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Samba Nataraja Dikshitar Vs. Kalyanasabesa Dikshitar, the Present Secretary to the Podu Dikshitars of Sri Sabhanayagar Devasthanam - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectTrusts and Societies
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1968)1MLJ153
AppellantSamba Nataraja Dikshitar
RespondentKalyanasabesa Dikshitar, the Present Secretary to the Podu Dikshitars of Sri Sabhanayagar Devasthana
Cases ReferredRamanatha Gurukkal v. Arunachalam Chettiar
Excerpt:
- m. natesan, j.1. the plaintiff who has failed in both the courts below is the appellant in this second appeal and the only question that falls for determination is whether the civil court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit in question. the short facts are: the plaintiff is one of the podu deekshidars of sri sabanayakar temple, chidambaram, and the suit is for a declaration that he is entitled to all the duties of his office in the above temple and to receive the emoluments therefor and for a permanent injunction restraining the defendant and the podu deekshidars from interfering with his performance of the duties of his office. the defendant has been impleaded as the secretary of the podu deekshidars of the temple and as representing the temple and its podu deekshidars. the cause of.....
Judgment:

M. Natesan, J.

1. The plaintiff who has failed in both the Courts below is the appellant in this Second Appeal and the only question that falls for determination is whether the civil Court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit in question. The short facts are: The plaintiff is one of the Podu Deekshidars of Sri Sabanayakar Temple, Chidambaram, and the suit is for a declaration that he is entitled to all the duties of his office in the above temple and to receive the emoluments therefor and for a permanent injunction restraining the defendant and the Podu Deekshidars from interfering with his performance of the duties of his office. The defendant has been impleaded as the Secretary of the Podu Deekshidars of the temple and as representing the temple and its Podu Deekshidars. The cause of action for the suit arose when on the failure of the plaintiff to keep a newly introduced 'Kaval Morai' (temple watch turn); he was fined and on failure to pay the fine amount the next day his rights in the temple as Podu Deekshidars for the vattam were auctioned away and sold to one Chandrasekhara Deekshidar, another Podu Deekshidar. The temple at Chidambaram and the wordship therein and the status of the Podu Deekshidars have been the subject of discussion and consideration in Natesa v. Ganapathi I.L.R. (1981) Mad. 103 and in Marimuthu Dikshidar v. State of Madras W.P. Nos. 379 and 380 of 1951, decided along with Sri Shirur Matt v. Commissioner, H.R.E. Board (1952) 1 M.L.J. 557. As will be seen from these decisions, the management of the temple is vested in the body of Dikshidars. The Dikshidars combine in themselves the functions of trustees as well as Archakas. They have no inams and they have to devote their time exclusively to look after the affairs of the temple and carry on the worship in it by an internal arrangement entered into between themselves over a century ago, as evidenced by the rules framed by them. These Dikshidars are prohibited from taking up any other avocation and of necessity they have to depend upon for their livelihood on what they receive at the temple either as Dakkshina or other offerings made to the deity. As pointed out by this Court in Sri Shirur Mutt v. Commissioner, H.R.E. Board (1952) 1 M.L.J. 557, they are bound up with the temple and service to God is the only source of their livelihood. The rules framed by these Dikshidars who are Dharmakarthas and Archakas provide for custody of the properties, turns of worship, etc. The rules governing them are exhibited in the present case as Exhibits A-2 and B-4. The rules also cover the administration of the temple by the Podu Dikshitars. There is also a scheme framed under Madras Act II of 1927 for the better administration of the temple. The Dishidars are generally on duty in the temple 20 at a time, each batch of 20 staying on duty for 20 days. There are six turns of service provided for Puja Morai, Padukkai Morai, Asthandra Morai, Maniyam Morai, Committee Morai and Vahana Mandapa Morai. Morai lists are prepared and put up by reference to which the Dishidars take up their Morais and attend to the duties. At the beginning of each period of 20 days called Vattam, the lists containing the various turns of the turn holders are published on the notice board of the temple. The Padukkai Morai consists of five persons for five days. Their duties are to keep watch and ward in the principal shrine of Sri Nataraja during nights and in the day time to perform Archanas for such pilgrims as may come. In addition to this, the watch and ward duty has to be performed by the Poofai Moraikars, 20 in number, for 4 days in each of the Sannidhanams. Thus there would be generally 25 turn holders safeguarding the temple. In addition, two Dikshidars have to see to the safety of the Vahanams and the temple vessels. They are called Vahanamandapa Moraikars. This system of safeguarding the shrine and its properties has been in vogue for several decades. The rules of the temple are contained in rule books and resolutions of the general body made from time to time. While as Podu Dikshidars they constitute a body of trustees of the temple, when they act as Archakas they will be servants of the trustees, that is, then they carry out their obligations to the temple, and are subject to the disciplinary jurisdiction of the body of trustees.

