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Yettinahalli Chenna Basappa and ors. Vs. His Holiness Jagadguru Sree Sankara Bharathi Swami Gaha Vidya Sankara Bharathi Swami (Dead) and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtChennai
Decided On
Judge
Reported in119Ind.Cas.149
AppellantYettinahalli Chenna Basappa and ors.
RespondentHis Holiness Jagadguru Sree Sankara Bharathi Swami Gaha Vidya Sankara Bharathi Swami (Dead) and ors.
Excerpt:
torts - obstruction of head of mutt to proceed along public road in procession with special emblems of respect--suit for damages--basis for assessment--heads of claim--costs--exaggerated claim--decree for small amount--defendant, whether can be mulcted, with costs. - .....was not triable by the, civil court and yet the plaintiff has introduced this question into the suit--a question which he should not have introduced. the subordinate judge holds that the defendants in meeting the case put forward which they were bound to meet have been guilty of such conduct as to warrant their being mulcted in damages assessed on the claim of one lakh of rupees, 20 times the amount awarded by the lower court and 100 times the amount which we think is adequate. this is must certainly inequitable. in the case of a suit for damages it is no doubt difficult to assess the claim very accurately especially as in this case where the claim for moral damages alone is sustained and, therefore, it is hardly right to order proportionate costs. so far as the defendants against.....
Judgment:

1. This is a suit for damages by the Jagatguru of the Kudli Sringeri Mutt. In his plaint he recites that he was making a tour among his disciples and as Jagatguru of the Kudli Sringeri mutt was entitled to go in procession in an Addapallaki with various other religious honours. He arrived at the village of Haravi near Holalu on the 9th of October, 1920, and on the following day he was told by the Police that he must not attempt to go in procession in the Addapallaki because of a probable breach of the peace. Accordingly on the 11th of October he went in procession in an ordinary Pallaki, Mena, to which was attached an emblem called 'Panchakalasam.' The defendants obstructed his passage and told him that he could not proceed with this Panchakalasam attached to the Mena, but that they had no objection to his going in an ordinary Mena without this emblem. There was a scuffle between the parties and some of the plaintiff's men were beaten but the plaintiff himself, was not beaten or in any way hurt. A criminal case was filed against some of the defendants and they were convicted. On the 15th October, the plaintiff obtained an order from the District Magistrate addressed to the Subordinate Magistrate allowing the plaintiff to proceed in procession in his Addapallaki. On the 20th October defendants Nos. 2 and 5 put in a petition to the District Magistrate under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. On the 30th of October the Joint Magistrate of Hospet prohibited the plaintiff from going in procession by an ex parte order. This order was passed upon various petitions put in by the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages Finally on, the 27th of November the District Magistrate's order of the 15th October was restored. It will be seen that the obstruction by defendants was not to procession in Addapallaki but to the procession in a Mena adorned with Panchakalasam, and that is so stated in the plaint. The defendants admit the obstruction and also deny the plaintiff's right, not only to the office of Jagatguru but also to these peculiar religious honours. So far as the religious honours are concerned it is clear that no civil right is involved of which a Civil Court will take cognizance and if a suit had been brought for the declaration of the plaintiff's right to such honours the Civil Court would have declined to take cognizance of it altogether. This point was raised in the lower Court but on the ground that the plaintiff has sustained damages and was claiming damages the suit was allowed and rightly so, because in sp far as the plaintiff is a member of the general public he is entitled to go as he pleases along public roads provided that he does not thereby interfere with the rights of other people. It is not alleged that he was causing any serious obstruction to the public or interfering with any rights of the public. In obstructing him, therefore, the defendants committed a tort and the plaintiff is entitled to damages. He claims damages under various heads to the total amount of one lakh of rupees, but he has not specified the amounts assigned to each particular head. The whole of the damages claimed is lumped together in one sum. He claims damages firstly, on account of the loss of voluntary offerings which his disciples would have made to him, had he gone in the Addapallaki. There was no obstruction by the defendants to his going in the Addapallaki for that had been prohibited by the Police. This ground of damages must, therefore, go apart from the fact that it is merely a question of voluntary offerings and it cannot be said that the plaintiff incurred damages, in this respect by the obstruction. Secondly, he claims the costs of feeding his followers in a tope near the village of Holalu for a period of 70 days and has adduced evidence to show that be has spent money on feeding charges etc. In the first place it does not appear that he would not have had to feed his followers whether the obstruction took place or not and, therefore, the fact that he had to feed them for the 70 days does not appear to be the direct result of the obstruction on the 11th of October. It is also not made out that the plaintiff was bound to camp for 70 days at this one particular place merely on account of the act of the defendants. The argument for the plaintiff is that he was afraid of going anywhere else because he feared that if he went in procession in the Addapallaki and with others honours, he would be obstructed. It is perfectly clear that there was a very strong feeling against the plaintiff amongst the whole Lingayat community of the neighbourhood. It is quite true that the Lingayats as a body would probably have caused obstruction and plaintiff may have been well-advised not to visit other villages with the disputed honours but to say that the defendants alone are responsible for plaintiff's inaction and that it was the natural result of defendant's obstruction is quite unjustifiable. Had plaintiff gone to any other village, it is possible that the Lingayats of that village would have obstructed him. Gould that be treated as an act of the defendants? In the absence of evidence that they directly instigated the other Lingayats in the neighbourhood such obstruction certainly cannot be laid to their charge.

