Skip to content


Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar Vs. Sewa Singh - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtPunjab and Haryana High Court
Decided On
Case NumberF.A.F.O. No. 135 of 1963
Judge
Reported inAIR1973P& H414
ActsSikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 - Sections 3(2), 3(3), 5 and 15; Hindu Law; Customary Law
AppellantShiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Amritsar
RespondentSewa Singh
Cases ReferredVidya Varuthi Thirtha Swamigal v. Baluswami Ayyar
Excerpt:
.....by the petitioners, it was said that the mahant, being the owner of the property in dispute, could give it on lease according to his best judgment. 3,000/- a year or that there was any bad faith on the part of the mahant to enter into these transactions. 13. this being the position in law, even if we assume for the sake of argument that no necessity for the leases in dispute has been established, they will still hold good up to the death of the lessor, namely, mahant gurdit singh, or till he is removed from the office of mahantship. according to this witness, the condition of the land in samvat 2011 was not so good as it was at the time when the witness gave his evidence in january, 1963, because sewa singh and gurbachan singh had made improvements in the land since samvat 2011. in..........leased out to them for consideration for a period of 20 years from sawni 1954 to harhi 1974 by mahant gurdit singh son of mahant jiwan singh, the mahant of the said institution.the period of lease had not expired and they, therefore, could not be ejected from the land till harhi 1974. it was also claimed by them that the gurdwara had no right, title or interest in the property and even if the land belonged to the gurdwara, their rights as lessees could not be affected. a prayer was made that it be declared that they were the lawful lessees of the land, that the gurdwara had no rights in the said land and that they could not be ejected till the expiry of the period of their leases. it may be stated that sewa singh and jaswant singh had jointly taken on lease 74 bighas (kacha) of land.....
Judgment:

P.C. Pandit, J.

1. Gurdwara Sahib Padshahi Naumi in village Malikpur Khial, District Bhatinda is entered at Serial No. 387 in Schedule I of the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925, hereinafter called the Act. On receiving a list of the properties belonging to this Gurdwara, the State Government issued a notification under Section 3(2) of the Act, declaring this Gurdawara to be a Sikh Gurdwara. Later on, the Government published a list of the properties alleged to belong to the said Gurdwara. The State Government also issued notices under Section 3(3) of the Act to the persons, who were said to be in possession of some of the properties mentioned in the list so published. Among those persons, to whom notices were sent there were Sewa Singh, his brother Jaswant Singh and Gurbachan Singh, uncle of the firsts two. These three, on receiving notices, made petitions Nos. 34, 36 and 35 respectively, under Section 5 of the Act praying that some parcels of land had been leased out to them for consideration for a period of 20 years from Sawni 1954 to Harhi 1974 by Mahant Gurdit Singh son of Mahant Jiwan Singh, the Mahant of the said institution.

The period of lease had not expired and they, therefore, could not be ejected from the land till Harhi 1974. It was also claimed by them that the Gurdwara had no right, title or interest in the property and even if the land belonged to the Gurdwara, their rights as lessees could not be affected. A prayer was made that it be declared that they were the lawful lessees of the land, that the Gurdwara had no rights in the said land and that they could not be ejected till the expiry of the period of their leases. It may be stated that Sewa Singh and Jaswant Singh had jointly taken on lease 74 Bighas (Kacha) of land on 23rd June, 1954, for Rs. 3,320/-. Similarly, Gurbachan Singh had been given 148 Bighas (Kacha) and 18 Biswas on lease for Rs. 6,640/-. Both these were registered deeds and were for a period of 20 years, which had to end in Harhi 1974.

2. These petitions were sent to the Sikh Gurdwaras Tribunal, hereinafter referred to as the Tribunal, for trial. The Tribunal impleaded the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, hereinafter called the Committee, as a respondent to these petitions under Section 15 of the Act.

3. The Committee controverted the claims of the petitioners and denied the right of the Mahant to grant leases for such a long period in lieu of small amounts. The land could easily fetch Rs. 2,000/- a year in the case of Sewa Singh and his brother Jaswant Singh and Rs. 3,000/- so far as Gurbachan Singh was concerned. It was alleged that these leases were detrimental to the interest of the Gurdwara, which was, consequently, not bound by them. The leases had not been honestly entered into and the transactions were mala fide, unconscionable and were of no effect. It was also said that the land belonged to the Gurdwara and the tenant could not deny the title of his landlord.

