1. This is an appeal from a decision of the Acting District Judge, South Arcot by certain persons entitled in reversion to the property of the husband of one Tailammal. That lady left some property to a religious charity. It has been found as a fact and is not now disputed that this lady owned that property herself and was entitled to leave it by will. The defendants therefore admittedly have no right to the possession of the property at all. They are sued by the plaintiffs in alternative capacities, either on behalf of themselves and all other worshippers or frequenters of the charitable institution in question or as managers of the charity. The learned District Judge has found as a fact that they are managers of the charity. There was ample evidence which entitled him to come to that conclusion as they had in fact been acting since the death of the brother of one and father of the other plaintiff, who admittedly was a properly constituted trustee or manager of this property and the learned Judge was quite entitled to infer from the fact of their having acted undisputedly for some years that they had been properly appointed or that their self-appointment as managers or trustees had been ratified and adopted by those persons, namely, the frequenters of the charity.
2. This being a question of fact, it is not open for this Court on Second Appeal to interfere with the finding even if it does not, as we do in this case, agree with that finding. That is sufficient to dispose of this case, because it is not disputed that managers of a charity are the persons who are entitled to sue for possession of the charity properties from anybody in possession. But, as the point has been argued, it is perhaps desirable to say something about the plaintiffs in the other capacity, namely, that as representing themselves and all other worshippers.
3. As I understand the law, property bequeathed to idols or temples, although notionally held by the deity and although it has been said that the deity represented by the idol can own the property, in fact the right to possess the property must be in some human being or beings. If there is a trustee or a manager, that trustee or manager is the human being who can sue for possession. But if there is none then the question is, in whom the right is vested? I think the answer must depend on the circumstances of each bequest or trust. In this one I should say it was vested in the worshippers, meaning thereby not casual worshippers but the regular worshippers at this particular shrine; and so it was held in Venkata Subban Patter v. Ayyathurai : (1919)37MLJ554 , that in the case of a village temple owned in common by the villagers the right of management of the temple and its properties vests in the inhabitants of the village as a corporation. Now, such a body as inhabitants of a village or worshippers at a particular shrine is ordinarily represented by a manager, or a trustee or a committee or some elected or nominated representative of that kind. But, if no such representative has been nominated, the right of possession would, in my judgment, vest in the general body, and the general body can sue; but as a matter of convenience, rules have been provided that general bodies can be represented in Court, for, without such rules, the number of plaintiffs or defendants would make the suit impossible to handle. So one finds in Order 1, Rule 8, a provision that, with the permission of the Court, when there are numerous persons having the same interest in one suit, one or more of such persons may sue on behalf of or for the benefit of all persons so interested. Ordinarily the application for such permission would be made at an earlier stage of the suit, but in this case, the plaintiffs without objection received from the Court at the hearing its Section to represent the numerous persons, namely, the general body of worshippers. In my judgment that is in order and, if the general body are entitled to possession, these are proper representatives admitted by the Court under Order 1, Rule 8 and are entitled to an order of possession.
4. A case was quoted as being to the contrary. In Noor Muhammad Sahib v. Karim Bibi Ammal I.L.R.(1884) Mad. 454 the head-note was to the effect that the worshippers of a mosque cannot, whether in their individual or collective capacity, maintain a suit for the possession of the properties belonging to the mosque. The headnote is, in my judgment, much too wide. If the case means that where there is a representative such as a trustee, then individual members of the mosque or the charity cannot sue, I agree with it; but, if it means that persons in representative capacity cannot get an order of possession when the persons they represent are entitled to possession, I do not agree with it. The authorities quoted in the judgment in that case are not authorities in support of any such proposition, but they are authorities for the proposition that if there is a trustee or other properly constituted representative, then individual worshippers cannot sue for possession.
5. The Appeal fails and must be dismissed with costs.
6. I agree and have nothing to add.