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M.V.D. Gyana Sambanda Pandara Sannathi Vs. A. Vaithilinga Mudaliar and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Decided On
Reported inAIR1924Mad168
AppellantM.V.D. Gyana Sambanda Pandara Sannathi
RespondentA. Vaithilinga Mudaliar and ors.
Cases ReferredRamanuja Chariar v. Gnanasambanda Pandara
- .....and co-ordination by a controlling and inspecting body its also apparent, the past history of the suit katlais shows that a panchayat, or a panchayatdar once existed for the purpose, during the period of government management. in ramiengar alias ramanuja chariar v. gnanasambanda pandara-sannadi 5 m.h.c. 53, the appointment of panchayatdars is stated to have been simply a coercive act for more effectual supervision, ex. a shows that there were 5 panchayatdars in 1842 and ex. qqqqqq shows that in 1882 the district judge appointed 3 panctiayatdars to supervise the ulthurai katlai. it is argued that, defendants 2 and 3 and defendants 12 and 14 should not have a seat on the board of supervision, the former as they have already an interest as trustees of the uithurai katlai and the latter as.....

1. These appeals arise out of a suit under Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code, for framing a scheme with regard to the administration of the temple of Sree Thyagarajaswami, at Tiruvalur in the Tanjore District. There are various trusts instituted for the purpose of either supporting the services in the temple, or of carrying on charities in the name of the deity, known as Katlais. Each Katlai has its own trustee and separate properties are endowed in connection with each Katlai. There are thirteen of them now and a list of these is given in Schedule A of the plaint. The most important of these are the first four, viz. (1) Ulthuraj, (2) Abhisheka, (3) Annadana, and (4) Rajan. The 5th and 6th are practically identical with the fourth. The trustees of the first (Ulthuraj) are defendants 1 to 3. The trusteeship of the 2nd (Abhisheka) and the 3rd (Annadana) is vested in the head of the Velukurichi Mutt (in the Tinnevelly District) for the time being, now the 12th defendant. Similarly that of the 4th (Rajan Katlai) (with which go the 5th and 6th) is in the head of the Dharmapuram Mutt (in the Tanjore District for the time being (now the 14th defendant). These heads of Mutts discharge the duties of trustees of their Katlais by means of local agents. The 14th defendant is the appellant in A.S. No. 136 of 1920: the 12th defendant in A.S. No. 195 of 1920; the plaintiffs in A.S. No. 167 of 1920, appeal in respect of the 7th (Palayee) Katlai; and the defendants 15 and 16 filed A.S. No. 196 of 1920 in respect of the 11th (Ardhajamam) Katlai.

2. It may be observed that, though, technically speaking the temple has no income of its own, and has to depend for all its services on the proper performance of the trusts connected with the Katlais, still for all practical purposes the Ulthurai (internal or central) Katlai represents the temple proper--its object being the internal management of the temple. It has an income of Rs. 8000 as a Mohini allowance from the Government and some lands (6 velis and odd). Other Katlais contribute their share of services or things in the various stages of the daily worship and in the various festivals of the temple (see paragraph 52 of the Subordinate Judge's judgment). The extent of their liability is determined by usage and is ascertained from the dittam (or scale) prepared by each Katlai, in connection with the daily worship and festivals. It is said for the plaintiff that the chief item of expense in connection with the Ulthurai Katlai is that of the car festival and it has been found difficult to carry on this festival with the income of the Ulthurai Katlai on account of the rise in wages. Whatever the true cause may be, the fact remains that the Ulthurai Katlai has become hopelessly indebted. Its debt on the 16th September, 1917 was more than Rs 31,000 of which Rs. 17,000 was dvie to the 1st plaintiff and Rs. 14,000 to the 3rd defendant, one of its trustees. It is suggested for the contesting defendants that the object of this suit is to prop up the Ulthurai Katlai at the expense of the other Katlais and that the suit is the result of collusion between plaintiffs and 3rd defendant. It is frankly admitted by the 3rd defendant that he and 1st plaintiff are friends, that he co-operated with the 1st plaintiff in connection with the institution of this suit and he is also spending money along with the 1st plaintiff for this litigation (vide pp. 690 and 692 of the deposition). At the same time, it must be admitted that there has been gross mismanagement of the affairs of the temple and some scheme for the co-ordination of the various Katlais and for some control over the various Katlais in so far as it may ensure the harmonious working of the Katlais, where ever they have to co-operate, is necessary.

