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Kabul Singh and anr. Vs. Ram Singh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberFirst Appeal No. 254 of 1977
Judge
Reported inAIR1986All75
ActsCode of Civil Procedure (CPC) , 1908 - Sections 92 - Order 1, Rule 10; Evidence Act, 1872 - Sections 74
AppellantKabul Singh and anr.
RespondentRam Singh and ors.
Advocates:G.S. Bhatt, Adv.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Excerpt:
.....relied for the defendants had the effect to take away the rights which the subjects of the former state of tehri garhwal enjoyed and is, therefore, irrelevant. 10. it is well settled that it is only the allegation in the plaint that should be looked into in the first instance to see whether the suit fails within the ambit of section 92 of the civil p. it was also provided that if at any time it appears to state government that the board has failed to fulfil the purpose of its creation under the scheme or has misappointed the nominees, the state government shall be competent to revoke the scheme. the application was rejected by the trial court under its order dated august 21, 1976. not satisfied with this rejection the plaintiffs sought review before the trial court which also failed as..........arjun singh and bir chand defendants-appellants. about three quarters of a century ago the then maharaja tehri garhwal dedicated land for the establishment of a public gurudwara to benefit all such residents of tehri who profess faith in the sikh religion of guru granth sahib. the maharaja brought into existence a public trust of religious and charitable nature. the affairs of the gurudwara were managed by residents of tehri professing faith in the sikh religion of guru granth sahib. 3. the plaintiffs' further allegations are that in 1950 the residents of tehri professing faith as aforementioned at a meeting formed a body known as the gurudwara committee, sri guru singh sabha. they elected a managing committee of which kabul singh (defendant no. 1) was the president/manager. the.....
Judgment:

B.D. Agarwal, J.

1. This is defendants' appeal.

2. The dispute relates to Sikh Gurudwara, Tehri. The respondents Ram Singh and Sant Ram as plaintiffs brought Original Suit No. 254 of 1971 on Dec. 20, 1971, under Section 92, Civil P.C. with the leave of the Advocate-General dated 15th April, 1968 against. Qabul Singh, Nanak Singh, Arjun Singh and Bir Chand defendants-appellants. About three quarters of a century ago the then Maharaja Tehri Garhwal dedicated land for the establishment of a public Gurudwara to benefit all such residents of Tehri who profess faith in the Sikh religion of Guru Granth Sahib. The Maharaja brought into existence a public trust of religious and charitable nature. The affairs of the Gurudwara were managed by residents of Tehri professing faith in the Sikh religion of Guru Granth Sahib.

3. The plaintiffs' further allegations are that in 1950 the residents of Tehri professing faith as aforementioned at a meeting formed a body known as the Gurudwara Committee, Sri Guru Singh Sabha. They elected a Managing Committee of which Kabul Singh (Defendant No. 1) was the President/Manager. The Gurudwara has been, it is contended, under the management and control of the Managing Committee on behalf of the (sic) mismanaged and in a chaotic state. Certain members of the general body called a general meeting on 31st Oct. 1966 and held fresh elections of the Managing Committee where-by the old Committee (including Qabul Singh) was ousted. This, according to the plaintiffs, was followed by scramble and dispute for power, control and possession between the erstwhile President and the newly elected members of the Managing Committee.

4. The defendant No. 1, Qabul Singh, it is averred, asserts exclusive right to manage the Gurudwara independently of any Managing Committee referred to above. Accounts have not been rendered by him. The services attached to the Gurudwara are not being properly attended to. Conflicting stands were taken by the defendant No. 1 at different stages. The defendants interfere in the management and advance claims on the Gurudwara and are made parties to this suit as they claim themselves to be the trustees and also because all or some of them can be said to represent the Gurudwara.

5. The plaintiffs-respondents are themselves residents of Tehri having faith in the Sikh religion of the Guru Granth Sahib. They are worshippers at the Gurudwara and as such persons interested. The relief claimed is that the present trustees of the trust in suit be removed; a scheme for the management of the trust be framed; new trustees in accordance with such scheme be appointed; rendition of accounts be directed and such other relief as is required be granted.

