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Kidangazhi Manakkal Narayanan Nambudiripad and ors. Vs. State of Madras, Represented by the Secretary, Firka Development and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies;Constitution
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. Nos. 71, 84, 209, 676, 719 and 873 of 1953, O.S.A. No. 60 of 1952 and Case Refd. Nos. 13,
Judge
Reported inAIR1954Mad385; (1953)IIMLJ699
ActsConstitution of India - Articles 25, 26, 27, 28 and 282; Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951 - Sections 76, 76(4) and 103; Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Act, 1927
AppellantKidangazhi Manakkal Narayanan Nambudiripad and ors.
RespondentState of Madras, Represented by the Secretary, Firka Development and anr.
Appellant AdvocateK.V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar, ;N. Sundara Aiyar, ;D.H. Nambudiripad, ;D.A. Krishna Variar, ;P.V. Rama Variar, ;V.S. Rangachari, ;Sivaswami and ;K. Hariharan, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateK. Kuttikrishna Menon, ;V. Balakrishna Eradi, ;P. Bhaskara Menon, ;A. Achuthan Nambiar, ;T.K. Raman Nambissan, ;M. Seshachalapati and ;K.V. Srinivasa Aiyar, Advs.
Cases ReferredVidyavaruthi v. Baluswami
Excerpt:
constitution - validity of act - sections 76, 76 (4) and 104 of madras hindu religious and charitable endowments act, 1951 and articles 19 (1) (f), 25, 26, 27 and 282 of constitution of india - hereditary trustees of temple challenged validity of act providing for framing of schemes for administration of temple - also challenged provision to make payment for expenses of administration of board constituted under act - management of temple comes within proprietary right - state not competent to take away such right - mere fact that trustees not entitled to participate in income from endowment of its emoluments does not alter their proprietary nature of hereditary trust - act does not violate right to religion of hereditary trustees - provision for making contribution to expenses of.....venkatarama aiyar, j. 1. these are applications filed under article 226of the constitution and they raise the question as to the validity of the madras hindu religious and charitable endowments act xix of 1951 hereinafter referred to as the act. the petitioners in w. p. no. 71 of 1952 are the hereditary uralans or trustees of the karikkat temple in malabar. on 2-2-1945 the board of hindu religious endowments framed a scheme for the management of the temple under section 62 of madras act ii of 1927 and the same was modified by the district court, south malabar by its decree dated 6-1-1950 passed in o. s. no. 5 of 1945. the scheme provides 'inter alia' that there should be a paid manager for the temple to be appointed by the board from among three persons whose names are to be sent up by.....
Judgment:

Venkatarama Aiyar, J.

1. These are applications filed under Article 226of the Constitution and they raise the question as to the validity of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act XIX of 1951 hereinafter referred to as the Act. The petitioners in W. P. No. 71 of 1952 are the hereditary Uralans or trustees of the Karikkat temple in Malabar. On 2-2-1945 the Board of Hindu Religious Endowments framed a scheme for the management of the temple under Section 62 of Madras Act II of 1927 and the same was modified by the District Court, South Malabar by its decree dated 6-1-1950 passed in O. S. No. 5 of 1945. The scheme provides 'inter alia' that there should be a paid manager for the temple to be appointed by the Board from among three persons whose names are to be sent up by the trustees. Troubles arose when the Board rejected all the three names recommended by them. The Uralans felt that the action of the Board was an unwarranted interference with their rights as hereditary trustees. On 26-9-1951 there was a meeting of the Uralans in which one of them Sastrasaram Bahattadripad was elected as the managing trustee and the petitioners were constituted a managing committee.

On 18-11-1951 the Deputy Commissioner made a demand on the petitioners for the production of the account books of the temple and other papers; and as that was not complied with within the time given, he sent a further notice on 3-1-1952 calling upon the petitioners to show cause why action should not be taken against them and the 'so-called manager' under Section 89(1)(b) and (c) of the Act. The reply of the petitioners is the present application, wherein they contend that the Act under which the Deputy Commissioner purported to take action is void as being an unconstitutional interference of the State in matters of religion and that in any event the provisions of the scheme which are sought to be put in operation against the petitioners are an invasion of their rights as hereditary trustees and that they have accordingly become void under Article 13 of the Constitution. The material facts in the other petitions are similar and do not require to be stated in detail. The petitioners are hereditary trustees of temples all of which are governed by schemes more or less of the same pattern as in W. P. No. 71 of 1952. In some of them, W. P. Nos. 84 of 1952, 719 of 1952 and 873 of 1952, Executive Officers have been appointed under the provisions of the Act.

In W. P. No. 676 of 1952 notice has been issued to the petitioner under Section 87(1) of the Act to hand over the records. In W. P. No. 873of 1952 proceedings have also been taken under Section 87 of the Act, M. C. No. 44 of 1952 before the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Tellicherri,for obtaining possession of the temple and its properties. All these petitions raise the same constitutional issues as W. P. No. 71 of 1952 and we have accordingly heard counsel in all of them on those issues, reserving consideration of the merits of each case for determination after decision of those issues.

2. Counsel for petitioners have urged two contentions in support of these petitions: (1) The impugned Act is void as it vests the administration of religious endowments in what is a department of the State. (2) The provisions of the scheme framed under the Act deprive hereditary trustees of the substance of their rights as such trustees and that they are repugnant to Article 19(1)(i) of the Constitution and therefore, void.

3. It will be Useful, at the outset to notice in broad outline the salient features of the Act in so far as they are material for the present purpose. The object of the statute is, as stated in the short title,

'to provide for the better administration and governance of Hindu Religious and Charitable Institutions and Endowments in the State of Madras.'

For this purpose the Act establishes a heirarchy of officers, the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioners, Assistant Commissioners and Area Committees, and entrusts the administration of the Endowments to them. Section 20 enacts that 'the administration of all religious endowments shall be subject to the general superintendence and control of the Commissioner; and such superintendence and control shall include the power to pass any orders which may be deemed necessary to ensure that such endowments are properly administered and that their income is duly appropriated for the purposes for which they were founded or exist.'