2. It so happened that in Arpasi, 1958, there was theft of gold plates in three stoopies of the Kanakasabai adjacent to Sanctum Sanctorum. Thereupon a general body meeting of the Podu Dikshidars was convened on 26th October, 1958, and a resolution was passed at the meeting that another set of 21 Dikshidars must guard the temple and prevent thefts. The resolution was later amended on 10th November, 1958, at another general body and in accordance with this resolution it was resolved that 8 Dikshidars should do 'Kaval Morai' by turn from 12 noon to 5 P.M. and from 10-30 P.M. to 6 A.M. from the topmost terrace of the temple to prevent thefts. There can be no two views that the introduction of the Kaval Morai was in the best interests of the temple and bona fide made by the Dikshidars who attended the general body meeting. Nor is it questioned that the general body of the Dikshidars has power to make new rules. The plaintiff herein was given intimation of his turn in the Kaval Morai which fell on 3rd December, 1958 and 4th December, 1958 according to usage. While other persons received notice of their turns, the plaintiff refused to receive the notice and he was fined Rs. 10. The fine was not paid immediately in terms of the rules and there was a default fine of Rs. 23-8-0 payable on or before 5th December, 1958. The plaintiff paid these fine amounts under protest and it is stated that he went up in appeal to the Deputy Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments. The plaintiff's next turn came on 20th January, 1959 and 21st January, 1959. He failed to discharge his duties on these two days and he was again fined Rs. 10 per each day. The fine amounts were not paid and so they were enhanced by 25 per cent. The plaintiff still did not pay the fine amounts. Thereafter in accordance with the usage on 22nd January, 1959, the plaintiff's rights as Dikshidar were put up in auction among the Dikshidars, as already stated. It is thereupon the plaintiff came up with the suit challenging the validity of the new Kaval Morai and the consequential absence of jurisdiction to fine him and put up his rights as a Dikshidar in auction for realisation of the fine amount.

3. Both the Courts below have upheld the plaintiff's contention that the resolution introducing the new Kaval Morai has not been validly passed by the general body and would not therefore be binding on the plaintiff. They would further hold that on the basis of the invalid resolution the plaintiff cannot be punished for not discharging the duties of Kaval Morai, and that his suspension from service is unjust and illegal. But in the view that the civil Court's jurisdiction is taken away by virtue of the provisions of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951, the suit has been dismissed.

