1. This appeal is preferred by the two plaintiff's who sued for cancellation of the order of the Commissioner, for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, dated 25th July, 1962, holding that the properties constituted religious endowments and calling for the plaintiffs to pay contribution.
2. The case of the plaintiffs is that the properties in dispute were in enjoyment of the plaintiffs, ancestors for over 300 years and they were cultivating the same. According to them their family was looking after the Sanjeevirayar temple at Pidampatty and in recognition of their devoted services the Raja of Pudukkottai made a grant of item 1 lands in Pidampatti Village under Exhibit A-1. A similar grant was also made in Rasipuram and Kumaramangalam Villages. They also claim that in the fisal which was conducted at the time of the inam enquiry and title granted by the Inam Commissioner, the right of the plaintiff's ancestors in the lands was recognised and the grant was construed as a personal grant burdened with some specified services to the extent of Rs. 757. On the basis of an absolute grant of at worst a personal grant burdened with services the contention of the plaintiff is that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments had no jurisdiction to declare this grant as a religious endowment and call upon them for contribution. The Commissioner for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, the defendant, resisted the suit on the ground that the grant was made absolutely to the temple, that the plaintiffs had no title to the properties and that in any event the grant fell under Explanation (1) to Section 6 (17) of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, and as such it is a religious endowment within the definition.
3. The trial Court framed the following two issues: (1) Whether the suit properties were granted personally to the ancestors of plaintiffs subject to an obligation to spend Rs. 757 for the temple and as such belong absolutely to plaintiffs? (2) Whether the order of the defendant dated 25th July, 1962, in appeal petition 58 of 1961 is liable to be cancelled or modified. On a consideration of the oral and documentary evidence in the case the learned Subordinate Judge found both the issues against the plaintiffs and dismissed the suit.
4. In this appeal the learned Counsel for the appellants took us through the various documents and submitted that this plea that the grant was made absolutely in favour of the plaintiffs' ancestors should be accepted. We shall deal with the various documents.
5. Under Exhibit A-1 the grant is by the Raja of Pudukkottai for the daily kattalai, pooja, tiruppani, abhishekam, neivedyam, annadhanam, and other dharmas. In Tamil the words are
6. This would mean that the properties were given for the daily kattalai, pooja, tiruppani, abhishekam, annadhanam and other charities for the temple. Again, the document proceeds to state that the properties are given as 'Sarvamaanyamaga' to Venkataraya Desari The words in the Tamil Lexicon is translated as 'to entrust' and as an illustration refers to
7. Thiruvaduthurai Mutt is one of the foremost mutts in Tamil Nadu and properties are endowed to the Mutt for the purposes of various temples. According to this meaning, the words would only mean entrusted to Venkataraya Desari. Another meaning that is given in the Lexicon is 'to give it to the care or custody'. This would also not mean that the property was given absolutely to Venkataraya Desari. Reading the document as a whole it is clear that the grant was made for the purpose of meeting the expenses of the daily worship such as nityapadikattalai pooja, thiruppani, abhishegam, annadhanam and other dharmas and the grant is to the temple and Venkataraya Desari was made the trustee for carrying out the endowment. It was contended on behalf of the appellants that the word was not understood as entrustment and the document should be construed as an absolute grant on the meaning given in the Lexicon. We do not see any reason for not accepting the meaning in the Tamil Lexicon. Even for argument's sake if it is taken that the words would not denote entrustment, even then the plaintiffs' claim for an absolute title cannot be accepted, for the purpose of the grant is made very clear, that is for meeting out the expenses of daily pooja, thiruppani, abhishegam and annadhanam in the temple.