Then follow provisions which confer wide powers on the authorities in the matter of general supervision of the endowments, appointments, suspension and dismissal of trustees, notification of temples and appointment of Executive Officers and the framing of schemes and appropriation of trust funds cy pres.

Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code is repealed with reference to endowments which fall within the scope of the Act. Under Section 76(1) of the Act all religious institutions are required to pay to the Government a contribution not exceeding 5 per cent of their, income for services rendered by the Government. Section 76(4) provides that the 'Government is to pay the salaries and allowances of the Commissioners and other Officers and meet the other expenses. It may be mentioned that the present Act differs from Act II of 1927 which it repealed in a fundamental matter. That Act established a Board of Commissioners in whom was vested under Section 18 the general superintendence of all religious endowments. The Board was constituted under Section 11(2) of that Act, a corporation with a perpetual succession and common seal. It was therefore a distinct persona independent of the Government. Vide 'Vaithilinga Pandara Sannadhi v. Sadasiva Iyer' : AIR1926Mad836 . Under the present Act, the Board as' a juristic person has disappeared and theendowments are to be administered by persons appointed by the Government.

The contributions are paid not to the Boardas under Act II of 1927 but to the Government and they become merged in the general revenue of the State which is to form one consolidated fund entitled 'The consolidated fund of the State'. Vide Article 266(1) of the Constitution. It is with reference to this altered position that Satyanarayana Rao and Rajagopalan JJ. observed in 'Sri Shirur Mutt v. Commr., H. R E. Board, Madras' : AIR1952Mad613 as follows:

'The system of controlling and supervising the endowments through a statutory body hitherto known as the Madras Hindu Religious Endowments Board has been completely abolished and the administration of the religious and charitable institutions and endowments has been vested in a department of the Government, the Commissioner being the head thereof.'

Now turning to the first contention that the impugned Act is void as being an unconstitutional interference by the, State in matters of religion, the argument of Mr. K.V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar in support of this position is this: Under our Constitution which has in this respect adopted the principle of the American Constitution, there is a wall of separation between the Church and the State. The State is wholly secular. It is not to have any association direct or indirect with religion, except where its interference is called for on grounds of public order, morality or health. Any law which involves the participation of State in religious matters would therefore be repugnant to the Constitution. The present Act is of that character and is consequently void. As this contention rests substantially on the assumption that the law on the subject under the Indian Constitution is the same as Under the American Constitution, it is necessary to examine the latter to see how far this assumption is well founded. The First Amendment to the American Constitution is as follows: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.........'

It was held in 'Barron v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore', (1861) 8 Law Ed 672 (C), that this was a restriction on the powers of the Congress, but not of the State Legislatures. The 14th Amendment which came into force in 1868 enacted that no State shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law. Though the freedoms mentioned in the First Amendment are. not expressly included in this Amendment, the decisions of the highest authority have held that they are comprised in the liberty guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. Vide 'Near v. Minnesota', (1930) 283 U S 697 (D); 'Murdock v. Pennsylvania', (1942) 319 U S 105 (E) and 'Everson v. Board of Education', (1946) 330 U S 1 (F). Thus, the prohibitions enacted in the first Amendment have become applicable also to the States through the 14th Amendment. The First Amendment consists of two clauses, which deal with distinct subjects. The first clause is directed against legislation in respect of 'an establishment of religion' and the second against any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Under the former the State is disconnected.

from 'establishment of religion'; under the latter the individual is guaranteed freedom in the profession and practice of religion. The scope of the two clauses is thus different and the questions that arise with reference to them are also different.Bearing this distinction in mind, we may now proceed to consider the decisions cited on behalf: of the petitioners. In (1946) 330 U S 1 (F)', the facts were that, a New Jersey Statute authorised the local educational authorities to make rules for the transportation of children to schools. Acting under this law, the respondent reimbursed moneys spent by parents for sending their children to schools through public traps-ports. One of the tax-payers filed an action challenging the validity of the payments made by the respondent on the ground that the school in question was a Catholic institution and that the statute of New Jersey was unconstitutional, in that it aided, in effect, the maintenance of a Roman Catholic institution and that the same was obnoxious to the First Amendment. The controversy centred over the question whether the impugned Act was a law in respect of 'an establishment of religion'.

The majority of the Court held that it was not, Black J. referred to the history behind the enactment of the First Amendment and observed :

'The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this; Neither a State nor the Federal Government can set up a Church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another......No tax in anyamount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a State nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organisations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State'. 'Reynolds v. United States', (1878) 98 U S 145 (G).'

The learned Judge added that at the same time we must be careful'that we do not inadvertently prohibit Now Jersey from extending its general state law benefits to all its citizens without regard to their religious belief.'

After referring by way of analogy to the support by the Stats of the Police and Fire Brigade which render service to all members of the society without regard to their religion, the learned Judge observed:

'That Amendment (the first) requires' the state to be a neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and non-believers; it does not require the state to be their adversary. State power is no more to he used so as to handicap religions than it is to favour them.'

Strong dissents from this decision were expressed by Jackson J. and Rutledge J. In Illinois v. Board of Education', (1947) 92 Law Ed 649 (H), the question arose with reference to imparting of religious instructions to school going students under a 'release time arrangement'. This arrangement owes its origin to the anxiety of parents to impart religious instructions to their children.

Under the Constitution no state-maintained institution can teach religion. With, a view to impart religious instructions to students attending such institution a scheme was evolved by representatives of all religions under which different religious organisations arranged to teach religion to students through their own teachers . and at their own expense, provided the parents consented to it. The procedure adopted was that some periods during the working hours of the school were set apart for that purpose; those boys whose parents objected to religious instruction being given were free to pursue their secular studies during that period and a record was made by the school authorities of the boys who attended the religious classes so as to ensure that truant boys did not give the slip to both the classes. One of the tax-payers Vashti McCollum, an atheist, contested the validity of this arrangement on the ground that the action of the school authorities amounted to giving 'aid' to religion and that there had been a violation of the First Amendment.