6. In defence to the suit it was pleaded that the Maharaja Tehri Garhwal had founded the Gurudwara in Tehri on a piece of land belonging to the State and entrusted the management thereof to Tara Singh (brother of defendant No. 1) with the right to nominate his successor. The Maharaja had also sanctioned recurring grant of Rs. 200/- per month. It was a religious endowment; it is denied that there was a public trust created of religious or charitable nature. The residents of Tehri were not entitled to intermeddle nor was any meeting held in 1950 or 1966 as the plaintiffs contend. It was denied that the affairs of the Gurudwara are mismanaged. The entrustment of the management to Tara Singh was subject to the control of the Maharaja. The defendant No. 1 claims the right to manage now under the control and the supervision of the Board of Management constituted, in terms of the Agreement dated 22nd Jan. 1965 entered into by the Maharaja Tehri Garhwal with the State Government in pursuance to the letter of Government of India dt. May 18, 1949 which was collateral to the Merger Agreement The overall control which vested earlier in the Maharaja is now exercised by the aforesaid Board of Management. The right of the plaintiffs to maintain the action under Section 92 Civil Procedure Code was thus refuted.

7. The learned District Judge, Tehri Garhwal who decided the suit found that for purposes of Section 92, Civil P.C., it is not necessary that there be a case of admitted public trust of religious or charitable character. The land was dedicated by the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal for public purpose for the benefit of the Sikhs and the believers of the Guru Granth Saheb to establish a Gurudwara. The endowment thus came into existence for public, religious and charitable purpose. The obligations under the trust are not being duly discharged. The Agreement dated Jan. 22, 1965, relied for the defendants had the effect to take away the rights which the subjects of the former State of Tehri Garhwal enjoyed and is, therefore, irrelevant. The Agreement represents an act of the State, according to the court below, and, therefore, it cannot be taken advantage of by the defendants. The suit was decreed on July 30, 1977 with these findings for removal of the present trustees and a scheme has been formulated by the Court according to which the trustees are to be appointed anew. Direction to render accounts has also been given.

8. Sri K.B.L. Gaur, learned counsel for the appellants, contends that, assuming without admitting that there was a public trust of religious character created by the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal as the respondents contend, the suit could not lie under Section 92, Civil P.C. because it is in essence for vindication of individual or personal rights of certain persons. Secondly, the Temples-Board of Management, constituted under the Agreement dated Jan. 22, 1965, is not impleaded as party to the suit. The defendant No. 1 manages the affairs under the authority of this Board. In the absence of the Board, no effective or purposeful decree can be had in the suit which otherwise also falls outside the purview of Section 92.

9. For the plaintiffs-respondents Sri S. S. Bhatnagar countered these contentions with the submission that the authority of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal as ruler ceased with the Merger Agreement. The Agreement dated 22-1-1965, it is urged, is of no relevance and the plaintiffs could maintain the action for public benefit.

10. It is well settled that it is only the allegation in the plaint that should be looked into in the first instance to see whether the suit fails within the ambit of Section 92 of the Civil P.C. vide Swami Parmatmanand Saraswati v. Ramji Trinathi : [1975]1SCR790 ; Charan Singh v. Darshan Singh : [1975]3SCR48 . A suit under Section 92, C.P.C. is a suit of a special nature which presupposes the existence of a public trust of religious or charitable nature. The court is required to ascertain from the plaint the dominant purpose of the suit. If on an analysis of the averments contained in the plaint, it transpires that the primary object behind the suit was the vindication of individual or personal rights of third persons or the plaintiffs themselves, an action under this provision does not lie. In Swami Parmatmanand Saraswati : [1975]1SCR790 (Supra) upon the death of B under the terms of his will S was installed as the head of the Math. A section of the worshippers asserted that there was no will duly made by B; that S could not have been installed as the head of the Math and that K was instead duly installed head of the Math. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court laid down :--

