1. The only question raised in this Second Appeal is whether a female heir is disqualified from succeeding to the office of archaka and receiving the emoluments attached to the office in cases where such office is hereditary in her family. The District Munsif passed a decree in plaintiff's favour, but the Subordinate Judge who agreed with the District Munsif in all his findings of fact dismissed the plaintiff's suit on the ground that the decision in Sundarambal Ammal v. Yogavana Gurukkal I L.R (1915) Mad. 850 was authority for holding that females were disqualified from succeeding to the office.
2. The right of females to succeed to religious offices and perform the duties by proxy where such offices are hereditary has been recognized in numerous cases. As observed by Ayling and Hannay, JJ., in Ramasundaram Pillai v. Savundrathammal (1914) 16 M.L.T. 423 (where all the important cases are collected) the rules enunciated by Sadasiva Ayyar, J., in Sundarambal Ammal v. Yogavana Gurukkal I.L.R. (1915) Mad. 850 run counter to ideas which have been commonly accepted by parties concerned and given effect to by Courts for many years and we think that the present case is one where Courts should apply the doctrine of stare decisis and not declare to be illegal a practice which has been followed for many years with so far as we are aware no serious evil consequences and which has been the foundation of many titles.
3. The hereditary right to succeed to a religious office is itself the creature of custom and the fact that females have been allowed without question to enjoy the emoluments of the office and to get the duties performed by proxy and that Courts have for a series of years given effect to such rights justifies us in holding that female succession is not excluded. The right of females to perform religious duties by proxy is not unknown to Hindu Law and usage, the commonest examples being the performance of sradhas and funeral obsequies by female heirs by proxy and cases where a widow makes-an adoption.
4. In Tangirala Chiranjivi v. Raja Manikya Rao : (1914)27MLJ179 Benson and Sundara Ayyar, JJ., held that there was no basis for the assumption that females are as such disqualified from succeeding to a religious office attached to a temple and that the onus would be on the dharmakartas, to prove any such disqualification as services in temples are often performed by proxies. They were dealing with a case where the service to be performed was the reciting of vedas in a temple and we can see little difference between such a service and the service performed by archakas. The Subordinate Judge was wrong in thinking that any special custom has to be pleaded to enable a female heir to succeed. The onus is on those who deny her right to prove a custom excluding females.
5. In Mahamaya Debi v. Haridas Haldar I.L.R. (1915) Calc. 455 which was a case relating to an office in the Kalighat temple similar to that of archakas in this Presidency, Justice Mookerjee, after an elaborate review of several authorities, was of opinion that the custom whereby females not only succeeded to the office but also alienated the same was not invalid as opposed to public policy, An alienation was also upheld in Kakaramayya v. Padyaya (1906) 8 M.L.T. 325. It is unnecessary for us in the present case to decide how far the right of alienation extends though there is authority for holding that a female heir can alienate the office to one next in succession. So far as the authorities go, we do not think that there is any ground for refusing to recognize the custom of female succession to hereditary religious offices on the ground of such a custom being opposed either to the express text of Hindu law or to public policy.
6. Following Ramasundaram Pillai v. Savundrathammal (1914) 16 M.L.T. 423 and Tangirala Chiranjivi v. Raja Manikya Rao : (1914)27MLJ179 , we are of opinion that a female is not under Hindu law or custom disqualified from succeeding to a hereditary religious office and getting such duties as she may be disqualified by reason of her sex from performing, performed by proxy.
7. We reverse the decision of the Subordinate Judge and remand the case to him for disposal of the second question raised by him. The respondents will pay appellant's costs in this Court and the costs of the Sub-Court will abide and follow the result.