This contention was uphold by the majority of the Court who observed:

'The foregoing facts, without reference to others that appear in the record, show the use of tax-supported property for religious instruction and the close co-operation between the school authorities and the religious council in promoting religious education........Herenot only are the State's tax-supported public school buildings used for the dissemination of religious doctrines. The State also affords, sectarian groups an invaluable aid in that it helps to provide pupils for their religious classes through use of the State's compulsory public school machinery. This is not separation of Church and State.'

There was a powerful dissent by Reed J. He emphasised with considerable force that no law in respect of establishment of religion was involved in the case and that the First Amendment had no application.

He then discussed the meaning of the words 'an establishment of religion' in the First Amendment and observed:

'The phrase 'an establishment of religion' may have been intended by Congress to be aimed only at a state church. Then the First Amendment was pending in Congress in substantially its present form. Mr. Madison said, he apprehended the meaning of the words to be, that Congress should not establish a religion, and enforce the legal observation of it by law, nor compel men to worship God in any manner contrary to their conscience. Passing years, however, have brought about the acceptance of a broader meaning, although never until today, I believe, has this court widened its interpretation to any such degree as holding that recognition of the interest of our nation in religion, through the granting, to qualified representatives of the principal faiths, of opportunity to present religion as an optional, extracurricular subject during released school time in public school buildings, was equivalent to an establishment of religion. A reading of the general statements of eminent statesmen of former days, referred to in the opinions in this case and in '(1946) 330 U S 1 (F)' will show that circumstances suchas those in this case were far from the mindsof the authors.'

Then the learned Judge quoted one of them Mr. Jefferson as himself supporting a scheme for imparting religious instructions to students outside the school buildings or even inside. Then, discussing the question as to what would amount in aiding religion, he observed:

'I agree as there stated that none of our governmental entities 'set up a church'. I agree that they cannot' aid all or any religions or prefer one 'over another'. But 'aid' must be understood as a purposeful assistance directly to the church itself or to some religious group or organisation doing religious work of such a character that it may fairly be said to be performing ecclesiastical functions.'

How the decision in '(1947) 92 Law Ed 649 '(H)' was received in America can best be stated in the words of Black J. 'Zorach v. Clauson', (1952) 96 Law Ed 954 (I), 'I am aware that 'McCollum Decision (H)' on separation of Church and State has been subjected to a most searching examination throughout the country. Probably few opinions from this court in recent years have attracted more attention or stirred wider debate. Our insistence on 'a wall between Church and State which must be kept high and impregnable' has seemed to some a correct exposition of the philosophy and a true interpretation of the language of the First Amendment to which we should strictly adhere. With equal conviction and sincerity, others have thought the 'McCollum decision (H)' fundamentally wrong and have pledged continuous warfare against it.' '(1952) 96 Law Ed 954 (I) was again a case of 'release time arrangement'. But this case differed from '(1947) 92 Law Ed 649 (H)', in that religious instructions were imparted not in the school premises but in buildings outside, to which the boys were transported at the expense of the religious associations- The majority hold that' this fact distinguished the case from '(1947) 92 Law Ed 649 (H)' and they upheld the validity of the arrangement.

Douglas J. speaking for the majority observed :

'The First Amendment within the scope of its coverage permits no exception; the prohibition is absolute. The First Amendment, bow-ever, does not say that in every and all respects there shall be a separation of Church and State. Rather, it studiously defines the manner, the specific ways, in which there shall be no concert or union or dependency one on the other. That is the common sense of the matter. Otherwise, the State and religion would be aliens to each other hostile, suspicious, and even unfriendly ..........Whenthe state encourages religious instruction or co-operates with religious authorities by adjusting the schedule of public events to sectarian needs, it follows the best of our traditions. For it then respects the religious nature of our people and accommodates the public service to their spiritual needs.To hold that it may not, would be to find in the Constitution a requirement that the Government show a callous indifference to religious groups. That would be preferring those who believe in not religion over those whodo believe......We find no constitutional requirement which makes it necessary for Government to be hostile to religion & to throw its weight against efforts to widen the effective scope of religious influence......... We cannot Iread into the Bills of Rights such a philosophy of hostility to religion.'

4. It will be seen that in American jurisprudence the meaning of the words 'establishment of religion' has not been the same at all times and with all persons. Grammatically, 'establishment' might mean either the act of establishing, in which case the meaning of the First Amendment will be that the State should not establish by law any religion; or it might mean the institution which has been established in which case the prohibition under the Amendment will extend to any legislation in respect of a religious institution. It was pointed out by Reed J. in '(1947) 92 Law Ed 649 (H)' in the passage , already quoted that it was in the first arid restricted sense that the words were understood by their framers, Mr. Madison and Mr. Jefferson.

It was in this sense that the framers of the Australian Constitution have adopted the First Amendment as would be seen from Section 116 which is based on that Amendment. It is as follows:

'The Commonwealth shall not make any laws for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.'

The prohibition enacted here is against the establishment of a State religion or Church. But the second and the wide meaning has come to be generally adopted in America as the true interpretation of the First Amendment,. as was observed by Rutledge J. in -- '(1946) 330 U S 1 (F)'.

5. Now, the contention of Mr. K.V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar for the petitioners is that the position under the Indian Constitution is precisely the same as under the American Constitution and that the impugned Act is a law Sn respect of 'an establishment of religion' and is therefore void. The provisions of the Constitution bearing on this question are Arts. 25, 26, 27 and 28. Article 25 enacts that

'all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.' This provision corresponds to the second clause in the First Amendment and guarantees freedom of religion to all persons. Article 26 enacts that every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to establish and maintain its own institutions and to manage them. This again is a guarantee of freedom of religion to religious groups as distinct from individuals for whom provision is made in Article 25. This also is an aspect which is comprised within the second clause of the First Amendment. Vide 'Watson v. Jones', (1873) 20 Law Ed 666 (J). Article 27 enacts that no person shall be compelled to pay taxes'the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of expenses for the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.'

