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Mandir Shivji Maharaj Darla vs Negi And Ors.

Dated 29/6/1971
J U D G M E N T
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 Shivji 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.
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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 landowner 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
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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 versus Thakur Radha Ballabh Ji 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
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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
extinguishments 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 landowner, in the very same statute, at
another place the interest of a minor landowner 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
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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
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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.