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Deity, If A Necessary Party

The Supreme Court of India in Narayan Bhagwantrao Gosavi Balajiwale Vs. Gopal Vinayak Gosavi, AIR 1960 SC 100 : [1960] 1 SCR 773 held that the defect in the frame of such a suit resulting from the omission of the deity as a party to it, cannot be remedied by the subsequent addition of the representatives of the Hindu Public as parties to it, and no effective decree could be passed against the deity in such a suit.

A bench comprising of S.R. Das, C.J., M. Hidayatullah and S.K. Das, JJ. observed that the absence of a dome or Kalas on the temple was not by itself a decisive factor as to its public character, nor was consecration imperative of a deity that was Swayambhu. Nor is the temporary movement of the idol from place to place inconsistent with its public character.

Public Deity

Held, further, that the vastness of the temple, the mode of its construction, the long user by the public as of right, grant of land and cash by the Rulers, taken along with other relevant factors were consistent only with the public nature of the endowment.

An admission is the best evidence that an opposing party can rely upon, and, although it is not conclusive, is often decisive of the matter unless it can be successfully withdrawn or proved to be erroneous.

The expression ” burden of proof ” means one of two things (1) that a party has to prove an allegation before it is entitled to a judgment in its favour, or (2) that the one or the other of the two contending parties has to introduce evidence on a contested issue.

The question of onus is material only where the party on which it is placed would eventually lose if it failed to discharge the same.

Where issues are, however, joined, evidence is led and such evidence can be weighed in order to determine the issues, the question of burden becomes academic.

In the present case, if the onus lay on any party, it was clearly on the appellant to prove by cogent evidence that the admissions made by his predecessors-in-title and by him were either erroneous or unavailable and this he had failed to do.

The earlier sanads, admittedly in his possession, not having been produced and those produced not being in any way inconsistent with the said admissions or the revenue records, no question of any misconstruction of documents could arise.

The entries made in the Inam Register prepared under Act 11 of 1852, were entitled to great weight and although they could not displace actual and authentic evidence in an individual case, it was well-settled that, in absence of such evidence, they must prevail.

The question for determination in this appeal, arising out of a suit filed by the appellant under s. 5(3) of the Charitable and Religious Trusts, Act, 1920, was whether the ancient temple of Shri Balaji Venkatesh at Nasik and its Sansthan constituted a charitable and religious trust within the meaning of the Act.

The deity was Swayambhu and revealed itself in a dream to one Ganapati Maharaj who, at its behest, brought the deity from the river Tambraparni and installed it in his house.

Ganapati’s son Timmaya, who removed the deity to Nasik, took the idol to the courts of Rulers and acquired the properties in suit consisting of lands and cash.

Timmaya’s eldest son obtained an extensive plot of land as a gift from the Peshwa and thereon built a vast temple with a Sabha Mandap which could accommodate no less than 600 persons and installed the deity in the first floor with a staircase leading straight to it.

The Hindu public has been worshipping at the temple for more than 200 years and there was no evidence to show that they had ever been excluded from it and any gift had ever been refused. The ceremonies performed in the temple were appropriate to a public deity.

It was admitted by the sons of Timmaya in Tahanama, executed by them in 1774, that the Inam villages were granted for the worship of the deity and the temple belonged to the Sansthan, none of them having any share in it.

In the Tharav Yadi of 1800, the maintenance allowance provided by the said Tahanama for the different branches of the family was described as ‘Vetan’.

The Inam Commissioner, functioning under Act 11 of 1852, recorded the Inam villages as permanently held Debasthan inams at the instance of the then Sthanic and on the basis of original sanads filed by him, reversing the decision of the Assistant Inam Commissioner who had recorded them as personal inams. Those sanads were not filed in the suit.

In 1931 the appellant published a history of the Sansthan wherein it was clearly stated that the Sansthan was not a private or family property but was the property of the deity, the members of the family being merely the managers.

The deity was not made a party to the suit although representatives of the Hindu public were joined as 98 774 parties under s. 1, r. 8 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

The High Court, while it concurred with the trial judge in holding that the deity was a public deity and that its Sansthan constituted a public trust, was, however, inclined to hold that some of the properties might be personal properties of the appellant but refused to grant any such declaration on the ground that no effective decree could be passed against the deity in its absence.

It was contended on behalf of the appellant in this court that the courts below had misconstrued the document and were wrong in drawing the inferences they did and that the burden of proof had been wrongly placed on the appellant to prove by positive evidence that the deity was a family deity and the properties his private properties.

Held, that the courts below were right in coming to the conclusion they reached, and the appeal must fail. A mistaken inference drawn from documents is no less a finding of fact, if there is no misconstruction of the documents and no misconstruction of documents having been proved, the appellant could not succeed.

Case Law Reference

  1. Babu Bhagwan Din v. Gir Nar Saroon, (1939) L.R. 67 I.A. 1
  2. Srinivasa Chariar v. Evalappa Mudaliar, (1922) L.R. 49 I.A. 237
  3. Arunachalam Chetty v. Venkatachalapathi Guru Swamigal, (1919) L.R. 46 I.A. 204
  4. Narayanan v. Hindu Religious Endowments Board, A.I.R. 1938 Mad. 209
  5. Ram Soondur Thakoor v. Taruk Chunder Turkoruttum, (1873) 19 Weekly Reporter 28
  6. Hari Raghunath v. Apantii Bhikajii, (1920) I.L.R. 44 Bom. 466
  7. Prematha Nath Mullick v. Pradyumna Kumar Mullick, (1925) L.R. 52 I.A. 245
  8. Venkatachala v. Sambasiva, A.I.R. (1927) Mad. 465; 52 M.L.J. 288
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