Article 28(1) prohibits the imparting of religious instructions in educational institutions maintained by the State.

6. It must be noted that while Arts. 25 and 26 reproduce the law as enacted in the Second clause of the First Amendment, there is nothing in our Constitution which corresponds to the first clause therein. The inference is obvious that the framers of our Constitution were not willing to adopt in its entirety the theory that there should be a wall of separation between Church and State which the first clause of the First Amendment was interpreted to embody. What in fact they did was to adopt that principle in its application to particular questions. Thus, Article 27 embodies the principle that no tax should be imposed on any person for the maintenance or promotion of any religion. Article 28(1) prohibits the imparting of religious instruction in State-maintained educational institutions. Apart from making provisions in respect of particular subjects, the Constitution does not enact a general prohibition of legislation in respect of 'establishment of religion'. In this respect our Constitution makes a substantial departure from the American Constitution. There, there are no specific provisions relating to the imparting of religious instruction in schools or to the imposition of a tax for the maintenance of religious institutions; they are regarded as consequential on the more general prohibition against legislation in respect of 'establishment of religion' in the first Amendment.

The position under our Constitution is different. There are some specific prohibitions enacted in Arts. 27 and 28. But apart from them, there is no general prohibition against legislation in respect of 'establishment of religion'. On the other hand, there are provisions in our Constitution which are inconsistent with the theory that there should be a wall of separation between Church and State. Article 16(5) recognises the validity of laws relating to management of religious and denominational institutions. Article 28(2) contemplates the State itself managing educational institutions wherein religious instructions are to be imparted. And among the subjects over which both the Union and the States have legislative competence and set out in List No. III of the 7th Schedule to the Constitution Entry No. 28 is as follows: 'Charitable and charitable institutions, charitable and religious endowments and religious institutions.'

It is difficult in the face of these provisions to accede to the contention that our Constitution has adopted the American view that the State should have nothing to do with religious institutions and endowments. It would, therefore, not be safe to build any argument based on the 'establishment of religion' clause in the first Amendment and the decisions interpreting the same.

7. It is contended by Mr. K. V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar that though there is nothing express in the Constitution corresponding to the 'establishment of religion' clause, such a provision must, in view of Article 282 read along with Article 27, be implied therein. Article 282 runs as follows: 'The Union or a State may make any grantsfor any public purpose, notwithstanding thatthe purpose is not one with respect to whichParliament or the Legislature of the State, as the case may be, may make laws.' Though this Article is enabling, in that it empowers the legislature to make grants in respect of matters which are not within their legislative competence, it is restrictive in that grants can be made only for a public purpose. The Article does not in terms prohibit any grant for meeting expenses of administering religious endowments. But it is contended that religion is, under the Constitution, not a public purpose and that, therefore, a grant for purposes mentioned in Section 76 (4) of the Act would be in violation of Article 282.The argument in support of the position that religion is not a public purpose may be thus summed up; Article 27 prohibits the raising of revenue by taxation for being appropriated towards' the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination.' 'That means that religion is not a public purpose and that is in accordance with the American law on the subject. Article 282 is complementary to Article 27. It prohibits the expenditure of public revenue on what are not public purposes. Therefore, public funds cannot under Article 282 be appropriated towards the expenses mentioned in Article 76 (4) of the Act. The result is that the machinery set up under that Act for the administration of the religious endowments cannot function and the whole Act must be declared void.

8. It has been already seen that under the scheme of the Act it is the State that has assumed control and superintendence of religious endowments and that under Section 76 (4) it is that State that meets the expenses of that administration. Art 282 will, therefore, apply and unless the purpose is a public one, the grant for meeting the expenses under Sec. 76 (4) must be held to be unauthorised. There was some controversy as to whether such a grant could be said to be a specific appropriation' for the promotion or maintenance of religion or religious denomination as contemplated by Article 27. It was suggested by the learned Advocate General that what the Article had in mind was appropriation under special statutes containing provisions for allocation of the revenue for specific purposes. Thus, Section 3 of the Agricultural Produce Cess Act XXVII of 1940 (Central) imposes a duty on certain articles exported and the proceeds thereof are to be paid to a body called the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research. Section 11 of the Coffee Market Expansion Act, VII of 1942 (Central) imposes a duty on coffee which might be exported and the proceeds are to be paid by the Government to a Board appointed under that Act. Section 3 of the Indian Coconut Committee Act, X of 1944 (Central) imposes a tax on all copra consumed in any mill in the provinces and the Government are to pay the proceeds to a committee constituted under that Act.

Under Section 3 of the Indian Oilseeds Committee Act, IX of 1946 (Central) a cess is levied on all oils extracted from oilseeds crushed in any mill in the provinces and the proceeds are to be paid to a committee appointed under the Act. Under Section 2 of the Mica Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act (XXII of 1946) (Central) a tax is imposed on all mica, exported from the provinces and the proceeds are to be transferred, to a special fund. Section 12 of the Rubber(Production and Marketing) Act, XXIV of 1947 (Central) imposes an excise duty on all rubber produced in the provinces and that has to be paid direct to a Board constituted under the Act. The argument of the learned Advocate General was that these and similar enactments themselves provided for the allocation of the revenue realised thereunder for specific purposes and appropriations would have to be made pursuant thereto and that it is this that is referred to in Article 27. It must be mentioned that in the above enactments the cesses and duties are imposed for the benefit of certain statutory bodies created thereunder and the State acts merely as the collection agents of those bodies and hands over the net realisations to them.

