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T. Unikanta Menon and anr. Vs. the Board of Commissioners for the Hindu Religious Endowments - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and societties
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1929Mad85; (1928)55MLJ679
AppellantT. Unikanta Menon and anr.
RespondentThe Board of Commissioners for the Hindu Religious Endowments
Cases ReferredSri Vythilinga Pandora Sannadhi v. Sir T. Sadasiva Aiyar
Excerpt:
.....they are) this is not a case where an injunction should be granted. sadasiva aiyar air1928mad1272 and for the reasons given in dealing with the additional point raised in these two suits, i am of opinion that the plaintiff's suits must..........denied the allegation in the plaint that the temple is a private temple and stated that it is a public temple, it has precluded itself from exercising the functions of a tribunal and deciding the question and therefore an injunction ought to be granted restraining the board from exercising its powers.7. in c.s. no. 229 also the advocate for the plaintiff adopts the same arguments.8. i do not think this contention is sound. these two suits were filed to question the validity of the act under which the board purported to act and also to question the competency of the board to act because the temple is a private temple.9. section 2 of the act applies to all public religious endowments save as expressly provided by the act. the exception with which we are concerned is that the act does.....
Judgment:

Kumaraswami Sastri, J.

1. These are two out of a number of suits filed against the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Board for a declaration that Madras Act I of 1925 (The Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act) was not legally passed by the Legislature and is invalid and inoperative, and that the Board had no authority or power to act under the provisions of that Act and for an injunction restraining the Board from exercising all or any of the powers conferred on it by the Act.

2. After the institution of these suits, Madras Act II of 1927 was passed and by Section 7 the Board constituted by and the acts done by it under the Act of 1925 were validated.

3. In Sri Vythilinga Pandora Sannadhi v. Sir T. Sadasiva Aiyar : AIR1928Mad1272 and the other connected suits I held that Section 7 of Madras Act I of 1925 is valid and within the competence of Legislature and that under Section 84 of the Act in case of dispute as to whether an endowment is public or private it is the Board that should in the first instance give a decision which will be final subject to the right given by the Act itself to the other side to have the order set aside by a competent Court.

4. I have given my reasons in those suits for arriving at that decision.

5. These two suits were not ready when those cases came on and they are posted to-day for settlement of issues.

6. Mr. Govindaraghava Aiyar who appears for the plaintiff in C.S. No. 376 stated that in view of my decision in Sri Vythilinga Pandora Sannadhi v. Sir T. Sadasiva Aiyar : AIR1928Mad1272 he did not without prejudice to his right of appeal propose to argue the questions decided in those suits over again, but that in the present suit there was one additional circumstance, namely, that even assuming that Section 7 is intra vires and under Section 84 it is the Board that has to decide in case of dispute whether a temple is public or private, still in this case as the Board has in its written statement denied the allegation in the plaint that the temple is a private temple and stated that it is a public temple, it has precluded itself from exercising the functions of a tribunal and deciding the question and therefore an injunction ought to be granted restraining the Board from exercising its powers.

7. In C.S. No. 229 also the Advocate for the plaintiff adopts the same arguments.

8. I do not think this contention is sound. These two suits were filed to question the validity of the Act under which the Board purported to act and also to question the competency of the Board to act because the temple is a private temple.

9. Section 2 of the Act applies to all public religious endowments save as expressly provided by the Act. The exception with which we are concerned is that the Act does not apply to private temples.

