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T.R. Venkatarama Iyer Vs. the Government of Madras, Revenue Department, by Its Joint Secretary and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1967)2MLJ543
AppellantT.R. Venkatarama Iyer
RespondentThe Government of Madras, Revenue Department, by Its Joint Secretary and anr.
Excerpt:
.....17--sections 17, 13 (4); [a.p.shah, c.j., f.m. ibrahim kalifulia &v. ramasubramanian, jj] scope of enquiry under section 17 held, the main purpose of the securitisation act, and in particular section 13 thereof, is to enable and empower the secured creditors to take possession of their securities and to deal with them without the intervention of the court. therefore, in an application under section 17, the tribunal is concerned only with the validity of the acts of the secured creditor in taking possession of the securities and dealing with the same under section 13. all such grounds, which would render the action of the bank/financial institution illegal, can be raised before the tribunal in the proceedings under section 17. it is for the tribunal to decide in each case whether the..........is the government of madras, revenue department, and the second respondent is the commissioner, hindu religious and charitable endowments (administration) department. by section 3(1) of the madras hindu religious and charitable endowments act (xxii of 1959) (hereinafter called the act) power is given to extend all or any of the provisions of the act to any hindu public charitable endowment, if there is reason to believe that the endowment is being mismanaged. 'charitable endowment' has been given a wide connotation by the definition under section 6(5) of the act, so as to include all property given or endowed for the benefit of the hindu community or any section thereof, for the support or maintenance of objects of utility to the community or section, such as rest-houses, choultries,.....
Judgment:
ORDER

P. Ramakrishnan, J.

1. The petitioner at the period we are concerned with, was the trustees of a Dwadasi Samaradhanai Kattalai. The Kattalai or endowment came into existence in pursuance of a will executed by one Sundaram Iyer on 2nd June, 1922. Sundaram Iyer bequeathed a small house property in Madam Street, Kumbakonam, to the aforesaid Kattalai, with a direction that out of the income from the house by way of rent, two Brahmins should be fed every Dwadasi day. There appears to have been a long and involved history of transactions over this house property. Broadly stated, the property after changing hands was transferred ultimately to the wife of the petitioner by the assignment of a usufructuary mortgage. The petitioner has set out in his affidavit an elaborate explanation in justification of the transactions. He has also asserted that notwithstanding the transactions, the object of the trust was being fulfilled. It is not necessary to go into these representations made on behalf of the petitioner, because of a short preliminary ground on which this writ petition can be disposed of.

2. The first respondent in the writ petition is the Government of Madras, Revenue Department, and the second respondent is the Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (Administration) Department. By Section 3(1) of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (XXII of 1959) (hereinafter called the Act) power is given to extend all or any of the provisions of the Act to any Hindu public charitable endowment, if there is reason to believe that the endowment is being mismanaged. 'Charitable endowment' has been given a wide connotation by the definition under Section 6(5) of the Act, so as to include all property given or endowed for the benefit of the Hindu community or any section thereof, for the support or maintenance of objects of utility to the community or section, such as rest-houses, choultries, patasalas, schools and colleges, houses for feeding the poor, medical relief and public health or other objects of a like nature. As against the provision in Section 3(1) of the Act which allows all or any of the provisions of the Act to be extended only in particular contingencies to Hindu public charitable endowments, Section 1(3) of the Act extends the provisions of the Act, automatically to all Hindu public religious institutions and endowments. Religious endowments is defined in Section 6(17) of the Act to mean all property endowed for the support of maths or temples, or given or endowed for the performance of any service or charity of a public nature connected with maths or temples or of any other religious charity. Religious charity is defined in Section 6(16) of the Act to mean a public charity associated with a Hindu festival or observance of a religious character, whether it be connected with a math or temple or not.

3. The Department apparently took the view that the Dwadasi Samaradhanai Kattalai in this case is not a religious endowment within the meaning of the definition in Section 6(17) but was a charitable endowment as defined in Section 6(16), and on the allegation that the trustee was mismanaging the funds, the Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board authorised the Inspector, Hindu Religious and Charitable Eadowment, Kumbakonam to conduct the prescribed statutory enquiry under Section 3(2) of the Act against the trustee. The Inspector sent a report to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board on 10th November, 1962, in which he reported that the trustee had mismanaged the trust funds, and recommended the extension of all the provisions of the Act. Thereafter the Government issued a notification under Section 3 of the Act in Memorandum No. 44601 U2/62-10 dated 23rd April, 1963 calling upon the trustee to make his representations contra. The trustee sent his representations; and also asked for a copy of the report of the Assistant Commissioner on which the entire charge was based. His request was rejected by a memorandum of the Government dated 29th August, 1963, and by G.O.Ms. No. 1970 dated 28th July, 1964 the Government passed an order under Section 3(4) of the Act extending the provisions of the Act to the trust in question. The petitioner has filed this writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing G.O.Ms. No. 1970 dated 28th July, 1964 passed under Section 3(4) of the Act.