4. The basis for the finding of invalidity of the resolution is found in the rules themselves. The quorum for a general body meeting of the Podu Dikshitars is fixed under Rule 41 of the rules as 44 members. The general body is also given powers to make new rules and enforce the same. But for this purpose also the quorum is fixed at 44 members. It appears that the Podu Dikshidars had passed a resolution fixing the quorum of a general body meeting at 21. But in this general body of the Podu Dikshitars where the quorum was reduced from 44 to 21 only 19 Dikshidars were present. When the resolution fixing the Kaval Morai was passed, no doubt 29 Dikshidars were present. But the resolution fixing the quorum at 21 can have no validity, as it was passed by a general body of only 19 members. If at that meeting 44 members had been present, they could have validly reduced the quorum of a general body from 44 to 21. The anomaly and the extreme irregularity of the proceeding under which the quorum was reduced to 21 are too apparent. It is in these circumstances that the Courts below have held that the resolution providing for Kaval Morai was invalid and not binding on the plaintiff. The plaintiff has not accepted the Kaval Morai and when he once paid the fine amounts, he paid them under protest without prejudice to his rights to challenge the same. For the defendant it is contended that in accordance with the rules and usage for realisation of the fine amounts his rights in the temple have been sold and therefore he was lawfully prevented from doing the duties of his office as Archaka and trustee. This plea in defence has not been accepted by the Courts below and quite properly. The plaintiff is bound to obey and carry out the directions of the general body of the trustees duly published and communicated. He will be guilty of indiscipline and disobedience on failure to obey all the lawful directions of the general body. But here the Kaval Morai system is not a duty lawfully imposed on him. It cannot be said that the Kaval Morai system introduced by a resolution passed at a general body meeting where there were less members than the quorum prescribed is valid. Consequently the Kaval Morai system should be considered to be null and void and not an obligation or duty imposed either by custom or usage or rules governing the Podu Dikshidars.

5. The question now is whether the plaintiff is prevented by any provision of law or by the rules of the temple from challenging the validity of the 'Kaval' rules and getting a declaration in the Court of their nullity and thus have established his rights and duties as a Podu Dikshidar in the temple.

6. First, the objection to the maintainability of the suit based on certain provisions in the rules governing the Podu Dikshidar may be disposed of without much difficulty. The Courts below have not accepted the objection. A plea was put forward on behalf of the defendant that under the rules appeals are provided to special bodies the Maha Sabha and Sidbantha Sabha from the decisions of any general body, and that without exhausting this remedy, a suit is not cognizable by a civil Court. These rules have no statutory force. They are framed by a. domestic forum and cannot preclude a party aggrieved from approaching the civil Court for relief. In Salyanarayana Murthi v. Narayana Murthi : AIR1952Mad106 , a question arose whether the right of suit was taken away by a rule made under the power conferred by a scheme framed for the administration of school. The head clerk questioned his dismissal by the Executive Committee of the School. Under the rules governing, the management of the institution an appeal was provided from a decision or order of the Executive Committee to the General Committee and finality was given to the decision of the General Committee. Overruling the contention that the rule barred a remedy of approaching the civil Court, the learned Judge Satyanarayana Rao, J., said:

The present is not a case of a right for the first time created by a statute along with a remedy to enforce that right and therefore the person claiming that right or deprived of that right should pursue the remedy provided by the statute, be that is his only exclusive remedy. The right of suit under Section 9 cannot be taken away by a rule made under the power conferred by the scheme framed for the administration of the school. It has no statutory force and cannot affect the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code. My attention has not been drawn to any authority which holds that in such circumstances by the existence of a rule which provides an optional remedy by way of appeal to the General Committee the aggrieved party has no right to go to a civil Court to have an adjudication on the right which he claims in the suit.

7. The more formidable bar is in the provisions of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act (XIX of 1951) now repealed by Madras Act (XXII of 1959). There is little difference between the two Acts in regard to the concerned provisions. Section 49 of Madras Act (XIX of 1951) runs as follows:

(1) All office-holders and servants attached to a religious institution or in receipt of any emolument or perquisite therefrom shall, whether the office or service is hereditary or not, be controlled by the trustee; and the trustee may, after following the prescribed procedure, if any, fine, suspend, remove or dismiss any of them for breach of trust, incapacity, disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, misconduct or other sufficient cause.

(2) Any office-holder or servant punished by a trustee under Sub-section (1) may, within one month from the date of the receipt of the order by him, appeal against the order to the Deputy Commissioner.

(3)A hereditary office-holder or servant may, within one month from the date of the receipt by him of the order of the Deputy Commissioner under Sub-section (2), prefer an appeal to the Commissioner against such order.

