1. The appellant by name Valambal claimed patta under Section 14 of the Tamil Nadu Inam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act 1963 (Act 26 of 1963) for an extent of 31 acres 54 cents in survey numbers 116/2,231/4, 149/4 and 97/2 in the village called Pattavaithalai in Tiruchirapalli district. A few facts may be stated to understand the real crux of the matter involved in this case.
2. On 17-1-1948, the Madras Devadasis (Prevention of Dedication) Act (Madras Act 31 of 1947) came into force. Since then the services of Devadasis were never required by the temples. The appellant, claiming that she is the adopted daughter of one Angamuthu who is the last service holder of the Devadasi service, wanted to get the patta in her favour. According to there appellant, her brother by name Palaniandi forcibly took possession of the property from the appellant during 1948. The appellant filed a suit in O. S. 26 of 1955 on the file of the Subordinate Judge of Tiruchirapalli to recover possession from her brother Palaniandi. That suit was decreed. Even during the pendency of the said suit, the appellant was in possession of the property as a receiver until the suit was decreed in 1957. In 1959, the respondent-temple made an application to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board under Section 87 of Act 19 of 1951 (Which section corresponds to S. 101 of Tamil Nadu Act XXII of 1959) for the issuance of a certificate enabling the concerned authorities to take possession of the property. That application filed before the Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments stood transferred to the Deputy Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, Thanjavur, and was numbered as M. P. 1 of 1960. The Deputy Commissioner granted a certificate as prayed for in favour of the respondent temple. Hence the appellant filed writ petition No. 993 of 1963 in the High Court questioning the grant of certificate in favour of the temple and that writ petition was allowed by quashing the order granting the certificate. The respondent-temple filed O. S. 51 of 1961 in the Subordinate Judge's court, Tiruchirapalli, forgetting possession of the suit lands. It also prayed for the recovery of a sum of Rs.19,500 towards mesne profits. The said suit was decreed for possession but the mesne profits claimed was not granted, but instead Chathurbagam amounting to Rs. 4875 was granted. Hence the appellant herein filed A. S. No. 37 of 1965 on the file of the High Court. The temple also preferred a memorandum of cross-objections regarding the mesne profits disallowed by the trial court and also regarding the finding that the adoption found in favour of the appellant was not correct. The High Court dismissed the appeal and allowed the memorandum of cross-objections in to.
3. In the patta proceedings, the Assistant Settlement Officer granted Patta to the temple under S. 9 (1) of Tamil Nadu Act 26 of 1963. The Assistant Settlement Officer also held that the facts will not attract S. 14 of the said Act. Against the order of the Assistant Settlement Officer an appeal was filed to the Tribunal and the same was numbered as C. M. A. 324 of 1972. The Tribunal concurred with the view of the Assistant Settlement Officer and dismissed the appeal. Hence the present appeal has been field.
4. Mr. K. Ramamurthi, the learned counsel appearing for the appellant, submitted that the grant of patta under S. 9 (1) of Tamil Nadu Act 26 of 1963 is not correct because the holding by the temple cannot be characterised as 'private' within the meaning of S. 9 (1) of the Act and that the matter comes with in the ambit of S. 14 of the Act and the appellant is entitled to the grant of patta under S. 14 of the Act. The learned counsel further submitted that the Dasi service is a service tenure virtue of S. 40 (2) of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, that the matter can be decided only by the Collector for enfranchisement of the same in favour of the appellant, and that, therefore, the findings given by the Civil Court are not binding on the appellant. According to the learned counsel, such a finding given by the trial court is without jurisdiction and as such it will not bind the appellant herein.
5. We have been taken through the orders of the authorities below and also the relevant documents filed in this case. The main contention of the learned counsel appearing for the appellant is that the petition for enfranchisement of these lands is pending before the collector and that under S. 40 (2) Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959, the enfranchisement ought to have been made in favour of the appellant in respect of the disputed lands without in any way being affected by the findings of the civil court. Section 40 (x) (a) (i) of Act 22 of 1959 reads as follows-
'Where the remuneration for any service to be performed by a devadasi in temple consists of lands granted or continued in respect of, or annexed to, such service by the Government, the Government shall enfranchise the said lands from the condition of service, by the imposition of quit rent'.
