D.B. Lal, J.
1. This is a second appeal under Section 104 of the Himachal Pradesh Abolition of Big Landed Estates and Land Reforms Act, 1953 (hereinafter to be referred as the Abolition Act), and has been directed against the decision dated 10th October, 1969 of the District Judge. Mahasu.
2. Dhumi who has since died and whose legal representatives are Negi and six others, respondents in this Court, applied to the Compensation Officer under Section 11 (1) of the Abolition Act for acquisition on payment of compensation, the right, title and interest of the land-owner whom they described as 'Shri Mandir Shivii Maharaj Darla through next friends Jagat Ram, Jagar Nath, Masat Ram, Dittu and Amar Chand Tehsil Arki, Mahasu District.' The dispute related to 11-16 bighas area of 25 plots specified in the petition and situate in village Darla of the Tehsil of Arki. The petition was contested by the appellant-landowner on the allegations, that the petitioners were not the tenants, that the land itself could not be defined so as to attract the provision of Section 11 of the Abolition Act, that the temple as such could not be proceeded against because it is not a juridical person; and that the idol being in the position of a minor had no other means of livelihood.
The learned Compensation Officer decided all these points in favour of the petitioners and granted the application. However, he removed from the ambit of his order the 'abadi' area of the disputed land over which the temple itself and other buildings appurtenant thereto had existed. The landowner came in appeal before the District Judge, but confined its contentions to only two points, namely, that the temple land-owner is not a juridical person and that the idol is in the position of a minor and had no other means of livelihood and as such the case falls within exemption provided in Clause (2) of Section 11 of the Abolition Act. The District Judge repelled these two contentions and granted the application.
3. The land-owner has felt aggrieved of the decision of the learned District Judge and has preferred this second appeal.
4. As described above, the landowner is 'Shri Mandir Shivji Maharaj Darla' and it is apparent the idol of Lord Shiva is incorporated in the title specified in the application. In Pramatha Nath Mullick v. Pradhyumna Kumar Mullick, AIR 1925 PC 139 it was held :--
'Hindu idol is, according to long established authority, founded upon the religious customs of the Hindus, and the recognition thereof by Courts of Law, a 'Juristic entity'. It has a judicial status with the power of suing and being sued. Its interests are attended to by the person who has the Deity in his charge and who is in law its manager with all the powers which would, in such circumstances, on analogy, be given to the manager of the estate of an infant heir.'
5. In Thakardwar (Pheru Mal of Amritsar) v. Ishar Dass, AIR 1928 Lah 375, it was held that a temple is not a juridical person but an idol installed in the temple is a juridical person. It is, therefore, well settled that an idol is a juridical person and is in the position of a minor or an infant heir, whose interests are looked after by its manager. In the case of alienation of endowed property, it was observed by Supreme Court in AIR 1967 SC 1044, Bishwanath v. Thakur Radha Ballabhji as follows :--
'When such an alienation has been effected by the shebait acting adversely to the interests of the idol, even a worshipper can file the suit, the reason being that the idol is in the position of a minor and when the person representing, it leaves it in a lurch, a person interested in the worship of the idol can certainly be clothed with an ad hoc power of representation to protect its interest.'
Therefore, it could be stated in the instant case that Lord Shiva whose idol is installed in the temple is a juridical person and as such could be proceeded against in the petition under Section 11 of the Abolition Act. Similarly the idol being a juridical person could file an appeal before the learned District Judge as well as before this Court. It cannot be stated that the appeal has been filed by the temple as such. The very name of Lord Shiva is incorporated in the title of the appeal.
6. It is also evident that the position of the idol is that of a minor and therefore, obviously the benefit which can be deduced in favour of the minor under Clause (2) of Section 11 can very well be deduced in favour of the idol which is in the position, of a minor. In this connection, it was contended that the idol being a perpetual minor shall be at an advantageous position. That may be so, but the fiction which has treated idol to be a minor and which has ripened into law, should have its logical inference under Section 11 so as to attract the benefit under Clause (2) of that section. It is to be appreciated that the idol is always needed to be looked after by its manager, since it is dependent upon others, and the means of livelihood of the idol will have to be taken into consideration for extinguishment of its rights under Section 11 of the Abolition Act. While at one place the tenants have been given the benefit of acquiring the right, title and interest of their land-owner, in the very same statute, at another place the interest of a minor land-owner has been protected, in the sense that a minor who does not possess means of livelihood has been exempted under Clause (2) of Section 11. Both the objects are, prima facie, laudable and the idol should not be deprived of the advantage when, by its peculiar situation, it is relegated to the position of a minor who has to depend upon the management of its shebait or manager.
If we examine the present case from this aspect, we have to ascertain if the idol has any sufficient means of livelihood. It is also abundantly clear that means of livelihood would necessarily mean sufficient means of livelihood and not bare subsistence which may be possible to achieve in most of the cases.In the Hindu Law relating to temples and religious endowments, the deity is, conceived as a living being and is treated in the same way as the master of the house would be treated by his humble servant. This has been so stated in AIR 1923 Cal 60, Rambrahma Chaterjee v. Kedar Nath Banerjee. It is everyday experience, that the idol is not only worshipped but is afforded all the facilities of food and raiment and is looked after throughout the course of the day by its worshippers. That is why, provision is to be made for its 'Puja', 'Bhog' and other necessities as are required for a living person. The maintenance of the temple in which the idol is installed is also a necessary requirement.
As evidence from the judgment of the learned District Judge, the annual expenses of the temple are of Rs. 8,000/-or Rs. 9,000/- and these are to be met from the income of the properties belonging to the temple and also from the offerings made to the temple. Both the Courts below considered that the offerings of the temple have been sufficient to meet this expense and therefore the idol could not be stated not to possess sufficient means of livelihood so as to attract Clause (2) of Section 11 of the Abolition Act. But there is one great flaw in this reasoning. The offering is decidedly a fluctuating income. There can be no certainty that the offering would be to that extent in any particular year. Therefore, it would not be proper to depend upon such offerings. The permanent income is derived from the fields belonging to the temple. If these fields are removed from the ownership of the temple and proprietary rights are conferred upon the respondents, the idol-appellant would be deprived of its permanent income. From this point of view, it can be stated that the appellant has no other source of income, except the property in dispute. It is evident, that in such a situation the appellant cannot be stated to possess sufficient means of livelihood and it would not be appropriate to deprive it of the income derived from the land in dispute.
7. The appeal, is, therefore, allowed and the judgments of the learned District Judge as well as of the learned Compensation Officer are set aside. The application under Section 11 of the Abolition Act shall stand dismissed.
8. No order is made as to costs. Appeal allowed.