good during the tenure of office of the alienating manager, adverse possession does not commence till that tenure comes to an end, by death, removal or resignation. In laying down the law in this manner, the Privy Council was only repeating what had already been ruled on in Vidya Varuthi's case (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346: L.R. 48 IndAp 302: I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831. The same principle has also been applied since in Subbiah Pandaram v. Mahomed Mustapha Maracayar (1923) 45 M.L.J. 588: L.R. 50 I.A. 295: I.L.R. 46 Mad. 751, Mahadeo Prasad Singh v. Karia Bharti (1934) 68 M.L.J. 499: I.L.R. 57 All. 159: L.R. 62 LA. 47 and Ponnambala Desikar v. Periyanan Chetti (1936) 71 M.L.J. 105: L.R. 63 IndAp 261 : I.L.R. 59 Mad. 809 in which their Lordships further made it clear that all classes of endowments and all manner of alienations fall under it.

58. Can it be said that as the result of the Privy Council decisions in Vidya Varuthi's case (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346: L.R. 48 IndAp 302: I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 which is a land-mark as it were, on the topic under review, any doubt has been cast on the integrity of the law as enunciated in Jagadindranath Ray's case I.L.R.(1904)Cal. 129: L.R. 31 IndAp 203 I think not. When the manager is ultimately barred, the institution is also barred, and there can be no doubt of this being the correct principle.

59. For instance if a stranger manages by trespass, to dispossess the manager and continue in possession, for the statutory period, the rights of the manager as well as those of the institution will be barred. The same result will follow where a title by adverse possession is perfected by possession commenced under an alienation void from the beginning, or where the succeeding manager has allowed the possession of an alienee under an alienation valid during the tenure of office of his predecessor but not beyond, to continue for the full period of twelve years. The difference between void and voidable alienations in the sense explained in Mahant Ram Charan Das's case (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 may no longer be of any importance in cases falling under Art 134 B But in cases outside the Article it still holds good The difference may perhaps be justified on the theory that in the former the alienating manager is under no personal bar, and that he is at liberty to take steps to get back the property ignoring the alienation : Maulavi Muhammad Fahimul Huq v. Jagat Ballav Gosh I.L.R.(1922) Pat. 391 , Ponnambala Desikar v. Periyanan Chetti (1936) 71 M.L.J. 105: L.R. 63 IndAp 261 : I.L.R. 59 Mad. 809 while m the latter he cannot do so. This difference has to be recognised, having been imported into the law by the decision of the highest tribunal binding on all the Courts in India, in Gnanasambanda Pandarasannadhi v. Velu Pandaram (1899) 10 M.L.J. 29: L.R. 27 IndAp 69: I.L.R. 23 Mad. 271 and Damodar Das v. Lakhan Das (1910) 20 M.L.J. 624: L.R. 37 IndAp 147 : I.L.R. 37 Cal. 885 and has come to stay as laid down in Mahant Ram Charan Das's case (1933) 64 M.L.J. 505 : L.R. 60 IndAp 124 : I.L.R. 12 Pat. 251 .

60. The general position resulting from the decisions noticed above may be formulated by saying that ordinarily a math or an idol is represented by its manager in whom alone all rights of action are vested, and who alone can enforce them. Rules of limitation which operate in bar of suits are to be understood as having reference to his action or inaction, the institution drop ping out of account for this purpose altogether. Just in the same way as his possession is the possession of the institution so also when he is dispossessed, the institution will be deemed to be dispossessed and not otherwise. It follows that when there is no manager, the institution cannot be held to be in possession as the right to possession inheres only in him and he alone can exercise it. In order that possession may be held to be adverse against the institution, it must be shown that it is adverse to the manager. In other words when there is no adverse possession against the manager, there can be none against the institution either. By if very name, adverse possession connotes the idea of a hostile competitive holding of property in such an overt manner 'that the person against whom time is running ought if he exercises due vigilance, to be aware of what is happening': Secretary of State for India in Council v. Debendralal Khan (1933) 66 M.L.J. 134: L.R. 61 IndAp 78 : I.L.R. 61 Cal. 262 . The vigilance in the case of endowed property, is the vigilance expected of the manager on whom the duty to protect it is placed by law. The expression 'adverse to the plaintiff' in column 2 of Article 144 of the Act, must therefore be understood as meaning that the possession should be adverse to the real plaintiff in whom the right of action is vested disregarding the nominal plaintiff which is the idol or the math concerned.

