Skip to content


Gopinath Puja Panda Samanta Vs. Ramchandra Deb and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtOrissa High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCriminal Revn. No. 27 of 1956
Judge
Reported inAIR1958Ori220; 24(1958)CLT183; 1958CriLJ1207
ActsIndian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 295 and 420
AppellantGopinath Puja Panda Samanta
RespondentRamchandra Deb and ors.
Appellant AdvocateM. Mohanty and ;B.N. Biswal, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateA.K. Roy, Adv.
DispositionPetition dismissed
Excerpt:
.....knew that any bhog offered at bhog mandap by pushapalaks or any other class of sebaks other than puja pandas would be polluted bhog and would not be mahaprasad. as is well-known many sacred texts are capable of two or more interpretations. the petitioner and other puja pandas may construe the texts in one way whereas some other persons may, with equal good faith, construe them in a different way. the petitioner may, in good faith, hold the extreme view that mahasnan should be performed for every act of pollution irrespective of its nature, whereas the superintendent of the temple and other sebaks may, with equal good faith, hold the view that though for a major act of pollution as described in the special officer's report, mahasnan is obligatory, for minor acts of pollution, as in the..........petitioner against the opposite parties is as follows. in the temple of lord jagannath at puri the puja pandas form a class of sebaks who alone, according to the customary religious practices prevalent in the temple, have the exclusive right to offer bhog (neivedya) to the lord and no other sebak of the temple, even though he may be a brahmin, is entitled to perform this function. on 21-3-1954 when the morning dhoopa and bhog were offered to the lord some of the vessels containing the bhog were kept outside the inner sanctum (muruj). according to the religious tenets and usages such bhog is unfit to be offered to the lord and therefore the puja pandas directed the removal of that bhog by the brahmin sebaks known as suars (cooks) attached to the temple.but in spite of their directions the.....
Judgment:
ORDER

R.L. Narasimham, C.J.

1. This revision petition arises out of a somewhat unusual criminal case instituted by one of the Puja Pandas attached to the Temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri for the prosecution of Sri Ramachandra Deb, the then Raja of Puri (since deceased), Sri Jagat Ballav Das, Dewan of the Temple, Sri P. C. Jagadeb Roy, Commander of the Temple, and Shri Jamuna Kar and Sri Bhima Padhy, Pushpalaks sebaks attached to the Temple, for offences under Sections 295, 295A, 420 and 504, Indian Penal Code. The complaint was filed before the Sub-divisional Magistrate, Puri, who after enquiry dismissed the same. On revision, the then Additional Sessions Judge of Ganjam-Nayagarh upheld the order of the Sub-divisional Magistrate, holding that no prima facie case was made out against the opposite parties. Hence this revision petition.

2. The substance of the allegations made by the petitioner against the opposite parties is as follows. In the Temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri the Puja Pandas form a class of Sebaks who alone, according to the customary religious practices prevalent in the Temple, have the exclusive right to offer Bhog (Neivedya) to the Lord and no other sebak of the Temple, even though he may be a Brahmin, is entitled to perform this function. On 21-3-1954 when the morning Dhoopa and Bhog were offered to the Lord some of the vessels containing the Bhog were kept outside the inner sanctum (Muruj). According to the religious tenets and usages such Bhog is unfit to be offered to the Lord and therefore the Puja Pandas directed the removal of that Bhog by the Brahmin Sebaks known as Suars (cooks) attached to the Temple.

But in spite of their directions the suars got the said Bhog removed by Sudra Bhojyas; and this, according to the petitioner had the effect of polluting the whole place and 'Mahasnan' (sacred bath) wasrequired to be performed by way of a purificatory ceremony and until such Mahasnan was performed the other daily Nitis to the Lord were held up. When this pollution was brought to the notice of Shri Jagat Ballav Das, the Dewan of the Temple, he directed the performance of the other Nitis without performing Mahasnan. The Temple Commander, Sri Jagadeb Roy also supported him and ab used the Puja Pandas because they refused to perform the other Nitis until Mahasnan was done. The dispute was then taken before the Raja of Puri who is the Superintendent of the Temple. He supported the action of the Dewan and the Commander of the Temple saying that the performance of Mahasnan would be expensive & that the other Nitis may somehow be performed by merely sprinkling sacred water.

