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Girjashankar Daji Bhat Vs. Murlidhar Narayan Chaudhari and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtMumbai
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1921)ILR45Bom234
AppellantGirjashankar Daji Bhat
RespondentMurlidhar Narayan Chaudhari and ors.
Excerpt:
vritti - hereditary priest of caste--right to office--caste punchas preventing the priest from giving his ministrations--suit by priest for an injunction--laches--civil court--jurisdiction. - - is an hereditary priest to the families of the defendants as well as to the other families of the caste to which they belonged, the plaintiff would have been entitled to an injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with that immoveable property......sued to recover from them his share in sums collected by them for their services as officiating family priests. it appears now that the present plaintiff is not the only member of the priestly family to which hereditary rights have been given, and that as a matter of fact some ten years ago disputes arose between members of the priestly family as to how the emoluments of the office should be distributed, and the caste interfered, not with regard to the exercise of the hereditary office, but with regard to how the emoluments of the office were to be distributed amongst the members of the priestly family. whether that would afford ground for an injunction is a question which i need not deal with, because in my opinion the plaintiff by acquiescing in the action of the defendants for so.....
Judgment:

Norman Macleod, Kt., C.J.

1. The plaintiff sued for an injunction restraining the defendants from prohibiting plaintiff from officiating in his Vritti as Upadhyaya among the Patidar Gujarathis of Yeola, and from receiving the perquisites of the Vritti. The plaintiff alleged that he was the hereditary priest of the caste and had a right to officiate in the Yajman Vritti as such priest; that he had officiated in the Vritti till Pausha of Samvat 1962; that the defendants asked him to do certain acts prejudicial to his Vritti; that the plaintiff refused to do these acts, and thereupon the defendants issued an illegal order to their friends and caste men that they should not allow the plaintiff to officiate in his Vritti and pay the perquisites to him. Therefore the plaintiff filed the suit for an injunction. He succeeded in the lower Court. That decision was reversed in appeal, the Court finding that although the plaintiff was the hereditary priest of Yeola, his continuance or removal from such office was exclusively within the competence of the caste and was a caste question, and therefore such a question was beyond the jurisdiction of the civil Courts. Curiously enough, in coming to entirely opposite conclusions both Courts have relied upon the decision in Ghelabhai Gavrishankar v. Hargowan Ramji (1911) 36 Bom. 94. There Mr. Justice Chandavarkar held that 'an hereditary priesthood vested in particular families is regarded as Vritti or immoveable property which is the source of their maintenance. Such families have for generations lived on these Vrittis; and to turn them adrift now on the ground that their castes can take away their hereditary rights would be not only contrary to the nature of the right, created by custom, but it would amount to spoliation.' No doubt in that case the plaintiff sought to establish his right as hereditary priest of a particular section of the caste in the family of the 1st defendant, and it was sought to make distinction between an action brought by an hereditary priest against a particular family, and the claim for an injunction against the caste or the Panchas who seek to prohibit him from exercising that office. It seems to me that once you decide that an hereditary office of this nature is immoveable property, then there must be a right in the owner of such immoveable property to seek the protection of the Court against any undue interference with his rights as owner. Therefore if the present defendants had been proved to be interfering with the plaintiff's right, and it may be presumed that the plaintiff: is an hereditary priest to the families of the defendants as well as to the other families of the caste to which they belonged, the plaintiff would have been entitled to an injunction restraining the defendants from interfering with that immoveable property.

2. But in dealing with injunctions there is another question which has to be considered by the Courts. It did not appear from the judgment of the trial Court that as a matter of fact the complaint which the plaintiff had to make regarding the interference of the defendants took place so far back as ten years ago. I certainly-read the second para, oh p. 8 as implying that quite recently the Panchas had asked the plaintiff to give Rs. 21 to his Bhauband Nageshbhat and Rs. 11 to his Bhauband Gopal out of the perquisites received by him, and on his refusing to do so, they prohibited him from officiating. Now, however, it appears that that interference took place in Samvat 1962, and that thereafter the plaintiff had disputes with his Bhaubands, and sued to recover from them his share in sums collected by them for their services as officiating family priests. It appears now that the present plaintiff is not the only member of the priestly family to which hereditary rights have been given, and that as a matter of fact some ten years ago disputes arose between members of the priestly family as to how the emoluments of the office should be distributed, and the caste interfered, not with regard to the exercise of the hereditary office, but with regard to how the emoluments of the office were to be distributed amongst the members of the priestly family. Whether that would afford ground for an injunction is a question which I need not deal with, because in my opinion the plaintiff by acquiescing in the action of the defendants for so long has debarred himself from seeking the protection of the Court. In my opinion, therefore, the decree of the lower Court must be confirmed and the appeal dismissed. Parties to pay their own costs throughout. The cross-objections which are not pressed are dismissed. Parties to bear their own costs of the cross-objections.

Fawcett, J.

3. I concur. The case of Gheldbhai Gavrishankar v. Hargowan Ramji (1911) 36 Bom. 94 virtually says that a Hindu is legally bound, to accept the ministrations of a hereditary family priest unless the latter has become 'Patita', i.e., outcaste, or has declined to officiate. It is not alleged that either of the last two conditions have arisen in this case, and therefore the action of the caste in preventing the plaintiff from giving his ministrations as hereditary family priest, which he has been found by both the lower Courts to be, does in my opinion give rise to a cause of action against them. The case seems to me to fall under Section 54 of the Specific Relief Act in that the defendants have invaded the plaintiff's right to, or enjoyment of, property. Most of these cases of Vritti are based on the view that there is a disturbance to an office of the -nature of trespass, arid an injunction is an ordinary form of relief against the person who commits that wrong. The case may also be said to be one where the injunction would tend to prevent a multiplicity of judicial proceedings, and to that extent it is a proper case for the grant of a perpetual injunction. No doubt the practice of the Bombay Courts is generally to refuse preventive relief which would have the result of forcing a particular priest on a Yajman: see Raja valad Shivapa v. Krishnabha (1879) 3 Bom. 232. But this is not a case of an injunction against a Yajman. The injunction is sought against the members of the caste Panchayat, and it would still be open to any of the families of that caste to continue to refuse to employ the plaintiff, if they so deem fit, and the plaint if would then have the right, which has been recognised in this Presidency, of suing the priest, who actually performs the ceremonies, for the fees which should have gone into his pocket. Having regard to the fact that this remedy is still open to the plaintiff in the case of future ceremonies, and any past ceremonies in respect of which the right of suit is not time-barred, and to his delay in applying to the Courts for preventive relief against the caste Panchayat, which virtually amounts to acquiescence, I concur in thinking that the lower Court's refusal to grant an injunction should be upheld.


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