1. This is an appeal by the defendants in a suit brought by the plaintiffs for a perpetual injunction which has been granted by the lower appellate Court. The defendants have appealed.
2. The plaintiff-respondents represent the Hindu population of village Aghwanpur (Mughalpur) in the District of Moradabad. The defendants were impleaded in a representative capacity and defended the suit on behalf of the Muslim community of the same village. The plaintiffs' case was that they desired to celebrate Ram Lila in 1932 arid to take out a procession from a certain place in the village to another place in five same village. The Mahomedans objected on the ground that both the Ram Lila and the procession were 'innovations' and that the Hindus had no right either to celebrate the Ram Lila or to take out any procession, as they were opposed to the sentiments of the local Muslims. It appears that the District authorities embarked upon an inquiry as to whether Ram Lila had been celebrated in previous years and as to whether the procession attempted to be taken out by the Hindus had been taken out on previous occasions. They also appear to have made an attempt to bring about an amicable settlement between the parties, but failed. Eventually an order under Section 144, Criminal P.C. was passed prohibiting the performance of Ram Lila and taking out the procession. The suit which has given rise to this appeal was instituted for an injunction restraining the defendant (Mahomedans) from interfering with, the right of the Hindus to take out procession and to celebrate the Ram Lila. It was alleged on behalf of the plaintiffs (the Hindus) that Ram Lila had been celebrated in the village for many years in the past and that the procession was a ceremony connected with the Ram Lila celebration. The defendants (Mahomedans), on the other hand, maintained that both these functions were recently thought of and should not be allowed. They disputed the right of the Hindus to celebrate the Ram Lila at certain places and to take out a procession contrary to the established practice. The trial Court held that Ram Lila celebration was an old institution in the village, and to that extent the injunction prayed for by the plaintiffs was granted. As regards the right to take out a procession by the plaintiffs, the trial Court's view was that it was an innovation. Accordingly the injunction prayed for was refused by that Court. The plaintiffs preferred an appeal to the Subordinate Judge, and the defendants filed cross-objections impugning the finding of the trial Court so far as it permitted the celebration of Ram Lila at certain places. The lower appellate Court agreed with the finding of the trial Court as regards the celebration of Ram Lila and maintained the decree appealed from to that extent. As regards the right to take out procession, the lower appellate Court held:
That although the processions are an innovation, the plaintiffs are entitled to take them out on the public roads subject, of course, to limitations as to time place and manner as may be imposed upon them by the district authorities under the powers given to them, for the prevention of the breaches of the peace.
3. In the present second appeal filed by the defendants a number of grounds have been taken in the memorandum of appeal. They are somewhat discursive, and may be compressed into the following: (1) That it is not open to the Hindus to celebrate Ram Lila at given places and to take out processions contrary to the local usage. (2) That the two enclosures in which the Hindus desire to celebrate did not belong to the plaintiffs and therefore no injunction could be obtained by them restraining the Mahomedans from interfering with the celebration of the Ram Lila. (3) That the taking out or procession being an innovation as found lay the lower Courts, the Hindus have no right to take them out and no injunction should be issued, as prayed by the plaintiffs.
4. It seems to me that the defendants' pleas are misconceived. Celebration of Ram Lila by itself is a function which every Hindu has a right to perform in his own house or in the house of his neighbour or friend, if he so allows it. The fact that it was never celebrated in a village is no ground for objecting to its celebration for the first time in any particular year. It is only if the manner of its performance comes in conflict with the civil rights of Mahomedans that any question may possibly arise; but in this case the sole ground on which the right of the Hindus to celebrate the Ram Lila is objected to is that it is En 'innovation.' As regards the Ram Lila itself, the lower Courts have found, after an elaborate enquiry, that it is not an 'innovation.' In my opinion this was a waste of time. The issue was wholly immaterial; and the trial Court should have ruled out the plea on the first hearing and should have declined to give any finding as to whether it was an innovation or was according to an established practice. As already stated, every Hindu has, a right to celebrate the Ram Lila at any place, where those occupying or having the use of it have no objection to its performance. Of course, lit is not open to them to trespass upon land belonging to a person who objects to the performance of Ram Lila relying upon his ownership. That is a different question altogether. In this instance, though the defendants take objection to the celebration of Ram Lila in two particular enclosures, it is not suggested that they have any proprietary or other interest in them which can justify their assertion of a right to those enclosures or interference with the celebration of the Ram Lila with the consent of the owners or occupiers of those enclosures.
5. As regards the right to take out a, procession, the position is not materially different. It is open to the Hindus to conduct a procession from one particular place to another through public thoroughfares subject to such restrictions or conditions as may lawfully be imposed by those responsible for public peace and tranquility. Their Lordships of the Privy Council have clearly held in Manzur Hance v. Mohmd Zaman 1925 PC 36, that persons of whatever sect are entitled to conduct religious processions through public streets, so that they do not interfere with the manner and use of such street by the public and subject to such directions as a Magistrate may lawfully give to prevent obstructions of the thoroughfares or breaches of the public peace. The right thus recognized by their Lordships is again not one which is dependent for its enforcement on the previous exercise of it. It is easily conceivable that a resident of a village might for the first time in his life think of celebrating the Ram Lila on a large scale and taking out, procession from one place to another. It cannot be doubted that, subject to the limitations recognized by their Lordships of the Privy Council, he has an absolute right to take out a procession. If the intentions of those in charge are otherwise than peaceful, it is a matter for the Magistrate to take them into consideration in determining whether he should impose any limitations to ensure the peace and tranquility. The members of any other community or sect, however cannot on the sole ground that it is an innovation, arrogate to themselves the right to object. In the present case, the Magistrate appears to have recognized it as a rule of law that any religious observance by one section of the population of a village is not permissible if it is objected to by another section of the population and if it is an innovation. This, in my opinion is an undesirable attitude to take in settling communal disputes. Ordinarily a person desiring to do what he is lawfully entitled to do should have the support of those responsible for law and order, Orders under Section 144 are to be directed not against those who desire to do what the law permits them to do, but against those who attempt to prevent the exercise of a legal right.
6. The two enclosures, which are apparently the places where the Hindus desire to celebrate the Ram Lila and to take out processions from, do not belong to any of the Mahomedans of the village. It is not stated that they have any right of occupation or user of those enclosures. All that is said is that they do not belong to the plaintiffs, that is to say. to the individuals whose names are mentioned in the array of the plaintiffs. Apparently the plea does not go so far as to suggest that the enclosures did not belong to any pi the Hindus of the locality. It is likewise, not suggested that the owners, or occupiers of those enclosures object to the celebration of the Ram Lila therein or to the processions being taken out therefrom. It is clear to me that in these circumstances the defendants have no locus standi whatever in objecting to any of these functions.
7. I have already dealt with the third question as part of the first, and need not repeat the reasons on which I overrule the appellants' contention. The lower appellate Court has taken a correct view on all the questions involved in the case. The appeal fails and is dismissed under Order 41, Rule 11, Civil P.C. The questions involved in this appeal are, in my opinion so easy of determination, and the view taken by the lower appellate Court is so palpably correct that I do not think any useful purpose will be served by granting leave to appeal under the Letters Patent. Leave is accordingly refused.