'.......and, even if all the other ingredients of a suit under Section 92 are made out, if it is clear that the plaintiffs are not suing to vindicate the right of the public but are seeking a declaration of their individual or personal rights or the individual or personal rights of any other person or persons in whom they are interested, then the suit would be outside the scope of Section 92 (see N. Shanmukham Chetty v. M. Govinda Chetty : AIR1938Mad92 ; Tirumalai Devasthanams v. Udiavar Krishnayya Shanbhaga AIR 1943 Mad 466 (FB); Sugra Bibi v. Hazi Kummu Mia : [1969]3SCR83 and Mulla : Civil Procedure Code (13th Edn). Vol. 1, P. 400). A suit whose primary object or purpose is to remedy the infringement of an individual right or to vindicate a private right does not fall under the section. It is not every suit claiming the reliefs specified in the section that can be brought under the section, but only the suits which, besides claiming any of the reliefs, are brought by individuals as representatives of the public for vindication of public rights, and in deciding whether a suit falls within Section 92 the Court must go beyond the reliefs and have regard to the capacity in which the plaintiffs are suing and to the purpose for which the suit was brought. This is the reason why trustees of public trust of a religious nature are precluded from suing under the section to vindicate their individual or personal rights. It is quite immaterial whether the trustees pray for declaration of their personal rights or deny the personal rights of one or more defendants. When the right to the office of a trustee is asserted or denied and relief asked for on that basis, the suit falls outside Section 92.'

Applying this principle to the facts of that case the view taken by the Supreme Court was : --

'We see no reason why the same principle should not apply, if what the plaintiffs seek to vindicate here is the individual or personal right of Krishnabodhashram to be installed as Shankaracharya of the Math. Where two or more persons interested in a Trust bring, a suit purporting to be under Section 92, the question whether the suit is to vindicate the personal or individual right of a third person or to assert the right of the public must be decided after taking into account the dominant purpose of the suit in the light of the allegations in the plaint. If, on the allegations in the plaint, it is clear that the purpose of the suit was to vindicate the individual right of Krishnabodhashram to be the Shankaracharya, there is no reason to hold that the suit was brought to uphold the right of the beneficiaries of the Trust, merely because the suit was filed by two or more members of the public after obtaining the sanction of the Advocate-General and claiming one or more of the reliefs specified in the section. There is no reason to think that whenever a suit is brought by two or more persons under Section 92, the suit is to vindicate the right of the public. As we said, it is the object or the purpose of the suit and not the reliefs that should decide whether it is one for vindicating the right of the public or the individual right of the plaintiffs or third persons.'

Upon scrutiny into the allegations of the plaint before us, it is clear that the position is in material respects analogous to that obtaining in the aforementioned case. In para 3 of plaint the assertion is that the right to manage the Gurudwara inheres in the residents of Tehri professing faith in the Sikh religion of Sri Guru Granth Sahib. There is reference in para 5 to the Managing Committee allegedly elected by such residents in the year 1950 of which the defendant No. 1, it is alleged, was the President-cum-Manager. Paragraph 6(ii) recites that this Managing Committee was superseded by another Managing Committee elected on October 31, 1966. According to the plaintiffs' case, therefore, these are the persons competent to manage the affairs of the endowment. The plaint is conspicuous by complete absence of averment charging the Managing Committee elected on Oct. 31, 1966 of mal-administration or misconduct in respect of the trust nor is there foundation laid in the plaint to seek their removal. The purpose of this suit is to settle the controversy whether the defendant No. 1 (Qabul Singh) especially and other defendants in general have a rightful claim to manage the affairs of the Gurudwara in preference to the Managing Committee claimed to have been elected on October 31, 1966 by the residents of Tehri professing Sikh religion of Guru Granth Sahib. This being the crux of the dispute raised, as is manifest from the plaint itself, it is of little consequence that in the relief claimed removal of the members of this Managing Committee has also been prayed for. In Swami Parmatmanand Saraswati : [1975]1SCR790 (supra) also notice was taken of the fact that, there was no allegation in' the plaint questioning or casting doubt on the validity of the installation of K as the Head of the Math and there was also no allegation against him in respect of the management of the trust properties. The inference drawn was that these merely showed the strain of the draftsman to dress up the plaint with prayers to make it appear that the plaintiffs were the disinterested dominions of the right of the public and not the mere partisan advocates of the personal case of K. In case the Court were to find in the proceeding that the right to manage inheres in the Managing Committee claimed to have been elected in Oct. 1966, the real grievance focussed in the plaint would disappear and this suggests strongly the object underlying the institution of the suit.

11. Taking up then the other contention of Sri Gaur, the provision made in Article 3 of the Tehri Garhwal Merger Agreement dated May 18, 1949, was :

'The Maharaja shall be entitled to the full ownership, use and enjoyment of all private properties (as distinct from State properties) belonging to him on the date of this agreement'.