3. An objection was taken by the defendants (4 to 11) that the Katlais were distinct trusts and the suit as originally framed was bad for misjoinder of parties and causes of action. Issues 1 and 2 were framed with, reference to this contention and the arguments were heard on them in 1913. The Subordinate Judge who heard them held: 'That as the Katlaidars are different and a each of them is in possession of a distinct Katlai charged with distinct duty and separate allegations of misconduct are made against the several Katlaidars,' the suit was bad for misjoinder of parties and causes of action (Order dated 13th October, 1913). He, however, gave leave to amend the plaint, which was accordingly done. The plaint as it now stands in the printed papers is the amended plaint. The prayer for the removal of unfit trustees and the appointment of other trustees in their places has been omitted. Having regard to the amended plaint, the Subordinate Judge who finally tried the case excluded 'Evidenceas to any acts constituting misfeasance or malfeasance, affecting the competency, conduct or character of the defendants individually.' (Paragraph 16 of the judgment), but he adds in paragraph 38; dealt 'Though the 19th issue directly with the misconduct of the individuals and it has been deleted, I had to reluctantly admit the evidence having regard to the fact that, if the past management was unsatisfactory irrespective of any reference to any individuals, a scheme might be necessary to place the administration on a sound basis.'

4. The scheme framed by the subordinate Judge appoints a Board of Trustees and directs that; the various Katlaidars shall deliver over charge to the manager and treasurer after his appointment. No provision has been made for separating the accounts of the Katlais. This arrangement destroys the individual character of the various Katlais and has the effect in some cases of removing tie trustees and in others, of adding other trustees to the existing sole trustee of each Katlai. This is inconsistent with the basis of the order of the First Subordinate Judge of 13th October, 1913. We have, therefore, to ascertain, at the outset, the nature of the various Katlais and see how far the scheme of the Lower Court can be justified in this respect.

5. It is admitted that the several Katlais came into existence at different times and have been managed separately for a long time, probably for centuries. Certain copper plate grants by which some of the lands of the Rajan Katlai were endowed (Ex.3. XLI, XLI-a (1740). XLI-c (1751), XLI-b (1754) are vailable and Ex. LXIII (1759) is the document by which the Ardhajamam Katlai lands were endowed. But beyond these we have no evidence of the original endowments, and usage is cur only guide. The trustees of some Katwis have added to the originally endowed lands by further purchases, out of the savings from their income (some of LII series, XXXIV and LXIV, being such sale-deeds). In 1810, the Government assumed management of the temple (Ex, 000). The supervision of the Government was exercised through a 'panchayot' (by which one person was apparently meant and not a body of persons) who was counter signing the accounts of each Katlai Me Ex. G, T, GG, AAA, H, BBB, D, N, Q, SS, F, S, Z, CO, L, WW, E, EE., NN, GGG, P.).

6. The pandarams representing the Abhisheka and Rajan Katlais executed documents in 1820, in favour of Government binding themselves to certain details in the performance of the duties connected with the respective Katlais, (RRR, and FFFF). The Takidi issued by the officers of the Government dealt with the Katlais separately (see BBBR, TTTT, PPPP, OOOO, SSS, OCCC, B, JJJJJ). In 1841 by Ex. LVIIL the Collector of Tanjore reported to the Board of Revenue on the pagodas of the District and in the statement enclosed with it, the Rajan Katlai was referred to as a separate item and the Abhisheka and Annadana Katlais together were referred to as another item. They were described as 'Athinam' in paragraph 8 of the report, on the ground that the right of appointment of the local managers belonged to certain Mutts or Colleges of Tambirans. This was followed by similar documents in 1842, when Government divested themselves of the management of Hindu temples, Ex. LIV for Rajan Katlais and LXXI for the Abhisheka and Annadana Katlais (see also Ex. LXXIII). The Exs. LXVII, LIV-a, LXXIV, LVI. LVII and TTT, EEEE, DDDD, LXVII and LXXII, relate to the handing over charge of these Katlais, Exs. LIX, LXII, LXIE-a relate to the appointment of a Panda-ram or local agent at Timvalur on behalf of the Velukurichi Mutt and LV to the appointment of a similar local agent for the Dharmapuram Mutt. In 1847 the Government obtained Muchilkas from the several Katlaidars to ensure the due performance of the trusts (see Exs. HHHHH TTTTT, VVVV, FFFF, MMMMM, QQQQQ, RRRR, TTTTTT, MMMMM). These Muchilikas were taken by the Government 'on grounds of expediency' and do not show that the Government had any right in particular over the Katlais see Ramiengar alias Ramanuja Chariyar v. Gnanasambanda Panaara Sannadi 5 M.H.C. 53. Following the last mentioned decision it was held in 1868 (see Ex. LIII) that the other Katlais were not subject to the superintendence of the Ulthurai Katlai, and that they were not dependent trusts. The plaintiffs in that case did not press their claim against the Katlais under the Mutts (see paragraph 31 of Ex. LIII). This judgment was affirmed by the High Court in K. Venkatabalakrishna Chettiar v. Kaliyana Ramaigangar 5 M.H.C. 48.

