1. This is a defendant's appeal against the order of Mr. Sheo Parshad, Senior Subordinate Judge, Gurdaspur, allowing the appeal and setting aside the decree of the trial Court dismissing the suit on the ground that the Civil Court has no Jurisdiction to entertain it. The Senior Subordinate Judge remanded the case for trial on merits.
2. The case relates to a Mandir called Baba Nam Dev which on the 30th October 1936 was declared by the Lahore High Court not to be a Sikh Gurd-wara. The plaintiffs claim to be Bawas and followers of Baba Nam Dev and worshippers of the temple. They have alleged that the defendants have been obstructing the plaintiffs from entering the temple bare-headed and from worshipping while bare-headed, and they prayed for an injunction restraining the defendants from obstructing their entrance bare-headed and from worshipping while they had their heads Uncovered. A preliminary objection was taken to the jurisdiction of the civilCourt to entertain the suit. The trial Court held that the plaintiffs' claim did not fall 'within the ambit of a civil nature. Therefore a civil Court has no jurisdiction to entertain it.' The plaintiffs took an appeal to the Senior Subordinate Judge who held that 'Head-dress or no head-dress at the time of worship is not ritual.' The plaintiffs had alleged that they had been worshipping bare-headed since long and therefore it was a decision of a civil right. He allowed the appeal and ordered the trial of the suit on merits.
3. In appeal it was submitted that the claim of the plaintiffs was to follow a particular kind of ritual and therefore under Section 9 of the Civil P. C, such a suit cannot be entertained. Reliance was placed on 'Tiru Krishnama v. Krishna Sami', 2 Mad 62 (PC), where it was held that a claim to certain pecuniary benefits to which a plaintiff alleges himself to be entitled in respect of certain religious services, is a claim which a civil Court can entertain. I cannot see how this case helps the proposition which the appellant is contending for. He next relied on 'Subbaraya Mudaliar v. Vedantachariar', 28 Mad 23 where it was held that a right to recite sacred texts is a matter of ritual and therefore a suit with regard to it is not entertainable by a civil Court. He next referred to 'Kumaravelu Chettiar v. Ramaswami Ayyar', 56 Mad 657 (PC). This was a case under Order 1, Rule 8 & of the applicability of Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure. This case again in my opinion has no application to the facts of the present case. 'Sifat Ali v. Ali Mian', AIR (20) 1933 All 284 which was next referred to was a case under the Specific Relief Act. All that was held was that the plaintiffs were entitled to enter the mosque and offer up prayers with the regular congregation behind the Imam chosen by the members of the congregation and they could not have a separate congregation behind an Imam of their own. This case again in my opinion is of no assistance in the present case. 'Lokenath v. Dasarathi Tewari', 32 Cal 1072 was a suit by a worshipper of an idol which was not based on any right to the property in the idol or to an office but was to locate the idol in a particular temple, there being no allegation that the plaintiff was prevented from worshipping the idol at the latter temple, and it was held that this suit was not cognizable by a Civil Court. There is nothing in this case either which can help the appellant.
4. Similarly 'Radhakrishna Das v. Radha-Ramana Swami', AIR (36) 1949 Orissa 1 decided that a suit by a worshipper not based on any right to the property in the temple but merely to locate the idol in a particular temple without any allegation that the plaintiff is prevented from worshipping it is not cognizable by a civil Court. In 'Appa-Dorai Ayyangar v. Annangarachariar', AIR (26) 1939 Mad 102 it was held that a Civil Court cannot be required to declare he right of the plaintiffs to stand in any particular row of the congregation, it having been recognised that the plaintiffs have the right to join in the services as ordinary worshippers without interfering in the conduct of the service by the 'mirasidars', and that it cannot give a right to the plaintiffs to complain of obstruction of their right of worship. As a matter of fact in this case it was held that there had been no interference with the civil right of the plaintiffs to worship in the temple. All that was said was that they could not sue for' a declaration to stand in any particular row. On the cases that have been cited by counsel for the appellants I am unable to hold that the case is one which relates to ritual and therefore is barred from the jurisdiction of civil Courts.
5. The complaint, of the plaintiffs is that they are being obstructed from entering the temple bare-headed. Whether a man goes bare-headed or otherwise is not a form of ritual and even it he goes into the temple and begins to worship without anything on his head it may be good or bad manners according to the notions of the people but this has no reference to the ritual.
6. The respondents on the other hand have relied on certain cases which seem to support the submissions they have made. In 'Waman Balwant v. Harshet', 44 Bom 410, it was held that a suit to establish the right to worship a deity according to one's own belief.... ....is a suit of acivil nature within the meaning of Section 9 of the Civil P. C. At page 415 Shah, J., observed as follows:
'The question in this case is not whether the defendants shall be required to perform any ceremony or that the plaintiffs shall be required to do so, but whether the ordinary right of a citizen to worship, according to his own belief, and deity and in such manner as his belief requires him to do so long as he does not prevent others from carrying on similar worship according to their own belief is a right of a civil nature. After giving the best consideration to this point it seems to me that in substance the plaintiffs' suit is of a civil nature, and if they have a right to worship the new deity in any manner they please, any interference with that right is a matter with reference to which they can get relief in a civil Court provided they are found entitled to that relief.'
