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Umeshananda Dut Jha Vs. Sir Ravaneswar Prosad Singh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtKolkata
Decided On
Judge
Reported in17Ind.Cas.969
AppellantUmeshananda Dut Jha
RespondentSir Ravaneswar Prosad Singh and ors.
Cases ReferredPrayag v. Tirumala
Excerpt:
civil procedure code (act xiv of 1882), section 539 - public charity--endowment--scheme confirmed by high court--amendment of scheme--jurisdiction of district court--directions necessary to carry out scheme--income of endowment uncertain--audit to be frequent--committee of management--person having pecuniary interest in endowment properties or creditor of endowment, whether should serve on committee. - .....since the appointment of the committee, there have been differences between the members and the high priest upon questions of the management of the affairs of the temple. the result was that in 1909, one of the members of the committee applied to the district judge for a modification of the scheme. the application was dismissed on the 29th march 1910. the matter was then brought up to this court, and on the 8th september 1910, this court, on the authority of the decision of the judicial committee in prayag das v. tirumala 30 m. 138 : 11 c.w.n. 442 : 2 m.l.t. 119 : 17 m.l.j. 236 : 34 i.a. 78 : 9 bom. l.r.588 (p.c.) and with the consent of the counsel on both sides, directed the insertion of two clauses in the decree; by one of these clauses, liberty was reserved to any person.....
Judgment:

1. This Rule was granted upon an application by the high priest of the temple of Baidya Nath, who was elected to that office in execution of a decree of this Court, made in affirmance of the decree of the Court below in a suit under Section 539 of Code of Civil Procedure of 1832: Shailajananda v. Umeshanund 2 C.L.J. 460. Under that decree, a committee of three persons was appointed, of whom one has recently died and the other two are the opposite party to this Rule. Since the appointment of the committee, there have been differences between the members and the high priest upon questions of the management of the affairs of the temple. The result was that in 1909, one of the members of the committee applied to the District Judge for a modification of the scheme. The application was dismissed on the 29th March 1910. The matter was then brought up to this Court, and on the 8th September 1910, this Court, on the authority of the decision of the Judicial Committee in Prayag Das v. Tirumala 30 M. 138 : 11 C.W.N. 442 : 2 M.L.T. 119 : 17 M.L.J. 236 : 34 I.A. 78 : 9 Bom. L.R.588 (P.C.) and with the consent of the Counsel on both sides, directed the insertion of two clauses in the decree; by one of these clauses, liberty was reserved to any person interested to apply to the District Court with reference to the carrying out of the directions of the scheme; by the other clause, liberty was reserved to any person interested, from time to time, to apply to this Court for any modification of the scheme that might appear necessary or convenient. The members of the committee subsequently applied to the District Judge that directions might be given to the high priest to the following effect; namely, first, that whatever resolutions might be passed by the committee or by the majority thereof for the management and supervision of the temple and of the income and expenditure of the temple, should be acted upon by the high priest, and in case he disobeyed such direction, the resolution be made a Rule of Court with such modification or alteration as the District Judge might find necessary, secondly, that the high priest do allow a nominee of the committee access and ingress into the temple for keeping watch and guard over the offerings known as the charaos. The high priest opposed the application on the ground that it was in essence an application for modification of the scheme and could be entertained only by the High Court. The District Judge overruled this objection on the 11th June 1912, and directed that the application be heard on the merits. The high priest has obtained this Rule on the ground that the District Judge has acted without jurisdiction. On behalf of the committee; it was faintly suggested that this Court should not interfere till the inquiry had been completed by the District Judge. It was not seriously disputed, however, that full relief could be granted to the committee only by an alteration of the scheme. In these circumstances, it is obviously undesirable to allow the proceedings to continue before the District Judge, with the inevitable result that any orders he might pass would have to be subsequently discharged as made without jurisdiction.