61. If this is the correct view of the Article, then the further question when the possession of the defendant becomes adverse in regard to endowed property is not difficult to answer. The controversy which once existed on this subject as to whether adverse possession commenced from the date of the alienation or from the date when the tenure of office of the manager who made the alienation terminated, has been definitely and finally set at rest by the several Privy Council decisions to which reference has already been made. It has been finally declared that the former furnishes the correct starting point in cases where the alienation is void ab initio as where it comprises in whole or in part the math and its properties. In the ordinary type of cases, where the manager acts in excess of his powers, by creating an interest to enure beyond his tenure of office, the alienation is good till its termination, but from that time the possession of the alienee will become adverse to the succeeding -manager and the institution, of course in the absence of any fresh arrangement between the parties.

62. But never till now has it fallen to the Court to apply the Article to a case where there was an interval of time between the termination of one manager's tenure, and the commencement of his successor's. The Privy Council did not contemplate such a situation in any of the cases so far decided by it. There is on the contrary good reason for thinking that Mr. Amir Ali who delivered the judgment of their Lordships in Vidya Varuthi's case (1921) 41 M.L.J. 346: L.R. 48 IndAp 302 : I.L.R. 44 Mad. 831 , did not envisage the possibility of hiatus, when he extracted the following passage from a judgment of his own while he was on the Bench of the Calcutta High Court in Piran v. Abdul Karim I.L.R.(1891) Cal, 203

upon the death of the last incumbent, generally on the day of what is called the sium or teja ceremony (performed on the third day after his decease), the fakirs and murids of the durgah, assisted by the heads of neighbouring durgahs, instal a competent person on the guddi; generally the person chosen is the son of the deceased or somebody nominated by him, for his nomination is supposed to carry the guarantee that the nominee knows the precepts which he is to communicate to the disciples. In some instances the nomination takes the shape of a formal installation by the electoral body so to speak, during the lifetime of the incumbent.

63. What is stated in the above passage is equally true of Hindu institutions. There is little if any, scope for an interregnum in the case of Hindu temples, mostly under the management of a plurality of managers, or vested in hereditary Dharmakarthas. In the case of maths, the usual and recognised method of appointment is by nomination during the lifetime of the ruling Matathipathi by installing a junior who will in due course succeed to the headship promptly on his death. Occasionally an appointment might be made by will where again there is no possibility of an interregnum. It is only when the choice has to be made by the disciples, which is a very rare event, that there is scope for an interregnum occurring. From the passage quoted, it would seem that even the last mentioned mode of succession was not regarded as likely to give rise to the problem.

64. Be that as it may, the language of the Article understood in the light of the peculiar principles applicable to endowed property, creates no difficulty whatever. There can therefore be no doubt that adverse possession cannot commence against the math when there is no manager, though when it once commences to run, it would run on in spite of the subsequent occurrence of a hiatus, which does not by force of Section 9 operate to stop it. The general rule of law is to bar a person who has a right to enter if he does not exercise his right in a certain time, not to bar those who cannot exercise those rights, Katyayani Debi v. Udoi Kumar Das . I therefore concur in the answer given by Abdur Rahman, J., to the third question.

65. The second question raises the point whether a succeeding manager if a minor on the date of his election or management, can take advantage of Section 6 when he brings the suit. If Article 144 is the proper article which governs the case, then the time from which the period of limitation is to be reckoned, is the date of the appointment which brought the manager into existence which is the date of the commencement of adverse possession. The benefit of the section will be attracted to the case. But if the true article applicable to the case is Article 134-B, the minor manager cannot invoke the section to his aid, for on this hypothesis, time had already begun to run with the death, resignation or removal of the preceding manager, and the section excludes him from its benefit. There is no warrant for raising a fiction to date back his appointment to the date of the termination of the previous manager's tenure merely on the strength of the dictum of the Privy Council in Prosunno Kumari v. Golab Chand Baboo (1875) 14 B.L.R. 450 , that successive she baits form a chain of continuing representation of the idol's property. I agree with the order made by my Lord as regards the costs of the reference.


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