Hayward, J., who agreed with Shah, J., said:
'It would seem, broadly speaking, that every citizen has a right to worship as he pleases so long as he does not thereby trench upon the rights of office or property of other persons.'
7. In 'Ramalingam Pillai v. Ponnusami Goundan', AIR (20) 1933 Mad 726, it was held that a claim by a person to exercise a right of worship is a claim of a description cognizable by a Civil Court. In this case the plaintiff was obstructed from worshipping the village deity by some of the villagers, In this case the learned Judge followed the rule laid down in 'Manzur Hasan v. Muhammad Zaman', 52 Ind App 61 (P. C.)(8) Both counsel relied on 'Narayana Mudali v. Kalathi Mudali', AIR (26) 1939 Mad 494. In this case it was held that it: was well established that the Civil Courts had no jurisdiction to decide matters of ritual except in so far as a decision on such matters is a necessary incident to the decision of a civil right. The plaintiffs claimed that they had a right to present all their boys for a particular ceremony without restraint and without any payment. In this case Wadsworth, J., said:
'Generally speaking the rule is that once the general right to worship is conceded or established, the Courts will not endeavour to lay down the ritual which is to be followed nor will they prescribe the manner in which the worship is to be conducted........'
He then went on to say:
'There is no obligation upon the members of the community to take part in the festival or to have their young men decorated in a particular way by the priest who presides at the festival. Their right to worship has not been denied. It is not in my opinion the duty of the Courts to prescribe the precise ritual to be followed in these voluntary observances nor the persons who are to take the leading part therein.'
I cannot see how it helps in the decision of this case because the right to worship had not been denied in the case.
9. Counsel then relied on another single Bench judgment of the Madras High Court 'Gounders Of Vilangathur Village v. Udayars Op Vilangathur Village', AIR (32) 1945 Mad 234 in which it was held that the right of an individual to worship in a particular form as in the past is a civil right and he is entitled to the protection of the Court in exercise of this light. At page 235 Somayya, J., said;
'It is an elementary right of every worshipper of a public temple to have the usual festivals conducted in the usual manner and to be allowed to take part in them in the usual manner. There are cases in which for reasons of their own trustees prevented particular members of the public who were worshipping in a particular form in the past from conducting the worship by either not taking the deity at all for worship to the street where the particular worshipper was residing as was done in the past or in preventing him from offering the worship in front of his residence. In all these cases it is recognised that the right is a civil right which every worshipper has as an individual and that he is entitled to the protection of the Court in the exercise of his right.'
10. Reliance was also placed on 'GHAFOOR v. CHOTEY LAL', AIR (35) 1948 Oudh 279 where it was held that a right of worship is a civil right enforceable in a civil Court and is an inherent right independent of custom. In this case the plaintiffs who were a section of the Hindu Community of the town of Zaidpur brought a suit against the Muslim community for a declaration that they were entitled to perform worship and recitations in all their temples and abodes of deities with music and dancing without any interference from the Muslims, and that they were entitled to take out processions practising their religious observances on the Public highway. Reliance was in this case placed on 'JAN-KI PRASAD v. KARAMAT HUSAIN', 53 All 836, where at page 858 Mukherji, J. said as follows:
'Is the suit to be decided on the ground of sentiment and rules of religious observances or whether on the ground of civil rights as they subsist in the subjects of the Crown in general? Religious sentiments and religious observances are very often (as in this particular case) conflicting and unless the parties are reasonable and agree to settle their dispute themselves it is not possible that both could be pleased and satisfied. The basis of the decision in a Court of law must be the Civil rights and Civil rights alone and no account can be taken of mere sentiments of a certain section of the subjects of the Crown. The civil right of every subject of the Crown is that he would be entitled to carry on his worship in any method he likes, but only so long as he does not by his performances affect others injuriously. In this view, both Hindus and Muhammadans have the right to carry on their worship, the Muhammadans in their mosque, and the Hindus in their temple, unrestricted each by the other, so long as the civil rights of the parties are not encroached upon.'
I respectfully agree with the observations of Mukerji, J., and hold that it is the civil right of every citizen that he should be entitled to carry on his worship in any method he likes so long as he does not by his performances affect others injuriously. On the allegations which have been made I cannot see how the present suit is barred because it is a matter relating purely to ritual.
11. The plaintiffs have come to Court claiming to be descendants of Baba Nam Dev and worshippers and whether they go bare-headed or they do not is not a matter to which objection can be taken by any one. I therefore affirm the order made bythe senior Subordinate Judge and dismiss the appealbut direct that the parties will bear their own coststhroughout. The parties are directed to appeal inthe trial Court on the 27th August 1951.