The Puja Pandas, in a body, refused to obey his orders saying that this would be against the religious tenets. Thereupon the Raja of Puri directed the Pushpalak sebaks, namely Jamuna Kar & Bhima Padhy and some other persons, to perform the remaining Nitis. They also at first protested, but ultimately thought it wise to obey the orders of the Raja of Puri and perform the daily Nitis, including the offering of Bhog to the Lord at Bhoga Mandap. The Bhog was subsequently sold to the general public as Mahaprasad. According to the petitioner that Bhog was not Mahaprasad inasmuch as (1) the pollution in the Temple had not been removed by proper purificatory rites and (2) the Bhog was not offered to the Lord with proper Mantras by the Puja Pandas who alone have the exclusive right to offer such Bhog. The petitioner further alleged that all the members of the opposite party knew fully well the religious usages prevalent in the Temple and that the Bhog offered by the Pushapalaks at Bhoga Mandap would not be Mahaprasad and yet they deceived the general public by holding out that it was duly consecrated Mahaprasad.

3. The elaborate daily rituals performed in the Temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri, the various classes of Sebaks attached to the Temple, and the duties assigned to them either by custom or according to the religious tenets prescribed in the sacred books, have been described at some length in a recent report dated 15-3-1954 prepared by the Special Officer appointed under the Puri Jagannath Temple (Administration) Act 1952 which was published in Law Department Notification No. 5405-J. T. A. 9/54 J. T. A. dated 6-9-1954 in the Orissa Gazette Extraordinary dated 8-9-1954.

The record of rights of the various sebaks of the Temple have also been described in detail in two other reports published along with the Special Officer's report. Law Department Notification No. 2298 J. T. A. dated S6-4-1955 and No. 2719 J, T. A./3/55 J. T. A. dated 30-5-1956, published respectively in the issues of the Orissa Gazette extraordinary dated 7-5-1955 and 12-6-1956.

It is unnecessary to describe them in great detail for the purpose of this revision petition. It is sufficient to say that the Raja of Puri, as the Superintendent of the Temple, exercises some sort of general control and supervision over the work of all classes of sebaks attached to the Temple. The Puja Pandas are high class Brahmins who perform the service of offering Bhog (Neivedya) to the Lord atthe time of the various daily Pujas which, after such offering, becomes Mahaprasad.

Another class of Sebaks known as Pushpalaks (Sinharis) perform the ceremony of dressing the Lord with cloths and flowers at all times and also do the Abakash Puja. The Pushapalaks also appear to be high class Brahmins inasmuch as it is admitted that there is inter-marriage between Puja Pandas and Pushapalaks. The suars who cook the Bhog which after being offered to the Lord becomes Mahaprasad. are also Brahmins.

The Special Officer's report further shows that the elaborate daily rituals of the Temple have been accurately described in a chronicle known as Madala Panji which was first compiled several centuries ago, under the instructions of the then Rulers of Orissa and that some of the old Panjis are still available with some sebaks of the Temple known as 'Tadau-karans' . There is also another book known as 'Niladri Mahodaya' in Sanskrit dealing with the daily Nitis of the Temple, but the Special officer in his report throws some doubt on the genuineness of this book, though he does not reject it altogether. His conclusion on the subject is as follows:

'The Madala Panji to all purposes, and Niladri Mahodaya to some extent, are being referred to when questions relating to daily Nitis arise.

4. This is a criminal case and not a civil suit relating to infringement of the rights of any class of Sebaks. Hence it is unnecessary to decide finally whether the Puja Pandas alone have the exclusive right of offering Bhog to the Lord and whether such offer by Pushpalaks, even under the directions of the Raja of Puri would amount to infringement of that right. These are questions to be decided only by a competent civil court in a proper litigation.

