1. The petitioner has preferred a Civil Revision Petition and a Civil Miscellaneous Appeal, the latter of which has since been withdrawn, against the order of the District Judge of Madura dated the 14th September, 1928, upon a petition filed by five worshippers of the Sri Meenakshi Sunderaswarar temple at Madura under Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code and Clauses 46 and 47 of the scheme framed for that institution. The substance of the prayer of these worshippers was to restrain the respondent, who is the trustee of the Devasthanam, from holding the Navarathri festival on the 14th September and eight succeeding days, The application was presented on the very 14th September itself, and must in the ordinary course have been heard ex parte, but it appears that a Pleader represented the trustee and that on the same date the matter was, therefore, argued on both sides, The learned District Judge found that he had jurisdiction to interfere in the matter and passed an order as prayed.
2. I am now asked to interfere by means of revision on the ground that this order was ultra vires. I have been taken through the various clauses of the scheme and I agree with the learned Advocate who appears for the petitioner that under no one of them could an application of this kind and for this purpose be made by the petitioners to the District Court. The scheme provides for various methods by which the Court's interference or control can be secured. Clause 35 allows any two or more members of the Committee or the Advocate General or any two persons having an interest in the Devasthanams and having obtained the previous consent in writing of the Advocate General or of the Court to apply for the removal of the Trustee or of any member of the Committee. It has been suggested that, as the previous consent in writing of the Court is sufficient, the mere circumstance that the Court did not give its previous consent to entertain the application is only an immaterial irregularity. I do not agree with this view, nor can it be said that this petition is one of the kind contemplated in the clause. Next, under Clause 65, the Advocate General, the Trustee or the President of the Committee acting in pursuance of a resolution of the Committee may apply to the Court for all necessary directions to carry out the scheme. This, it seems to me, provides for an application asking for a remedy such as the present one but unfortunately for the applicants, they did not in their persona satisfy the requirements of the clause, which, therefore, has no application. Similarly, under Clause 66, the same persons with the same previous consent in writing as are described in Clause 35 may apply to obtain any modification of the scheme. This clause too clearly does not satisfy the circumstances of the present case, It has been held in Bava C. Vythelinga Mudaliar v. R. Mahadeva Iyer : AIR1926Mad659 , that, where an institution of this character is controlled by a scheme the authority of the Court to deal with matters arising under it is derived from the scheme itself, and the Court has no general power outside of, or independent of, it. This disposes I think, of the argument that the Court can execute the scheme in some way otherwise than the scheme itself expressly provides.
3. A second line of argument has been followed, namely, that what the petitioners were asking for related purely to a question of ritual, and that, in questions of ritual the Civil Court cannot interfere. A passage in the judgment of Devadoss, J., in Abdul Hakim Baig v. Mahomed Burrammuddin : AIR1926Mad559 , appears to me to be very pertinent. Dealing with the question whether a clause in a certain scheme was or was not ultra vires he took the former view on the ground that it required the Court to interfere in the superintendence of the religious institution concerned and he said 'A clause of this kind, if held valid would empower the Court to interfere in matters purely religious. For example suppose the trustee of a temple introduces some new ritual or changes the ritual, can the Court hold an. enquiry whether the ritual is approved by the Shastras and whether it should be introduced in the temple or not? Surely the Court is incompetent to go into such matters, and parties cannot invest the Court with jurisdiction which it is incompetent to exercise.' That is not to say, of course, that in cases where questions of ritual are involved in the civil rights of persons they should not be investigated by the Courts, which appears to be the principle underlying such decisions as Elayahoar Reddiar v. Namberumal Chettiar 23 M. 298 : 10 M.L.J. 86, and Krishnaswami Iyengar v. Samaran Singarachariar 30 M. 158 : 2 M.L.T. 69 : 17 M.L.J. 1. The learned District Judge endeavours to show that he has jurisdiction by virtue of the circumstances that the right of the trustee to perform the festivals at a certain time is dependent upon rules framed under Clause 46 of the scheme, and that no such rules have been framed or approved. It appears that at the hearing the learned District Judge was given to understand by the Devasthanam Vakil that no such, rules were in existence, but that is now stated not to be the case. However that may be, from the point of view of jurisdiction, I am unable to see how the omission of the trustee to comply with the terms of the scheme can invest the Court; with power to interfere otherwise than by some method which the scheme provides. My view accordingly must be that jurisdiction was lacking to pass the order now under reference.
4. Assuming, however, that to be so, I still have to consider whether I ought to interfere in all the circumstances of the case. The Navarathri festival should, on the Trustee's own case, have began on the 14th of this month and as its name implies it is a nine days' festival. Of these nine days, seven days have unfortunately gone, not, it may be said owing to any direct fault of the Trustee himself. The argument is used that the seven days which have gone by form only an unimportant period and that the last two days are all that are essentially necessary for the festival to be celebrated. In his affidavit, the Trustee himself admits that the festival should be celebrated for nine days, from the 14th September till the 22nd of September, adding in para. 12. 'Though some days have already elapsed, according to our tradition and belief the last' two days are the most important days of the festival.' He does not, however, say that the festival thus abbreviated would have the same efficacy for the worshippers as if it were to cover the normal period and it is strongly urged upon me that to suspend the order now that seven days have elapsed would be very substantially to the prejudice of the many worshippers. It appears to me that the Trustee himself might have foreseen this trouble sufficiently early to obtain the approval of the Committee for fixing the festival, in September, earlier than he did in fact obtain that approval namely, on the 14th, the day of the hearing in the lower Court. The learned District Judge, who is himself a Hindu, has gone Sufficiently into the merits to enable him to say: 'After considering the original texts, it seems to me fairly clear that the festival cannot be celebrated at present,' and he proceeds to give some specific reasons. What with the urgency with which 'this application has had to be heard and my own comparative unfamiliarity with the subject, it is impossible for me to say that his opinion is not deserving of very considerable weight. It may be a pity that the learned District Judge passed the order Which he did at a time when it was very difficult to obtain any effectual revision of it, but since he has passed it, it seems to me that I might do very much, more harm than good to the interests of the worshippers and the Devasthanam if I should interfere with it. The matter in essence is much less one for the Civil Courts than for the worshippers, but the -fact that one Civil Court has interfered is no reason why another should add to the trouble. I may add that I have not been convinced that it will not be feasible to hold this festival next month, as appears to be the wish of at least some amongst the worshippers, though I do not wish to be understood to have in any adequate -manner considered the merits of that question which remains perfectly open.
5. I accordingly dismiss the Civil Revision Petition. No costs. The stay application '(C.M.P. No. 306 of 1928) is also dismissed.