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Commissioner, Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Vs. Narayana Ayyangar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Judge
Reported inAIR1965SC1916; [1965]3SCR168
ActsMadras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951 - Sections 6(13), 57 and 69
AppellantCommissioner, Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments
RespondentNarayana Ayyangar and ors.
Excerpt:
trust and societies - religious charity - sections 6 (13), 57 and 69 of madras hindu religious and charitable endowments act, 1951 - few village residents with aid of contributions and donations set up 'samaradhanai' fund for feeding brahmin pilgrims attending village shrine on occasion of particular festival - income from fund far exceeded expenses from it - surplus income utilized for certain other purposes - issue arose whether 'samaradhanai' fund was 'religious charity' within meaning of section 6 (13) - deputy commissioner held it as public and religious charity which was later confirmed by commissioner - trustees instituted suit in court of subordinate judge - trustees contended that said fund was private charity and not religious and public charity and the same could not become..........hindu religious and charitableendowments act 19 of 1951 was enacted, the deputy commissioner of hindureligious and charitable endowments initiated a fresh proceeding under s. 57(d)of that act and held that the samardhanai fund was a 'religiouscharity' within the meaning of s. 6(13) of the act. against that order anappeal was carried by the trustees of the fund to the commissioner of hindureligious and charitable endowments. the commissioner held that feedingbrahmins in connection with the religious festival of hindus was a publiccharity and also a religious charity within the meaning of s. 6(13) of madrasact 19 of 1951. 3. the trustees of the fund then instituted suit no. 181 of 1954 in thecourt of the subordinate judge. tiruchirappalli to set aside the order of thecommissioner on the.....
Judgment:

Shah, J.

1. Venkatarama Iyengar, Kasthuri Iyengar and Ranga Iyengar, residents of thevillage Kariamanikam in Tiruchirappalli District, with the aid ofcontributions, subscriptions and donations set up a Samaradhanai Fund forfeeding Brahmin pilgrims attending Sri Venkatachalapathiswami shrine at villageGunaseelam on the occasion of Rathotsavam festival. Between the years 1936 and1940 seven acres of land were purchased for Rs. 10,500 to provide a permanentincome for the Fund. It was found that the expenses incurred for theRathotsavam festival did not exhaust the entire income and the balance wasutilised for Vanabhojanam in Kariamanikam village in the month of Kartigai andon the Dwadesi following Vaikunta Egadesi day.

2. The President, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board, sought tolevy for the years 1351 to 1354 Falsi contributions under s. 69 of Madras Act 2of 1927 in respect of the Fund. But in Suit No. 297 of 1947 of the file of theDistrict Court at Tiruchirappalli that claim was disallowed. The District Courtheld that the charity was not a 'specific endowment' within themeaning of Act 2 of 1927. After the Madras Hindu Religious and CharitableEndowments Act 19 of 1951 was enacted, the Deputy Commissioner of HinduReligious and Charitable Endowments initiated a fresh proceeding under s. 57(d)of that Act and held that the Samardhanai Fund was a 'religiouscharity' within the meaning of s. 6(13) of the Act. Against that order anappeal was carried by the trustees of the Fund to the Commissioner of HinduReligious and Charitable Endowments. The Commissioner held that feedingBrahmins in connection with the religious festival of Hindus was a publiccharity and also a religious charity within the meaning of s. 6(13) of MadrasAct 19 of 1951.

3. The trustees of the Fund then instituted Suit No. 181 of 1954 in theCourt of the Subordinate Judge. Tiruchirappalli to set aside the order of theCommissioner on the plea that the Samardhanai Fund was a private charity notassociated with any Hindu festival or service in a temple and was not religiouscharity or a specific endowment or a public charity, and that it could in nomanner become subject to control of the Commissioner, Madras Hindu Religiousand Charity Endowments. The suit was resisted by the Commissioner contendingthat the Fund was held and administered for a religious charity viz. feedingBrahmin pilgrims on the occasion of a Hindu festival. The Subordinate Judgeheld that the Fund was a public charity and that it was also 'a religiouscharity' within the meaning of s. 6(13) of the Act, the charity beingassociated with the Hindu festival of Rathotsavam at the Gunaseelam temple. Inappeal against the order of the Subordinate Judge dismissing the suit filed bythe trustees, the High Court of Madras held that the Samardhanai Fund was a publiccharity within the meaning of s. 6(13) of the Act, but not being associatedwith any Hindu festival or observance of a religious character it was not a'religious charity' and the Commissioner had no jurisdiction to bringit under his control. The High Court accordingly allowed the appeal and decreedthe suit filed by the trustees. With special leave, the Commissioner hasappealed to this Court.