Correctly, Mr. Ramamurthi submitted that this service tenure was not granted in favour of her predecessor-in-interest and as such the provision under S. 40 (1) (a) (i) will not apply to the facts of the case. But the learned counsel submits that S. 40 (2) will be attracted on the facts and circumstances of the present case. Section 40 (2) reads as follows-
'Where the remuneration for such service consists in whole or in part, of lands or of produce of lands not falling under sub-sec. (1), the Government shall direct the District Collector to determine the amount of rent payable on the lands or the produce in question. The District Collector shall thereupon, after giving notice to the party concerned and holding such inquiry as may be prescribed by the Government by an order, determine the amount of rent, and in doing so, he shall have due regard to-
(a) the rent payable by the tenant for lands of a similar description and with similar advantages in the same village or neighboring villages; and
(b) the improvements if any, effected by the devadasi in respect of the lands. Such order shall be communicated to the parties concerned and also published in the manner prescribed'.
6. In order to appreciate the argument of the learned counsel that as per S. 40 (a) enfranchisement ought to have been made only by the collector and the civil courts have no jurisdiction to go into the issues such as the nature of the grant the right of the appellant as the adopted daughter of Angamuthu etc., we can carefully refer to the finding that has been arrived at before any order was passed by the collector under S. 40.
7. While dealing with the jurisdiction of a civil court in respect of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural Land Record of Tenancy Rights Act (Act 10 of 1960), a Full Bench of our High Court has observed as follows in the decision reported in Periathambi Goundan v. District Revenue Officer, Coimbatore : AIR1980Mad180
'Consequently, the controversy as to whether a particular piece of land has been let for cultivation by a tenant or not is one constituting the jurisdictional issue which a Record Officer has to decide before he can determine any other matter under the Act. But that controversy cannot be said to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the authorities functioning under the Act, because to hold so will enable the statutory authority to assume jurisdiction by erroneously deciding the jurisdictional issue. If the controversy arises, the authorities functioning under the Act have necessarily to decide the same, because a decision on that controversy since will determine the jurisdiction of the authorities functioning under the Act. If the decision is that the land has been let for cultivation by a tenant then the Record Officer will have jurisdiction to determine the further particulars provided for in S. 8 (2) of the Act. If on the other hand the decision of the controversy is that the land has not been let for cultivation by a tenant there is no question of there being any tenancy rights in respect of the said land and consequently there is no question of the Record Officer ascertaining or determining any further particulars in this behalf. Therefore, if such controversy arises that controversy cannot be said to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the authorities functioning under the Act. Subject to this qualification it can be held that once the Record Officer or any other authority functioning under the Act has come to the conclusion that the land has been let for cultivation by a tenant the matters provided for in S. 3 (2) have to be determined by the Record Officer, or other authority functioning under the Act, and to that extent the jurisdiction of the civil court is barred under S. 16-A of the Act'.
8. Thus it is clear from the above said decision that for the purpose of the Record Officer taking cognizance of the question of jurisdiction, though can be incidentally decided by the Record Officer, that controversy cannot be said to be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the authorities functioning under the Act.
9. The power of the civil court to enter into this jurisdictional aspect of the case can also be spelt out from S. 40 (6) of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1959 (Act 22 1959), which reads as follows-
'No order passed under sub-ss. (1), (2) or (3) shall operate as a bar to the trial of any suit or issue relating to the right to enjoy the land or assignment of land revenue or produce derived from land, as the case may be'.
In this connection, we may usefully refer to S. 68 (2) of the Tamil Nadu Inam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1963 (Act 26 of 1963) which says-
'The decision of a civil court (not being the court of a District Munsif or court of Small Causes) on any matter falling within its jurisdiction shall except in so far as such decision is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act be binding on the parties thereto and persons claiming under them in any proceeding under this Act before a Tribunal or Special Appellate Tribunal or a Judge of the High Court under sub-s. (2) of S. 46 in so far as such matter is in issue between the parties or persons aforesaid in such proceeding'.