The taxes when realised by them do not belong to them. They are held by them merely as statutory agents on behalf of certain bodies to whom they belong. The position under the Act, however, is that when contributions are realised under Section 76(1) of the Act they belong to the Government and become part of its general funds which under Article 266(1) are to form 'one consolidated fund to be entitled the consolidated Fund of the State.' Articles 202 to 207 provide for the appropriation of this fund. Article 202(1) provides that an 'annual financial statement' shall be laid before the Legislature containing the estimated receipts and expenditure of the State. Article 202(2) enacts that the estimate of expenditure should show separately (a) sums charged on the Consolidated Fund of the State we are not concerned with them in these petition sand (b) sums required to meet the other expenditure. Under Article 203, the Legislature has to make a grant in respect of the items comprised in Article 202(2)(b). Thereafter, a Bill has to be introduced providing for appropriation out of the Consolidated Find of the State of the amounts charged under Article 202(2)(a) and of the grants made under Article 202(2)(b).

Article 204(3) enacts that

'subject to the provisions of Articles 205 and 206, no money shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund of the State except under appropriation made by law passed in accordance with the provisions of this Article.'

Thus all the revenues received by the State are to form part of the Consolidated Fund of the State and all payments out of it should be under appropriation Bill passed under Article 204. As the contributions under Section 76(1) of the Act are realised by the Government and become merged in the Consolidated Fund of the State, the payments under Section 76(4) can only be made 'under an appropriation made by law in accordance with the provisions' of Article 204(3). Our attention has been drawn to, the budget estimates of the Madras State for 1952-53 and 1953-54. For 1952-53 the estimate of revenue includes under the heading 'Miscellaneous Departments' Item XXXVI (e), a sum of Rs. 20,000 under column 6, against 'Administration of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1951'. (Vide page 38); the corresponding entry in 1953-54 is Rs. 1,20,000 (vide page 41). The budget expenditure relating to this matter for 1952-53 is set out under Demand XI Miscellaneous Departments No. 47-E' 'Administration of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951'and the figure in column 9 is Rs. 9,54,700 (vide page 88); the corresponding figure for 1953-54 is Rs. 8,62,000 (vide page 93).

It is clear from these statements that the expenses under Section 76(4) are met out of the general revenues of the State under appropriations made in accordance with the procedure prescribed under Article 202. Incidentally, these statements also show that the administration of religious endowments is carried on by the Government through its department. The question has, therefore, to be decided whether expenditure of public funds under Section 76(4) of the Act is in contravention of Article 282 on the ground that it is not for a public purpose.

9. In support of his contention that religion is not a public purpose Mr. K.V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar relied on certain observations in '(1946) 91 Law Ed 711 (F)'. After observing that the State Legislature enjoyed considerable latitude in deciding whether a particular purpose is a public purpose or not, Jackson J. observed:

'It may make public business of individual welfare, health, education, entertainment or security. But it cannot make public business of religious worship or instruction, or of attendance at religious institutions of any character. There is no answer to the proposition, more fully expounded by Mr. Justice Rutledge, that the effect of the religious freedom Amendment to our constitution was to take every form of propagation of religion out of the realm of things which could directly or indirectly be made public business and thereby be supported in whole or in part at tax-payers' expense. That is a difference which the Constitution sets up between religion and almost every other subject-matter of legislation, a difference which goes to the very root of religious freedom......Religiousteaching cannot be a private affair when the state seeks to impose regulations which infringe on it indirectly, and a public affair when it comes to taxing citizens of one faith to aid another, or those of no faith to aid all.'

Rutledge J. was even more emphatic. Ho observed:

'But we are told that the New Jersey Statute is valid in its present application because the appropriation is for a public, not a private purpose, namely, the promotion of education ............ To say that New Jersey's appropriation and her use of the power of taxation for raising the funds appropriated are not for public purposes but are for private ends, is to say that they are for the support of religion and religious teaching. Conversely, to say that they are for public purposes is to say that they are not religious ones. This is precisely for the reason that education which includes religious training and teaching, and its support, have been made matters of private right and function, not public, by the very terms of the First Amendment. That is the effect not only in its guaranty of religion's free exercise, but also in the prohibition of establishments.............It is not because religious teaching does not promote the public or the individual's welfare, but because neither is furthered when the State promotes religious education, that the Constitution forbids it to do so.'

It will be seen that the reason (or holding that a law in respect of an establishment of religion is not a law relating to a public purpose is that the prohibition against legislation in respect of an establishment of religion and against legislation interfering with the free exercise of religion are both of them contained in the same provision and that if interference of Government in matters of religion is to be banned on the ground that it is under the Constitution the concern of the individual and not of the State, it should consistently be held that religion in relation to establishments must also be held to be a private and not a public purpose. In other words religion cannot mean a private purpose in clause 2 and a public purpose in clause 1 of the same provision. This reasoning is wholly inapplicable to the provisions of cur Constitution. As already mentioned, while Art.25 and Article 26 correspond to the second clause of the First Amendment, there is nothing in the Constitution corresponding to the first clause of the First Amendment. There would accordingly be no inconsistency in holding that the exercise of religion by a person and by a religious denomination protected by Article 25 & Article26 is a private purpose, while the administration of properties endowed for religious institutions is a public purpose.

10. Counsel for the petitioners also relied strongly on the language of Article 27 as leading to the conclusion that the promotion or maintenance of any particular religion or religious denomination was not under the Constitution a public purpose. Reference was made in this connection to Article 40 of the Swiss Constitution which is as follows:

'No person may be compelled to pay taxes the proceeds of which are specifically appropriated in payment of the purely religious expenses of any religious community of which he is riot a member.'

It was argued that while adopting this provision, Article 27 has made a significant departure from it, in that it prohibits the imposition of taxes, the proceeds of which are to be appropriated for meeting the expenses of any religious community and not merely of the religious community of which the assessee is a member and that this modification indicated the adoption of the American view.

But, as already mentioned, while the Indian Constitution has adopted in Article 27 and Article 28(1) some of the results consequential on the application of establishment of religion clause in the First Amendment, it has studiedly refrained from accepting that clause itself as a fundamental principle for all purposes. And in view of the fact that the reasoning on which the American decisions hold that the establishment of religion is not a public purpose, namely, that it is linked up in the First Amendment with free exercise of religion which is not a public purpose, is not applicable under the Indian Constitution, it follows that the conclusion based on the reasoning is equally inapplicable.

