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Ponnuman Dikshitar and anr. Vs. the Board of Commissioners for the Hindu Religious Endowments and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1939Mad682; (1939)2MLJ11
AppellantPonnuman Dikshitar and anr.
RespondentThe Board of Commissioners for the Hindu Religious Endowments and ors.
Excerpt:
- - 2. now coming to the actual scheme, so far as we can see it is a perfectly innocuous scheme and the board has interfered as little as possible with the internal administration of the trustees. rajah aiyar objects to is the word 'control' which may connote that a servant like the manager can control the trustees some of whom happen to be archakas and paricharakas. we modify paragraph 8(f) by deleting the words 'immediate control' and by saying do see to the proper performance of their duties by archakas, paricharakas and have immediate control over the internal servants of the devasthanam as well as over the office establishment in accordance with the usage......of the hindu religious endowments act and the consequent want of jurisdiction in the board to frame a scheme. the contention of the dikshitars is that the suit temple is only a private temple and not a public religious institution within the meaning of the act and therefore the board had no jurisdiction to frame a scheme. another contention in regard to jurisdiction was that even assuming that the board had jurisdiction, the provisions of sections 62 and 63 of the act were not complied with, in that the board could frame a scheme on its own initiative only if there was mismanagement and not merely because it would be proper to frame a scheme in the interests of efficient administration of the temple. the learned district judge disallowed all the contentions on behalf of the.....
Judgment:

Venkataramana Rao, J.

1. Appeal No. 306 of 1936.- This is an appeal from the judgment of the learned District Judge of South Arcot modifying a scheme framed by the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Board in regard to the temple of Sri Sabanayakar alias Nataraja of Chidambaram. This action was filed as a representative suit on behalf of the Dikshitars (who are said to be over 200 in number) who claim to be trustees - archakas and poojaris of the said temple. Before the learned District Judge various questions as to jurisdiction were raised. It is unnecessary for us to mention all of them. It is sufficient for us to say that one of the main questions raised in this behalf was in regard to the non-applicability of the Hindu Religious Endowments Act and the consequent want of jurisdiction in the Board to frame a scheme. The contention of the Dikshitars is that the suit temple is only a private temple and not a public religious institution within the meaning of the Act and therefore the Board had no jurisdiction to frame a scheme. Another contention in regard to jurisdiction was that even assuming that the Board had jurisdiction, the provisions of Sections 62 and 63 of the Act were not complied with, in that the Board could frame a scheme on its own initiative only if there was mismanagement and not merely because it would be proper to frame a scheme in the interests of efficient administration of the temple. The learned District Judge disallowed all the contentions on behalf of the plaintiffs and upheld the scheme of the Board but only modifying it in some particulars with a view to satisfy some of the objections raised on behalf of the plaintiffs. Mr. Rajah Aiyar on behalf of the plaintiffs-appellants confined his objections mainly to the scheme, though incidentally he made mention of the two main objections which we have outlined in regard to the jurisdiction of the Board to frame the scheme. So far as the question of jurisdiction based on the non-applicability of the Act is concerned, the learned Counsel, we think, wisely refrained from pressing it because it cannot be seriously doubted that the suit temple is a public institution within the meaning of the Act and not a private temple as contended for. We agree that some of the grounds on which the learned District Judge purported to hold against the plaintiffs may not be valid, but having regard to the character of the temple it seems to us that it would be too much to contend that this is a private temple. So early as 1885 when the question was raised in a suit by the Dikshitars, Muthuswami Aiyar and Shephard, JJ., in their judgment dated 17th March, 1890, in A.S. Nos. 108 and 1 59 of 1888 observed that it was not denied that the institution was being used as a place of public worship from time immemorial and that there was no particle of evidence in support of the assertion that this ancient temple of Sri Nataraja was the private property of the Dikshitars. Even now it is not denied that this temple is held to be very sacred by all the Saivites in this Presidency and is resorted to as a place of public worship. The other contention of Mr. Rajah Aiyar with reference to the Board's jurisdiction to frame a scheme under Section 63 is that the Board could frame a scheme when it takes action suo motu only if it finds mismanagement. There is a finding in this case that there was mismanagement, but it seems to us that the Board can always take action if it has reason to believe that a temple is being mismanaged. In this case there was ample material on which it could take action on its own initiative. It accordingly instituted an enquiry and then proceeded to frame a scheme. Once the Board takes action suo motu, we think even though it may ultimately find that there was no mismanagement, nevertheless it can frame a scheme if it is necessary for the proper administration of the temple that a scheme should be framed. Section 62 imposes a restriction to taking action suo motu by confining it to a case where the Board has reason to believe there is mismanagement but once it initiates an enquiry, the power to frame a scheme is not restricted to a case of mismanagement. Under Section 63 it can frame a scheme on any one of the grounds mentioned therein, namely, mismanagement or improper alienation of endowed property or in the interests of proper administration of the endowment. When we put this aspect of the matter to Mr. K. Rajah Aiyar, he very properly refrained from pressing this contention. His main complaint was that while the scheme was sub judice and while the question of jurisdiction was being agitated by the plaintiffs and while the Board's proceedings in regard to the scheme were stayed, the Board took action under Section 65-A for the purpose of notifying the temple. It seems to us very undesirable that the Board should have taken any steps in regard to the notification of this temple. The procedure in regard to notification ought not to be lightly resorted to, unless and until there is such serious mismanagement of a temple as would justify an ouster of the trustees in charge of a temple from their office. The scheme was framed in 1933 and proceedings relating to its modification were pending in the District Court and the scheme had not been given any fair trial. It could not possibly be said that the scheme was not worked satisfactorily by the trustees and that therefore in the interests of proper administration of the temple it was necessary for the Board to take the drastic step of having the temple notified. We trust and hope that the Board would drop all proceedings in the matter and allow the scheme as modified by the District Court and as modified by us to be given a fair trial and would give the trustees a fair opportunity to carry on the administration in accordance with the scheme.

