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The Rt. Rev. George Devadoss and anr. Vs. Luke D. Asirvatham - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1968)2MLJ612
AppellantThe Rt. Rev. George Devadoss and anr.
RespondentLuke D. Asirvatham
Cases ReferredState of Gujarat v. Jaswantlal
Excerpt:
- - ..all of us have acted in good faith and in best of my knowledge and ability i have helped the victims. 4 that all of them acted in good faith in making disbursements......the bishop of madurai-ramnad diocese. the second petitioner, g. g. joshua was treasurer, cyclone relief committee of the madurai-ramnad diocese. the diocese is managed by the executive committee which administers all the funds of the diocese and p.w. 5 devaprakasam, during the relevant period, was the secretary. different standing committees are constituted, of which one is the emergency relief committee which supervise distribution of relief. of this committee, p.w. 4 b. a. daniel is the convener. p.w. 3 navarathnam is a member and the first petitioner (the bishop) is the chairman. there was a cyclone in december, 1964 in ramnad district mainly in dhanushkodi, pamban and other places which cansed great havoc to lives and property. thereupon, the first petitioner issued an appeal to.....
Judgment:
ORDER

N. Krishnaswamy Reddy, J.

1. This petition has been filed to quash the charge and the proceedings in C.C. No. 36 of 1966 against the petitioners on the file of the Court of the Additional First Glass Magistrate No. 1, Madurai, on the grounds that no offence has been made out on the evidence placed before the Court and that the process of law has been abused by the complainant.

2. The relevant facts for the appreciation of the contentions raised by the learned Counsel for the petitioners disclosed in the affidavit filed by the petitioners are briefly these : The first petitioner, Rt. Rev. George Devadoss is the Bishop of Madurai-Ramnad Diocese. The second petitioner, G. G. Joshua was Treasurer, Cyclone Relief Committee of the Madurai-Ramnad Diocese. The Diocese is managed by the Executive Committee which administers all the funds of the Diocese and P.W. 5 Devaprakasam, during the relevant period, was the Secretary. Different standing committees are constituted, of which one is the Emergency Relief Committee which supervise distribution of relief. Of this Committee, P.W. 4 B. A. Daniel is the convener. P.W. 3 Navarathnam is a member and the first petitioner (the Bishop) is the Chairman. There was a cyclone in December, 1964 in Ramnad District mainly in Dhanushkodi, Pamban and other places which cansed great havoc to lives and property. Thereupon, the first petitioner issued an appeal to the Christian institutions and heads of institutions for funds. In response to the appeal a sum of Rs. 34,615-67P. was received by the first petitioner and sent to the Diocesan Treasury for affording relief to the institutions, churches, schools and individuals. A sub-committee called the Cyclone Relief Committee under the Emergency Relief Committee was formed. P.Ws. 3 and 4 were the members of the Sub-Committee and the 1st petitioner was its Chairman. The Cyclone Relief Committee after its formation considered the appeals received for relief and sanctioned amounts to be paid to various institutions, schools, churches and also private individuals who were affected by the said cyclone. The last meeting of the sub-committee was on 30th August, 1965. The proceedings of this Committee sanctioning payments were communicated by P.W. 4 to the various local pastors within the Diocese, heads of institutions and also Chairman of the local Councils. P.W. 4 as convener of the Sub-Committee had also issued directions to the Treasurer (the second petitioner herein) to issue cheques and payments on various occasions to the tune of several thousands enabling the Pastors and the Chairman of the local councils to make the payments to the individuals and institutions, on the spot and payments were made by the second petitioner on proper vouchers. Finally, in October, 1964, the Executive Committee of the Diocese which is the principal committee in charge of the administration of the funds of the Diocese had approved the statements of collections and expenditure and accepted the same as correctly made by the Committee.

3. Mr. Luke D. Asirvatham, one of the Secretaries, of the Association called the Diocesan Welfare Association at Madurai, filed a private complaint against the petitioners in January, 1966 stating that they had committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the entire amount collected towards the Cyclone Relief Committee fund excepting Rs. 1,000 which was handed over to the Collector of Ramnad. The said complaint was taken on file on 17th January, 1966 by the District Magistrate, Madurai and transferred to the Court of the Additional First Class Magistrate, Madurai. The Additional First Class, Magistrate, Madurai had framed charges against the petitioners under Sections 406 and 477-A, Indian Penal Code. As this was a warrant case, witnesses were examined before the charges were framed.