Collateral to this Agreement was the letter dated May 18, 1949, issued by the Government of India to the Maharaja which was to the effect :

'Your Hignness's position in respect of the sacred temple of Badrinath and Kedarnath will continue as heretofore. It is the intimation of the Government that the separate trust should be created for the management of the temples in the State, and that your Highness should be associated with their management as Chairman of the Committee of Management The Government of India would continue, as far as it is practicable, (to bear) the present expenditure incurred by your Highness on various charities and service to the temple at Badrinath, Kedarnath and inside your State from the revenue of the State. A grant to cover this expenditure will ultimately be made to the Committee of Management contemplated above.'

12. In order to implement this understanding, the Agreement referred to above, was entered into on Jan. 22, 1965 between the Government of U.P. with the approval of the Central Government on one side and the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal on the other. A scheme known as the Temples Board of Management was drawn to regulate the management of the affairs of the temples mentioned in the Schedule annexed to the Agreement. The Gurudwara in question is referred to at item 61 of the Schedule. Under the scheme the Board of Management was constituted to comprise of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal as the Chairman and the following as Members.

(i) Two Members to be nominated by the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal.

(ii) Two Members of the Central or the State Legislature representing the erstwhile Tehri Garhwal State to be nominated by the State Government.

(iii) One Officer of the State Government to be nominated by the Government.

(iv) One person elected by the Zila Parishad. Tehri Garhwal.

The ownership of the temples and all the endowments, it was provided, shall vest in the principal deity of each temple but the Board shall be responsible for the proper management of the temples and of the property belonging to or attached to them. The Board could constitute local committees to regulate the management of the temples under its control. Power was conferred on the Board to take over the management from the local committees whenever it was deemed fit, Members of the Board other than the Maharaja are to hold office for a period of five years; the Members nominated by the Maharaja or the State Government were to hold office during their respective pleasure. The Maharaja is to hold office in perpetuity. The Board thus created is to have all powers necessary to manage the Scheme and the decisions arrived at by them was to be final. Accounts are to be properly maintained and audited by a Chartered Accountant The Board could have the staff of its choice for carrying out the duties. It was also provided that if at any time it appears to State Government that the Board has failed to fulfil the purpose of its creation under the scheme or has misappointed the nominees, the State Government shall be competent to revoke the scheme. These are in brief the salient features of the Agreement. The contention for the appellants is that the defendant No. 1 functions under the control and direction of the Temples Board of Management and without, therefore, remedy being sought against the Board, no purposeful decree may be obtained.

13. The admitted case of the parties is that the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal created religious endowment The founder did not dispose of the Shebaiti right in the endowment brought into existence by him. The Shebait-ship itself is in the nature of immovable property. This was retained by the Maharaja in himself and it was given protection also in the Merger Agreement (See Shambhu Charan Shukla v. Shri Thakur Ladli Radha Chandra Madan Gopalji Maharaj : [1985]3SCR372 . Sri Bhatnagar cited the Privy Purse case : [1971]3SCR9 which settles, inter alia, that by virtue of the Merger Agreements the Princes ceased to retain any vestige of sovereign rights or authority qua their former States. They acquired the status of citizens of India. The ruler recognised by the President had no rule over any territory and exercised no sovereignty over any subjects. He had no status of a potentate and no privileges which are normally exercised by a potentate. He is a citizen of India with certain privileges accrued to him because he or his predecessor surrendered his territory, his powers and his sovereignty. The Agreement dated Jan. 22, 1965, referred to above, is, in my opinion, not in conflict at all with these propositions. The right of the Maharaja Tehri Garhwal in capacity as a citizen of the country to the Shebaitship of the Gurudwara endowment is recognised therein and the details to work it out are formulated. The Maharaja was competent under the Agreement with the State Government to draw up a scheme under which he is to discharge his obligations in respect of the endowment in the future. The control under the scheme vests in the Board of Management. In order, therefore, that a decree purposeful and effective could be passed, the action by the plaintiffs had to be against the Board of Management. No directive has been claimed in the plaint as at present against the Board.