2. The third item is costs incurred by the plaintiff in employing Vakils to assist the prosecuting inspector in the rioting case against the defendants. There was no necessity for the plaintiff to instruct Counsel on such occasions, and in fact I might almost say that it was not desirable that he should, but in any case he cannot contend that it is the natural result of the defendants' obstruction. That claim must also be disallowed. The last item is moral damages and in this respect the plaintiff says that the acts of the defendants have had the effect of lowering the dignity of the plaintiff in the eyes of his disciples as well as others. The fact that he was not allowed to go in procession no doubt did have the 'effect of lowering his dignity, and his position as a respected member of the community and the head of a mutt may be taken into consideration in calculating the damages sustained by the loss of his dignity but so far as the spiritual honours which he claims are concerned, the Court cannot go into the question of religious honours and, therefore, the question must be determined without reference to this consideration. In this Court the danger of relying on this question of religious honours wag realised by the plaintiff and his claim to damages was put on the ground that he was a respected member of the public. The question then remains as to how much money would be adequate to compensate the plaintiff for the lowering of his dignity. The Subordinate Judge as is apparent from a perusal of the whole of his judgment has proceeded on the ground that the plaintiff was entitled as the head of the Kudli Sringeri Mutt to special honours, and has also enhanced the damages on account of the conduct of the defendants. This latter ground is sought to be supported by the respondents by showing that even after the actual obstruction by defendants were instrumental in affecting the plaintiff's position by representations to the authorities and the petitions, Ex. OO series are relied on. These petitions were put in by the Lingayats of other villages and it cannot be inferred without evidence and there is no evidence that these petitions are the work of the defendants. Defendants Nos. 2 and 5 undoubtedly put in the petition Ex. YY. That petition was directed to the District. Magistrate and the order apparently oh that petition and possibly on others was in favour of the plaintiff and, therefore, that petition cannot have damaged the plaintiff. It is very difficult to estimate the amount of moral damages. If we confine this case as we must to the damage done to the plaintiff as a respectable member of the public, it is difficult to see how he can claim more than Rs. 1,000 damages and that is the amount which we award.

3. There remains the question of costs. The plaintiff valued his suit at one lakh of rupees and thereby incurred very large costs for stamp duty and for Vakil's-fees. The Subordinate Judge has held that the plaintiff has very much over valued his suit but that he should not be penalised because of the conduct of the defendants. Whether the suit had been brought for Rs. 100 or a lakh of rupees, the defendants would have been equally justified in denying the allegations in the plaint. The plaintiff alleged that he was the head of the Kudli Sringeri Mutt and as such entitled to these religious honours. This was naturally denied by the defendants. They also took a plea that each a matter was not triable by the, Civil Court and yet the plaintiff has introduced this question into the suit--a question which he should not have introduced. The Subordinate Judge holds that the defendants in meeting the case put forward which they were bound to meet have been guilty of such conduct as to warrant their being mulcted in damages assessed on the claim of one lakh of rupees, 20 times the amount awarded by the lower Court and 100 times the amount which we think is adequate. This is must certainly inequitable. In the case of a suit for damages it is no doubt difficult to assess the claim very accurately especially as in this case where the claim for moral damages alone is sustained and, therefore, it is hardly right to order proportionate costs. So far as the defendants against whom the decree is passed are concerned, we think that it will be a sufficient order to direct the parties to bear their own costs. A certain number of defendants have been, exonerated as not being concerned in the obstruction. They have filed a memorandum of objections because they have been ordered to bear their own costs.

4. The ground for this order appears to be the fact that they denied the plaintiff's right to the office of the Jagatguru and to the religious honours which he claims. As now the suit has been treated as one by a member of the public this reason fails entirely and there is no reason why the ordinary rule of law that costs follow the result should not be applied. The memorandum of objections will, therefore, be allowed and the plaintiff will pay to defendants Nos. 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 17, 18 and 19 their costs throughout. The decree will be modified by awarding the plaintiff Rs. 1,000 damages against the other defendants and plaintiff and each of these defendants will bear his own costs both here and in the lower Court.


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