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Sri Mahant Paramananda Das Goswami Vs. Radhakrishna Das and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai
Decided On
Reported inAIR1926Mad1042; 97Ind.Cas.437; (1926)51MLJ258
AppellantSri Mahant Paramananda Das Goswami
RespondentRadhakrishna Das and ors.
Cases ReferredJagannath Das v. Birbhadra Das I.L.R.
Excerpt:
.....paragraphs where the plaintiff's title to the office is set out and in these he very clearly bases his title upon nomination by the previous mahant. to say that a person who succeeds under a will inherits as heir, is clearly a contradiction in terms. in the course of the judgment the word 'hereditary 'is used in connection alike with the succession of the only chela as well as the chela preferred out of many. (see page 364). the learned vakil relies upon this passage but i do not think that from the casual use of a word like this such a legal inference can be drawn. there is clearly no warrant for this suggestion and indeed any such inference is repelled by the sentence in the same judgment. the plaintiff clearly bases his claim on being the person so nominated and on no other ground......to be the mahant are made to show that his nomination is unexceptionable but no claim to the mahant's office is based on those allegations. the matter is made quite clear by the form in which he got the firse issue framed which runs thus:whether plaintiff was duly nominated as his successor by the late mahant and if so whether plaintiff is therefore entitled to succeed to the office of mahant19. this is the sole issue raised as to plaintiff's title.20. the question that then arises for decision on the plaint allegations is whether the office of the mahant of the suit mutt is a hereditary office within the meaning of article 124 of the limitation act. if that article does not apply the only article that can be applied for the recovery of that office is article 120. [see kidambi.....
Judgment:

Venkatasubba Rao, J.

1. The plaintiff filed the suit which gives rise to this appeal, for a declaration that he was the lawful Mahant of the Ganga Mata Mutt and for recovery of properties belonging to it. The Mutt is situated at Puri but it owns properties of considerable value in the District of Ganjam. The District Judge who tried the suit dismissed it on the ground that the plaintiff's suit was barred by limitation. No question of fact was tried in the case and the learned Judge held that on the allegations in the plaint the claim was barred. We are not therefore concerned with the truth or falsity of the statements in the plaint but the only question is whether on these averments made in it the suit is in time or is barred. If the plaint can be construed as one for possession of a hereditary office the article applicable is Article 124 of the Limitation Act, which prescribes a period of 12 years and the suit would not be barred. If, on the other hand, the claim cannot be regarded as one to a hereditary office, Article 120 which prescribes a period of six years applies and the suit would then be barred. The point to be decided is, on the allegations in the plaint, is this a suit for possession of a hereditary office.

2. In paragraph 6 of the plaint the plaintiff refers to the fact that the late Mahant Sri Madhava Das nominated him as his successor and wrote in his own hand the Guru Pranali and the Sidha Pranali containing the plaintiff's name and handed the Pranalis to the plaintiff in token of his appointment as his successor. He further says that the appointment is irrevocable and was not revoked by the late Mahant.

3. In paragraphs 8 and 9, the plaintiff alleges that the 1st defendant puts himself forward as the successor to the late Mahant on the strength of a will executed by the latter, the genuineness of which the plaintiff does not admit. He adds that he denies that the 1st defendant was nominated by the previous Mahant as his successor.

4. In para 13 he says that the 1st defendant's nomination, even if true, is invalid by reason of his own previous nomination.

5. These are the principal paragraphs where the plaintiff's title to the office is set out and in these he very clearly bases his title upon nomination by the previous Mahant.

6. In paragraph 5 he says thus:

The petitioner (plaintiff) is the patta Chela which means the principal Chela and also a Chela chosen to succeed to the Mutt after the Mahant.

7. And again in paragraph 7 he says:

Moreover the petitioner (plaintiff) is the only Chela fit to become the successor left behind the late Mahant.

8. I do not think that the plaintiff puts forward in either of these two paragraphs any claim to a hereditary office. The statement that he is the principal Chela implies that there are other Chelas. Why he describes himself as 'principal Chela' he does not explain. I do not think it can be said that the allegation means that he occupies a particular character, which, apart from and independent of nomination, clothes him with the right to succeed. It is not as if he has made an illegation that he is the seniormost Chela and as such entitled to succeed without the intervention of the previous Mahant. The reference in paragraph 7 to his being 'the only Chela fit' again shows that he is not relying upon his filling any definite legal character which entitles him to succeed. The word 'fit' connotes that he is personally qualified from moral and such other standpoints of view.

9. Paragraph 15 of the plaint asks for the removal of the defendant and appointment of a suitable Mahant, which means of course not necessarily the plaintiff. In paragraph 16 he reiterates his claim that he is the only person entitled according to law and custom of the Mutt.

