G.P. Singh, C.J.
1. This petition under Article 226 of the Constitution is directed against an order of the Board ofRevenue dated 23rd April 1974 andorders of other authorities passed underthe Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricul- tural Holdings Act, 1960.
2. The facts, briefly stated, are that there are two temples one at village Dhamda and another at village Pindri. both in Tahsil and district Durg. The temple at Dhamda is of Shri Radhakrishnaji and the temple at Pindri is of Shri Sita Ram-chandraji. By a will executed on 30th March 1897, the proprietor of the villages Dhamda and Pindri endowed 226 acres of land at village Dhamda and 326.64 acres of land at village Pindri in favour of the deities of these temples. Proceedings were taken under the Ceiling Act and the Competent Authority declared certain lands as surplus. An appeal was filed under Section 41 of the Act on behalf of the deities by the Sarvarakars of the temples which was rejected by the Additional Collector by his order dated 16th March 1967. Revision against this order was dismissed by the Commissioner on 14th Oct. 1968. A revision was then filed before the Board of Revenue which was dismissed by order dated 23rd April 1974. Thereafter, this petition was filed on behalf of the deities.
3. It is not disputed before us thatthe temples are private temples and thatthe endowments made in favour of thedeities are in the nature of private trust.Even so, it is first contended by thelearned counsel for the petitioners thaton a proper reading of the Ceiling Actit should be held that the lands endowed in favour of the deities in private temples are also exempt from the operation of the Act. V
4. The lands exempted from the operation of the Act are specified in Section 3 of of the Act which, omitting the Explanation, reads as follows :
'3. Exempted land.-- The following lands shall be exempt from the provisions of this Act, that is to say :
(a) land held by a local authority or a University established by law within the State:--
(b) land held by the Madhya Pradesh State Agro Industries Development Corporation Ltd. or any other Corporation controlled or managed by the State Government, or the Central Government,whether singly or jointly;
(c) land which is the property of a public trust or a wakf for a religious purpose;
(i) Such public trust or wakf is registered on or before the 1st Jan., 1971, under any enactment relating to public trust or wakf for the time being in force and the entire income of such land is appropriated for the purpose of such trust or wakf;
(ii) such land is property of the public trust or wakf on the appointed day;
(d) land held by a Bhoodan Yagna Board under the Madhya Pradesh Bhoodan Yagna Adhiniyam, 1968 (No. 28 of 1968);
(e) land held by a co-operative land development bank or any other co-operative bank registered or deemed to be registered under the Madhya Pradesh Co-operative Societies Act, 1960 (No. 17 of 1961);
(f) land held by a bank;'
5. It will be seen that by Clause (c) of Section 3, lands held by public trust and wakf which are for religious purposes are exempt from the operation of the Act, provided the public trust or wakf is registered on or before the 1st January 1971, the entire income of such lands is appropriated for the purpose of such trust or wakf and the lands are property of the public trust or wakf on the appointed day as denned in Section 2 (b) of the Act. It will be seen that even in case of a public trust the exemption is not absolute and lands held by a public trust which do not fulfil the conditions of the proviso to Section 3 (c) cannot be held to be exempted. Lands held by a public trust will thus be affected by the operation of the Act when the conditions under the proviso are not fulfilled. In face of the specific exemption granted by Section 3 (c) in respect of lands held by public trusts, it is difficult to accept the argument that lands held by private trusts are exempt from the operation of the Act.
6. Section 2 (h) of the Act defines the word 'holder' to mean a tenure holder or an occupancy tenant or a Government lessee of land. Section 7 provides that subject to the provisions of the Act, no holder or where the holder is a member of a family, no such family shall as from the appointed day, be entitled to hold land other than exempted land in excess of the land as specified in the section. It is not disputed before us that the deity of a private temple can be tenure holder or occupancy tenant and will fall within the definition of holder as denned in Section 2 (h). Section 7 of the Act provides the ceiling limit for every holder. Lands held by a deity of a private temple will thus be affected by Section 7. Learned counsel for the petitioners referred to us Section 9 of the Act which provides for submission of return by a holder holding land in excess of ceiling limit. This section further provides that if the holder is minor, lunatic or idiot, the return on his behalf shall be filed by his guardian. The argument of the learned counsel is that if the intention of the Legislature was to bring within the fold of the Act lands held by a deity of a private temple, a provision would have been made in Section 9 that the return in such cases shall be filed by the She-bait or the Sarvarakar. Learned counsel also referred to us Section 20 of the Act which relates to apportionment of compensation of surplus land in cases where the holder of the land had prior to vesting leased the land under Section 168 (2) of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code. This section mentions the classes of holders who can lease out land under Section 168 (2) of the Code. The omission of a private charitable religious trust in Section 20 is for the reason that land held by such a trust cannot be leased out under Section 168 (2) of the Code. In our opinion, none of the provisions to which reference was made by the learned counsel, goes to show that land held by a, private charitable trust or institution or a deity in a private temple is not covered by the provisions of the Act.