The argument for the defendant based on this provision is that in view of the provisions for appeal to the Deputy Commissioner and further appeal to the Commissioner, the right of the plaintiff to sue is barred. Section 49 by itself does not contain any express prohibition against an aggrieved party going to a civil Court. Nor does it give any finality to the order of the Commissioner. Only a provision for departmental appeal has been provided for. But there is Section 93 which runs thus:

No suit or other legal proceeding in respect of the administration or management of a religious institution or any other matter or dispute for determining or deciding which provision is made in this Act shall be instituted in any Court of law, except under, and in conformity with, the provisions of this Act.

8. Learned Counsel for the defendant argues that whether the suit in the form presented may be considered to be one relating to the administration or management of the religious institution, it is certainly a matter or dispute for determining or deciding which provision has been made in the Act. It is therefore contended that no suit should be instituted in a civil Court except when provided under the Act. In other words, the contention is that there is an absolute bar to the institution of any suit in a civil Court in respect of such matters, unless it is permitted by the Act. That is, the clause 'except under, and in conformity with the provisions of this Act' does not relate merely to procedural aspect of the suit permitted under the Act but is also a prohibition against the institution of any suit, unless it is provided specifically under the Act. Reading Sections 49 and 93 together, ex facie it appears that all suits in relation to the matters referred to in Section 93, unless a provision for it is made under the Act, are barred.

9. In State of Madras v. K. Melamatam (1966) 2 S.C.J. 175 : (1966) 2 M.L.J. 13 : (1966) 2 A.W.R. 13 : A.I.R. 1965, the Supreme Court observed:

Now, one of the disputes in this suit is whether the institution is, a religious institution within the meaning of Act XIX of 1951. Specific provision is made in Sections 57, 61 and 62 of the Act for determination of that dispute by the Deputy Commissioner, the Commissioner and eventually by a suit instituted in a Court under Section 62. The present suit is not brought under or in conformity with Section 62 and consequently in so far as the suit claims the relief of injunction restraining the levy of contribution and audit fees under Act XIX of 1951, it is barred by Section 83 of the Act.

In the present case, as pointed out above, there is no provision for any suit challenging the ultimate order the Commissioner may make in the matter. Here what has happened is that pursuant to the order under Section 49 the management has purported to put up in auction the plaintiff's right as Dikshidar and had sold it away. No question was raised before me as to the Validity of such mode of realisation of fine by a private body. It is stated to be based on usage and custom and in the absence of any argument directed on that matter, I shall not examine the validity of the same. The relief claimed in substance relates to, the personal rights of the plaintiff as a trustee or Dikshidar which he lost by auction and sale of the same pursuant to a fine invalidly levied. In Sri Shirur Matt v. Commissioner, H.R.E., Madras (1952) 1 M.L.J. 557, referring to the suit temple it is pointed out that the position of the Dikshidars of Chidambaram labelled trustees of the temple is virtually analogous to that of a Matathipathi of a Mutt except that the Pothu Dikshidars of the temple functioning as trustees will not have the same dominion over the income of the properties of the temple which the Matathipathi enjoys in relation to that income from the Mutt and its properties. In essence here the plaintiff is asserting his personal rights which have been forfeited.

10. When a plea is put forward that in any matter the jurisdiction of a civil Court to entertain a suit is barred, the question has to be examined bearing in mind the general presumption in favour of the jurisdiction of the civil Court. It has been repeatedly pointed out that the proper tribunals, for determination of disputes as to rights and properties are Courts and a person's right to resort to a civil Court should not be whittled down unless it is expressly or by necessary implication barred by a statute. As observed by Gajendragadkar, J. (as he then was) in Firm I.S. Chetty & Sons v. State of Andhra Pradesh : [1963]50ITR93(SC) .

The exclusion of the jurisdiction of civil Courts to entertain civil causes will not be assumed unless the relevant statute contains an express provision to that effect, or leads to a necessary and inevitable implication of that nature. The mere fact that a special statute provides for certain remedies may not by itself necessarily exclude the jurisdiction of the civil Courts to deal with a case brought before it in respect of some of the matters covered, by the said statute.