Hence, any discussion on the religious practices of the Temple, in this judgment, should be taken as being intended only for the purpose of examining how far criminal liability can be fastened on the opposite party and not for any other purpose. In this criminal case the main question for decision is whether the members of the opposite Party deliberately contravened the established practices of the Temple and disobeyed the injunctions in the sacred texts knowing it to be likely that by such conduct on their part Mahaprasad would be defiled and the religious feelings o the Hindus wounded.

Opposite party No. 1 is now dead, but according to the petitioner the other members of the opposite party committed the criminal acts under the directions of opposite party No. 1, and hence it is necessary to examine how far his directions would amount to an offence and how far the other members of the opposite party are criminally liable for obeying such directions.

5. In the petition of complaint the main offences alleged against the opposite party are offences under Sections 295, 295A and 420, Indian Penal Code. Mr. Mohanty on behalf of the petitioner fairly conceded that no offence under Section 295A, Indian Penal Code, is made out even if the entire allegations of the petitioner be taken as correct. It is inconceivable that the Superintendent of the Temple of Lord Jagannath or any other sebak attached to the Temple, would commit an act with the deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of Hindus.

The main offence which, according to Mr. Mohanty was committed by the opposite party was the offence under Section 295, Indian Penal Code. That Section says (omitting immaterial portions) that if a person defiles any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons, or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such defilement as an insult to their religion, he will be guilty under that Section. According to Mr. Mohanty, the object held sacred by all Hindus is the sacred food of Lord Jagannath known as Mahaprasad.

The members of the opposite party knew fully well the proper rituals required to be performed at the time of offering Bhog so as to make it Mahaprasad and when they deliberately omitted to perform those rituals and yet held out to the general public that the Bhog was Mahaprasad it would be reasonable to attribute to them criminal knowledge required by that section, that is to say they knew that, by their act, the Hindu public -- especially of Puri -- would consider such defilement of Mahaprasad to be an insult to their religion.

It was also urged by Mr. Mohanty that an offence of cheating was made out inasmuch as by intentionally deceiving the public of Puri into thinking that the food was Mahaprasad and thereby inducing them to purchase the same, all the elements of the offence under Section 420 I. P. C. were established.

6. Assuming that there was pollution inside the Temple due to the removal by Sudra Bhojyas of the morning Bhog which was kept outside the inner sanctum (Muruj) the two main questions for consideration are :

(i) whether the members of the opposite party knew fully well that such pollution can be removed only by the performance of the purificatory ceremony known as 'Mahasnan'; and

(ii) whether they also knew that any Bhog offered at Bhog Mandap by Pushapalaks or any other class of Sebaks other than Puja Pandas would be polluted Bhog and would not be Mahaprasad.

The petitioner cannot claim to have established even a prima facie case unless either of the two aforesaid questions can be answered in the affirmative on the materials available at present. On the contrary, if the various text books and other pieces of evidence on which the petitioner has relied show that the acts committed by the opposite party can also be arguably justified from the materials available, no criminal liability will attach to them. As is well-known many sacred texts are capable of two or more interpretations.

The petitioner and other Puja Pandas may construe the texts in one way whereas some other persons may, with equal good faith, construe them in a different way. Some texts which may appear to be mandatory to the petitioner may appear to be merely directory to other sebaks of the Temple who are equally interested in preserving the sanctity of the Temple and in preventing any defilement to the Mahaprasad.

7. The performance of Mahasnan seems to be obligatory when pollution of a serious nature takes place inside the temple. Thus, it is observed at page 31 of the Special Officer's Report,

'It is to be noted that if during Sahan Mela, a pilgrim touches the holy image, or if anyone spits within the temple, or if one passes stool or urine or vomits, there is a pollution of the Deities and Mahasnan takes place and some penalty is imposed on the culprit i he is traced and if not the cost is met from the Temple funds.'

Again at p. 47 of the Record of Rights of the various sebaks of the Temple, prepared by the Special Officer (Vide Notification of the Law Department dated 26-4-1955 referred to above) it is observed that if accidentally a dog enters the Temple, or a corpse or bone is found inside the sacred precincts, all the subsequent Nitis (rituals) in the Temple should be stopped and the Mahasnan (purificatory ceremony) should be done on an elaborate scale. It is nowhere stated that for every act of pollution whether it is of a major or minor type, Mahasnan should be performed.