2. Now coming to the actual scheme, so far as we can see it is a perfectly innocuous scheme and the Board has interfered as little as possible with the internal administration of the trustees. But the learned District Judge has out of regard for the sentiment of the trustees modified the scheme in certain particulars which we believe ought to satisfy a most scrupulous trustee. Even this however does not seem to satisfy the plaintiffs because for ages they have been going on with their traditional methods of administration and any slight variance naturally evokes some sort of hostility. We think that in the proper administration of the temple a scheme such as the one in question is absolutely necessary because the trustees are more than 200 in number and it would be impossible in the very nature of things to expect proper administration by such an unwieldy body. The main objections of Mr. Rajah Aiyar to the scheme as modified by the District Court relate to paragraph 4, paragraph 8(f) and paragraph 10 of the scheme. Paragraph 4 relates to the appointment of nine trustees annually, six by election and three by nomination. This is objected to by Mr. Rajah Aiyar on the ground that the principle of election would introduce a factious spirit and that when there are nearly 230 trustees every one of them would not according to the principle proposed have the chance of participating in the management of the affairs of the temple in accordance with the time-honoured custom which prevailed among them. It was to satisfy this sentiment that the learned District Judge modified the clause by introducing the principle of nomination in regard to three of the trustees, leaving six to be elected by the Dikshitars among themselves. Even this would not satisfy the Dikshitars because every one of the trustees may not have a chance of participating in the management and therefore some method must be devised by which their wishes should be respected in regard thereto. We think that a provision by which all persons who have been appointed by election should be declared ineligible for office for a period of five years from the termination of their office would meet the justice of the case. We accordingly modify paragraph 4 of the scheme by adding that six trustees who will be appointed by election should not stand for re-election for a period of five years from the termination of their office. Paragraph 8(f) relates to the duties of the manager in regard to the proper performance by the archakas, paricharakas and other internal servants of the devasthanam and the office establishment, of their work. What Mr. Rajah Aiyar objects to is the word 'control' which may connote that a servant like the manager can control the trustees some of whom happen to be archakas and paricharakas. We modify paragraph 8(f) by deleting the words 'immediate control' and by saying

Do see to the proper performance of their duties by archakas, paricharakas and have immediate control over the internal servants of the devasthanam as well as over the office establishment in accordance with the usage.

3. In paragraph 10 the following sentence will be added:

In regard to the putting up of sheds, the Managing Committee of Trustees may in their discretion select such sites as would be proper places for putting up temporary sheds for opening stalls during festival occasions.

4. The scheme shall come into operation from the 1st June, 1939.

5. The appeal is dismissed with costs of the first respondent (to come out of the temple funds) which we fix at Rs. 250.

6. The Letters Patent Appeals are not pressed. Dismissed. No costs.


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