11. Viewing the question apart from those decisions, there cannot be any doubt that religion has in this country been regarded from time out of mind as haying both a private and a public purpose. Religion has been denned as meaning the beliefs which a person entertains of the creator and of his relationship with him.

The following observations of Latham C. J. in 'Adelaid Co. of Jehovah's Witnesses Inc v. The Commonwealth', 67 C. L. R. 116 (K) made with reference to Article 116 of the Australian Constitution will be found to be very instructive:

'It would be difficult, if not impossible, to devise a definition of religion which would satisfy the adherents of all the many and various religions which exist, or have existed, in the world. There are those who regard religion as consisting principally in a system, of beliefs or statement of doctrine. So viewed religion may be either true or false. Others are more inclined to regard religion as prescribing a code of conduct. So viewed a religion may be good or bad. There are ethers who pay greater attention to religion as involving some prescribed form of ritual or religious observance. Many religious conflicts have been concerned with matters of ritual and observance. Section 116 must be regarded as operating in relation to all those aspects of religion, irrespective of varying opinion in the community as to the truth of particular religious doctrines, as to the goodness of conduct prescribed by a particular religion, or as to the propriety of any particular religious observance.'

In all these aspects religion is purely a private matter. It consists in what beliefs a particular individual holds; what code of conduct he accepts, and what rituals he adopts in the observance of religion. It is to this aspect of religion that Articles 25 and 26 are addressed. It being a purely personal matter, the Constitution guarantees that a person or religious denomination shall not be interfered with in the free exercise thereof. This guarantee is no doubt not absolute; the Government might impose controls even within the area covered by Article 25 and Article 26, if they are required in the interests of public order, morality or health. That is also the position under the 'free exercise of religion' clause in the First Amendment. It was held in '(1878) 98 U S 145 (G)' that a law of the State prohibiting polygamy which was recognised by the Mormon Church was not a violation of that clause as the same was required in the interests of public morality.

In 'Davis v. Season', (1888) 33 Law Ed 637 (L) dealing with the same question, Field J. observed:

'It was never intended or supposed that the Amendment could be invoked as a protection against legislation for the punishment of acts inimical to the peace, good order and morals of society.'

It is this principle that is embodied in Article 25 and Article 26 of the Constitution and that is consistent with the recognition of the private character of the freedom guaranteed therein (12) But, there is another aspect which is not touched by Article 25 and Article 26. It has been recognised in all societies and at all times that religion has the effect of civilising man and making him live an ordered and disciplined life and that it thus contributes to public welfare. It is for this reason that advancement of religion has been recognised in English law to be a charitable purpose. In Commr. for Special Purposes of income-tax v. Pemsel, 1891 A.C. 531(M), Lord Macnaughtenobserved:

' 'charity' in its legal sense comprises four principal divisions; trusts for the relief of poverty; trusts for the advancement of education; trusts for the advancement of religion; and trusts for other purposes beneficial to the community, not falling under any of the preceding heads.'

In Tudor on Charities, it is stated that'the proposition that 'religious purposes' or 'religious societies' or. institutions are objects of charity would seem established by authority' (Fifth Edition page 31).It is equally well established that under the English law there cannot be a charitable purpose, unless it is also of a public character; and that public and charitable trusts are synonymous expressions.

'It may be laid down as a universal rule that the law recognises no purpose as charitable unless it is of a public character,' (Tudor on Charities, page 11).

Therefore, advancement of religion is under the English law a public purpose.

13. Religion has always occupied an important place in the public life of this country as it is believed to be a potent factor in raising humanity to a higher level of thought and life. It is in this view that temples, mosques and churches were founded by Kings and by men of piety with the object of enabling the public or sections thereof to carry on worship; and properties were endowed for the upkeep and maintenance of those institutions so that the services might be carried on in perpetuity. This is the origin of public temples in this country as distinguished from private temples. Unlike private temples which are intended as a place of worship by members of the family, public temples are dedicated to the public for worship as a matter of right. This classification of temples into public and private itself brings out the' distinction that though religious worship is a personal matter, there can be institutions of a public character in relation thereto. It is on this footing that the Hindu Sovereigns of this country exercised control over temples (vide Hindu and Mahomedan Endowments by Mr. P. K. Ganapathi Iyer 2nd Edn. pages 23 to 25).

When the British became the rulers of this country they claimed a similar right to supervise the administration of properties endowed for religious institutions and enacted Regulations assuming control over them. Such were, for example, Regulation XX of 1810 in Bengali Regulation VII of 1817 in Madras and Regulation No. XVII of 1827 in Bombay Under these Regulations the general superintendence of all religious and charitable endowments was vested in a Board of Revenue. As the result of an agitation carried on by Missionaries against a Christian Government administering endowments made for the promotion of other faiths, the Government decided to divest itself of all control over such institutions and enacted Act XX of 1863 vesting that power in certain committees. The fact, however, that the Government did exercise superintendence over irreligious endowments till 1863 is in itself sufficient to show that it is possible for a purely secular authority to control the administrationof such endowments and that that is not inconsistent with the free exercise of religion in itsdoctrinal and ritual aspect.

The Codes of Civil Procedure which wereenacted from time to time provided for the institution of scheme suits with reference to religious endowments and schemes were framed for most of the important temples in the State under Section 539 of Act XIV of 1882 and Section 92 of Act V of 1908. Then came the Madras ' Hindu Religious Endowments Act II of 1927. Under that Act the jurisdiction to frame schemes in respect of Hindu Religious Endowments was vested in a Board constituted under that Act and Section 73 thereof provided that Section 92 of the C. P. Code should have no application to those endowments. The present Act also sets up a special machinery for framing schemes and Section 5(3)(e) enacts that Ss. 92 and 93 of the C. P. C. shall cease to apply to Hindu Religious institutions and endowments. In contrast to these provisions in Section 9 of the C. P. C. which limits the jurisdiction of courts to the trial of suits of a civil nature, and disputes relating to matters of religious dogma and ritual have been held to fall outside this jurisdiction.