4. The only question which falls to be determined in this appeal is whetheron the facts found by the Court of First Instance and confirmed by the HighCourt, the Samardhanai Fund is a 'religious charity' within themeaning of s. 6(13) of Madras Act 19 of 1951. Clause (13) of s. 6 defines'religious charity' as meaning 'a public charity associated witha Hindu festival or observance of a religious character, whether it beconnected with a math or temple or not'. The definition prescribes twoconditions which go to constitute a religious charity : there must be a publiccharity and that charity must be associated with a Hindu festival or observanceof a religious character. If these be fulfilled, a public charity will be areligious charity, even if it is not connected with a math or temple. TheSubordinate Judge held on the evidence that the 'charity in question is afeeding charity conducted during the ten days of the Rathotsavam in thePrasanna Venkatachallapathiswami temple in Gunaseelam in the month ofPurattasi. Only Brahmins are fed and not other community people. There aresimilar feeding charities for the different communities conducted by therespective community people. The charity in question has no connection with theGunaseelam temple in the sense that the food 'prepared is not offered tothe deity, and feeding is done not in the temple premises but at a separateplace originally in a specially erected pandal and now in Seshagiri Iyer'schoultry (Dharamshalla). The other communities are not fed at this charity. . .The temple authorities have no voice in the conduct of the feeding', andthe High Court agreed with that view. The Subordinate Judge held on thosefindings that the Samardhanai Fund was a public charity within the meaning ofs. 6(13) and with that view also the High Court agreed. The Subordinate Judgealso held that the charity was associated with the Hindu festival ofRathotsavam in Sri Prasanna Venkatachallapathiswami temple in Gunaseelam -Rathotsavam being an observance of a religious character when the deity istaken out in procession in a chariot - and therefore the charity in question wasclearly one associated with a Hindu festival and also with observance of areligious character. In disagreeing with that view, the High Court observedthat the expression 'associated with a Hindu festival or observance of areligious character' imported some unity of purpose or common object orcommon endeavour between the festival and the charity and in the absence ofsuch unity, common object or common endeavour, the charity could not beregarded as a religious charity within the meaning of s. 6(13) of the Act. Inthe view of the High Court that feeding Brahmin pilgrims during the Rathotsavamfestival of Sri Venkatachallapathiswami shrine at Gunaseelam did not constitutean association between the Fund and the Rathotsavam festival itself, for thetrustees of the shrine conducting the festival 'had no manner of check,control or supervision over the feeding charity or Samardhanai Fund', theycould not insist upon the feeding being done during the festival, and'cessation or discontinuance of the feeding by the trustees of the feedingcharity may constitute a breach of trust on their part but cannot in the leastaffect the due performance of the Rathotsavam festival itself'. Theyfurther observed that belief of the founders of the charity that feeding Brahminson the occasion of an important festival was meritorious, will not establish'any link or connection' between the festival and the charity.

5. We are unable to agree with the view so expressed by the High Court. Theexpression 'associated' in s. 6(13) of Act 19 of 1951 is used havingregard to the history of the legislation, the scheme and objects of the Act,and the context in which the expression occurs, as meaning 'beingconnected with' or 'in relation to'. The expression does notimport any control by the authorities who manage or administer the festival. AHindu religious festival or observance may have a local significance, in thatit is celebrated or observed in a particular locality in connection with ashrine, temple or math, or it may be a festival or observance celebratedgenerally without any connection with any temple or math. In the case of suchgeneral festivals or observances there is no one who can be so said to controlthe celebrations, and the definition of 'religious charity' includessuch general festivals and observances. It cannot be assumed that there mustalways be a set of persons who control the celebration of a festival or anobservance. The test suggested by the High Court that in order that thereshould be, between the charity and the festival or observance such a relationthat the administration of the charity must be controlled by those whocelebrate the festival or observance in a temple or math, besides being inaptin the case of general festivals and observances can only be evolved if wordswhich are not found in the definition of 'religious charity' areadded thereto.

6. Mr. Vishwanatha Sastri appearing on behalf of the respondent-trusteescontended that the expression 'associated with a Hindu festival orobservance of a religious character' in the definition of 'religiouscharity' implies that the public charity must be an integral part of theHindu religious festival or observance. But there is nothing in the Act whichindicates any such intention on the part of the Legislature. Mr. Sastri soughtto give diverse illustrations in support of his contention that mere feeding ofBrahmins on the occasion of a Hindu festival or observance will not amount toassociation within the meaning of s. 6(13). It is unnecessary to deal withthese illustrations, for the definition contemplates a public charity whichalone can be a religious charity if the other conditions are fulfilled. Avoluntary celebration of an event of religious significance by feeding Brahminsdoes not make it a public charity. There must be an institution which may inlaw be regarded as a public charity, before it may by its association with areligious festival or observance be regarded as a religious charity. Theassociation undoubtedly must be real and not imaginary, but to constituteassociation it is not predicated that the administration of public charity mustbe controlled by the persons responsible for celebrating the religious festivalin a temple or math or be an integral part of the festival or observance.

7. On the facts found, it is clear that on the occasion of the Rathotsavamfestival of Sri Prasanna Venkatachalapathiswami shrine, pilgrims from manyplaces attend the festival and the object of the charity is to feed Brahminsattending the shrine on the occasion of this festival. It is not disputed thatsetting up a Fund for feeding Brahmins is a public charity. The primary purposeof the charity is to feed Brahmin pilgrims attending the Rathotsavam. Thispublic charity has therefore a real connection with the Rathotsavam which is aHindu festival of a religious character, and therefore it is a religiouscharity within the meaning of s. 6(13) of Madras Act 19 of 1951. Surplus incomeof the Fund is used in Vanabhojanam in the month of Kartigai, and on the dayfollowing the Vaikunta Ekadeshi. It is not suggested that on that account theFund is not a 'religious charity'.

8. We therefore set aside the order passed by the High Court and restore theorder passed by the Trial Court. There will be no order as to costs throughout.

9. Appeal allowed.


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