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Debendra NaraIn Sarkar and ors. Vs. Satya Charan Mukerji and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Reported inAIR1927Cal783
AppellantDebendra NaraIn Sarkar and ors.
RespondentSatya Charan Mukerji and ors.
Cases ReferredShankara v. Hanma
Excerpt:
- .....the olata (farewell) ceremony of the goddess on the bijoya day, and that at the time of the sandhi puja, the plaintiffs having taken a naibedya for offering, the defendants prevented the priest from accepting the same, and defendant 1 had kicked out the said naibedya with his feet.3. the defendants in their defence alleged in para. 6 of the written statement that the puja has never been performed under the supervision and orders of his son, after the death of nanda kumar sarkar, the father of plaintiff 3, and after his death plaintiff 1 and in the absence of plaintiff 1 of his sister's son gora chand till 1327 b.s.; nor is there or was any reason for their so doing and that the allegations in para. 4 of the plaint are false. there was no reason of the puja being performed under the.....
Judgment:

Mitter, J.

1. This appeal arises out of a suit commenced by the plaintiffs for a declaration of the plaintiffs' right to supervise the Saradiya Haragouri puja in village Narainpur, to prepare and offer certain offerings on that occasion and for an injunction to restrain the defendants from interfering with plaintiffs' right of management. The defence is a denial of plaintiffs' right of management. The Court of first instance decreed the suit with costs and declared plaintiffs' right of management over the worship of the image Hara Gouri Thakurani, performed annually at the autumn season at village Narainpur, and also made certain declarations with regard to plaintiffs' exclusive right to offer offerings. On appeal by the defendants, the Subordinate Judge of Burdwan dismissed the plaintiffs' suit, holding that such a suit was not maintainable in the Civil Court. As the suit has been thrown out on the ground that such a suit cannot be entertained in the civil Court, it becomes necessary to set out in greater details the precise scope of the suit.

2. The plaintiffs state in their plaint that one Nanda Kumar Sarkar, who had 9 annas share in Narainpur putni taluk, established the autumnal worship (Saradiya Puja) of Iswar Haragouri Thaku-rani in the said village of Narainpur with the help of the seven annas co-sharer of Narainpur patni taluk. And in order to build a mandir (temple) for performing the worship of the said image he purchased one and half cottas of land from one Munjari Dasi on the 9th of Aswin, 1257 B.S., and erected a house thereon. It was further alleged that the said Nanda Kumar Sarkar, in order to defray the expenses of the Saradiya puja, dedicated several bighas of land, and, with the voluntary contributions of the tenants of the village Narainpur, and, with the annual stipend of Rs. 3 settled by him from the zemindari sheresta, he performed annually the autumnal puja under his own supervision, meeting the balance of his expenses from his own pocket. Plaintiffs further alleged that so long as Nanda Kumar was alive he, and, after his death, his son and the father of plaintiff 3, and after his death, plaintiff 1, and, in the absence of plaintiff 1, his sister's son Gorachand Roy, under plaintiff l's order, had performed the autumnal puja. That in 1328 B.S., with the evil intention of excluding the plaintiffs from the puja, the defendants in collusion with one another, set up defendant 1 as the karta (manager) and excluded the plaintiffs from the puja and had prevented the plaintiffs from supervising the said puja, from preparing the Ulatkhansa and had obstructed the plaintiffs in offering Purnapatra, Pancha Gabya and Pancha Pataka and had prevented the ladies of the plaintiffs' house from performing the Olata (farewell) ceremony of the goddess on the Bijoya day, and that at the time of the Sandhi puja, the plaintiffs having taken a naibedya for offering, the defendants prevented the priest from accepting the same, and defendant 1 had kicked out the said naibedya with his feet.

3. The defendants in their defence alleged in para. 6 of the written statement that the puja has never been performed under the supervision and orders of his son, after the death of Nanda Kumar Sarkar, the father of plaintiff 3, and after his death plaintiff 1 and in the absence of plaintiff 1 of his sister's son Gora Chand till 1327 B.S.; nor is there or was any reason for their so doing and that the allegations in para. 4 of the plaint are false. There was no reason of the puja being performed under the management of the plaintiffs or under that of any members of their family; nor has it been so done at any time.

