Sunday 26 September 2021

Whether a party can claim a declaration of title in Representative suit?

 E.2.1 Determination of title in a Representative suit

32. In Mahant Pragdasji Guru Bhagwandasji v. Patel Ishwarlalbhai Narsibhai AIR 1952 SC 143, a three judge Bench of this Court explained the ambit of a representative suit under Section 92 of the CPC. In that case, one of the reliefs sought was the declaration of the suit property as the religious and charitable trust property of Kaivalya or Karuna Sagar Panth while the defendant contended that the suit property was private property. Justice BK Mukherjea speaking for the Bench expounded on the scope of a suit under section 92 CPC, particularly in view of the relief seeking a declaration:

“10 A suit under S.92. Civil P.C. is a suit of a special nature which presupposes the existence of a public trust of a religious or charitable character. Such suit can proceed only on the allegation that there is a breach of such trust or that directions from the Court are necessary for the administration thereof, and it must pray for one or other of the reliefs that are specifically mentioned in the section. It is only when these conditions pre fulfilled that the suit has got to be brought in conformity with the provision of S.92, Civil P.C. As was observed by the Privy Council in Abdul Rahil v. Md. Barkat Ali. 55 Ind, App. 96, P.C. a suit for a declaration that certain property appertains to a religious trust may lie under the general law but is outside the scope of S.92. Civil Procedure Code. In the case before us, the prayers made in the plaint are undoubtedly appropriate to the terms of Section 92 and the suit proceeded on the footing that the defendant, who was alleged to be the trustee in respect of a public trust, was guilty of breach of trust. The defendant denied the existence of the trust and denied further that he was guilty of misconduct or breach of trust. The denial could not certainly oust the jurisdiction of the court, but when the courts found concurrently, on the evidence adduced by the parties, that the allegations of breach of trust were not made out, and as it was not the case of the plaintiffs, that any direction of the court was necessary for proper administration of the trust, the very foundation of a suit under Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code became wanting and the plaintiffs had absolutely no cause of action for the suit they instituted. In these circumstances, the finding of the High Court about the existence of a public trust was wholly inconsequential and as it was unconnected with the grounds upon which the case was actually disposed of, it could not be made a part of the decree or the final order in the shape of a declaratory relief in favour of the plaintiffs. It has been argued by the learned Counsel for the respondents that even if the plaintiffs failed to prove the other

allegations made in the plaint, they did succeed in proving that the properties were public and charitable trust properties — a fact which the defendant denied. In these circumstances, there was nothing wrong for the court to give the plaintiffs a lesser relief than what they actually claimed. The reply to this is, that in a suit framed under Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code the only reliefs which the plaintiff can claim and the court can grant are those enumerated specifically in the different clauses of the section. A relief praying for a declaration that the properties in suit are trust properties does not come under any of these clauses. When the defendant denies the existence of a trust, a declaration that the trust does exist might be made as ancillary to the main relief claimed under the section if the plaintiff is held entitled to it; but when the case of the plaintiff fails for want of a cause of action, there is no warrant for giving him a declaratory relief under the provision of Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code. The finding as to the existence of a public trust in such circumstances would be no more than an obiter dictum and cannot constitute the final decision in the suit.

(emphasis supplied)

33. Bhagwandasji (supra) lays down the following principles on the ambit of a representative suit under section 92 CPC:

(i) The plaintiff can only seek reliefs that fall under any of the clauses in section 92 CPC. A declaration that the suit property belongs to the trust, does not fall under the scope of any of the reliefs enumerated in section 92 CPC and is outside the scope of the provision;

(ii) Merely because the defendant denies the title of the trust over the suit property, the jurisdiction of the court cannot be ousted;

(iii) When the title of the trust is contested, a determination of the title of the suit property is necessary for the purpose of adjudication on the final relief, and thus it can be made ancillary to the main relief if the plaintiff is entitled to the relief sought under Section 92 CPC; and

(iv) If the plaintiff is not entitled to the relief sought, then in that case no determination on the title of the suit property can be made since it would be inconsequential to the final decision in the suit.

On applying the principles evolved in Bhagwandasji (supra) to the facts of the case, the relief sought in the first suit under section 92 CPC was for determination of a scheme of management of the mosque. A determination of the title of the suit property with respect to the mosque was ancillary to the main relief, under Section 92 of the CPC.




Civil Appeal No. 10946 of 2014

The Jamia Masjid Vs  Sri K V Rudrappa

Author: Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, J

Dated:September 23, 2021

Read full Judgment: Click here
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