& ANR Vs. Committee of Management Shri Gurdwara Gainb & Ors  INSC
408 (1 December 1999)
Syed Shah Mohammed Quadri SYED SHAH MOHAMMED QUAPRI, J.
judgment sna decree under challenge In this appeal, by special leave, were
passed in Second Appeal No. 1044 of 1378 by the High Court of Punjab & Haryana,
Chandigarh, on December 16, 1987. The appeal arises out of the suit filed by respondent No.l
(referred to in this judgment as 'the plaintiff) against the appellants and
respondent Nos.S to 4 who are the legal representatives of one Pritam Singh
(referred to in this judgment as "the defendants') for recovery of
possession of agricultural land measuring 160 Kanals 16 Marlas situated at
village Salbehra tehsil district Patiala (hereinafter referred to as 'the suit land'
On April 22, 1969, the suit was filed on the basis of
title of the plaintiff. The suit land originally belonged to one Ram Singh who
gifted the same in favour of Gurdawara Sahib in 1951 while it was being held by
Pritam Singh as a mortgagee. Later, the mortgage was redeemed by Ram Singh and
the suit land was mutated in the revenue records in the name of Gurdwara Sahib
but it continued in the possession of Pritam Singh. After declaration of Gurdwara
as a Sikh Gurdwara, Shiromani Gurdwara Prabanohak Committee, Amritsar, filed asuit against the local
Committee for recovery of possession of the suit land which was under "its
control and management. That suit was decreed on December 1, 1964. In execution of the decree actual possession of the suit
land could not be taken from Pritam Singh, instead only symbolic possession was
given to Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee. The plaintiff was notified by
the Punjab Government in 1965. It then initiated proceedings against Pritam
Singh before Assistant Collector, 1st Grade for recovery of rents. On October 31, 1968, the claim was dismissed holding
that Pritam Singh was neither the mortgagee nor the tenant of the suit land.
Sometime thereafter the said Pritam Singh died and the present suit was brought
against the defendants on April 22, 1969.
suit was resisted by the defendants denying the ownership of the plaintiff, the
knowledge of the earlier suit and taking of symbolic possession of the suit
"and from the said Pritam Singh. It was pleaded that the suit was barred
by limitation under Section 28 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 and that till
his death Pritam Singh was in possession of the suit land and thereafter they
had been adverse possession thereof, so the title of plaintiff, if any,
considering the entire avidence on record, the trial court held that under
Section 28 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act the suit was beyond limitation and that
the defendants would be deemed to be in adverse possession from 1952 'and for
that reason also the suit was barred by limitation.
the suit was dismissed on November 4,1974.
plaintiff carried the matter in appeal before the Additional District Judge, Patiala. The Appellate Court framed the
following additional issue No.9-A and called for finding from the trial court.
Whether the defendants are in adverse possession of the property in dispute and
if so, since when and what is its effect?" The trial Court returned the
finding that;;- the defendants failed to prove adverse possession of the suit
land. That finding was accepted by the First Appellate Court and it was held
that under the Limitation Act the suit was not barred. However. agreeing with
the trial court that under Section 28 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act the suit was
barred, the first Appellate Court dismissed the appeal on March 8, 1978, The plaintiff filed Second Appeal
No. 1044 of 1378 in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana challenging the
correctness of the judgment and decree of the First Appellate Court. The High
Court took the view that the suit was based on title and not on disposseessior
so it was for the defendants to prove that they became owner of the suit 1 and
by adverse possession which they failed to do; it expressed agreement with the
finding of the first Appellate Court that the suit was not barred under the
Limitation Act and held that on the ground of limitation prescribed in Section
28 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, the plaintiff could not be non- suited. The High
Court thus allowed the Second appeal ana dscreed the suit on December 16, 1987. It is against that judgment and
decree that this appeal is filed.
K.Mahajan, learned counsel for the appellant , contended that under Section
29(2) of the Limitation Act, the period of limitation prescribed under the
special Act alone would apply and in view of the provision of Section 28(1) of
the Sikh Gurdwaras Act. the suit ought to have been filed within ninety days of
the notification dated November
1, 1962 but it was
filed on April 22, 1969 so it was clearly barred; that the
High Court wrongly held that the suit was within limitation under the
Limitation Act and allowed the Second Appeal.