10. On a careful reading of the plaint, I find that the claim is put forward only on the ground of nomination or appointment by the previous Mahant. The appellant's learned vakil's contention is, that the plaint must be so construed as if there is an allegation that the plaintiff, by reason of a certain legal character that he possesses, is entitled to the succession of the Mutt. This contention seems to be unfounded and must be overruled. This is, however, a minor contention and I shall now proceed to deal with the principal argument advanced by him.

11. Mr. A.V. Viswanatha Sastri, the appellant's learned vakil, puts his case thus:

In the case of a Mutt, he contends, if the incumbent nominates and duly instals his successor the latter succeeds not by force of the nomination but by reason of the fact that the heir has been irrevocably fixed who succeeds under the law of inheritance.

12. There is a fallacy underlying this argument. The learned vakil relies upon the text of the Hindu Law which says:

As regards the property of a hermit or an ascetic the heirs are in their order the proprietor, the virtuous pupil and the spiritual brother and associate in holiness.' (Yajnavalkya, II. 138.)

13. In the case of a Chela or pupil succeeding to his Master there can be no difficulty as he is under the Hindu Law of inheritance the heir entitled to succeed. As the son is the heir of his father, so is the disciple the heir of his spiritual teacher. If, therefore, the matter stops there and the Chela succeeds by the mere reason of his being Chela, there can be no question that the succession is hereditary. Similarly if there are several Chelas and, by the usage of the Mutt, the office is transmitted according to certain definite rules of descent, say to the seniormost Chela, even then the office can rightly be said to be hereditary, for it vests on the death of the holder, in the person designated by law or usage as his heir. If, however, a particular Chela's title to succeed depends on his being preferred to the rest and nominated, by a voluntary act of the incumbent, it seems to me that such a claim cannot be described as a claim to a hereditary office. Such a nomination, it has been urged, is analogous to adoption; but this position seems to be unsound, as, though by some stretch of language the affiliation of a Chela may be said to amount to an adoption, it seems difficult to hold that nomination of one out of several Chelas stands on a similar legal footing. If there is a single Chela he succeeds by virtue of his being the heir. When there are several Chelas the position is that each of them having been affiliated has on this theory been adopted. Ex hypothesi the particular Chela nominated is one of those that had been adopted. And is it suggested that nomination is equivalent to a second adoption? This argument shows the danger of extending the fiction of adoption and I am not prepared to hold that when one out of several Chelas is nominated to the office, his position is that of a heir who succeeds under the Law of Inheritance. The observations in Achyutnanda Das v. Jagannath Das (1914) 20 C W N 122 were made with reference to the affiliation or adoption of a Chela, who, under the law, is entitled to inherit to the Guru and cannot have any bearing on the question at issue.

14. The appellant's learned vakil to be logical had to contend that although the nomination may be under a will of the late incumbent, the transmission must be deemed to be in the nature of a hereditary succession. This shows the fundamental un-soundness of the argument. Intestate succession and succession under a will are two distinct and entirely different conceptions known to law. To say that a person who succeeds under a will inherits as heir, is clearly a contradiction in terms. If the successor owes his title to nomination or appointment, ?that is, his succession depends upon the volition of the last incumbent and does not rest upon independent title, I am inclined to the view that the office cannot be said to be hereditary. In this case the appellant does not rest his title on his filling a particular legal character, say, that of a senior Chela who succeeds to the office whether he is nominated or not nominated; and his claim therefore is not, in my opinion, one under Article 124, for possession of a hereditary office. This is the view I am disposed to take on principle and on the reason of the thing and no case that has been cited at the bar compels me to take a different view.