4. In the replication filed by the petitioners, it was said that the Mahant, being the owner of the property in dispute, could give it on lease according to his best judgment. He had full powers to do so. It was denied that the leases were in any way detrimental to the interest of the Gurdwara or that they could fetch Rs. 2,000/- or Rs. 3,000/- a year or that there was any bad faith on the part of the Mahant to enter into these transactions. He had full rights to manage the property. The leases had been executed for value and were neither mala fide nor unconscionable. The validity of the leases could not be challenged by the Committee.

5. Since the facts in all the three petitions were similar and common questions of law were arising therein, they were consolidated for the purpose of trial and evidence was recorded in petition No. 34. The Tribunal also disposed them all by one order.

6. On the pleadings of the parties, three issues were framed:

'1. Whether the property in dispute belongs to Mahant Gurdit Singh?

2. Whether Mahant Gurdit Singh created a 20 years lease from Swani 1954 to Harhi 1974 in favour of the petitioners?

3. In case issue No. 1 is decided against the petitioner and issue No. 2 in his favour, is the respondent bound by the lease in question?'

7. Issue No. 1 was decided in favour of the Committee, because it was conceded that the property in dispute belonged to the Gurdwara. Under Issue No. 2, it was found that Mahant Gurdit Singh had executed these lease-deeds for a period of 20 years from Sawni 1954 to Harhi 1974 in favour of the petitioners. Under issue No. 3, the finding was that the leases were neither mala fide nor unconscionable, nor against the interests of the Gurdwara and, consequently, it was bound by them. As a result of these findings, all the three petitions were allowed and the petitioners were granted by Mahant Gurdit Singh in their favour were valid and binding on the Gurdwara. Against this decision, three appeals (F. A. Os. Nos. 135, 136 and 137 of 1963) have been filed in this Court by the Committee against Sewa Singh, Gurbachan Singh and Jaswant Singh, respectively. This judgment will dispose of all of them.

8. The only point that has been argued before us is regarding the finding of the Tribunal on issue No. 3 and it was urged by the learned counsel for the appellant that the finding given by the Tribunal on the said issue was incorrect and it should have been held that Mahant Gurdit Singh had no authority to lease out the property in dispute to the respondents, because the said leases were not for the benefit of the Gurdwara.

9. While disposing of this contention, it has to be borne in mind that in the present case, we are not concerned with the power of a Mahant to sell the properties belonging to the institution or create a permanent lease regarding them. What we have to decide is whether the Mahant could lease the property for a limited period of 20 years and if so, in what circumstances? It was conceded by the learned counsel for the appellant that the law governing such cases was that if the manager of a religious institution effected a temporary alienation of the land for necessity, then such an alienation was a valid. But if necessity for the lease in question was not established then in such circumstances, it would have no effect after the death of the Manager or the termination of his officer, whichever was earlier. Reference for this proposition of law may be made to a Bench decision of Tek Chand and Hilton, JJ. in Mathra Dass v. Gopal Nath, AIR 1929 Lah 816, where it was held:

'No necessity for the lease in q question has been established and in such circumstances, it is settled law that the lease cannot have effect after the death or termination of the incumbency of the office by the Mahant who made it.'

10. Reliance for this was placed by the learned Judges on the privy Council ruling in Vidya Varuthi Thirtha Swamigal v. Baluswami Ayyar, AIR 1922 PC 123. Attention is also invited to para 415 of Mulla's Hindu Law, 13th Edition, where it has been stated:--

'Nor can be (she bait or a mahant), except for legal necessity, grant a permanent lease of debutter property, though he may create proper derivative tenures and estates conformable to usage.'

A number of authorities have been mentioned by the learned author in support of this proposition.

11. Reference may also be made to para 90 of Rattigan's Digest of Customary Law, 14th Edition, where it is said--'Except for necessary purposes, no property belonging to a religious institution can be permanently alienated.'