2. As regards the merits of the case, which may be gathered, with some approach to accuracy, from the petitions and affidavits filed in this Court and in the Court below, we have to observe that the allegations made by the committee against the high priest may be classified under three heads; namely, first, those that justify, if true, the removal of the high priest; secondly, those that justify if true, a modification of the scheme, and thirdly, those that justify directions for the effective enforcement of the scheme. The Counter allegations of the high priest against the committee, on the other hand, are to the effect that the members desire to interfere with the internal management of the temple and thus practically to supersede completely the high priest, except in the performance of religious observances and ceremonies. There is also an allegation, made by the high priest and repudiated by the committee, that one of the members advanced large sums for the purposes of the suit under Section 539 of the Code of 1882 and is really in the position of a creditor of the temple funds. As we have already stated, the relation between the high priest and the committee has not been, by any means, of a friendly character; and we are clearly of opinion that the scheme has to be altered and directions given for the enforcement of the scheme.

3. In the first place, the committee must prepare an annual budget of the income and expenditure; the income is necessarily of a fluctuating character, but calculations can easily be based upon the average income for some years past. We consider the preparation of the budget essential, because there are heavy debts which must be discharged as early as practicable. The first charge will be the estimated current expenditure budgeted for by the high priest and sanctioned by the committee; the second, repairs to the buildings; the third, payment of debts; the fourth, improvements suggested by either the high priest or the committee; the fifth, the investment of surplus. A clause for the preparation of the annual budget will be inserted in the scheme.

4. In the second place, provision must be made for quarterly audits and annual inspection of the accounts. Where the income of a public endowment is of an uncertain and variable character, it is extremely desirable that audits should be fairly frequent and searching. A clause will be inserted in the scheme to the effect that it will be one of the duties of the committee to arrange for quarterly audits and annual inspections.

5. In the third place, provision must be made for joint control of the temple funds after they have been realised. The offerings made by the pilgrims must be collected after the worship has been finished and then placed in a receptacle with double locks of which one key should be in the lands of the high priest and another with a member of the committee. A list of the money and articles so deposited shall be prepared from day to day and signed by representatives of the committee and of the high priest. A clause to this effect will be inserted in the scheme.

6. In the fourth place, we must guard against undue interference on the part of the committee with the high priest in the internal management of the temple. We do not think it necessary for the committee to keep an officer to watch the offerings as they are made by the pilgrims to the deity and placed on or near the image, at the time of the worship. It has been suggested that if this precaution is not taken, the offerings may be misappropriated by the high priest or by his officers. But it is plain that some trust must be reposed upon a man in the position of the high priest of the Baidya Nath temple. We are reluctant to believe that he can misappropriate the offerings made to the deity, and it is his paramount duty to see that the offerings are not misappropriated by his officers. If it can be established that he cannot be trusted in these matters, the question would necessarily arise, whether he should continue to hold the office of high priest. We do not think that so long as he fills that office that there should be what cannot but be deemed vexatious interference with the discharge of his duties. The Court will not tolerate what the committee apparently want, namely, that the high priest shall be reduced to the position of a merely officiating priest with practically no concern in the management of the temple and its funds.

7. In the fifth place, it is clear that no one who has any pecuniary interest in the temple properties or is a creditor of the endowment should serve on the committee. The suggestion that any of the present members falls within this category has been vigorously repudiated, and it is not necessary for our present purpose to investigate this matter, specially as the member in respect of whom the imputation has been made, has intimated to the Court, through his Vakil, that he has no claim against the temple funds for sums advanced by him to the high priest for the purposes of the litigation under Section 539. But we direct that a clause to this effect be inserted in the decree, so that should any question of fitness for membership hereafter arise, the matter may be determined by the District Judge.

8. We may and that it was suggested by the opposite party that the scheme should be amended by the insertion of a clause to the effect that the high priest may be removed for good cause, without the institution of a fresh suit. This course is apparently supported by the decision in Damodar v. Bhogilall 24 B. 45 followed in Prayag v. Tirumala 28 M. 319 : 15 M.L.J. 133. But the matter does not arise properly on the present application by the high priest, and must be considered on principle, should the committee hereafter apply for such an amendment of the scheme.

9. The result is that the Rule is made absolute and the decree and scheme amended as directed. The order of the District Judge will be discharged, but he will be at liberty to give such directions as may be necessary to carry out the amended decree and scheme. There will be no order as to the costs of these proceedings.


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