1. In this suit the plaintiff came into Court, alleging that she was the lambardar and zemindar of a certain mahal. The defendant, who was described as Bharat Das disciple of Rikhi Das, muafidar of the said mauza and mahal, was alleged to be a muafidar of 62 bighas 12 biswas of the land in suit granted for charitable purposes. The suit was brought for resumption of this grant. In reply the defendant pleaded, first, that the land itself had been dedicated to the temple of Sri Radha Kishunji and was, therefore, waqf property appertaining to an endowment in favour of the said temple, of which the defendant was the manager. He repeated this plea in a slightly different form, alleging that the muafidar against whom the suit should have been brought was Sri Thakur Radha Kishunji, the idol worshipped in the temple above referred to. The next plea, in the alternative, raised by him was that, if he was in fact himself the muafidar as alleged in the plaint, then this land had been held rent-free for more than fifty years and by more than two successors to the original grantee, the grant having been made in the first instance in favour of Mahant Pirya Das from whom the defendant was the fifth mahant in succession. The case went to trial on these pleadings. The Assistant Collector found that the land in suit had in fact been granted for the benefit of the temple, more than fifty years prior to the institution of the suit and in the time of Mahant Pirya Das. It appears to be correct that the defendant is the fifth successor of Mahant Pirya Das in the line of mahants. The Assistant Collector, however, held that the grant having been for the benefit of the temple and not for the benefit of the mahant as such, it could not be regarded as a grant in favour of the latter, but as a grant in favour of the temple so that there had b6en no succession and the provisions of Section 158 of the Tenancy Act co Id not apply. The learned District Judge has affirmed this decision on appeal.
2. There seems to have been some question raised in argument before the District Judge as to whether the entire area in suit formed part of the original grant made in the time of Mahant Pirya Das. The District Judge expresses himself somewhat donbtfully on this point but the documentary evidence on the subject seems clear enough, and apparently the difficulty felt by the District Judge was due to his confining his attention to the records of a single mahal. The plaintiff came into Court alleging that the defendant was a rent-free grantee of the entire area in suit, and there was no suggestion in the plaint that this area bad been granted at two different times, nor does there seem room for, any snob supposition in the evidence on the record. The findings, therefore, we take to be these. The grant was made for the benefit' of the temple; but there was no dedication either of the land itself or of the income from the land to the deity worshipped in the said temple, regarded as a juristic personality. The name of the idol has never appeared in the village papers as the grantee. The grant, being for the benefit of the temple, must, necessarily have been made to some manager or trustee, and it was made to the mahant of the institution now represented by the present defendant as such manager. It is certain that there have been more than two successors to the original mahant in whose time the grant was first made. Under these circumstances it seems to us that the provisions of Section 158 of the Tenancy Act, II of 1901, apply to this case. It is quite clear in respect of any land the proprietary rights in which have been granted to the mahant of a particular institution, not for his own benefit but for religious or charitable purposes, as an endowment for instance of a temple maintained by the institution of which the mahant is the head, that on the death of one mahant his successor in office is regarded as having obtained possession of such land by succession within the meaning of Section 34 of the Land Revenue Act, III of 1901. There seems no reason why there should not equally be considered to be a succession to the original grantee in respect of a rentfree grant. For these reasons we accept this appeal, and setting aside the orders of the Courts below we direct that the land in suit shall be deemed to be held in proprietary rights by the defendant mahant and by the successors in his mahantship in trust for and on behalf of the temple in question. The Assistant Collector should proceed to determine the land revenue payable by the said trustee in respect of this land. The defendant is entitled to his costs throughout.