10. Section 84 states that when any dispute arises as to whether a temple is a public temple or a private temple, the Board shall decide the question, that the person affected by the decision may apply within a year from the date of the Board's order to the Court to set it aside, and that, subject to the result of such publication, the order of the Board shall be final. Section 84 therefore pre-supposes that the Endowments Board on the one side should affirm that the temple is a public temple and the Dharmakartha on the other that it is a private temple. It is only then that a dispute will arise under Section 84 and for some reason or other which the Legislature thought sufficient, it enacted Section 84 which says that the question as to the public or private nature of a temple shall be decided by the Board, and it gives the party affected by the decision to apply to a Civil Court and get the order of the Board set aside. If the Board had before any suit was filed against it said that in its opinion the plaint, temple is a public temple and called on the plaintiff to contribute and the plaintiff denied it, it cannot be disputed that the Board which had asserted that it is a public temple would be the tribunal to decide the question. I think it makes no difference if that statement should be made by the Board in its written statement in a suit filed against it questioning its jurisdiction. The plaintiff in his plaint said that the temple is a private temple. The Board which had certain information before it when it proceeded to call upon the plaintiff to render an account in regard to the temple says in its written statement that it has jurisdiction over the temple and that it is a public temple. I find it difficult to see how it can be said that the Board has made up its mind already and is therefore disqualified from deciding the question under Section 84. The Legislature has given preliminary jurisdiction to the Board which can only be exercised when the Board is of opinion that the temple is a public temple. I am, therefore, unable to see how having regard to the express provisions of the Act (sections 2 and 84) there can be any question as to the Board being incompetent to act because it is of opinion that the temple is a public temple and has called on the plaintiff to act on that footing. As I said before, if before any suit was filed, the Board had made a statement that it is a public temple, Section 84 would apply and it is difficult to see how it would make any difference if in a suit against the Board in order to meet the allegations in the plaint it repeats the same statement.

11. Reference has been made to Frome United Breweries Co. v. Bath Justices (1926) A.C. 586 and Rex v. Essex Justices. Perkins Ex parte (1927) 2 K.B. 475 as authority for holding that where a body having judicial or quasi-judicial powers has decided against a party, that body would not be qualified to act in its judicial or quasi-judicial capacity in deciding any questions affecting the opposite party. That may have been a very good ground for opposing the passing of Section 84 in the Legislative Council. But I do not think in the face of Section 84 I can hold the mere fact that the Board has in the exercise of its preliminary jurisdiction given to it by Section 84 asserted that the temple is a public temple, would take away its right to act under Section 84. Otherwise Section 84 would be a dead letter as in every case the Board has to call on the trustee of the temple to submit to its jurisdiction on the footing that the temple is a public temple and it can be said that it has made up its mind.

12. There is another answer to the plaintiff's contention which is this. The Board consists of five members. Under the notification and rules it is not necessary that all the five members should act in a particular matter. Any two of them could act and come to a decision in any matter which no doubt goes in the name of the Board. It is not suggested in this case that all the five members of the Board met together and decided upon any evidence that the temple is a public temple. As I said, the rule is that only two members act in any particular matter. They constitute as it were a Bench and give their decision. The written statement in the present case is only verified by one of the members of the Board, Mr. Chengayya. In Frome United Breweries Co. v. Bath Justices (1926) A.C. 586 it was held that the fact that one member of a Board acted in a particular matter would not disqualify the other members of the Board who did not take part in the matter from acting in the same matter. I do not think that even if there was an enquiry there is anything in the Act to prevent other members of the Board, who did not take part in the enquiry, from deciding the questions under Section 84.

13. The next question is what power the Original Side of this Court has got to interfere in this matter. No doubt the Board has its office in Madras but the temple is situate in Malabar and the Court which would have any jurisdiction to act under Section 84 would be the District Court of South Malabar. It is admitted that no enquiry has been held under Section 84 and the matter is pending as an injunction was issued against the Board proceeding with the enquiry. If the Board under Section 84 should proceed with the enquiry it is open to the plaintiff to object to all or any particular members of the Board holding the enquiry and if in spite of the objection the Board should decide the question, remedy is given to the plaintiff to appeal to the District Court under Section 84, Clause (2) and it may be a good ground of appeal that the Board is not competent act having made up its mind before. The remedy being open to the plaintiff I do not think the High Court on the Original Side could interfere in the matter and grant an injunction restraining the Board from acting under the powers given by the Act. If the Board is prohibited from holding an enquiry I find it difficult to see who else can be deputed to do it. The High Court cannot transfer the enquiry to anybody else as no other body has jurisdiction under the Act.

14. I am, therefore, of opinion that even if the plaintiff's objections are well founded (which I do not think, they are) this is not a case where an injunction should be granted.

15. There is no other question of fact or law raised before me in these two suits.

16. For the reasons already given by me in Sri Vythilinga Pandora Sannadhi v. Sir T. Sadasiva Aiyar : AIR1928Mad1272 and for the reasons given in dealing with the additional point raised in these two suits, I am of opinion that the plaintiff's suits must fail. I dismiss both the suits with costs.


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