The distinction between religion in so far as it relates to carrying on of worship, and administration of properties endowed for religious institutions is thus expressed by the Privy Council in the decision in 'Ramanathan Chetti v. Murugappa Chetti', 28 Mad 283 (N), where the question related to the management by hereditary trustees of properties dedicated to a temple:

'The manager of the temple is by virtue of his office the administrator of the property attached to it. As regards the property the manager is in the position of a trustee. But as regards the service of the temple and the duties that appertain to it, he is rather in, the position of the holder of an office or dignity which may have been originally conferred on a single individual, but which, in course of time, has become vested by descent in more than one person.'

In 'Amulya Chandra v. Corporation of Calcutta', AIR 1922 Cal 333 (O), the question for decision was whether the acquisition of certain; properties by the Corporation of Calcutta for building a Dharmasala for accommodating pilgrims resorting to a Hindu temple was for a public purpose. The Privy Council held that it was, and that it was not excluded from the term 'public purpose' for the reason that it would benefit pilgrims and Church dignitories. The position in law before the Constitution thus was that while the State did not interfere in matters of religion in its doctrinal & ritual aspects treating it as a private purpose, it did exercise control over the administration of properties endowed for religious institutions treating it as a public purpose, if the institutions were them selves dedicated to the public. Mr. K.V. Venkatasubramania Aiyar did not dispute this. He only contended that the Constitution had: brought about a change in this aspect of the matter and that what was a public purpose before had become private purpose thereunder; and this contention was based on the 'establishment of religion' clause in the First Amendment of the American Constitution and the language of Article 27 of our Constitution.

As we have disagreed with that contention, it must follow that the law as it stood prior to the Constitution has not undergone a change and it must be held that the provision made in Section 76(4) of the Act for payment of expenses of administration of Religious Endowments by the Government does not violate Article 282 and the Act cannot be held to be void on that ground.

14. The contention was also raised that some of the provisions of the Act went far beyond what was permissible in a legislation relating to the administration of religious endowments and amounted to interference with the free exercise of religion guaranteed by Article 25 and Article 26. It was also argued that the distinction between what is secular and public and what is religious and private may often be difficult to draw and reliance was placed on the following observations in : AIR1952Mad613

'No doubt, the management of the properties bear a secular aspect, but the secular and the religious aspects cannot be dissociated as they are inextricably mixed up, when it is once established that the property and the income are at the disposal of the Swami for the sole and exclusive purpose of the spiritual welfare of himself and his disciples and followers.

But these observations were made with reference to a Mutt and the considerations applicable to it are not the same as in the case of a temple which is what we are concerned with in these petitions. None of the questions sought to be raised on the above arguments arise for determination in these proceedings and it is, therefore, unnecessary to deal with them.

15. It was finally contended that the impugned Act is repugnant to Article 14 of the Constitution, as it singles out Hindu Religious Endowments for special treatment. There is direct authority in this Court against this contention. In : AIR1952Mad613 , one of the questions argued was that the Act now under challenge was repugnant to Article 14 as discriminating against Hindu Religious Endowments while leaving Christian and Mahomedan Religious Endowments untouched. After an elaborate consideration of the matter the learned Judges rejected this contention. It is unnecessary to cover the same ground once again. Agreeing with the views expressed therein, we must overrule this contention. In the result, we must hold that the impugned Act is not void on the ground that it is an unconstitutional interference by the State in matters of religion.

16. The next contention relates to the question whether some of the provisions in the schemes framed for the temples are repugnant to Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution and therefore void. The petitioners, it will be remembered, are all hereditary trustees and they claim that they are representatives of the original founders of the temples. Their complaint is that under the schemes for the management of the temples they have been virtually deprived of their office and reduced to a non-entity. For a correct appreciation of the position, it will be convenient to take up one of the schemes and examine its provisions. The schemes are all of them of the same pattern. In W. P. No. 71 of 1852 the scheme was framed in O. S. No. 5 of 1945, District Court, South Malabar. It starts with a declaration that the management shall vest in the hereditary trustees and that a managing committee should be appointed consisting of three persons selected from out of them. That Committee has to send, under clause 3, three names from out of which the Board is to appoint one as the manager and the decision of the Board is to be final.

The manager is responsible to the Board under clause 4 and he is to carry on the day-to-day administration subject to the orders of the Board, clause 5. The manager is to receive all the incomes, make all the disbursements and maintain accounts; he is to have the custody of all moveables; all temple servants are to work under his orders and he has the power to fine, suspend or dismiss them and against his orders appeals are to be preferred to the Board. The manager is to prepare the budget and that has to be considered by the managing committee and thereafter to be submitted to the Board whose order is final, If there is no meeting of the Committee, the manager is to send the budget direct to the Board. Then follow certain provisions for the holding of the monthly meetings of the managing committee. Clause 24 confers on the managing committee power to inspect accounts maintained by the manager and bring to the notice of the Board any defects.

The petitioners complain that under this scheme, it is the manager who is the 'de facto' trustee of the temple and he is acting under the orders of the Board and that the result is that the Board manages the temples through the managers appointed by it and the hereditary trustees are mere figure heads with nothing left of their office except a nominal acknowledgment of their rights as hereditary trustees. To adapt the language of Rich J. in 'the Minister of State for the Army v. Dalziel', 68 C. L. R. 261 (P), they retain only the 'husk' of their title as hereditary trustees, with the substance within altogether gone.