15. In Satyadeo Dass v. Santoke Dass (1907) 5 C L J 360 it was found that the plaintiff was the late Mahant's only Chela and that in the mutt in question a Chela succeeds if there be one and if there be more than one a successor is appointed by the Mahant from amongst the Chelas. When it was found that the plaintiff was the only Chela, it was unnecessary to discuss the further question whether he was duly installed and nominated, but the Court for some reason discussed the evidence bearing on that point and found that the plaintiff Was duly appointed. In the course of the judgment the word ' hereditary ' is used in connection alike with the succession of the only Chela as well as the Chela preferred out of many. (See page 364). The learned vakil relies upon this passage but I do not think that from the casual use of a word like this such a legal inference can be drawn. The appellant next relies upon what may be said to be implied in a dictum in Sita Pershad v. Thakur Das (1879) 5 C L R 73. Here again there is neither a direct nor an indirect statement bearing on the question but from the use of the word ' hereditary ' in connection with succession resting upon appointment it is urged that the passage may be treated as an authority in favour of the appellant. 1 cannot agree to this. In Raghubhushana v. Vidyavaridhi (1916) 34 I C 875 there is an observation to the effect that spiritual affiliation is analogous to adoption, but as I have already shown, this is beside the point. In Achyutananda Das v. Jagannath Das (1914) 20 C W N 122 there is a passage where it is said that the office of the Chief Mahant is hereditary and devolves upon the chief disciple of the Mahant 'who moreover usually nominates him as his successor. ' It was not intended to state the law in this passage and this cannot be availed of by the appellant. I have already referred to this case on another point. In Sammantha, Pandara v. Sellappa Chetti (1879) I I. R 2 M 175 the word ' inheritance ' occurs in respect of a disciple chosen who succeeds to the property. This cannot warrant the inference that the learned Judges intended to lay down that the office is hereditary. I do not think it worth while to discuss in detail Rangachariar v. Yegna Dikshtar I.L.R. (1890) M 524, Tiruvambala Desikar v. Manikkavachaka Desikar 30 M L J 274 and Kailasam Pillai v. Nataraja Thambiran (1916) 32 M L J 271 as the dicta in each of the cases afford very little basis for the contention put forward. Rajah of Palghat v. Raman Unni 33 M L J 26 has also been relied on by the appellant. It was held there that adverse possession for over the statutory period of the office of trustee against a prior stanee is a bar to a suit by his successor. Dealing with the position of a stanam-holder under the law of Malabar, the learned Judges said that a stanam is descendable in a peculiar line of succession and that each successive holder is in the same position as an ordinary heir succeeding on intestacy. There is a statement in the judgment that the succession to mutts and stanam stands on the same footing. On the strength of this, it is contended that when a person succeeds to the office of the head of the Mutt by nomination he must be deemed to succeed as if on intestacy. There is clearly no warrant for this suggestion and indeed any such inference is repelled by the sentence in the same judgment. 'In either case (in the case of an ordinary heir or that of a stanee) it is the law of the land and not any act of the previous holder or owner that confers title on the successor.' None of the cases that have been cited to us has any direct bearing on the question. But the learned vakil for the appellant has beenable to place before us these various dicta which according to him implies that his position is correct. I am not prepared to take this view.

16. In the result I hold that on the allegations in the plaint the suit is governed by Article 120 of the Limitation Act and that it is barred by limitation. The appeal fails and is dismissed with costs as stated by my learned brother.

Krishnan, J.

17. I agree with my learned brother that this appeal fails.

18. There can be no doubt that the rule of succession to the deceased Mahant as stated in the plaint in this Mutt is one by nomination by him of his successor from among his Chelas. The plaintiff clearly bases his claim on being the person so nominated and on no other ground. The allegation that he is the patta Chela or principal Chela and that he is a fit person to be the Mahant are made to show that his nomination is unexceptionable but no claim to the Mahant's office is based on those allegations. The matter is made quite clear by the form in which he got the firse issue framed which runs thus:

Whether plaintiff was duly nominated as his successor by the late Mahant and if so whether plaintiff is therefore entitled to succeed to the office of Mahant

19. This is the sole issue raised as to plaintiff's title.

20. The question that then arises for decision on the plaint allegations is whether the office of the Mahant of the suit Mutt is a hereditary office within the meaning of Article 124 of the Limitation Act. If that article does not apply the only article that can be applied for the recovery of that office is Article 120. [See Kidambi Raghavachariar and Ors. v. Tirumalai Asari Nallur Raghavachariar I.L.R. (1902) M 113 and Jagan-nath Das v. Birbhadra Das I.L.R. (1892) C 776 . Article 144 was sought to be relied on so far as the suit seeks recovery of possession of the immoveable properties of the Mutt but as they go with the Mahantship, if plaintiff is barred from claiming the office, he cannot get the properties.

21. Where succession is by nomination by the holder in office of his successor it seems to me impossible to contend that it is a hereditary succession. Hereditary succession is succession by the heir to the deceased under the law, the office must be transmitted to the successor according to some definite rules of descent which by their own force designate the person to succeed. There need be no blood relationship between the deceased and his successor but the right of the latter should not depend upon the choice of any individual. If the rule were that the senior living Chela of the Guru succeeds to his office on his death that might be a case of hereditary succession, even if the Guru nominated him as his successor, when no rights flowed from such nomination. But where the right to succession is based solely on nomination, i agree with my learned brother that the succession cannot be treated as hereditary. Stray sentences quoted by the appellant s vakil in the cases which he cited and which have been referred to by my learned brother cannot be treated as any authority on the point before us. On the other hand, the case in Jagannath Das v. Birbhadra Das I.L.R. (1892) C 776 referred to above is in point and against him. It is true that it was a case of election but the learned Judge treated the cases of election and nomination as standing on the same footing. Article 1.24 cannot therefore apply to the present case and the suit was rightly dismissed as barred by limitation. I agree that the appeal should be dismissed with costs. The appellant will pay the Court-fees to the Government.


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