8. The next document that was referred to in connection with the lands in Pidampatti is Exhibit A-2. Exhibit A-2 is a fisal register. In that register, in column 3 the name of the inamdar is given as Rangaswami Desari, the ancestor of the present plaintiffs. Column 6 states that the nature of the inam is temple manyam and column 7 states that it was given for the pooja of Sanjeevarayaswami, and the nature of the land is stated to be koil pooja. In noting the particulars that were gathered during the enquiry it is stated that the ancestors of the plaintiffs were enjoying the manyam and were incurring various expenses towards the pooja, neivedyam, etc., of the temple. A list of the expenses incurred is given and it is stated that the pooja and other services to the temple were being properly conducted and that the expenses are more than the income from the lands. It is stated that a sum of Rs. 750 was spent for temple thiruppanies and the total theerva for the lands would be about Rs. 742-4-6 and as the temple was a famous one there were several devotees visiting the temple. On a reading of the document it is clear that according to the fisal, the grant was for the temple for the purpose of carrying out koil pooja and that the inamdar is noted as the ancestor of the plaintiffs. This document cannot be relied on by the plaintiff's to prove that the grant was absolutely in their favour subject to their incurring an expense of Rs. 757. On the other hand, the document discloses that not only the entire income from the properties but also something over and above it was being spent for the temple.
9. Exhibit A-3 is the title deed relating to the temple in pursuance of the inam settlement register. It states that the plaintiff's ancestors had stated that they were spending Rs. 757 towards the pooja and other kainkaryam of the temple. It proceeds to state that the temple pooja and other charities were being properly conducted and that as long as the charities were carried out properly, the grantee can enjoy the lands. This sentence was relied on very strongly by the learned Counsel for the appellants, in support of his contention that the grant was an absolute one. We are unable to agree, for the sentence will have to be read as in the context, which means that the charity was being properly conducted according to the terms of the original grant and that as long as the charities were carried accordingly the grantee could enjoy the properties. Further the document requires that the grantee should keep accounts which is subject to surprise inspection by the Tahsildar. It is therefore clear from this document that the grant is one in favour of the temple and not a personal grant to the ancestors of the plaintiffs.
10. Exhibit A-4 is the inam fisal register and Exhibit A-5 is the title deed relating to Rasipuram lands. So far as the Rasipuram lands are concerned, there is no grant corresponding to Exhibit A-1. But the plea on behalf of the appellants is that the grant of lands in Pidampatti Village as well as Rasipuram and Kumaramangalam Villages were alike, Exhibits A-4 and A-5 are more or less the same as the corresponding inam fisal and title deed in respect of the Pidampatti Village, that is Exhibits A-2 and A-3 and therefore they need not be separately considered. So far as Kumaramangalam lands are concerned, the fisal register is Exhibit A-6 and Exhibit A-7 is the title deed. In Exhibit A-7 it is stated that the grant is on behalf of Sanjeevarayaswami temple Similar wording had been the subject-matter of a decision of this Court in The President of the Board of Commissioners for the Hindu Religious Endowments Board v. Koteswara Rao : (1937)2MLJ413 . this Court in construing a direction to the archaka to take possession on behalf of the institution held that it clearly indicated that the donor intended that the deity was to be the grantee. The plea of the learned Counsel for the appellants that the expression 'on behalf of the temple' would mean an absolute grant cannot be accepted. Reliance was also placed on Exhibits A-15, A-16 and A-17. Exhibit A-15 is a petition by Palaniammal, mother and guardian of Hanumantha Desari, to the Darbar office at Pudukkottai. In her petition she has stated that petty officials were troubling her for accounts and that she should be saved from such troubles. The order by the Darbar is Exhibit A-16 which runs as follows:
The inamdar need not be required to submit regularly the account relating to the charity as he has been ordered to do. But he should maintain truly and properly such accounts as the Diwan Peishkar may direct him to do and keep them open for the inspection of the Diwan Peishkar and the Trichi agent who will pay surprise visits and check them.