8. Mr. Mohanty relied on a passage in Niladri Mahodaya (at page 83) which may be translated as follows;

'The Archaka shall thereafter worship the Lord according to the rites. He must place the articles that are to be offered as Bhog inside the Mandala. He shall never place them outside the Mandala.

If by chance the articles for offering are placed outside the Mandala they must be thrown out, otherwise they become the food of the Rakshasas'.

This passage will only support the view that the Bhog kept outside the inner sanctum (Muruj) on the morning of the date of occurrence became unfit to be offered to the Lord and should be thrown out. It will not show that the mere removal of such Bhog by Sudras would pollute the Temple to such a degree as to require the performance of Mahasnan as a condition precedent to the performance of all other Nitis inside the Temple. It is true that pollution inside the Temple will require some sort of purificatory ceremony, but the nature of that ceremony will depend on the nature of the pollution.

The petitioner may, in good faith, hold the extreme view that Mahasnan should be performed for every act of pollution irrespective of its nature, whereas the Superintendent of the Temple and other sebaks may, with equal good faith, hold the view that though for a major act of pollution as described in the Special Officer's report, Mahasnan is obligatory, for minor acts of pollution, as in the present case, mere sprinkling with holy water may suffice.

In the petition of complaint it is alleged that the Raja of Puri told the Puja Pandas that Mahasnan was performed during the previous two days & that he could not afford the expense of Mahasnan again on that day. In the absence of a clear text either in Niladri Mahodaya or Madala Panji about the various acts of pollution which require the performance of Mahasnan, it cannot be said definitely that the direction given by the Raja of Puri to continue the other Nitis of the Temple, would be against the established usages and practices of the Temple.

9. Mr. Mohanty strongly relied on another passage at page 98 of Niladri Mahodaya which may be translated thus:

'Oh, King, in the absence of the Acharya noother person shall perform the Puja karmas of Paramatma Vishnu.

As in the absence of everybody, the Acharya can perform all the 'karmas': who can, Oh, King, perform His 'karmas' in his absence?'

I may however refer to the following extracts from Madala Panji and Niladri Mahodaya as quoted at page 60(g) under 'Qualifications' in column 5 of Form D of the Record of Rights and duties of various classes of sebaks and others employed for or connected with the seba puja of the Temple as prepared by the Special Officer under Part III (vide Notification of Law Deptt. dated 30-5-1956 referred above)

'Qualifications:--.. .... .... ....If all the members of the Puja Panda Samiti neglect the Purohit of the Temple, or a Shrotriya Brahmin, can be appointed according to the rules prescribed in Madala Panji and the Shastras.

According to Niladri Mohadaya in the absence (Abashan) of Puja Pandas the Brahmins of Parasara, Bharadwaj, Batsasya, Angirasa and Kashyap gotras can perform the Puja.

On default (by the Puja Pandas) their allowance (Kshayee) may be stopped and they may be debarred from the Puja, and other Puja Pandas may be appointed. It is mentioned in Madala Panji that on one previous occasion, Pushapalaks performed the seba in the absence of Puja Pandas'.

The aforesaid extracts (English Translations) from Madala Panji and Niladri Mahodaya show that the extreme view put forward by Mr. Mohanty that the Bhog can be offered to the Lord only by the Puja Pandas and by no other class of Brahmin sebaks under any circumstances whatsoever, is not supported by authority.

The correct position seems to be that though ordinarily Puja Pandas alone are entitled to offer Bhog at Bhoga Mandap, yet during their absence, or on their default, Brahmins of other Gotras may offer Bhog and according to Madala Panji some other Shrotriya Brahmins may be appointed for that purpose, and on one previous occasion Pushapalaks were allowed to perform the Seba puja.