7. Learned counsel for the petitioners then contended that the deities in each temple ought to have been considered as a family or, in the alternative, each deity should have been considered as a separate holder and ceiling limit should have been fixed on that basis. In this connection, it was pointed out that in the temple of village Dhamda there are three deities, namely, Shri Radhaji, Shri Krishnaji and Shri Rukminiji, and that in the temple at village Pindri the deities are Shri Ramchandraji and Shri Jankiji.
8. The word 'family' as defined in Section 2 (gg), means husband, wife and their minor children, if any. The word family obviously is restricted to living persons. As we shall later point out, it is only in a secondary sense that the deity of a temple is recognised as a legal person and holder of the endowed property. The deity represents and embodies the religious purpose for which the property is dedicated and it is this religious purpose symbolised by the deity which holds the property. It is impossible to accept the contention that the deities installed in temples can constitute a family. Now coming to the contention that each deity installed in a temple should be taken to be a separate holder, one has to understand the real concept of dedication made in favour of a deity in a temple. It is true that a Hindu idol, according to the long established, authority, is a juristic entity with a power of suing and being sued. But, as pointed out by Chief Justice B. K. Mukherjea in his Tagore Law Lectures: 'the juridical person in the idol is not the material image, and it is an exploded theory that the image itself develops into a legal person as soon as it is consecrated and vivified by the Pran Pratistha ceremony. It is not also correct that the supreme being of which the idol is a symbol or image is the recipient and owner of the dedicated property. The idol as representing and embodying the spiritual purpose of the donor is the juristic person recognised by law and in this juristic person the dedicated property vests.'' [Hindu Law of Religious and Charitable Trusts by B. K. Mukharjea, 2nd edition, p. 40.] It is further pointed out by Chief Justice Mukherjea that 'the dedication to deity is not only compendious expression of the pious purpose for which the dedication is made, but a material embodiment of the pious purpose and although there is difficulty in holding that property can reside in the aim or purpose itself, it would be quite consistent with sound principles of jurisprudence to say that a material object which represents or symbolises a particular purpose can be given the status of a legal person and regarded as owner of the property which is dedicated to it (ibid p. 39).'
These views expressed by Chief Justice Mukherjea in his Tagore Law Lectures were approved by the Supreme Court in Jogendra Nath v. I. T. Commr., AIR 1969 SC 1089 at p. 1092. After referring to various texts, the Supreme Court observed that according to the texts, Gods have no beneficial enjoyment of the properties, and they can be described as their owners only in a figurative sense (Gannar-tha). The correct legal position is that the idol as representing and embodying the spiritual purpose of the donor is the juristic person recognised by law and in this juristic person the dedicated property vests.' It was further observed that 'neither God nor any supernatural being could be a person in law. But so far as the deity stands as the representative and symbol of the particular purpose which is indicated by the donor, it can figure as a legal person.'
It is in the light of these principles that it has to be seen whether each deity installed in the temples could be taken to be a separate holder.
9. We have gone through the will by which the lands in the two villages were endowed. The lands in village Dhamda were dedicated in favour of Shri Radhakrishnaji installed in the temple of that village. Similarly, the lands in village Pindri were dedicated in favour of Shri Sita Ramchandraji installed in the temple of the said village. As earlier seen, the deities represent the religious purpose for which the property is dedicated. By the will in question the donor exhibited two purposes for making the endowment. One religious purpose was the worship of Shri Radhakrishnaji in-stalled in the temple at village Dhamda and the other religious purpose was the worship of Shri Sita Ramchandraji installed in the temple of village Pindri. It is for these two religious purposes that the dedication was made under the will and the endowments were created. The lands so dedicated vest in the deities named above as representing the religious purposes for which the dedications were made. As the religious purpose for which the property is dedicated is the true holder and as there were two religious purposes for which the lands were dedicated, it is a case of two holders and each individual deity cannot be taken to be a separate holder. The land of village Dhamda dedicated to Shri Radhakrishnaji installed in the temple of that village vests in the religious purpose to worship these deities as represented by the deities. Similarly, the lands of village Pindri dedicated in favour of Shri Sita Ramchandraji installed in the temple of the said village vest in the religious purpose to worship these deities as represented by the deities. Understood in this sense, there are two religious purposes, two endowments and two holders. For this reason, it is not possible to accept the contention that each deity installed in the temples must be taken to be the holder of the lands and the ceiling limit should be worked out on that basis.
10. The petition fails and is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs of this petition. The security amount be refunded to the petitioners.