Gingh, learned senior counsel for the first resoondent, argued tnat the suit
contemplated under Section 28 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act was earlier filed
against tne local Committee and that the present suit was filed on the basis of
the title, therefore, it would te governed by the Limitation Act and that in
view or findings of the courts below the suit was riqhtly held to be within
limitation by the High Court.
con tentions raised at. the hearing and in the written submissions of the
learned counsel, the following question falls for consideration : is the period
of limitation specified in Section 28 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act applicable to
the suit filed by the plaintiff against the defendants for recovery of the suit
land? Here, it will b@ useful to read Section 28 of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act,
1925 which is extracted hereunder:
Suits for possession of undisputed property on behalf of Notified Sikh Gurdwaras
- (1) When a notification has been published under the provisions of
sub-section (3) of Section 5 or of sub-section (3) of Section 10, the committee
of the gurdwara concerned may bring a suit on behalf of the gurdwara for the
after the date of the publication of such notification." Section 28 deals
with suits for recovery of possession of undisputed property on behalf of the
notified SiKh Gurdawaras. Under the scheme of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act a
consolidated "list of the gurdwaras and the properties thereof 'was
published and claims, if any, were entertained within the prescribed time.
Where no claim was made under sub-section (2) of .Section 5, a notification was
issued under sub-section (.3) of Section 5 specifying that no claim was made in
respect of the right, title or interest in any property cautioned .therein and
such a notification is conclusive proof of the fact that no such claim was made
in respect' of any right, title or interest in the gurdwaras and the properties
specified in the notification.
also is the position in respect of a notification issued under sub-section (3)
of Section 10 regarding -properties included in the list published under
sub-section (.3) of Section 7. The properties included in the said
notifications are treated as undisputed properties under- Section 28 of the
Sikh Gurdwaras Act..
plain reading of the provision extracted above shows that sub- section (i) of
Section 28 enables the committee of the gurdwara concerned to bring a suit on
behalf of the gurdwara for the possession of any.
a proprietary title which has been specified in such notification subject to
two conditions - (1) that the gurdwara .concerned is entitled to immediate
possession of the property, in question and (2) it. is not in possession
thereof at the date of the publication of such notification.
(2) of Section 28 has three, limbs: the first provides that such a suit shall
be instituted in the principal court of. original jurisdiction in which the
property' in question is situated; the second prescribes a period of limitation
of ninety days for bringing the suit (commencing from the date of publication
of notification referred to in sub-section (1) or from the date of constitution
of the .committee whichever is later "} and the 'thircy dec'la.rss the
consequence of failure to insfitute such a suit within the said Deriod of
ninety days :and mandates that no subsequent suit on .' beha'ifo^ the gurdwara
for possession of the property shall be instituted in any court except on. the
ground of dispossession of 'the gurdwara after the date of the publication
(ration of such notification. For a suit of this nature no period of limitation
is prescribed thereunder so "it will be governed by the Indian Limitation
Act, In the instant case, there is no dispute that the suit land is a notified
property. The suit contempated under sub-section (1) of Section 28 was brought
within the period specified in sub-section (2) against the local committee of
the gurdwara which was managing the suit land. That suit was decreed. In
execution of the decree passed in that suit symbolic possession was obtained
from Pritam Singh as he was not a party to the suit. We have perused the
original record. The report of the bailiff in execution proceedings did mention
that symbolic possession of the suit land was given to the decree holder. No
material was placed before the Courts below by the defendants to show that Pritam
Singh challenged handing over of symbolic possession or claimed any right or
title in the suit land in execution proceedings and that was upheld. It was
only after ths said Pritam Singh denied the tenancy and the Assistant Collector
1st grade held that he was neither the mortagagee nor the tenant, the plaintiff
brought ths present suit against the defendants for recovery of possession of
the suit land.
suit is of the nature referred to in the third limb of sub-section (2) of
Section 28, referred to above. On the premise that it was only after the
publication of the notification that the cause of action arose to the
plaintiff, it filed the suit for racovery of the suit-land.
first Appellate Court as well as the High Court held that the defendants did
not perfect their title by adverse possession and this finding remained
the above discussion, it follows that the period of "limitation of ninety
days mentioned in Section 28 1s not applicable to the present suit, so it
cannot, therefore, be said to be barred by limitation specified therein. The
suit falls within the third limb of sub-Section (2) of Section 28 to which
period of limitation specified in the Indian Limitation Act applies. The first
Appellate Court and the High Court have held that the suit is not barred under
Limitation Act. The High Court has, therefore, rightly decreed the suit of the
plaintiff. We find no illegality in the judgment and decree under appeal. The
appeal falls and it 1s accordingly dismissed but in the circumstances of the
case without, costs.