4. The reason given by the lower appellate Court for holding that the suit is not maintainable has been stated as follows:

In the case Narayan Vilhe Parab v. Krishnaji Sadashiv [1885] 10 Bom. 233, it has been held that claims to precedence of worship, such as the claim to the fact to worship the deity, cannot be entertained in the civil Court. Plaintiffs not only claim right, of management, but they also claim to vindicate their dignity to have precedence in giving certain offerings to the exclusion of others who are also subscribers and with whose money the worship is performed. Plaintiffs claim personal rights in public worship, which cannot be recognized or declared by civil Courts. If the plaintiffs cannot agree with other villagers regarding the management and worship of the deities, plaintiffs can stop their subscription, but I do not think that plaintiffs' exclusive right to give offerings to the deity to the exclusion of other villagers can be declared in this suit. For the above reasons I am inclined to decide all these points against the plaintiffs.

5. It has been contended before us that the lower appellate Court is wrong in holding that the civil Courts have no jurisdiction to entertain such a suit and in relying on the Bombay decision. Our attention has been called by the learned advocate for the appellant to three cases, viz.: Mamat Ram Bayan v. Bapu Ram Atai [1887] 15 Val. 159, Dino Nath v. Pratap Chandra [1899] 27 Cal. 30 and Gourmoni Debi v. Chairman of Panihati Municipality [1910] 12 C.L.J. 74, in support of the contention that such a suit is maintainable in the civil Courts, although no emoluments are attached to the office. The appellants contend that the suit is really one for the establishment by the plaintiffs of their possession as sebaits for the time being for carrying on the worship of the goddess Durga every year and that the suit is really for the office of a sebait although no emoluments are attached to the said office. We think that this argument is well founded and must prevail. The allegations in the plaint make it clear that the plaintiffs base the right as heirs to the founder of the worship and on the fact that their ancestor established the worship and the services were performed by their ancestor ever since the dedication in the year 1850. They say their right of management has been interfered with by the defendants and claim relief. There can be no doubt that the right of management has been infringed and consequently there must be a remedy. It has been held in this Court that a suit by a person claiming to be entitled to a religious office against a usurper for a declaration of the plaintiff's right to the office is a suit of a civil nature and will therefore be entertained by a civil Court though no emoluments were attached to the office at all : see Mamat Ram Bayan v. Bapu Ram Atai Bura Bhakat [1885] 10 Bom. 233, in which case the office was that of a musician who chanted songs in a jatra at a certain village. In the case of Dino Nath Chuckerbutty v. Pratap Chandra Goswami [1887] 15 Cal. 159, the office was that of a sebait and the suit was by one member of a family against another for a declaration of a hereditary right to officiate as sebait at the worship performed by votaries as the foot of a certain tree. It was held that the suit was maintainable although no fees were attached to the office, but voluntary offerings were made by the votaries. In the case before us the office was one attached to a place as distinguished from an absolutely personal office. Following these decisions, we hold that plaintiffs have a right to get the declaration which they seek for in the suit. The learned advocate for the respondents contends that the suit is really for vindication of a mere dignity attached to an office and as such cannot be regarded as one for an office and consequently cannot be regarded as a suit of a civil nature within the meaning of Section 9, Civil P.C. We are unable to accept this contention. It is not a question of precedence in worship or precedence in receiving gifts in public religious ceremonies. We are not unmindful of the fact that in Madras it has been held that a suit does not lie for a religious office to which no fees are attached. According to that Court a religious office in which no fees are attached is not an office within the meaning of Section 9, Civil P.C., Tholappala Charlu v. Venkata Charlu [1895] 19 Mad. 62 and Subbaraya Mudaliar v. Vedantachariar [1904] 28 Mad. 23. The Bombay decisions may be divided into two classes, viz., first those in which religious office is attached to a temple, shrine, a sacred spot, and, secondly, those in which office is entirely personal in its character. In the former class of cases, a suit has been held to lie : Limba v. Rama [1888] 123 Bom. 548 and Gursangaya v. Tamana [1891] 16 Bom. 281. In the latter class, a suit has been held not to lie : Shankara v. Hanma [1877] 2 Bom. 470. We prefer to follow the decisions of our own Court and the Bombay decisions which fall in the first class and hold that a suit such as the present lies. We think the other reliefs claimed follow as a necessary consequence of the plaintiffs' right of management. In this view we think the Civil Court has jurisdiction to entertain the suit. The result is that the decree of the lower appellate Court must be set aside and the case be remanded to it for re-trial of the appeal on the merits. The respondents are to pay the costs of this appeal.

Duval, J.

6. I agree.


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