1. The plaintiff is the widow of a divided brother of defendant 1. The plaintiff's deceased husband and defendant 1 were gurus who offered spiritual advice and ministrations to a large number of persons. Though divided the plaintiff's late husband and defendant 1 had joint disciples. The plaintiff alleged a family custom that if one guru dies his widow should continue to enjoy a half-share of the offerings (technically called sishyadayam) made by joint disciples and collected by the other guru. The suit out of which this second appeal arises was instituted by the plaintiff to recover her portion of the offerings said to have been collected by defendant 1 basing her right on the alleged family custom. Defendant 1 contended that the offerings made by the sishyas do not form heritable property and that he had not made any collections. The District Munsif held that the alleged customs were proved, but was of opinion that the offerings were not heritable property, that they were not made to defendant 1 for the plaintiff also, and that there was no evidence for ,the plaintiff regarding the amount collected by defendant '1. He, therefore, dismissed the plaintiff's claim for the sishyadayam said to have been collected by defendant 1. On appeal the learned District Judge, without giving a definite finding on the question of custom affirmed the judgment of the District Munsif stating that the plaintiff.
cannot succeed in enforcing her right in a, Court of law against defendant 1 for her share in the family offering.
2. Before finally disposing of the case we called for a finding from the lower Court as regards the existence of the alleged custom. The learned District Judge has now found that the custom has not been proved. He has also found that the offerings received by defendant 1 each year amount to Rs. 70. On these findings two questions have been argued before us:
(1) That there is ample evidence to prove the existence of the alleged family custom; and
(2) that even if the custom is proved a suit to recover a share of the offerings is not maintainable in a Court of law.
3. As regards the existence of the custom alleged, we think the finding of the learned District Judge cannot be supported. The plaintiff has given documentary as well as oral evidence in support of the custom. Ex. B dated 29th July 1876 has not been correctly understood by the learned District Judge. That document evidences a transfer by a widow called Lakshminarasamma Ammavaru of her right to receive sishyadayam. The transferee under Ex. B in his turn transfers under Ex. C his share of the income derived under Ex. B. P.W. 2 says that it is the custom of the widow to get the husband's right of collecting offering from sishyas. It is important to notice that defendant 1 has not anywhere definitely denied the existence of the custom. It is also admitted that the plaintiff may, if she chooses to do so, herself collect the offerings from her disciples. We agree with the Munsif's view that the evidence proves the existence of the alleged custom.
4. The next question for consideration is whether a suit of this nature can be maintained. On this point, various decisions have been brought to our notice. Generally stated, in all these cases, a distinction is drawn between suits for the recovery of emoluments attached to a religious office and those brought for the recovery of purely voluntary offerings not so attached to a temple, mosque or any such institution. In Tholappala Gharlu v. Venkatacharlu  19 Mad. 62 the plaintiff Annangundi Raja Guru claimed to be entitled, and sued for a declaration of his title to the hereditary office of priest of Samayacharam. The defendants claimed the office and had collected voluntary contributions in the character of the holders of such office. In holding that the suit will not lie the learned Judges pointed out that the office was not connected with any particular temple and that no pecuniary benefit is attached to the office, the only emoluments being voluntary contributions, while the duties of the office are to exercise spiritual and moral supervision over people who wore a certain caste-mark in a certain tract of country. Following this decision, it was hold in Chunnu Datt Vyas v. Babu Nandan  32 All. 527, that a suit by a plaintiff will not lie for a declaration that he had the right to perform certain religious pageants and to receive subscriptions in connexion therewith claiming to restrain the defendants from interfering with that right on the ground that the pageants were not connected with any particular temple, shrine or sacred spot and that the plaintiff and his ancestors did not hold any office by virtue of which they were under any obligation to perform such pageants. Chinna Mahadeva v. Suryaprakasem  1 M.L.W. 389 also recognized the distinction which we have pointed out.
5. The suits for a share of the offerings held maintainable in Bheemacharyula v. Ramanujacharyulu  17 M.L.J. 493 and Dino Nath. Chukerbutty v. Pratap Chandra Co-swami  27 Cal 30 were suits by persons entitled to an office, the emoluments of which were the voluntary offerings offered to the deity. The distinction that we have pointed out is referred to in Dino Nath Chukerbutty v. Partap Chandra Co-swami  27 Cal 30 where their Lordships refer to the nature of the plaintiff's claim in the case before them thus:
What is claimed in the present suit is a right to officiate as shebait or priest, at the worship performed by votaries at the foot of a certain tree, and to share the offerings made at such worship, the right to officiate as such shebait being claimed by the plaintiff as an hereditary right belonging to the members of a certain family of which he himself is a member.
6. It is unnecessary to refer in detail to the other cases cited before us. We may point out that the decision in Hira Panday v. Bachu Panday  1 Pat L.J. 381 and Dwarka Misser v. Ram Pratap Misser  16 C.W.N. 347 also amply support the respondents' position. The difficulty in the way of the plaintiff is that she has not been able to establish the existence of any office in connexion with which the voluntary offerings are made by the disciples. It is conceded that she cannot institute any suit against the disciples themselves for enforcing the payment of their offerings. In view of the decision of this Court, we are satisfied that a suit of the nature brought by the plaintiff will not lie in a civil Court. We must, therefore, dismiss this second appeal with costs.