4. The petitioner's main contention in the affidavit, is that he had not been given a proper opportunity to put forward his objections to the extension of the provisions of the Act to the trust in question, and that therefore the requirements of natural justice had not been properly complied with. In particular he made the averment that a full and detailed enquiry is obligatory under the statute and this has not been conducted in this case. He referred to Section 3(2) of the Act which is in the following terms:

3(2) The Commissioner or the officer authorised by him under Sub-section (1) shall, while making an inquiry under the sub-section, have all the powers of a civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, (V of 1908), for the purpose of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of books, accounts, documents, securities, cash and other properties belonging to or in the custody of such chartable endowments and shall follow the procedure applicable under the said Code in regard to recording of evidence and hearing of parties.

According to the learned Counsel for the petitioner, the officer authorised to hold the enquiry issued to. the petitioner a formal printed notice (the original of which was produced in the Court) stating that he should be present at 2 P.M. on 23rd October, 1962 in the office of the Inspector of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board for the prescribed statutory enquiry. The affidavit of the petitioner, states that the petitioner accordingly went to the Inspector's Office (which is also his residence) on 23rd October, 1962 and waited from 10 O'clock to 5-30 P.M. But the Inspector was not present and the petitioner was not heard at all. Thereafter the petitioner sent a communication immediately to the authorities of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board explaining the fact of his having waited at the residence of the Inspector and asking for a copy of the petition containing allegations against him. But there was no reply to the communication.

5. The learned Government Pleader for the Department however submitted that the Inspector has issued a notice earlier on 5th March, 1962, directing the petitioner to meet him on 13th March, 1962, with the accounts. The petitioner appears to have submitted a typed statement in English on 13th March, 1962 and also sent copies of certain documents on 30th July, 1962, signing them as true copies. But there is nothing in the file of the department to show as to what happened on the date which the Inspector had fixed for holding detailed enquiry according to the notice produced by the petitioner namely, 23rd October, 1962, at 2 P.M. While the report of the Inspector to the Commissioner after making the enquiry, contains a gist of the documents filed by the petitioner, and also a gist of the transactions effected by him which would go to support the charge of mismanagement of the trust, it makes no reference at all as to what happened on 23rd October, 1962, when an enquiry was proposed to be held in conformity with the statute. It does not show that the Inspector was waiting at 2 P.M. for the arrival of the petitioner, and whether the petitioner arrived or not. In fact there is no denial in the counter-affidavit of the department of the petitioner's claim that he went and waited at the residence of the Inspector from 10 O'clock till 5-30 P.M. on 23rd October, 1962.

6. The learned Government Pleader submits that apart from the question of the holding or the non-holding of the enquiry on 23rd October, 1962, there was sufficient material on record including the documents filed by the petitioner, on which the Government were entitled to come to the conclusion that the petitioner had mismanaged the trust and its property. But that will not be a ground for excusing the failure to hold the statutory enquiry prescribed under Section 3(2) of the Act. One has to remember that there are many Hindu Charitable Endowments in this country like the Dwadasi Samaradhanai Kattalai in this case and the persons in management have been managing the properties allotted to the endowments without any supervision In the past. It was only after the extension of the provisions of the Act in 1959 that the acts of trustees of such endowment came for scrutiny. In the present case the petitioner urged that but for the enmity of a tenant who had a grievance against the petitioner, and therefore sent a petition to the authorities, the previous uninterrupted management of the trust would have continued. The petitioner also urged that even though certain transactions had to be executed owing to the unfortunate situation In which the testator Sundaram Iyer had left his affairs, the petitioner had been doing his best to perform the charity in question. It Is possible that the authorities, if they had carefully examined the allegations In the petition against the trustee, in the light of the statements made by the petitioner, might have come to a decision more favourable to the petitioner. It is not possible for me to Indicate the possible line on which a decision could have been taken, if the petitioner had been heard fully regarding his contentions in respect of the management of the trust property. It appears to me that the statutory enquiry mentioned in Section 3(2) of the Act providing for recording of evidence, hearing of the parties and adoption of the Code of Civil Procedure to the enquiry to be held by the officer is intended to provide a real opportunity to the affected party, namely the trustee, to justify his conduct when it is being challenged. The language of Section 3 of the Act makes it clear that after the report of the Inspector reaches the Government, the trustee will have an opportunity of showing cause; but it appears to me that, that opportunity will not be the same as an opportunity under Section 3(2) of facing a full and detailed enquiry. What Is stated above is intended to lay stress on the importance of conducting the statutory enquiry under Section 3(2) with all the formalities that this section has prescribed. In the present case the Inspector seems to have attached little importance to the enquiry which he proposed to hold under the statute on 23rd October, 1962. He has not at all referred in his report as to what happened to the proposed enquiry, if he held the enquiry under the statute and if not, what was the reason. It is necessary in such cases to make a scrutiny as to whether this important part of the statutory requirement for a proper procedure has been complied with. It appears to me that the procedure in this case suffers from the cardinal defect, that there is nothing to show that the statutory enquiry under Section 3(2) had been conducted by the Inspector, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board. As mentioned already, the fact that the petitioner filed certain written statements or certain documents earlier before the Inspector, would not be a substitute for the holding of a formal and detailed enquiry, which may very well affect the decision ultimately taken.

7. In view of the above considerations, I allow the writ petition and issue a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the Government. It is open however to the Government to direct a proper enquiry to be held by the appropriate officer under Section 3(2) if they are so advised. The petitioner will get his costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 150.


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