7. In 1882, three persons were appointed as panchayats for the superintendence of the Ulthurai Katlais (Ex. QQQQQQ). The present defendants 1 to 3 are their representatives. It is not necessary to discuss in this case whether these trustees are hereditary. It is clear from the history of the temple from 1870 to 1882, above set forth, that the Katlais are independent institutions and that the other trustees are r of subject to the control of the Ulthurai trustees, the common bond between them all being that they axe supposed to exist for the glorification of the Deity (Thyagarajaswami) either directly, by services rendered within the temple, or indirectly, by charities carried on outside the temple in the name of the Deity. We do not agree with the remarks of the Subordinate Judge at the end of paragraph 32 which imply that the Ulthurai trustees have some right of supervision over the other Katlais. It cannot be said that the income of the various Katlais belongs to Thiyagarsjaswami (the idol) or can be mixed up and utilised for all the purposes of the temple indiscriminately. These trusty are somewhat analogous to temple services inams. Just as the latter are different from inam properties belonging to a temple, being granted to office holders on condition of rendering services in a temple and do not belong to the idol, though the idol may be interested in the rendering of the services, similarly the incomes of the Katlais do not belong to the idol, though the idol is interested in the proper performance of the distinct duties attached to each Katlai. The remarks of Muthuswami Aiyar, J., in Vythilinga Pandara Sannadhi v. Somasundara Mudaliar 17 Mad. 1999, are instructive in this connection, as the decision related to this very temple. After describing two senses of the term Katlai, the learned Judge says:

The term Katlai is used in the present suit in this sense 'referring to the second sense he had previously described, viz.' a distinct endowment under a separate trustee to which specific items of expenditure are assigned as legitimate charges to be paid therefrom.8. That Suit was a suit by the Ulthurai Katlai against the Abhisheka and Rajan Katlais for contribution for repairs. At page 203 the learned Judge says:

the muchilikas which these executed on that occasion contain a distinct acknowledgment that the Katlai lands were originally granted to Sri Thiyagarajaswami and an undertaking to apply the income derived therefrom to the said temple. This is significant as showing that the repair of the temple was a trust to which the surplus income had to be devoted according to the original grant.9. The decision then was to the effect that the Rajan and Abhisheka Katlais were liable to effect repairs from the surplus funds of their Katlais. It is now admitted that the duty of repairing the temple is one intimately connected with these two Katlais and that they are liable to contribute funds for that purpose. The learned Judge did not make any observation which is capable of being literally construed to mean that all the funds of the Katlais attached to this temple were then vested in the temple and at the disposal of the Ulthurai Katlaidars for any purpose whatsoever.

10. Some of the Katlais have now to be separately considered. We have already referred to the admission made by the trustees of the Rajan Katlai and Abhisheka Katlai that their surplus funds are liable for the repairs of the temple. The matter, however, is different as to Annadanam and other Katlais. In the case of the Annadanam Katlai the trustee argued (in Appeal 195 of 1920) that there are other temple which wore the indirect object of the Katlais and the income cannot be solely spent for the benefit (direct or indirect) of Thyagarajaswami. This point was not raised in the written statement and cannot be considered here. In Ex. YYYY the Collector acting as agent to the Court of Wards on behalf of the 3rd defendant's estate described the duties of the Annadana Katlai in paragraph 3 as consisting of, (1) shelter to pilgrims. (2) distribution of food, (3) water pandal, (4) lights and (5) pagoda service. The details of the last have to be ascertained from the 'Dittam' or customary list of contributions. In the face of paragraph 3, no weight can be attached to the general and sweeping statement in paragraph 2 that the Annadana Katlai chatram is a minor branch of the great temple of Thyagarajaswami. It must be remembered that there was always a tendency on the part of the Ulthurai Katlaidars to claim power of supervision over the Katlais. The judgment of 1866 (Ex. LIII), this document (Ex. YYYY) and now the present suit illustrate this. We are of opinion that the surplus income of Annadana Katlai cannot be utilised for the repairs, or other expenses in connection with the temple. The income of the Katlai can only be spent for the purposes mentioned in Ex. YYYY--all of them being carried on in the name of Thiyagarajaswami and in this way exalting the glory of the idol. The solitary instance appearing from Ex. KKKKKK-5 of a portion of the expenses of raising the image of the Goddebs from the river being debited to the Annadana Katlai cannot be taken as establishing a usage. Similar conclusions apply to Ardhajama Katlai. It may be that only the temple of Thiyagaraja and subordinate shrines are the temples indirectly (or directly) intended to be benefited by the Mosakulam lands of the said katlai vide Exs. MMMMM and MMMMM-1). At the same time too much weight ought not to be given to the muchilikas (as already pointed out) and the income cannot be appropriated for the purpose of the temple indiscriminately. Only the customary services have to be met out of it. Ex. JJJJJJ refers to the dittam of the Katlai. The same remarks also apply to Palayee Katlai (7th) the subject of Appeal No. 167 of 1920.