17. The question is whether this is repugnant to Article 19(l)(f) of the Constitution. The answer to this question depends on whether the hereditary trusteeship is property within the meaning of that Article. The nature and incidents of the office of hereditary trusteeship are well settled by authority. It descends like partible property on the heirs of the trustees. Even females will be entitled to the office it they happen to succeed as heirs vide 'Annayya Tantri v. Ammakka', AIR 1919 Mad 598 (Q). When emoluments are attached to that office they are divisible among the co-heirs. When there are no emoluments, even then the joint rights of the co-heirs can be exercised by all of them under an arrangement providing for management by turns. In Manohar Bhupendra', AIR 1932 Cal 791 (R), a Full Bench of the Calcutta High Court held that the rule in 'Ganendromohun Tagore v. Juttendromohun Tagore', 9 Beng. L. R. 377 (PC) (S) was applicable to devolition of the office of hereditary trustees; and that was approved by the Privy Council in 'Ganesh Chunder v. Lal Behary' and 'Bhabatarlni Debt v. Ashalata Devi' .

18. In 'Smt. Angurbala Mullick v. Debabrata Mullick' : [1951]2SCR1125 , the point for determination was whether the office of shebaitship was property for the purpose of Hindu Women's Rights to Property Act, XVIII of 1937. In holding that it was, Mukherjea J. observed:

'The exact legal position of a shebait may not be capable at precise definition but its implications are fairly well established. It is settled by the pronouncement of the Judicial Committee in 'Vidyavaruthi v. Baluswami, AIR 1922 PC 123 (W), that the relation of a Shebait in regard to debutter property is not that of a trustee to trust property under the English law. In English law the legal estate in the trust property vests in the trustee who holds it for the benefit of 'cestui que trust. In a Hindu Religious Endowment on the other hand the entire ownership of the dedicated property is transferred to the deity or the institution itself as a juristic person and the Shebait or Mahant is a mere manager. But though a Shebait is a manager and not a trustee in the technical sense, it would not be correct to describe the shebaitship as mere office.

The Shebait has not only duties to discharge in connection with the endowment, but he has a beneficial interest in the debutter property. As the Judicial Committee observed in the above case, in almost all such endowments the Shebait has a share in the usufruct of the debutter property which depends upon the terms of the grant or upon custom or usage. Even where no emoluments are attached to the office of the Shebait, he enjoys some sort of right or interest in the endowed property which partially at least has the character of a proprietary right.'

Thus there is ample authority for the view that trusteeship, where hereditary, is in the nature of property.

19. The question whether it is protected by Article 19(1)(f) was considered by this Court in : AIR1952Mad613 . The learned Judges Satyanarayana Rao and Rajagopalan JJ. held that property in Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution was of wide import and that it was of sufficient amplitude to take in hereditary trusteeship. Dealing with the contention that Article 19(1)(f) applies only to property which can be beneficially enjoyed and which can be validly disposed of, they observed that Dharmakarthas and Matathipathis had often beneficial interests in the endowments and that was sufficient to attract Article 19(1)(f) and added:

'If there be however an instance where the dharmakartha has no beneficial interest of any sort but is a mere manager with hereditary rights, there is no reason to exclude such a hereditary right of management even from the scope of property; but however it is not necessary to express a final opinion on this.'

They also observed:

'The addition of the right to dispose of property in Article 19(1)(f) along with the right to acquire and hold is not intended to give a definition of property so as to limit it to disposable property. Property may be inalienable, but yet a person may be entitled to hold it as is the case of inalienable service inams.'

On the same principle, the fact that the trustees have no right to participate in the income from the endowment or its emoluments, is not a ground for holding that it is not property for the purpose of Article 19(1)(f). The word 'hold' is wider in its significance than the word 'enjoy' and trustees who are in management of religious endowments can be said to hold office, though they may have no beneficial interest to enjoy. We are accordingly of opinion; that hereditary trusteeship is within the protection afforded by Article 19(1)(f), even though there, was no emoluments attached to the office. We may add that the allegations in the affidavits in support of these petitions disclose that the petitioners have also beneficial interests in the endowments. In the result, we must hold that the provisions in the schemes in so far as they encroach upon the rights of the petitioners as hereditary trustees are void under Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution.

20. It remains now to consider what reliefs could be granted to the petitioners. We have] held that the impugned Act is not invalid, and: therefore the schemes framed under the repealed Act, which are declared by Section 103 (a) to be schemes framed under that Act, will be valid. We have also held that the provisions in the schemes abridging the rights of the hereditary trustees would be void as repugnant to Article 19(1)(f). The schemes would, therefore, require to be suitably modified and that could satisfactorily be done only by proceedings taken under the Act and that would be a ground for our declining to interfere in these proceedings. But then, it is argued that as the relief claimed by the petitioners is the issue of a writ of prohibition, the fact that another remedy is available is not a ground for refusing it.

Reliance was placed on the following observations of Satyanarayana Rao and Rajagopalan JJ. in : AIR1952Mad613 .

'It must be remembered that we are dealing with a writ of 'prohibition' and not 'certiorari'. A writ of prohibition lies to prevent an inferior tribunal from exceeding its jurisdiction or even from assuming a jurisdiction which does not vest in it under law. It also lies if a provision of a statute is contravened by the tribunal or even if any principles of law are contravened. In deciding the question, whether a writ of prohibition should issue or not, the existence of an alternative remedy is, in our opinion, an irrelevant consideration when the complaint is that an inferior tribunal is exceeding its jurisdiction or is assuming a jurisdiction not vested in it by law.' Reference was also made to the following statement of the law in Halsbury, Volume IX page 822 (Hailsham Edn.): 'The Court, in deciding whether or not to grant a writ of prohibition, will not be fettered by the fact that an alternative remedy exists to correct the absence or excess of jurisdiction or an appeal lies against such absence or excess.'

It is also argued that the immediate cause which led up to the filing of these petitions was the appointment of Executive Officers in some cases and issuing of notices in others, calling upon the petitioners to hand over possession of the temple, its properties and accounts, that they constituted an invasion of their rights as hereditary trustees and that they were entitled to move this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution, for appropriate relief. The learned Advocate General also invited us to give a decision on the questions raised, as they arise for the first time for determination and the authorities would prefer to have guidance in the matter.

The petitions will accordingly be posted for further hearing on the merits.


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