It that case the Supreme Court had to consider the scope of Section 18-A of the Madras General Sales Tax Act, 1939 which barred suits or other proceedings except as expressly provided for in the Act to set aside or modify any assessment made under the Act. The bar under Section 18-A was held to cover and as excluding the jurisdiction of civil Courts in respect of the suits covered by the provision and the prohibition was treated as express. While holding that there can be no doubt that where an order of assessment has been made by an appropriate authority under the provisions of the Act any challenge to its correctness and any attempt either to have it set aside or modified must be made before the appellate or the revisional forum prescribed by the relevant provisions of the Act and a suit instituted for the purpose would be barred under Section 18-A, it was emphasised that while providing for a bar to suits in ordinary civil Courts in respect of matters covered by Section 18-A the Legislature has taken the precaution of safeguarding the citizen's right by providing for adequate alternative remedies. After referring to the provision in the Act which enables the matter to be heard by a Bench of not less than two Judges in the High Court, it is stated that in the light of the elaborate alternative remedies provided in the Act the scope and effect of Section 18-A must be judged. Adverting to the oft-quoted observations of Lord Thankerton in Secretary of State v. Mask & Co. it is stated:

Non-compliance with the provisions of the statute to which reference is made by the Privy Council must, we think, be non-compliance with such fundamental provisions of the statute as would make the entire proceedings before the appropriate authority illegal and without jurisdiction. Similarly if an appropriate authority has acted in violation of the fundamental principles or judicial procedure that may also tend to make the proceedings illegal and void and this infirmity may affect the validity of the order passed by the authority in question. It is cases of this character where the defect or the infirmity in the order goes to the root of the order and makes it in law invalid and void that these observations may perhaps be invoked in support of the plea that the civil Court can exercise its jurisdiction notwithstanding a provision to the contrary contained in the relevant statute.

11. In Kamala Mills v. Bombay State : [1965]57ITR643(SC) , Section 20 of the Bombay Sales Tax Act corresponding to Section 18-A of the Madras Sales Tax Act was under consideration. The argument in that case for the State was that the bar under Section 20 can have no application when the order of assessment which the citizen sought to challenge was one without jurisdiction, that is, it is a nullity. Gajendragadkar, C.J., in proceeding to consider the validity of the contention started the discussion observing:

In deciding the validity of this contention, it is necessary to examine the scope of the jurisdiction conferred on the appropriate authorities by the relevant provisions of the Act. In other words, is the decision about the character of the transaction the decision of a collateral fact, the finding on which alone confers jurisdiction on the Tribunal to levy the tax or is it the decision on a question of fact which is left to be determined by the appropriate authority itself? If the jurisdiction conferred on the appropriate authority falls under the first category, then its finding that a particular transaction is taxable under the relevant provisions of the Act, would be a finding on a collateral question of fact, and it may be permissible to a party aggrieved by the said finding to contend that the tax levied on the basis of an erroneous decision about the nature of the transaction is without jurisdiction. If, however, the appropriate authority has been given jurisdiction to determine the nature of the transaction and proceed to levy a tax in accordance with its decision on the first issue, then the decision on the first issue cannot be said to be a decision on a collateral issue, and even if the said issue is erroneously determined by the appropriate authority, the tax levied by it in accordance with its decision cannot be said to be without jurisdiction.

Proceeding the learned Chief Justice observed:

In every case, the question about the exclusion of jurisdiction of civil Courts either expressly or by necessary implication must be considered in the light of the words used in the statutory provision on which the plea is rested, the scheme of the relevant provisions, their object and their purpose.... If it appears that a statute creates a special right or a liability and provides for the determination of the right and liability to be dealt with by tribunals specially constituted in that behalf, and it further lays down that all questions about the said right and liability shall be determined by the tribunals so constituted, it becomes pertinent to enquire whether remedies normally associated with action in civil Courts are prescribed by the said statute or not.... If we are satisfied that the Act provides for no remedy to make a claim for the recovery of illegally collected tax and yet Section 20 prohibits such a claim being made before an ordinary civil Court the Court may hesitate to construe Section 20 as creating an absolute bar, or if such a construction is not reasonably possible, the Court may seriously examine the question about the constitutionality of such express exclusion of the civil Court's jurisdiction having regard to the provisions of Articles 19 and 31 of the Constitution. It is with this two-fold object that this aspect of the matter must now be examined.

