1. The short point for decision in this case is whether the defendant who is a pujari of a temple, has been guilty of breach, of trust and misappropriation of trust money or of mismanagement of trust property. On 27th June 1937, Ramji Lal and Durga Das, who are residents of the mohalla in which the temple known as Mandir Kanhaya Lal Bhola Nath or Shivala Dina Nath is situated, brought a suit against Pitam Chand Pujari for a declaration that the temple in dispute together with the land attached thereto is a public wakf and for a perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from asserting his private ownership and from applying the income of the temple to his private use. The trial Court held (a) that the temple and the land attached thereto are public wakf properties; (b) that the said temple and land have been in the exclusive management of the defendant and his ancestors for about a century; and (c) that the defendant is a hereditary pujari of the said temple and property and could not be regarded as owner thereof. On these findings the trial Court granted a decree to the plaintiffs and this decree was confirmed by the High Court on 27th September 1940.
2. On 16th March 1943, Ramji Lal and three other residents of the Sadar Bazar, Delhi, brought a suit against the defendant in which it was alleged that the defendant had mismanaged the property, had hindered public worship in the temple and had committed breach of trust and had misappropriated property to the extent of Rs. 800 per mensem. It was accordingly prayed: (a) that the defendant be removed from the post of pujari; (b) that a committee of management be appointed; (c) that the scheme of management be framed; and (d) that the defendant be ordered to render account of the income. The trial Court came to the conclusion that the plaintiffs had failed to establish the charges against the defendant and dismissed the suit with costs. The plaintiffs are dissatisfied with the order and have come to this Court in first appeal.
3. The principal ground for the defendant's removal from the post of pujari was that in the first suit brought against him by the worshippers of the mohalla he had pleaded that this temple and the land attached thereto were his private jagir and that the income derived therefrom was his private income. This assertion of a private claim and the denial of the existence of a public trust, was alleged, were sufficient in themselves to justify the removal of the defendant. The trial court has pointed out, and in my opinion with perfect justification, that, it was open to the defendant to defeat the plaintiffs' claim by all means in his power and the fact that he chose a particular means would not entitle the plaintiffs to bring a fresh suit against him.
4. The plaintiffs have examined a large number of witnesses in order to establish the charges of mismanagement, misappropriation and even breach of trust. (After reviewing the evidence, his Lordship continued.) The flimsy evidence that has been produced in this case is not, in my opinion, sufficient to establish a charge of mismanagement much less of misappropriation or criminal breach of trust. I have no hesitation in holding that the plaintiffs have failed to discharge the onus that rested on them.
5. The defendant, on the other hand, has completely rebutted the allegations made against him. The witnesses who have appeared for him, most of whom are respectable inhabitants of the ilaqa, have categorically denied the assertion that the people play cards or wrestle inside the premises of the temple. The defendant has filed a long written statement in which he prays that as he has recently attained majority and has been doing his best to manage his property, he should be allowed the opportunity of managing the temple without interference from others.
6. After going carefully through the records of the case and hearing the arguments which have been addressed to us, I have no doubt in my mind that there is no substance in the pleas put forward by the plaintiffs. In any case the suit appears to me to be premature, for the defendant has only recently attained majority and has not had a fair opportunity managing the temple.
7. For these reasons I would confirm the order of the Court below and dismiss the appeal with costs. The plaintiffs are not entitled to call upon the defendant to render accounts. It is open to them, if they so desire, to make an application to the District Judge under the appropriate provisions of the Endowments Act.
Achhru Ram, J.