The question of validity of an adoption definitely falls within the jurisdiction of the civil court.
10. In the light of the principles mentioned in paras supra, we can now look into the facts of the present case. Mr. Ramamurthi, learned counsel appearing for the appellant fairly concedes that the grant is in favour of the temple and that his client cannot have any claim over the property if once it is decided that she is not the adopted daughter or Angamuthu. The evidence on record such as the inam fair register and also the judgments rendered by the civil court clearly establishes that the grant is in favour of the temple and it is unnecessary for us to discuss in detail with regard to this aspect of the case. The temple filed O.S. 51 of 1961 on the file of the Second Additional Subordinate Judge, Tiruchirapalli alleging that on the death or Angamuthu (though the appellant claims that Angamuthu is her adoptive mother) nobody performed Dasi service, that the defendant in that suit was not the adopted daughter of Angamuthu and did not perform Dasi service in the temple and that on the abolition of the performance of Dasi service by the madras Devadasi (Prevention of Dedication) Act, 1947 (Madras Act 31 of 1947), the service itself ceased to exist, that the defendant in that suit had no right to possession and that she should surrender possession with menses profits for three years prior to suit or at any rate with Chaturbagam for three years at the rate at which it was being paid previously. In the judgment in A. S. No. 37 of 1965, a Bench of our High Court has clearly stated that the finding of the trial court that the suit property belongs to the temple devadayam lands and had not been granted as Devadasi manyam was not challenged before the Bench. The appellant was a party to the said proceedings and we are of the view that the said finding will certainly bind the appellant herein and that is the reason why Mr. Ramamurthi appearing for the appellant conceded on this aspect of the case. In that Bench decision we can usefully refer to the following passage wherein it was found that the appellant is not the adoptive daughter of Angamuthu:-
'The trial court was considerably influenced by the fact that in the suit between the defendant and her brothers, the case of the defendant that she was the adopted daughter of Angamuthu was upheld. But the several circumstances which we have pointed above, which, in our opinion, conclusively establish the falsity of the defendant's case were not placed before him, as the temple was not a party in the suit. We have already pointed out that this court in disposing of the appeal filed by palaniyandi, did not go into the question of truth or otherwise of the adoption of truth or otherwise of the adoption set up by the defendant. The documents to which we have made reference, clearly establish that the case of adoption set up by the defendant is an afterthought evidently conceived only in the year 1947 when the legislation to abolishing Devadasi service was in the anvil, with a view to put forward title to the suit property which was previously enjoyed by Angamuthu in lieu of remuneration for Dasi service which she was rendering in the plaintiff temple. We have no doubt in our mind that the defendant was not the adopted daughter of Angamuthu, that she never occupied the temple and that she never occupied the suit property as a devadasi service holder'.
11. This finding of the Bench of our High Court will in our view, clearly bind the appellant herein and such findings on questions like adoption which will be the basis for claiming enfranchisement is on a jurisdictional question as per the decision of the Full Bench rendered in Periathambi Goundan v. District Revenue Officer, Coimbatore, : AIR1980Mad180 which we have already referred to, can be gone into by the civil court. If there are simultaneous proceedings before the authorities constituted under the Act and also before the civil court, the decision of the civil court rendered much earlier to the decision by the authorities constituted under a specified Act in respect of jurisdictional matter will definitely bind not only the parties concerned but also the authorities under the statute concerned who have to act on such established facts. The question of enfranchisement under Section 40 (2) of Act 22 of 1959 pleaded by Mr. Ramamurthi cannot be agitated in the light of the finding which we have referred to above by a Bench of our High Court in A. S. 37 of 1965 which has preceded an enquiry under Section 40 of Act 22 of 1959. It is only on this basis the authorities below have also dismissed the claim of the appellant herein. We are in complete agreement with the said finding given by the authorities below and as such the appeal is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.
12. Appeal dismissed.