1. This is a reference by the learned Additional Sessions Judge of Azamgarh. The facts briefly are these : Abdul Qayoom and four other Mahomedans were convicted under Section 429, Penal Code and sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 45 each for beating a buffalo which had been dedicated to a deity, with lathis and spears and causing his death. One Rameshar Ahir had arranged the dedication of the buffalo to the deity so that the epidemic of cholera, which was raging in his village, might subside as a result of the intervention of the deity. According to the postmortem examination by the Veterinary Surgeon Tufail Ahmad, death was due to the injuries on the body of the animal caused by lathis and spears. The learned Magistrate was of opinion that although the buffalo had ceased to be the property of any particular person, nevertheless he served as a stallion for breeding purposes and destruction of such an animal caused wrongful loss to the public and the act, therefore, fell within the mischief of Section 429, Penal Code. The learned Sessions Judge, after a consideration of several authorities of this Court, came to the conclusion that the matter was important enough to be referred to this Court.
2. The learned Counsel for the accused has invited my attention to a number of authorities in support of the contention that after the act of dedication, the animal ceases to be the 'property' of any particular person within the meaning of the law. The first case on which he takes his stand is Empress v. Jamura ('84) 1884 A.W.N. 87. That was a case where a particular animal had been branded and let loose by one Chuni Lal on the death of his nephew. Brodliurst J. was of opinion that after the animal had been branded and let loose, ownership over it ceased and it was not the property of any person. In this view he held that the person who shot the animal was not guilty of any offence and he set aside the conviction. This case was followed in Queen-Empress v. Bandhu ('86) 8 All. 51. That was a case of dishonestly receiving stolen property under Section 411, Penal Code. The bull was, as in the previous case, set at large on the occasion of the funeral of a certain Hindu. Straight J. was of opinion that the animal was nullius proprietas and no offence of theft with respect to it could be committed. To the same effect is the case in Queen-Empress v. Nihal ('87) 9 All. 348. Straight J. held:
A Hindu who, upon the death of a relative, dedicates or lets loose a bull, in accordance with Hindu religious usage, as a pious act for the benefit of the soul of the deceased, thereby surrenders and abandons all proprietary rights in the animal, which thereafter is not 'property' which is capable of being made the subject of dishonest receipt or possession within the meaning of Sections 410 and 411, Penal Code.
3. On the other hand, the learned Crown counsel has invited my attention to the case in Queen-Empress v. Nalla ('88) 11 Mad. 145 in which it was held that:
A bull dedicated to an idol and allowed to roam at large is not fera bestia and therefore res nullius, but prima facie, the trustee of the temple, where the idol is worshipped, has the rights and liabilities attaching to its ownership.
4. I find it extremely difficult to subscribe to the view held by this Court in the cases noticed above and I might, if the facts were similar, have felt constrained to refer this case to a larger Bench. But the present is not a case of that character. There is, to my mind, a real distinction between an animal branded and let loose on the occasion of the funeral or obsequies in a Hindu family and an animal dedicated to a particular deity. A deity has been held to be a juristic person. A deity can hold property just as any other juristic person. In the present case the dedication was to a deity. It is generally an idol representing the deity which is installed in a temple or at a suitable place of worship. The idol is a juristic person and the person in charge of the idol will be competent to take all steps in a Court of law in the interests of that juristic person : vide Mahadeo Prasad Singh v. Karia Bharthi . The legal conception of an animal branded and let loose on the occasion of the funeral or the obsequies of a Hindu differs widely from that of a dedication to a particular deity. In the case of one it is renunciation of all proprietary right; in the case of the other it is transfer of the proprietary right from the individual to the deity. I, therefore, think that the learned Magistrate took a correct view of the law and I reject the reference of the learned Additional Sessions Judge.