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P.K. Soundararaja Mudaliar Vs. the Deputy Commissioner for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1964)1MLJ236
AppellantP.K. Soundararaja Mudaliar
RespondentThe Deputy Commissioner for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments
Excerpt:
- .....1961. these adjournments were presumably for administrative reasons. on 7th july, 1961, the deputy commissioner purported to make an order, which is under challenge in this writ petition, placing the trustee petitioner under suspension pending enquiry into the charges and at the same time, he appointed the executive officer of another temple as a fit person to discharge the functions of the hereditary trustee. in this writ petition, the order so placing him under suspension and appointing a fit person is attacked as illegal and ultra vires. it is claimed that the deputy commissioner acted without jurisdiction, the more so for the reason that none of the charges framed against the petitioner fell within the scope of the several heads of shortcomings set out in section 53(2) of the.....
Judgment:
ORDER

K. Srinivasan, J.

1. The petitioner is the hereditary trustee of Sri Chennaroyaperumal Temple Pagallpatty village. His right as a hereditary trustee is not in question. Sometime in January 1961, certain charges were framed against him and he was asked to submit his explanation within 15 days from the date of receipt of the notice. Thereafter, on 15th February, 1961, the enquiry into those charges was posted to the 22nd April, 1961, and he was asked to be present. On that date it was again re-posted to the 30th of May, 1961, and again to the 2nd of August, 1961. These adjournments were presumably for administrative reasons. On 7th July, 1961, the Deputy Commissioner purported to make an order, which is under challenge in this writ petition, placing the trustee petitioner under suspension pending enquiry into the charges and at the same time, he appointed the Executive Officer of another temple as a fit person to discharge the functions of the hereditary trustee. In this writ petition, the order so placing him under suspension and appointing a fit person is attacked as illegal and ultra vires. It is claimed that the Deputy Commissioner acted without jurisdiction, the more so for the reason that none of the charges framed against the petitioner fell within the scope of the several heads of shortcomings set out in Section 53(2) of the Act, inviting disciplinary action and in respect of which it is competent to the authorities to punish a trustee by suspension, removal or dismissal. It is further contended that the Deputy Commissioner has no authority to appoint a stranger and that if any fit person should at all be appointed the principle of Section 54(2) of the Act should have been followed.

2. On behalf of the respondent Deputy Commissioner, the fact that the charges were framed on 24th January, 1961 or that the enquiry was being adjourned from time to time is not denied. It is, however, claimed that the Deputy Commissioner has jurisdiction to appoint a fit person under Section 53(4) of the Act pending enquiry into the charges. It is also denied that there is any need to give any notice to the trustee petitioner in respect of appointment of a fit person, which is only-for the purpose of interim management till the disposal of the enquiry.

3. It may be mentioned that the charges that have been framed against the petitioner are that he had not submitted the budget estimate, that he had not prepared and submitted the registers of properties of the temple, that he failed to produce the accounts of the temple for inspection and that he failed to remit the arrears of contribution and audit fees. In my opinion, the nature of the charges have some bearing upon the question whether a trustee against whom charges have been framed should be suspended pending disposal of the charges or not.

4. There is undoubted jurisdiction conferred upon the authorities to suspend a trustee pending disposal of the charges against him. In the instant case, though the charges were framed in January, 1961, the authorities do not seem to have taken the view that the continuance of the trustee in charge of the temple was not in any way detrimental to the interests of the temple. After the enquiry had been posted and re-posted to several dates, and more than six months after the framing of the charges against the trustee, the Deputy Commissioner purported to place the petitioner under suspension in exercise of his powers under Section 53(4). One is entitled to take note of the underlying purpose of the power that is conferred by this provision upon the Deputy Commissioner. It is that, in proper cases the interests of the temple should not be jeopardised by a person who had been found to have committed acts which would endanger the interests of the temple ; for instance, suppose the charge against the trustee had been that the had failed to obtain permission for absenting himself, or some such trivial ground, it would be impossible to accept the position that, pending the enquiry into such a charge, it would at all be necessary looking at the matter from any point of view, to place the trustee under suspension. The purpose underling this provision is therefore, that the authorities are entitled to see that the temple is looked after properly during the period when the charges are under enquiry and it is in that context that one had to examine the action of the Deputy Commissioner in the present case. As I have stated, the charges are only that he failed to prepare certain accounts and nothing more serious than that. It is, no doubt, true that it is not within the province of this Court to measure the gravity of the charges. But, looking at the matter in the light of the need for this particular provision, it is difficult to see what grounds the Deputy Commissioner thought existed which made it necessary to deprive the petitioner of his charge of the temple during the conduct of the enquiry. As I have said, more than six months had elapsed from the date on which the charges had been framed and before the date on which an order of interim suspension was made. Though the Deputy Commissioner is not bound to give his reasons, the fact that the order of interim suspension was made after such considerable deky would, to my mind, require the existence of some supervening reasons which necessitated such a course. Nothing is stated either in the order suspending the trustee or even in the counter affidavit to show that any circumstances justifying the suspension of the trustee had come into existence, in the management. The counter affidavit reads as if the respondent is under the impression that in every case where the charges are framed against a trustee, the Deputy Commissioner is entitled to, or even obliged, to, under the provisions of the law, place the turstee under suspension. This view of the relevant provision is grossly erroneous.

5. The other ground that the Deputy Commissioner has not jurisdiction to appoint a stranger as a fit person does not commend itself to me. It is true that in the case of a hereditary trustee, when a permanant vacancy has to be filled up, the next in the line of succession is entitled to succeed to the office ; equally, in a case where a temporary vacancy arises. But, under Section 54(2) of the Act, the filling up a temporary vacancy by the selection of a person next in the line of succession is required only' in a case where that vacancy arises as a result of the suspension of the hereditary trustee as a measure of punishment under Section 53(2) of the Act. In a case where a trustee is placed under interim suspension, the provision does not appear to recognise that a vacancy even of a temporary nature has come to exist. It would follow therefore that in such case it is not necessary for the Deputy Commissioner to choose the person next in the line of succession. That a stranger can be appointed in such circumstances has been decided by this Court in Writ Appeal No. 277 of 1962. This point is without substance.

6. In the view that I take that the suspension in the present case had been resorted to upon an erroneous impression of what Section 53(4) contemplates, the petition has to be allowed. The rule is made absolute. There will be no order as to costs.


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