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Hira Lal Vs. Beni Madho Pragwal - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtAllahabad
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1921)ILR43All20
AppellantHira Lal
RespondentBeni Madho Pragwal
Excerpt:
pragwa1 - right of plagwal to exclusive use of a flag of a certain design--suit for injunction--birt jajmani. - - this latter argument, whether well founded or not, is of no practical consequence. the decision of this court in each case was that the plaintiff had failed to establish any right in the soil......years ago, and his rights, whatever they were, passed to his widow, musammat kesar. the defendant, beni madho, was a confidential servant or attendant of sri kishan and continued to serve the widow in the same capacity. his position was so far changed by the death of sri kishan that, musammat kesar being unable personally to minister to the wants of the pilgrims, he was in a position to undertake that duty; but according to the finding which we must accept in second appeal, he did so as her agent and representative. musammat kesar died in 1915, and the plaintiff, hira lal, is the nearest reversioner under hindu law to the estate of sri kishan, whatever that estate may be. the plaintiff claims the fight to take over, if we may so express it the business which had been carried on by beni.....
Judgment:

Piggott and Kanhaiya Lal, JJ.

1. The parties to this litigation are pragwals, that is to say, members of a certain class of priests, whose occupation it is to receive pilgrims at the sacred confluence of the waters at Allahabad and to assist them in the due performance of the ceremonies attendant on their lathing in these sacred waters, more particularly on the occasion of certain festivals generally revered. The findings of the courts below are in substance as follows. One Sri Kishan was a pragwal carrying on this particular business. He used a flag with a certain emblem, which flag was fixed at the spot where at any particular time he had taken up his post on the river bank, as a means of identification for the benefit of the illiterate pilgrims, a Sort of notice that if they came to the spot indicated by that. flag they would find there Sri Kishan, pragwal, the descendant and, successor by inheritance to the rights of a line of pragwals with whom it had been customary for any particular pilgrim and his family for generations past to deal on the occasion of their visits to the sacred confluence. Sri Kishan died many years ago, and his rights, whatever they were, passed to his widow, Musammat Kesar. The defendant, Beni Madho, was a confidential servant or attendant of Sri Kishan and continued to serve the widow in the same capacity. His position was so far changed by the death of Sri Kishan that, Musammat Kesar being unable personally to minister to the wants of the pilgrims, he was in a position to undertake that duty; but according to the finding which we must accept in second appeal, he did so as her agent and representative. Musammat Kesar died in 1915, and the plaintiff, Hira Lal, is the nearest reversioner under Hindu law to the estate of Sri Kishan, whatever that estate may be. The plaintiff claims the fight to take over, if we may so express it the business which had been carried on by Beni Madho as the agent of Musammat Kesar. He complains that his efforts to do so have been obstructed by the defendant. There has been a previous litigation, we may remark, in connection with an attempt made by Musammat Kesar to transfer certain houses to Beni Madho by way of gift. The essential' fact upon which this suit is based is that, when the plaintiff takes his seat beside the waters in the neighbourhood of the confluence and sets up the flag which was used by Sri Kishan as his emblem, he finds the defendant, Beni Madho, also seated somewhere in the neighbourhood using a similar flag. There is a plea in the memorandum of appeal before us against the finding of the courts below that the Hag used by Beni Madho is a colourable imitation of that used by Hira Lal, but we must accept the clear finding of the lower appellate court on this point We must take it that the flag act up by Beni Madho is calculated to mislead pilgrims into the belief that he, and not Hira Lal, is the successor and representative of Sri Kishan. The one substantial point which has been argued before us is whether, upon these facts, the plaintiff has a cause of action against Beni Madho. The right in virtue of which the plaintiff brings this suit is one of a kind generally described by the expression 'birt jajmani.' It would be easy to cite cases in which a right so described, to receive offerings from pilgrims visiting a particular shrine, has been recognized by the courts in this province, and by this Court, as of the nature of property, as being enforceable by suit, as being generally heritable and sometimes as being transferable. We have to consider what the particular right of birt jajmani means in connection with the ceremonial bathing at the confluence of the rivers at Allahabad. Obviously no particular pilgrim can be compelled to seek the ministrations of any particular priest. It has been suggested also that no suit would lie by any particular priest against a pilgrim who had accepted his ministrations for the recovery of any particular fee. This latter argument, whether well founded or not, is of no practical consequence. As a matter of established custom the pilgrims who accept the ministrations of a particular priest in connection with their ceremonial bathing do pay him some remuneration for his services. Probably they would be too much afraid of the possibility of his calling down upon them the divine displeasure if they refused payment of whatever the customary fee may be. Now it is beyond question, that is to say, it is apparent from the evidence on this record, it does not seem to have been seriously denied in the pleadings, and it would not be difficult to quote decisions of this Court which proceed on the assumption, that particular pilgrims are in the habit of seeking out particular priests, or the descendants or representatives of some particular priest with whom they know that their family, has dealt for generations. It may be that a pilgrim has greater faith in the due performance of all necessary ceremonies, and therefore in the religious benefit derivable from the ceremonial bathing, if he knows that it has been performed under the guidance and with the help of the prayers and ministrations of the representative of the priest with whom his family has been in the habit of dealing. The question then is simply whether the plaintiff is entitled to restrain Beni Madho from making use of an emblem, when such use in effect serves as a notice to the illiterate pilgrims that Beni Madho is the representative and successor of Sri Kishan, whereas such representative capacity belongs in law to the plaintiff, Hira Lal. The nearest case to the present, that of Ganesh v. Babu Ram (1914) I.L.R. 37 All. 72, decided by a Bench of {tits Court of which one of us was a member, proceeds on the assumption that the birt jajmani right of pragwals at the sacred confluence of the rivers at Allahabad is a right both heritable and enforceable at law. It is quite true that this point was not specifically argued in that case but the decision proceeds on the assumption that this was so. We have been referred to two other cases, Husain Ali v. Matukman (1883) I.L.R. 6 All. 39 and The Municipal Board of Cawnpore v. Lillu (1898) I.L.R. 20 All. 200, in which the question in issue was as to the right of certain priests to make use of a particular parcel of land to the exclusion of all other persons. In the former case the right was claimed as against a lessee of the Municipal Board of Benares and in the latter case as against the Municipal Board of Cawnpore. The decision of this Court in each case was that the plaintiff had failed to establish any right in the soil. N o question arises in the present case as to the right of the plaintiff or of any other pragwal to occupy any particular parcel of land, Indeed, as thus stated, the question could never arise, in view of the notorious fact that the rivers are continually shifting their course, that the whole appearance of the sacred confluence may be altered and its locality shifted very considerably between one year and another. We are not concerned in this case with any question that may arise as to the relative rights of pragwals to establish themselves nearer to the sacred confluence itself on any particular festival, or on any other occasion. Such a question can be dealt with if and when it arises. In the present case the question is simply whether the plaintiff has or has not a right to carry on a certain business in or about a particular locality, and whether the defendant has or has not given him a cause of action by unlawful interference with his conduct of that business. We think that these questions must be answered in the affirmative. This appeal, therefore, fails and we dismiss it with costs.


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