11. Exhibits A-15 and A-16 cannot be construed as conferring any unquestioned right on the plaintiffs' ancestors. It requires the plaintiffs to keep regular accounts, but subject to inspection only by the Diwan Pesihkar and the Trichi agent and not by others. Exhibit A-17 is a petition preferred to the Darbar by one Sanjeevi Naidu. On that an endorsement is made by the Revenue Superintendent. In it, it is stated that the charities were being properly conducted. On an inspection by the Revenue Officer an endorsement is made which runs as follows:
Only the sthanikam was entitled to all the income and expenditure of the aforesaid village and the Government had never interfered with them. There was no instance to the effect that the aforesaid Desari had utilised the village income for the purpose of his own case, that there was any reduction in the performance of the temple pooja, neivedyam vagaira and that the aforesaid desari did not enjoy any excess land.
12. The officer reported that there was no need to take any action on the petition. This again would not show that the grant was made absolutely in favour of the plaintiffs' ancestors. On a complaint that the temple pooja and other charities were not being properly conducted the Revenue Officer verified and found that the allegation in the petition was not true and this document cannot help the plaintiffs in their submission that the grant was an absolute grant.
13. Learned Counsel also referred us to the oral evidence. P.W. 1 is a Tahsildar. He speaks to the grants in the village of Pidampatti, Rasipuram and Kumaramangalam and states that the inamdars used to maintain the temple and perform pooja, that certain amount was fixed to be spent by them for this purpose and that he used to check during his inspection. He further stated that he did not know what they did with the excess income from the land. This statement cannot be accepted as the grant does not restrict the expenses to any particular amount and that in inam enquiry it was found that a particular amount was spent would not mean that the maximum expenditure was fixed in the document This statement of the witness in therefore not entitled to any weight.
14. P.W. 3 is a retired. Deputy Tahsildar and according to him the inamdars should perform the daily pooja spending for the purpose Rs. 757 annually. For the reasons stated already, we are unable to accept this evidence. The evidence of P.W. 3 is also on the same lines. P.W. 4 is the second plaintiff and apart from his evidence being interested, it cannot carry the plaintiff any further, as his evidence cannot in any way affect the documentary evidence in the case. On a consideration of the documentary and oral evidence we see no reason to differ from the conclusion arrived at by the lower Court.
15. The learned Counsel for the appellants submitted that the grant is one in favour of a person burdened with services and as such cannot be included in the definition 'religious endowments'. He referred us to the decision reported in Lakshminarasimhachari v. Agastheswaraswamivaru : 2SCR768 , where the difference between the words 'to be confirmed so long as the service is performed' and 'to be confirmed to the party so long as he continues the performance of the services' was distinguished and the latter was held to be a personal grant and the former not so. This decision would not be of any help to the plaintiffs as no such word has been used in the inam grant. In Exhibit A-7, to which reference was made by the learned Counsel for the appellants in this connection, the words used are: As long as the charties were carried out properly, the grantee can enjoy the land as before. But, if he fails to perform the charities, the land will be dealt with by the Government according to their pleasure. This would not mean, that the grant was a personal grant for the title deed in referring to the charities made those above remarks. But, as already pointed out, the title deeds also state that the gift was made on behalf of Sanjeevarayar temple Section 6(17) of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act defines 'religious endowment' as property belonging to or given or endowed for the performance of any service or charity of a public nature connected therewith; but would hot include gifts of property made as personal gifts to the archaka, service-holder and other employees of a religious institution. In the first explanation it is made clear that any inam granted to an archaka service-holder or other employee of a religious institution for the performance of any service or charity in or connected with a religious institution shall not be deemed to be a personal gift to the archaka service-holder or employee but shall be deemed to be a religious endowment. As we have pointed out already, on a construction of Exhibit A-1, we are satisfied that it is an absolute gift in favour of the temple and the words would mean that the property was entrusted to the plaintiffs' ancestor for the purpose of conducting the charities. Even otherwise, the grant is for the purpose of carrying out the daily pooja and other charities, connected with the temple. Though it was in the name of the plaintiffs' ancestor, it would squarely fall under the explanation to Section 6(17) of the Act.
16. In the result all the contentions of the learned Counsel for the appellants fail and this appeal is dismissed with costs.