1. This petition arises out of an application under Section 84 of the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Act. The Board had held the temple in question to be a ' temple ' within the meaning of the Act; the petitioners contended before the lower Court and contended before me that the requisites of the definition of a 'temple' as given in Section 9(2) of the Act are not satisfied in the present case.
2. I cannot ignore the fact that this Court can deal with the matter only subject to the limitations laid down in Section 115, Civil Procedure Code. The learned District Judge cannot be said to have ignored the terms of the definition in the Act, because his order winds up with the very terms employed in that definition. If I were satisfied that on any of the considerations on which his judgment is based he had fallen into such a serious error that it could be said to have fundamentally misled him in dealing with the question, I might perhaps have been disposed to interfere even under Section 115. But far from being so satisfied, I think that there are one or two considerations not adverted to by him which rather go to support his conclusion. For instance, the trust deed Ex. A clearly contemplates kainkaryams in the temple in question being undertaken by outsiders. It is difficult to reconcile this with the idea that the founders did not contemplate worship in the temple by persons unconnected with their family. I am not able to agree with the petitioners' learned Counsel that the clause referring to kainkaryams leaves it to the discretion of the trustees to permit the kainkaryams to be done or not. What is left to their discretion by that clause is merely the nature and extent of the honours to be shown to the persons who perform such kainkaryams. I cannot also help thinking that the provision in the document for the performance of what is familiarly known as Paksha Utsavam, Masa Utsavam, etc., is much more consistent with the institution being intended to be a public one than with its being a private institution. The admitted fact that the Utsava deity is taken in public procession at least once a year is confirmatory of the idea that the founders were anxious to give all facilities to the public to worship the deity. It is true that there is not any positive evidence as to many outsiders coming and worshipping at this temple. That is partly explained by the fact that most of the residents in the village are Christians and the Hindu inhabitants are very few. But in a matter of this sort the reference to the public can only signify such public as is available in the locality.
3. Mr. Rangachari took objection to the learned Judge having acted on the affidavits filed during the proceedings before the Board in proof of the practice of outsiders to come and worship at this temple. He contended that as no evidence on that point had been led by the Board in the course of the trial before the Judge, the Court ought not to have acted upon the affidavits. I cannot agree that that is the proper interpretation of Section 84. It is true that the proceedings before the District Court under Section 84 have been held not to be merely in the nature of an appeal so as to preclude the parties from leading fresh evidence before the Court; but that is very different from saying that the proceedings before the Court are so wholly de novo that the materials placed before the Board should not be regarded as part of the record of the enquiry. The fact that the evidence before the Board consisted only of affidavits of persons whom the Board did not choose to examine before the Court may be a very important circumstance to be borne in mind by the lower Court in appraising the value of such evidence; but it is too much to say that the materials that were before the Board should be treated as not forming part of the record of the enquiry before the Court.
4. Reliance was also placed by the petitioner's learned Counsel on a clause in the trust deed prohibiting interference by anybody with the management by the founders. The learned Counsel for the Board asked me to read this prohibition in the light of the context as limited only to interference by the members of the particular family referred to in other portions of the document, namely, Yangalareddi Busi Reddi and he suggested that the expression 'none else' had been used there merely to emphasise the anxiety of the founders to exclude any member or descendant of that branch. This may be a possible reading; but even taking it that the prohibition was intended to be wider, I do not think that the exclusion of other members from interference with the management will take away the institution from the definition of 'temple' in the Act. The power of interference by the Court or by the legislature rests not upon the wishes of the founder but upon principles and provisions of the law. So long as there was no intention to exclude the right of worship--on the other hand, as I have endeavoured to show, it was expected that outsiders may worship in the temple and even perform kainkaryams--the restriction of the right of outsiders to interfere in the management of the temple is not a determining fact for the present purpose.
5. I quite sympathise with the apprehensions of the petitioners, who have undoubtedly spent their property in founding this institution and interested themselves in its maintenance,, that the declaration made by the Board under Section 84 may at some time prejudice their rights in the institution. I can only express the hope that the Board will respect their sentiments and may not find any necessity or occasion to interfere with their customary rights or rights of management; but such considerations will not justify my holding that the order of the Board or the order of the Court below is not warranted by law. The Revision Petition is accordingly dismissed with costs.
6. In the view I have expressed above, it is not necessary to pass an affirmative order on CM.P. No. 3098 of 1936. The document sought to be adduced in evidence through that petition only serves to explain how a particular item of property mentioned in the trust deed came to stand in the name of one Bapiah. That circumstance does not seem to me of much importance. I accordingly dismiss the petition.