12. It may be stated that the learned counsel for the appellant could not cite a single authority, in which alienation for short terms made by a Mahant had been set aside on the ground that the same had not been proved to have been effected for a necessary purpose.

13. This being the position in law, even if we assume for the sake of argument that no necessity for the leases in dispute has been established, they will still hold good up to the death of the lessor, namely, Mahant Gurdit Singh, or till he is removed from the office of Mahantship. There is no proof on the record either that he has ceased to a Mahant or been removed from his office and it is agreed that he is alive. The leases, as already mentioned above were created for 20 years from Sawni 1954 to Harhi 1974. That means that the period of leases will expire in about a year. Consequently, from the practical point of view even if the appeals were to be accepted, the appellant will not be making any substantial gain, because the unexpired portion of the leases will expire by the time the Mahant is removed from his office.

14. It was urged by the learned counsel for the appellant that the land in question was Nehri and for that he placed his reliance on the Jamabandi of 1955-56, which, though not exhibited, had been printed in the paper-book. On that basis, he argued that the lease money fixed by Mahant Gurdit Singh was inadequate.

15. In the first place, in the lease deeds, the reference made is to the Jamabandi of 1951-52 and there is nothing on the record to show as to what was the condition of the land at that time. Secondly, the Jamabandi entries of 1955-56 have not been proved in this case, because they have not been exhibited and, therefore, no reliance can be placed on them. Thirdly, even if the land was Nehri, it has not been established that such land in that village could, in those years, be leased out for a higher sum. It is neither legal nor proper to depend on one's personal impressions and knowledge, without any evidence on the record, for holding that the land had been leased out for an insufficient sum.

16. Let us now consider whether the leases in question were otherwise valid or not.

17. It is common ground that these transactions took place in 1954, when the lessor was the Mahant of the Institution, which had not yet been declared a Sikh Gurdwara, because that happened in 1956. It was not the case of the appellant that the Mahant was profligate or a drunkard or of wasteful habits. It is also not their stand that these leases were without consideration and legal necessity. The case set up by the appellant in the written statement was that these leases had been effected by Manager Gurdit Singh for paltry sums of Rs. 3,320/- and Rs. 6,640/-. According to the appellant, these lands could easily fetch Rs. 2,000/- and Rs. 3,000/- per year, respectively. The transactions were detrimental to the interests of the Gurdwara and had not been honestly entered into and the Gurdwara was not bound by them. But it has not been proved on the record that these lands could have been given lease for larger amounts. The appellant had not produced any evidence whatsoever in these cases.

Learned counsel for the appellant merely relied on the evidence of Labh Singh, P.W. 1, which is recorded in F. A. O. 136 of 1963, where he stated that in his village Rs. 50/- was the rent for a Killa, which contained 5 Bighas of land. For the last four years (i.e. from 1958 to 1962) that had been the prevailing rent. But this witness had categorically said that he could not say what the rent of the land in dispute was. Besides, he had not mentioned as to whether this rent was for one year or more. This apart, if his evidence has to be believed, then he had also deposed that out of the land in dispute 25 Bighas were Barani and only 100 Bighas were under cultivation at the time when the lease-deed was executed. This very witness, while giving evidence in F. A. Os. Nos. 135 and 137 of 1963, had stated that the land in dispute was unhusbanded and non-cultivable at the time when the lease deed was executed. About 20 Bighas was pond (Chhappar) and the remaining was uncultivated. As said before, the appellant has not produced any evidence to prove the allegations made in the written statement that the lands could easily fetch Rs. 2,000/- or Rs. 3,000/- a year. In the absence of any evidence, it is not possible to hold that the lands in question had been leased for inadequate consideration.

18. In the lease-deed Exhibit P. 1 (in F. A. O. 136 of 1963), it had been mentioned by Gurdit Singh that the land gave insufficient produce for want of proper supervision, as the same was situated at a distant place from the Gurdwara. It was also stated that considerable amount of debt was outstanding against the Gurdwara. In order to clear off the said debts and for development of the land and betterment of the Gurdwara Sahib, the lease had been effected. Similarly, in the other lease-deed in F. A. Os. Nos. 135 and 137 of 1963, it was mentioned--'The aforesaid land is situated at a far off place, it cannot be looked after properly and its produce has been reduced and debt is also due from Gurdwara Sahib. In order to pay off the debt, to increase production of land and for the benefit of the Gurdwara, it is necessary that the land may be given on lease.'