14. Sri Bhatnagar argued that there was no plea raised in defence in reference to the Agreement dated 22-1-1965. I am not impressed with this contention. Paragraph 6(iii) of the combined written statement filed by the defendant-appellants stated that the defendant No. 1 was not to manage and control the affairs of the Gurudwara previously under the control of the Maharaja and now under the control of the Board formed in terms of the Agreement dated 22-1-1965 arrived at between the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal and the State of Uttar Pradesh. This plea is reiterated in para 6(viii). In para 19 there is reference expressly made to the letter dated May 18, 1949 and the relevant extract therefrom (as reproduced above) is also given. Paragraph 20 specifies the scheme of the Management formulated under the Agreement dated 22-1-1965 (see para 21 also). Paragraph 21 gave out that special provision for the Management of such temples had been made under the said agreement between the State of U. P. and the Maharaja and it could not be overridden by means of the suit. In face of these pleadings there is no basis existing to contend that the Agreement dated 22-1-1965 has not been relied upon in defence. The Court below framed issue No. 7 moreover in reference expressly to this Agreement; the issue being : Whether the State Government has constituted a Board of Management and if so, whether this has jurisdiction over the Gurudwara. Reference in this context may also be made to the application moved before the trial Court on behalf of the plaintiffs for amendment in the plaint on June 23, 1976 vide paper No. 140-A. In this application there is a detailed reference to the aforesaid Agreement including the formation of the Board of Management and it was stated that this Agreement amounts to an attempt to interfere and intermeddle in the affairs of the Gurudwara. The amendment sought was to implead the Temples Board of Management, (including all the members thereof), the Maharaja Tehri Garhwal and also the State of U. P. It was prayed that permission be granted to sue them under Order 1, Rule 8, C.P.C. The application was rejected by the trial Court under its order dated August 21, 1976. Not satisfied with this rejection the plaintiffs sought review before the trial Court which also failed as appearing from the order passed on Feb. 5, 1977. There remains little to enable the respondents-plaintiffs to contend, in face of their pleading and the averments of the application made for amendment, that they are taken unawares or that the Board of Management is non-existent. The respondents-plaintiffs can really speaking have no grievance against the rejection of their application made for amendment; the reason is that in case the averments sought to be introduced in the plaint were also incorporated through amendment, it would have been clearer still that the suit is aimed at resolving the conflict between the right asserted by the Board of Management to control the affairs of the endowment on one hand and these allegedly elected as members of the Managing Committee on 31-10-1966 according to the plaintiff on the other hand. That indeed would have been altogether alien to the purview of the suit brought under Section 92, C.P.C. though even at present taking into consideration the averments of the plaint alone, and leaving aside what has been narrated in the written statement, the real purpose behind the suit is shown to be to vindicate the right of those allegedly elected by the residents of the area as members of the Managing Committee in 1966 to look after the affairs of the trust.

15. Learned counsel for the respondents also made a submission though feebly that the Agreement dated Jan. 22, 1965 may not be treated as admissible since, according to his submission it is not proved according to law. This again is untenable. The defendants' appellants applied in the Court below to summon the Secretary, Board of Management, to produce the Agreement in original. This was declined on objection raised from the other side. The appellants thereupon placed on the record of the Court below certified copy of the Agreement obtained from the office of Sub-Registrar. The Agreement, as discussed above, is an offshoot of the Merger Agreement dated 18th May, 1949 which forms the act or the record of the act of the soverign authority, the Government of India. The letter dated May, 18, 1949 was collateral to the Merger Agreement and the Agreement dated 22-1-1965 is itself in implementation therefor to which the State Government is a party. In any case, it constitutes a part of the public record and, in my opinion, it is to be classed as public document within the meaning of Section 74 of the Evidence Act which does not stand in need of formal proof. If, therefore, the defence set up against the suit were to be taken into consideration alongside with the evidence placed on the record, there would be an additional reason found to take the suit out of the purview of Section 92, C.P.C., as explained above.

16. In any view of the matter, therefore, assuming that public trust of religious character came into being as the plaintiffs' respondents maintain, the suit giving rise to this appeal is not covered within the purview of Section 92, C.P.C. and, therefore, it is liable to dismissal. The appeal, consequently, succeeds.

17. The appeal is allowed. The judgment and decree of the Court below dated July 30, 1977 are set aside and the suit dismissed. Costs shall be borne by the parties throughout.


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