11. A scheme has now to be framed which will ensure the harmonious working of the Katlais, when they have to co operate in the Pagoda service, and prevent the embezzlement of the funds of the Katlais or their diversion by the trustees contracting debts--as has happened in the case of the Ulthurai and other Katlais. The scheme as framed by the Lower Court obliterates the individuality of the various Katlais, pools their resources in one large fund, and makes the Board of Trustees practically a hand of the Court by the direction in paragraphs 4 and 11 that it shall exercise its powers of administration subject to the directions of the Court. As the Katlaidars are themselves the trustees of the various trusts, it is inappropriate that supervising body should be described as a Board of Trustees, although the trustees are by the scheme eligible for the appointment on the Board.

12. It is very necessary that the scheme should contain stringent prohibitions against the borrowing or lending of money by the trustees from or to the trust funds, or from one Katlai to another Katlai, seeing that the 12th defendant in paragraph 12 of his written statement treats borrowing as a necessary incident to the management of the trust and claims a right to do what ho pleases with any surplus that may remain over. The preparation of a budget, the proper keeping of accounts in which the income and expenditure of each of the Katlais may be separately shown and the periodical audit of these accounts are matters most essentially to be provided for in the regulations in order to fix the trustees with responsibility for the due performance of their trusts and to avoid waste and indebtedness. The need for supervision and co-ordination by a controlling and inspecting body its also apparent, The past history of the suit Katlais shows that a panchayat, or a panchayatdar once existed for the purpose, during the period of Government management. In Ramiengar alias Ramanuja Chariar v. Gnanasambanda Pandara-Sannadi 5 M.H.C. 53, the appointment of panchayatdars is stated to have been simply a coercive act for more effectual supervision, Ex. A shows that there were 5 panchayatdars in 1842 and Ex. QQQQQQ shows that in 1882 the District Judge appointed 3 panctiayatdars to supervise the Ulthurai Katlai. It is argued that, defendants 2 and 3 and defendants 12 and 14 should not have a seat on the Board of Supervision, the former as they have already an interest as trustees of the Uithurai Katlai and the latter as they are trustees of the Abhisheka. Annadana and Rajan Katlais and on account of the misconduct of their predecessors. We think that the Subordinate Judge was right in including them. The 2nd and 3rd defendants are well-to-do mirasidars, living in the locality who have always shown, as interested in the due performance of the religious worship in the temple and re descendants of two of the former panchayatdars. The 12th and 14th defendants have succeeded to their offices during the pendency of the suit and have had no opportunity of showing whether they are personally fitted or unfitted for the conduct of a religious trust. As remarked by the learned Judge, there is always the probability that persons residing in other parts of the district may not take sufficient interest to attend the meetings of the Board. The proposals made in the course of the arguments (1) that there should be two treasurers, (2) that we should appoint a 'visitor ' to inspect the temple from time to time to make recommendations regarding the Katlais do not commend themselves to us, as it is not shown that there will be more work for the treasurer than one man can manage to do and as a splitting of the post would probably imply a division of responsibility fatal to good management; and secondly we do not consider that a visitor acting singly would, however well intentioned, exercise an effectual authority in the prevention and cure of abuses of the trust.

13. We have modified the scheme as drawn up by the Lower Court in such a manner as in our opinion will have the effect of maintaining the individuality of the Katlais and not interfering with the essential characters of the Adinam (independent) trusts, while at the same time providing that the time of the Court shall not be taken up by constant references to it on minor matters of administration and management. The plaintiffs will got their costs in appeal from the funds of the Devasthanam. All the other parties will bear their own costs in these appeals. The Lower Court's order as to costs will stand. This judgment disposes of the memorandum of objections in Appeal No. 167.

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