4. The case as disclosed by the evidence let in by the prosecution is that the petitioners have not used the amounts collected for the purpose for which they were received, namely, to help people affected by the cyclone and that the moneys were distributed to the favourites of the first petitioner. So far as the receipts are concerned, there is no dispute that the amount collected towards the Cyclone Relief Fund is Rs. 34,615-67P. of which a sum of Rs. 1,000 was given to the District Collector, Ramnad, for using the same for relief of the people affected by the cyclone. P.W. 4, one of the members of the Cyclone Relief Committee giving evidence on the side of the prosecution stated as follows, (which would be relevant for the purpose of considering whether any offence under Section 406, Indian Penal Code or 477, Indian Penal Code, is made out against the petitioners ;)

Most of the places mentioned in Exhibits P-1 and P-9 which were affected by cyclone had been granted relief. A-1 placed the relief items before committee and obtained sanction....At the recommendation of A-2 payments were made through pastors and N.C.C. Chairman. I have communicated to pastors and N. C. C. Chairman. None of them have stated they have not received the payment....All of us have acted in good faith and in best of my knowledge and ability I have helped the victims. The appeal of A-1 has been addressed to presbyters and heads of institutions and not to individuals. I strongly felt that A-l and myself and others helped people as we desired.

P.W. 5, a retired pastor in the Church of South India as witness for prosecution : stated as follows:

A-1 received gift of wheat, blankets and clothing and not I. I do not know as to how they are to be distributed except to the actual victims of the cyclone throughout the district. I do not know the places they were distributed....I have nothing to do with the disbursement of the funds....A-1 issued appeals etc., in the capacity of Bishop.

5. It is not the case of the prosecution that the money collected towards the Cyclone Relief Fund was not distributed. According to the prosecution, the money was not distributed to the genuine persons affected by the cyclone, but it was distributed to the favourites of accused-1. The statements of P.Ws. 4 and 5 would disclose that accused-1 appealed to the Christian Community and the Heads of Institutions to send their contributions for the Cyclone Relief Fund in his capacity as Bishop. The evidence of P.W. 4 is clear, as seen above, that disbursements were made in places affected by cyclone and that sanction was obtained for the said disbursements. It was also stated by P.W. 4 that all of them acted in good faith in making disbursements. Even on facts, the evidence appears to be that the money was utilised for the Cyclone Relief Fund.

7. The main question raised by the learned Counsel was that even assuming the facts to be true that the money was not utilised for the purpose for which it was collected and that accused-1, the first petitioner paid them to his favourites, it could not be said that an offence under Section 406, Indian Penal Code, namely, criminal breach of trust or under Section 477-A, Indian Penal Code, is made out. He contends that once the parties had parted with their money in pursuance of the appeal made by the Bishop, that money became the property of the Bishop and the person who gave the money, does not retain any interest in that money and that, therefore, the question of entrustment, in those circumstances, will not arise. There seems to be force in this argument. It transpires from the facts of this case, that the Heads of Institutions and persons belonging to Christian community freely donated money without any condition as to how the money should be used. Once the money came into the hands of the Bishop, it undoubtedly became the property of the Bishop. It cannot be said that the moneys were entrusted to the Bishop by the people who donated it.

8. Once the money became the property of the Bishop which ultimately goes to the Diocese, the Executive Committee would administer the funds of the Diocese. It may be that if moneys collected for a specific purpose namely in this case, to be used for the benefit of the persons affected by the cyclone, were not used for that purpose, the Bishop of the Diocese would be subjected to criticism or condemnation by the donors. That is altogether a different matter. The Supreme Court in State of Gujarat v. Jaswantlal (1968) M.L.J. 525 : (1968) 2. S.C.J. 334 : A.I.R. 1963 S.C. 700, had observed that the expression ' entrustment' carries with it the implication that the person handing over any property or on whose behalf that property is handed over to another, continues to be its owner and that the person handing over the property must have confidence in the person taking the property so as to create a fiduciary relationship between them. This makes it clear that in a case of entrustment, the ownership of the property is retained by the person who entrusts the same. As already noted, the donors have parted with their money without any obligation or condition annexed to it. Before there can be any entrustment, there must be an obligation annexed to the ownership of the property and a confidence resposed in and accepted by the owner or declared and accepted by him for the benefit of another or of another and the owner.

9. In the result, the proceedings in C.C. No. 36 of 1966 pending before the Additional First Glass Magistrate No. 1, Madurai, have to be quashed on the ground that the facts in this case do not constitute any offence. Accordingly, the proceedings are quashed and the petition is allowed.


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