The above reference shows that even where the jurisdiction of a civil Court is excluded in so many words, the civil Court will have jurisdiction to examine whether the provisions of the Act have been complied with, whether the action is under the Act in question and whether the Tribunal has acted in conformity with the fundamental provisions of the statute. In the present case the contention of the plaintiff is that his proprietary right as a Dikshidar has been put up in public auction by a domestic body pursuant to a rule which is wholly void and illegal. Section 49 of the Act which provides for disciplinary jurisdiction of a trustee enables him to fine, suspend, remove or dismiss any of the office holders or servants of a religious institution for breach of trust, incapacity, disobedience of orders, neglect of duty misconduct or other sufficient cause. The ground relied upon in the present case for imposing fine on the plaintiff is his disobedience of the order and neglect of duties. There is no duty here enjoined by relevant rules. Nor can it be said that there is any disobedience of the order. The rule in question which is stated to have been disobeyed has not been framed by a body of the trustees competent to frame any rule. It is as if a total stranger having no connection with this institution makes an order for infringement of which the punishment is imposed. In such circumstances it cannot be said that the trustee has exercised a disciplinary jurisdiction which he has in the matter. The act in question which is impugned is not an act which falls under Section 49 of the Act. There can be no recognition of an act as one under the Act which is passed without jurisdiction. One can speak of disobedience of an order or neglect of duty in relation to orders which could be recognised in law or a duty which can be enforced. In the present case the plaintiff is not challenging an error, if any, of the trustee in the exercise of his jurisdiction. An erroneous order may be within the jurisdiction. Excessive punishment may also within the jurisdiction of the trustee and under the Act. But the impugned Act is not one under the Act or under the rules governing the institution. It cannot even govern the domestic forum. In such circumstances when it cannot be considered to be an order under Section 49, Section 93 cannot be invoked. Moreover Section 49 speakes only of fining, suspending, removing or dismissing. What has happened in the present case is that the right of the plaintiff as a Dikshidar was put up for sale in realisation of the fine. It certainly does not fall under Section 49 and no provision of the Act has been brought to my notice under which the fine could be realised in that manner under the Act. It follows that this is not a matter where it could be said that provision has been made under the Act for determining or deciding the matter in dispute. Nor is the relief claimed in the suit in substance one in respect of the administration or management of a religious institution as the phrase has been interpreted - See Kallalagar Devasthanam v. Thirumalai Nambigal (1943) 1 M.L.J. 496. In Kallalagar Devasthanam v. Thirumalai Nambigal (1943) 1 M.L.J. 496, where a hereditary archaka and Miras service-holder was dismissed and the order was confirmed on appeal by the H.R.E. Board under Act II of 1927, the aggrieved archaka filed a suit. When objection was taken in that case to the maintainability of the suit, this Court held that a civil Court has power to go into the question and ascertain whether any of the reasons did in fact exist which would confer jurisdiction on the trustee to act under Section 43 and if it found that they did not exist, the trustee should be held to have exceeded the powers conferred by Section 43 of the Act, and that therefore the decision of the Board could not be regarded as final. Section 43 there corresponded to Section 49 now under consideration. The learned Judges observed:

We must, however, make it clear that it is only in cases where the trustee has actually acted for the reasons given in Sub-clause (1) of Section 43 and enumerated in the last paragraph that the provisions of Sub-clauses (2) and (3) can be attracted. If a trustee is, on the other hand, found to have fined, suspended, removed or dismissed as office holder or a servant attached to a temple either for reasons other than those mentioned in Sub-clause (1) or although he purported to act for one of the reasons mentioned in that sub-clause, those reasons were not in fact found by him to have existed, the order of the trustee would not fall within the purview of Sub-clause (1) of that section arid the orders of the Committee or of the Board could not be consequently held to be final under the latter sub-clauses.