Hence if the Raja of Puri thought -- when he found that the Puja Pandas in a body refused to offer Bhog at Bhoga Mandap unless Mahasnana was first performed and that the daily Nitis were thus held up for an inordinately long time -- that the Pushapalaks may be asked to do the work, it cannot be said that he either intended or knew it to be likely that the Bhog offered by them would be defiled and that Hindu religion would be thereby insulted.

10. The nearest parallel case is an old decision of the Madras High Court, reported in Weir's Criminal Rulings, Vol. I page 253. In that case a goldsmith performed Abhishekam to a Shiv-Linga by pouring cocoanut water over the Linga. It was strongly objected to on the ground that only Brahmins were entitled to perform Abhishekam to the Linga. The goldsmith was, however, acquitted by the lower Court on the ground that he did what he considered bona fide to be an act of worship, while maintaining the order of acquittal, and discussing the scope of Section 205, Indian Penal Code, MuthuswamiAyyar J. observed that the Section was intended to prevent wanton insult to the religious notions of a class of persons.

'It seems to me that the word 'defile' ought to be taken in the sense in which such class of worshippers usually understand it when it is applied to a place or an object of worship. In this sense it would include any act done in relation to the 'Lingam' which would render it impure to the accused's knowledge according to the recognised usage of the institution as an object of worship.....If the accused knew that the temple in the case before us is one of those temples, and if he did the act imputed to him to ridicule openly the established rule in regard to the purity of the Lingam as an object of worship, it may then be reasonably inferred that he did the act wantonly and with the intention of insulting the religious notions of the general body of worshippers.'

His Lordship, however, further observed that the lower court's finding was that there was no specific evidence in regard to the accused's knowledge of the usage. The aforesaid observations about the scope of Section 295, Indian Penal Code would apply equally in the present case.

The guilty knowledge required for the purpose of that Section cannot be attributed to any of the members of the opposite party. The Raja of Puri and the Puja Pandas in good faith held two different views regarding (1) the circumstances under which the purificatory ceremony known as 'Mahasnan' would be performed and (2) the circumstances under which the Brahmin sebaks known as Pushpalaks can offer Bhog to the deity. The relevant texts on which the petitioner has relied are not conclusive on the subject.

11. It may also be mentioned that the members of the Mukti Mandap when consulted by the Sub-divisional Magistrate, gave a view supporting the action of the Raja of Puri in directing the Pushapalaks to offer the Bhog at Bhoga Mandap when the Puja Pandas refused to do so. It is true that the Mukti Mandap has degenerated in modern times and does not command the same respect which it used to do before. But the mere fact that a body of learned men fairly versed in the sacred books, dealing with the rites of the Temple thought that the action of the Raja of Puri was not against religious tenets, would show that the view opposite to that put forward by the petitioner is also plausible. Hence the criminal Court's jurisdiction is ousted.

12. There is absolutely nothing to show that the Raja of Puri intended to ridicule the established practices of the Temple or to wantonly insult the feelings either of the Puja Pandas or of the other worshippers. He first tried to persuade the Puja Pandas themselves to offer Neibedya, but when they in a body refused and it was getting very late he had no other alternative but to utilise the services of Pushpalkas. According to the petitioner's own witness Nityananda Puja Panda the ceremonies inside the Temple were held up for several hours due to the controversy between the Puja Pandas and the Raja of Puri and it was at 4.30 A. M. that the Pushpalaks offered Bhog at Bhoga Mandap.

The petitioner and the other Puja Pandas may feel that then religious feelings were wounded, but so long as the other view is also plausible and issupported by some authority namely the extracts from Madal Panji and Niladri Mahodaya referred to above (no criminal case can stand.

13. The charge of cheating also must necessarily fail. Unless there is an intention to deceive, no criminal case of cheating will succeed. The petitioner may consider that the Bhog is not Mahaprasad, but some other sebaks including the Raja of Puri may, in good faith, consider it to be Mahaprasad, having been properly offered to the Lord by duly authorised persons. Hence, if it is sold to the general public as Mahaprasad, it cannot be said that deception was practised on the public.

14. For the aforesaid reasons, the starting of a criminal proceeding against the members of the opposite party was misconceived.

15. The revision petition is dismissed.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //