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The Idol of Sri Renganathaswamy – The specific endowment created in Deed of Settlement is an

The Idol of Sri Renganathaswamy Represented by its Executive Officer, Joint Commissioner v. P K Thoppulan Chettiar, Ramanuja Koodam Anandhana Trust, Rep. by its Managing Trustee and Ors, Civil Appeal No 9492 of 2019 ,(Arising out of SLP(C) No 10520 of 2017) – February 19, 2020.

CORAM: Two Judge Bench comprising of Justice Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Rastogi.

The respondent1 is a trust represented by its Managing Trustee. The other respondents are his members. The suit property was originally purchased by Thoppulan Chettiar. On a portion of the property a ‘Stone Mandapam’ was constructed and charitable activities were conducted for the benefit of the devotees. The Chettiar executed a Deed of Settlement, prohibiting th future sale or mortgage of the suit property and directed the descendants to continue the charitable activities upon his death. The suit property was leased by Sri Renga Fibre and the latter sub-leased it to various third parties. A portion of the property was encroached by third parties and first respondent had filed suit for eviction before the PSJ, Trichy. Due to the difficulties of the encroachment the managing trustees decided to sell the suit property except the ‘Stone Mandapam’. Respondent1 instituted suit before ASJ II in favour of respondent4 and deposite the sale proceeds in a national bank. The Second Additional Subordinate Judge decreed the first respondent‘s suit and held that the Act of 1959 was not applicable to the first respondent trust as it was a private trust and not a public trust. The Appeal before the PJD, Trichy upheld the judgment of the Trial Court. The appellant preferred appeal before the Madras HC where it was dismissed holding that the Deed of Settlement did not create any charge or encumbrance in favour of the appellant. Thus the case has been challenged by the appellant before this court.

The counsel for the appellant attacked on the judgment of the HC stating that the deed of settlement was made for the purpose of charitable work. The charity was to be performed from the income derived from the suit property. If the income was found to be higher, the excess income was to be kept as reserve family fund. Also the trustees were prohibited from selling or mortgaging the suit property specially dedicated for the purpose of the charity. The suit filed by the respondent is not maintainable as Section 34 empowers the Commissioner to sanction any sale of the property governed by the Act of 1959. The respondent1 cannot seek sanction of the civil court to sell an endowed property u/s 108 of the act.

The counsel for the respondent submitted that the provisions of the 1959 act are not applicable to respondent1. Section 3 of the act is applicable to charitable endowment. There is no notification extending the applicability of the provisions of the act to respondent1. The deed of settlement does not create any specific endowment in favour of the appellant deity. The performance of the public charity is not directed to be performed in the temple and the charity is to be performed only at the suit property. The HR & CE Department never appointed any trustees and no member of the public participated in the management of the respondent1 trust. Section 1 of the Indian Trusts Act 1882 will have no applicability to the respondent1 trust as it exempts both public and private charitable endowments. The restraint created in the Deed of Settlement is void under Section 10 of the Transfer of Property Act 1882. The trustees of the respondent1 are not able to perform the charities on account of encroachments in the suit property. The assistant superintendent of the temple admitted during his cross-examination that the temple never exercised any control over the respondent trust and there is no dedication of the suit property in favour of the temple.

The issue for consideration before this court is whether the Deed of Settlement creates specific endowment. For this purpose this court referred Section 6(19) of the specific endowment regulation Act 1959. A specific endowment can result from the allocation of either property or money. Alternatively, it can be performed of ‘any other religious charity’. The court referred the judgment Menakuru Dasaratharami Reddi v Duddukuru Subba Rao where a Constitutional Bench dealt with the question whether the suit property were the subject-matter of public charity trust or were merely charged with the obligation to undertake specific charities. In Mahant Ram Saroop Dasji v S P Sahi a distinction was made between a public and private charity was set out by a Constitutional Bench. In M J Thulasiraman v Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Admn the Deed of Settlement states that the charity is for the benefit of the ‘devotees’ who visit during Hindu religious festivals. A charity to constitute a ―religious charity u/s 6(16) is that the public charity must be associated with a Hindu festival or observance of a religious character. Commr, Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments v Narayana Ayyangar, K S Soundararajan v Commr of Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments, M J Thulasiraman v Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment Administrator were referred by this court.

From the above observation, the court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the Madras HC. Thus the suit of the respondent1 stand dismissed and he is under the liberty to adopt the procedure prescribed under the Act and there shall be no order of cost.




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