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A Hindu idol has a juridical status with the power of suing and being sued : Madhya Pradesh High Court

The Madhya Pradesh High Court in the case of Shri Mahant Narayan Puri vs Jagdish Chandra (FIRST APPEAL NO. 39 OF 1987)  upheld that A Hindu idol has a juridical status with the power of suing and being sued and its interests are attended to by the person who has the deity in his charge and who is in law its manager with all the powers. 

Facts of the case: The plaintiffs are the successors of Gumanilal and Ramgovind who  was the Karta Khandan of the joint Hindu family. During the lifetime of Ramgovind, the lands situated at village Basaiya were received from some Zamindar. 

After death of Ramgovind, plaintiffs No.1, 2, 3, & 4 are the possession holders of equal share. The aforesaid lands are disputed lands. Various litigations took place with regard to aforesaid lands between the parties. It is also pleaded in the plaint averments that the plaintiffs are the owners and are in possession of aforesaid lands. One Kali Mai temple is situated at Village Basaiya which was under the control of Aukaf Department. A civil suit was filed for releasing the property from the Aukaf Department. The suit was decreed and it was directed that the land of the temple be released by the State in favour of its Pujari. One Special Leave Petition was filed which was dismissed by the Hon’ble Apex Court. The plaintiffs have specifically pleaded that the lands do not belong to temple Shri Kali Mai and they are exclusively owners of same. It was also pleaded by the plaintiffs that while execution, Nazir wrongly executed the decree including excessive land and the decree passed was not in relation to suit land.

The Court below while passing judgment and decree in 1987 held that the suit lands are not belonging either to the temple Shri Kali Mai Basaiya or Aukaf Department. Learned counsel for the appellants/ defendants had submitted that the judgment and decree passed by the Court below was against the settled provisions of law and had further submitted that the plaintiffs/respondents failed to establish their ownership or possession over the lands in dispute. The lands as mentioned belong to the temple and Shri Kali Mai (Deity) who is the juristic person holds the right and title over the property. It was also submitted that the plaintiffs/respondents claimed to be the Pujari of the Temple.

Judgment: On perusal of evidence produced by the respondents, the court was of the opinion that it was clear that the plaintiffs were neither in possession over the disputed lands nor they were having ownership over the disputed lands. Even plaintiffs themselves had denied the existence of any revenue records with regard to ownership. Plaintiffs failed to establish that there are two sets of lands. Rather, it reflected from the evidence produced by the plaintiffs that all the aforesaid lands belong to Shri Kali Mai Temple. 

A 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 juridical status with the power of suing and being sued. Its interests are 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. The correct legal position is that the idol as representing and embodying the spiritual purpose of the donor is the juristic person recognised by law and in this juristic person the dedicated property vests. 

It was also apparent from the perusal of record that no Mahant or Pujari has been appointed by adopting due process of law which is one of the reasons of such continuous prolonged litigation between the parties. The plaintiffs and defendants failed to prove their ownership over the disputed lands and also failed to prove that there were two sets of land and plaintiffs, therefore, only conclusion could be drawn that the land in dispute belongs to Deity of Kali Mai Temple who is the juristic person. Accordingly, the suit of the plaintiffs was dismissed.

JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY : SHUBHANGI CHAUDHARY

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