The decision of this Court in Ramanatha Gurukkal v. Arunachalam Chettiar (1939) 2 M.L.J. 516 : I.L.R. (1939) Mad. 81, was distinguished as not having decided the question whether the trustee had not acted for any other reasons stated in Sub-clause (1) of Section 43. The learned Judges observed:

It is true that a civil Court is not a Court of Appeal; but it is open to a civil Court to examine the grounds on which the trustee has acted and to ascertain whether they could or could not be brought under the section.... We would therefore hold that the civil Courts have the power to go into the question and to ascertain whether any of the reasons did in fact exist which would confer jurisdiction on the trustee to act under Section 43 and if it be found that they did not exist (as we had already found in this case) he must be held to have exceeded the powers conferred on him by Section 43 of the Hindu Religious Endowments Act and the decision of the Board could not, therefore, be regarded as final. And in the absence of the finality of that decision, the jurisdiction of the civil Courts could not be found to have been ousted.

I may here remark that Section 93 as it now stands is wider in its scope than the corresponding Section 43 which was considered in the case cited above. We have in the present Act the words 'No suit or other legal proceeding in respect of the administration or management of a religious institution or any other matter or dispute for determining or deciding which provision is made in this Act.' The bar is not confined to matters relating to administration or management of a religious institution. But on a consideration of all the aspects of the matter - the provisions of the Act' the nature of the order in question, the nature of the challenge and the reliefs claimed in the suit I have to hold that it is not a matter for the determination or decision of which there is a provision in the Act. The disciplinary jurisdiction here exercised is not with reference to disobedience of any legal or valid order; nor is there any neglect of any duty which the archaka owed to the institution. It is something wholly outside the Act and the body which punished the plaintiff had no competence in the circumstances to impose any penalty whatsoever. The follow up by the sale of his rights as Dikshidar which in fact is what hurts the plaintiff is a void act and a nullity. Usage may justify such mode of recovery only for fines validly levied. The Courts below, as already stated, have concurred in finding that the resolution was an invalid one. But in their view a civil Court has no jurisdiction in the matter. As I view it in the particular circumstances of the case, the Civil Court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit in question for the reliefs prayed for. The plaintiff here is asserting his personal rights which have been deprived of in an illegal manner and without jurisdiction. It follows that the plaintiff will be entitled to a decree as prayed for. The second appeal is allowed and the suit is decreed in favour of the plaintiff.

12. Coming to the question of costs, I do not think that this is a fit case where the plaintiff is entitled to costs. May be that the rules in question have not been validly framed. But he himself is a trustee and as a person interested in the safety of the temple and its properties, it is his moral duty to have taken up the turn and then protested. He is not just like a servant of the temple. He combines in himself also all the powers and responsibilities of a trustee. The general body which purported to frame the rules, framed them bona fide to protect the temple and its properties against wanton acts of theft and sacrilege. It is a temple in which the public are interested and the Podu Dikshidars are trustees in charge of the temple. It may be a denominational temple; still it is a public institution which has millions of devotees. In such circumstances leaving out strict legal aspects it does not behave any Podu Dikshidar to refuse to take up his turn of watch in the interests of the institution on the only ground that it was invalid. In institutions of this kind when the rule or order cannot otherwise be assailed, one would expect first compliance under protest, if need be and then steps consistent with the status of the Dikshidars to bring home the invalidity of the order. If a Dikshidar is meticulous about the legality of the proceedings, he may have it invalidated by the appropriate body or get it invalidated. It is no doubt necessary to avoid charges of authoritarianism and arbitrariness, that there must be regularity in proceedings and rules are meticulously observed when making fresh rules or passing orders; irregularity in these matters if not rectified, may become undesirable precedents. But it is quite different from saying that as a responsible person interested he should co-operate with the general body while insisting on repealing the irregular proceedings. The Podu Dikshidars have in their domestic forum a fine and complete set of rules which has stood the test of time; it is over a century old. It does not redound to the credit of this ancient institution that there should be civil litigation in respect of disciplinary matters--such litigation is not conducive to comity among Dikshidars. In these circumstances the parties will bear their respective costs throughout. No leave.


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