Law on Public Charities : Lingadagudi Mutt Bangalore as public trust

Lingadagudi Mutt at Bangalore is one of the important religious trusts managed and administered by Lingayats community members.

The case relating to this trust is a historical record for the Mutt and an important case law for the students studying on law of Trusts.

The plaintiffs belong to the community of Lingayats filed the suit for declaration that the suit property belongs to the public trust called "Lingadagudi Mutt" and that the defendants have no manner of rights or interest in it; that the alienations effected by defendant-1 in favour of the other defendants were null and void; for possession of the same after removing all or any of the structures put up thereon by any of the defendants, and for other consequential reliefs.

The suit property which was situated in Ramannapete, Jumma Musjid Road (also known as Rama Shettypete) had been dedicated and endowed for the purpose of carrying on the worship of the deity Sri Veerabadraswamy installed in one portion of the suit property; that in the said building idols of Iswara and Basava had also been installed; for over 70 years the devotees of the mutt more particularly the residents of the locality had been treating the suit property as a holy temple and were offering prayer and worship; that one Nanjappa Sastry the father of defendant-1 had been appointed and engaged to look after the deities installed in the suit property, to offer worship and prayer and to attend to the devotees who came to worship the deities; that in order to enable the said Nanjappa Sastry to do the said work satisfactorily, he was permitted to reside in a portion of the suit property; from out of the offerings received, the said Nanjappa Sastry was required to pay the assessment and other taxes payable to the municipality on the said building and the balance was allowed to be utilised by him for his maintenance.

Nanjappa Sastry died in 1924 leaving behind him his son B. N. Rudraradhya, defendant-1, who continued to perform the duties of a poojary under the same terms and conditions; that neither Nanjappa Sastry nor defendant-1 had any right or title to the suit property, but still sometime prior to the date of the suit two portions of the suit property had been alienated by defendant-1 and that defendants 2 and 4 were in possession of the said two portions.

He claimed absolute right over the suit property and urged that he had right to alienate the same. Defendant-2 is one Y.H. Venkataramanappa. He contended in his written statement that the suit was not maintainable as the plaintiffs had not obtained the consent of the Advocate General to file the suit, so required by Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure and that defendant-1 was the absolute owner of the same. In so far a one portion of the suit property which was in his possession as one of the trustees of a trust known as "Yajman Hanumanthappa Venkatalakshamma Trust" constituted under a deed of trust dated 24-9-1954.

On the basis of the above pleadings, the trial Court came to the conclusion that the suit property had been endowed to Lingadagudi Mutt; that the defendants had no manner of right over it; that the alienations effected by defendant-1 were void; that the defendants were liable to put the plaintiffs in possession of property in their possession, and that defendant-2 was entitled to a sum of Rs. 5,000/- only being the cost of improvements made by him on that portion of the property which was in his possession. It was challenged in appeal before the High Court.

The case of the plaintiffs is that the suit property was dedicated more than 70 years prior to the date of suit. None of the witnesses examined in this case can therefore, be considered as a direct witness in proof of the same. It is significant that even though all the witnesses who have been examined on behalf of the plaintiffs have stated that the idols of the above deities have been installed in the suit property and members of the Public used to visit in large numbers to offer worship at that place, no suggestion has been made in the course of cross-examination on behalf of the defendants that the members of the Public were visiting the suit property with the permission or consent of defendant 1 or defendant 5 or any of the members of their family.

 A reading of Exhibits P-1 to P-6 and in particular Exhibit P-6, clearly shows that defendant 1 and his father Nanjappa Sastry were there in the suit property with the permission of Yajman Chikkaveerappa and that they had no title to the same and that it was Yajman Chikkaveerappa who was taking out licences from time to time for taking the Vigraha of Veerabhadraswamy in procession.

According to the above decision, Ex. P-6 is a statement of Nanjappa Sastry and it can be used as an admission under Sections 17 and 21 of the Evidence Act even though it has not been communicated to the office of the Municipal Board. It can also be used under Section 32(3) of the Evidence Act as it contains a statement which is against the pecuniary or proprietary interest of Nanjappa Sastry.

After the case was heard for some time, defendant 5 and respondents 1 and 3 to 10 filed a joint memo stating that the suit property may be treated as belonging to the public trust and that defendant 5 may be permitted to reside in the temple as usual and to perform the worship. It is also stated that defendant 5 may be permitted to collect the rent in respect of the shops constructed by him on a portion of the suit property and utilise the same for his own benefit. We shall deal with the memo in the concluding part of this judgment.

The Court declared that the suit property had been endowed to the religious trust belonging to Lingayats community residing in the locality where the suit property is situated and in view of the joint memo filed the decree for possession passed against defendants I and 5 is set aside, and defendant 5 is permitted to withdraw the amount which he has deposited pursuant to the stay order passed by this Court, as stated in the joint memo. [Veerbasavaradhya and ors. vs Devotees of Lingadagudi Mutt [AIR 1973 Kant 280, AIR 1973 Mys 280]

 

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