1. The question in this civil miscellaneous appeal is whether a right to celebrate the annual worship of a deity in a temple is a civil right so as to enable a suit to be maintained in a civil Court for an injunction in respect of that right. The plaintiffs, in the suit out of which this appeal arises represent the villagers of Sircar Poravipalayam. They sued, as the plaint prayer shows 'for a permanent injunction restraining the defendants from celebrating the annual worship of Makali Aman of Sircar Poravipalayam during this year or at any future time' and the cause of action for the suit was said to have been that the worship which should have been celebrated either between 15th February and 15th March, i.e., in the Tamil month of Masi, by the plaintiffs or not at all, had been celebrated on 8th or 9th April, by the defendants. The defendants are the zamindar of the adjoining village of Zamin Poravipalayam and a villager of that village. Their case was that it was the zamindar who had the right to perform the ceremonies in the temple and that the plaintiffs had not the right which they claimed. The suit was dismissed by the Principal District Munsif of Coimbatore on the ground that the civil Court had no jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the claim. On appeal by the plaintiffs the Additional District Judge of Coimbatore, holding that the civil Court had jurisdiction, remanded the case to the District Munsif for disposal on merits. Against the order of remand the defendants are now appealing. It is conceded by learned Counsel for the appellant that the dispute is really one concerning the particular month in which the worship of the deity should be celebrated, and that the choice of the month must be regarded as merely a part of the ritual of the worship of the deity with which a civil Court will not interfere. This contention, I think, has no real substance. No doubt it is set out in the plaint that the worship should be conducted only in the month of Masi and that, if it is not for any reason conducted in that month, it should not be conducted at all. These recitals however are only incidental to what is the essence of the plaintiffs' claim, viz., that they and not the defendants have the right to perform the ceremony. The view taken by the District Munsif was that the plaintiffs would only have a right to sue if they were in the position of holders of an office who, by virtue of their office, were under a duty to celebrate the worship of the deity, and in support of this view he cited a number of cases. The argument in support of this appeal has proceeded on the same lines.
2. I have been referred to Thathachariar v. Srinivasaraghava (38) 25 A.I.R. 1938 Mad. 334, Periyanan v. Mahadevan : AIR1935Mad679 , Ramlinga v. Sundara A.I.R. 1929 Mad. 526, Narayana v. Peria Kalathi A.I.R. 1939 Mad. 494, Appadurai v. Annangarachariar A.I.R. 1939 Mad. 102, Subraya Mudaliar v. Vedantachariar (1901) 28 Mad. 23 and Srinivasa Thathachariar v. Srinivasa Ayyangar (1999) 9 M. L. J. 355. The last case, I think, is distinguishable because it really related to the right of members of a certain community to take part in a ceremony which there was no doubt that other persons had a right to conduct Ramlinga v. Sundara A.I.R. 1929 Mad. 526 is also not in point, as it relates to the powers of the Court under a scheme. The other cases have this in common that they relate to the jurisdiction of the civil Court to entertain suits to declare rights to take part in ceremonies, or to take a particular part in a ceremony, or to assume a position of particular performance in a ceremony. It was held in all the cases that unless the right claimed was attached' to an office a suit was not maintainable The basis for the decisions was that a civil Court will not interfere with matters of ritual and that questions which do not relate to a right to worship per se but to the manner in which the worship should be conducted, or the particular part that an individual is entitled to perform in the worship are matters of ritual which give rise to no civil rights that are enforceable in civil Courts. It does not seem to me however that any of these cases was concerned with the question of the right to perform a particular ceremony itself, as apart from the manner in which the ceremony should be performed or the part that an individual may take in the ceremony. This question has been considered in two cases that have been cited by learned Counsel for the respondents. In Kadiryelu v. Nanjundaiyar A.I.R. 1917 Mad. 868 Seshagiri Ayyar J. held that a suit for a declaration of the right of the plaintiffs to perform' the Kalyana utsavam in a certain temple was maintainable; and in Thirumalai Alwar v. Lakshmi Sadagopa A.I.R. 1917 Mad. 903 it was held that a suit for a declaration to perform ' Tirupallandu . mandagapadi ' on the first day of Pagalpathu festival in a certain temple in Alwar Tirunagiri could be maintained. No doubt, it may not always be easy to draw the line between what is merely a part of the ritual of worship and what is a right to conduct the worship itself. But it seems to me that in the present case there is a straight forward claim to have the right to perform the annual worship of the God which is enforceable by a civil suit.
3. In my opinion therefore the decision of the first appellate Court was correct, and the appeal must be dismissed with costs.
4. Leave to appeal is refused.