19. To prove the debt, Amin Chand, P.W. 2 had been produced. According to this witness, the building of the Gurdwara was constructed by Mahant Jiwan Singh, father of the lessor. About three lacs bricks were used for the construction of the Gurdwara. His (witness) father used to lend money to Mahant Jiwan Singh. His father died about 27-28 years ago. In the Bahi relating to Samvati 1990-91, there was a sum of Rs. 4,300/- due from Jiwan Singh to his father. In Samvat 2000, Jiwan Singh struck a balance of Rs. 6,775/- and the entry was signed by Gurdit Singh. Subsequently, another sum of Rs. 500/- was borrowed and an entry was struck in Samvat 2003 for Rupees 8225/-. The final entry in the Bahi was made in Samvat 2008 and it was for Rupees 10,600/-. It was signed by Mahant Gurdit Singh and attested by Sarwan Singh, Lambardar, P.W. 3. This debt was adjusted by payment in Samvat 2011, i.e. when the lease deeds were executed.

The payment of Rs. 10,000/- was made and the balance amount was condoned. The settlement of the amount was made on the intercession of Gurbachan Singh and Sewa Singh respondents. According to this witness, the condition of the land in Samvat 2011 was not so good as it was at the time when the witness gave his evidence in January, 1963, because Sewa Singh and Gurbachan Singh had made improvements in the land since Samvat 2011. In cross-examination this witness deposed that at the time of the construction of the Gurdwara, the residents of the village did not make any contribution. It is significant to mention that in the cross examination, there was no challenge to the Bahi entries regarding the antecedent debt and no effort was made to show that the debt incurred was without necessity. It was also not alleged that these Bahi entries were without consideration.

20. Sarwan Singh, Lambardar, had also been produced as P.W. 3, to prove the Bahi entry, of which he was the attesting witness. He also stated that Gurbachan Singh and Sewa Singh had made lot of improvements in the land after they got into possession thereof.

21. Sewa Singh, respondent, had appeared as P.W. 4 and according to him, the lease money realised by Mahant Gurdit Singh was utilised to pay off the debt of Amin Chand. He had also stated that when they took the land on lease, its condition was bad. They removed the sand and drained off the water from the land and filled it with earth. The land had considerably improved after they got into its possession.

22. It will, thus, be seen that the averments made in the lease-deeds, that they had been executed for clearing off the debt outstanding against the Gurdwara, have been proved to be correct by the production of the evidence referred to above. It is also noteworthy that the land in question was situated at some distance from the place where the Gurdwara was situate and, therefore, it is quite possible that the Mahant may not have been able to manage it and that is why he gave it on lease. It is further true that if the Mahant himself was not cultivating the land, he had to give it on lease to somebody and if he chose his own relations for that purpose, he was not doing something, which was very objectionable, unless, of course, the appellant could conclusively prove on the record that he had given these lands for insufficient consideration, when he could get much more from others.

In any case, by giving the land on lease, which the Mahant could not manage, he was getting some money for the benefit of the Gurdwara. It could not be said that he was in any way consciously wasting the property or causing loss to the Gurdwara, especially when it was not the case of the appellant that he was a spendthrift or a drunkard or profligate. It is true that it was for the lessees to establish that the lease had been made for a valid purpose and in the instant case, the respondents have fully proved this fact. One cannot also lose sight of the circumstance that the appellant has not led any evidence produced by the respondents or show that the assertions made in the written statement are correct. These leases cannot be held to be invalid in law, merely because the lessees are the relations of the Mahant, especially when they have been established to have been effected to clear off an antecedent debt of the Gurdwara. In all these circumstances, it is not possible to disturb the finding of the Tribunal that the Gurdwara in question was bound by the said leases.

23. In view of what has been said above, these appeals fail and are dismissed. In the circumstances of these case, however, I will make no order as to costs.

Bhupinder Singh, J.

24. I agree.

25. Appeals dismissed.


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