Wednesday 26 October 2022

How to distinguish whether a particular endowment is public or private?

  In Deoki Nandan v. Murlidhar and Others,8 a bench of five Judges of this Court has held that:

“the true beneficiaries of religious endowments are not the idols but the worshippers, and that the purpose of the endowment is the maintenance of that worship for the benefit of the worshippers, the question whether an endowment is private or public presents no difficulty. The cardinal point to be decided is whether it was the intention of the founder that specified individuals are to have the right of worship at the shrine, or the general public or any specified portion thereof. In accordance with this theory, it has been held that when property is dedicated for the worship of a family idol, it is a private and not a public endowment, as the persons who are entitled to worship at the shrine of the deity can only be the members of the family, and that is an ascertained group of individuals. But where the beneficiaries are not members of a family or a specified individual, then the endowment can only be regarded as public, intended to benefit the general body of worshippers.

Endowment can validly be created in favour of an idol or temple without the performance of any particular ceremonies, provided the settlor has clearly and unambiguously expressed his intention in that behalf. Where it is proved that ceremonies were performed, that would be valuable evidence of endowment, but absence of such proof would not be conclusive against it.”

 {Para 19}

20. Following the above ratio in The Commissioner for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, Mysore v. Sri Ratnavarma Heggade (Deceased) by his L. Rs.,9 this Court has observed that:

“Neither a document nor express words are essential for a dedication for a religious or public purpose in our country. Such dedications may be implied from user permitted for public and religious purposes for sufficient length of time. The conduct of those whose property is presumed to be dedicated for a religious or public purpose and other circumstances are taken into account in arriving at the inference of such a dedication. Although religious ceremonies of Sankalpa and Samarpanam are relevant for proving a dedication, yet, they are not indispensable”

Thus, extinction of private character of a property can be inferred from the circumstances and facts on record, including sufficient length of time, which shows user permitted for religious or public purposes.

Where the beneficiaries of a trust or charity are limited to a finite group of identifiable individuals, the trust or charity is of a private character. However, where the beneficiaries are either the public at large or an amorphous and fluctuating body of persons incapable of being specifically identifiable, the trust or charity is of a public character.”

25. Therefore, in view of the judgments quoted above and the aforesaid statutory provisions, it must be held that the case of the appellant that there was no endowment or specific endowment must fail and has no legs to stand on. The dedication of the suit jewellery does not require an express dedication or document, and can be inferred from the circumstances, especially the uninterrupted and long possession of the suit jewellery by the respondent/Temple. The private character of the jewels had extinguished long back and the appellant has no basis to claim that the suit jewellery was inherited by him from his adoptive parents. The endowment is clearly public in nature and for the purposes of performing religious ceremonies. As confirmed by three courts, with which we are in agreement, the suit jewellery was dedicated for a specific purpose and can only be used during the performance of the religious ceremony during the Adipooram festival.



CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 3964-3965 OF 2009; 



Dated: JULY 11, 2022.

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