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Preterit: Lascelles C.J. and Grenier J.RAMANATHAN v. KURUKKAL.273—D. C. Colombo, 32,154.
Hindu temple—Trustee’s power to ditmitt officiatingpriest—Customary
A trustee of a Hindu temple was held to be entitled to dismiss theofficiating priest of the temple.
Grenier J.—Hindu temples in Ceylon are under the ' control andmanagement of persons in whom the fabric i& rested (1) by right ofprivate ownership;(2) by grant or assignment of the owners of the
land on which the temple is . built; (9) by appointment by thecongregation; (4) by deed of trust.
In India and Ceylon certain customary laws are recognized a<ndobserved as applying to the manager or trustee, not only in hiscapacity as such, but in his fiduciary relation to the congregation,in matters affecting the temporalities of the temple and .their properappropriation.
It is not right to say that .there is no law. in this country whichrecognizes the status of the managar or trustee of a Hindu temple.There is the Hindu customary law. . . . Whether these customs andusages have been imported from India, or have grown up amongstthe Hindus of the country and possess – the sanctity of age, theirexistence cannot be overlooked.
Lascelles C.J.—I do not understand the decision in Sivapra-gasam v. Swaminathar Aiyar1 to go to the length of deciding thatIndian customary law cannot be resorted to for the purpose ofascertaining the powers and duties of . an essentially Indianinstitution.
rjp HE facts appear from the judgment.
Elliott, for defendant, appellant.
H. A. Jayewardene, for the plaintiff, respondent.
The following authorities were cited at the argument: Siva-pragasam v. Swaminathar Aiyar,1 Saravanamuttu v. SinnappuAiyar,2 Kurrukal v. Kurrukal.3
Cur. adv. vult.
September 29, 1911. Lascelles C.J.—
This appeal raises a question with regard to the powers of atrustee of a Hindu temple to dismiss the kurukkal or officiating
1 (1905) 2 Bal. 49.■*. (1906) 10 N. L. R. 52.
(1892) 1 S. C. R. 354.
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priest of tbe temple. The plaintiff contends that he. as trustee,had the right to appoint, and did in fact appoint, the defendant to bethe kurukkal of the Siva Supramania Swamy temple, and that thedefendant was lawfully dismissed by him. The defendant, on theother hand, contends that the right of appointing the kurukkal wasvested in the congregation, and that he was in fact appointed bythe congregation, and that the representative of the plaintiff, asregards his appointment, did no more than invite him to assumeduty acting for and on behalf of the congregation. I do not under-stand the decision in Sivapragasam v. Swaminathar Aiyar 1 to go tothe length of deciding that Indian customary law cannot be resortedto for the purpose of ascertaining the powers and duties of anessentially Indian institution. If, indeed, this is the effect of thedecision, I confess that I am unable to see on what principle it canbe supported. I mention this consideration, as a reference to thecustom which prevails in India with regard to the management ofSivite temples would probably have readily disposed of the matterin dispute. There is very little local authority on the question, butin Sivapragasam v. Swaminathar. Aiyar 1 the Court was satisfied onthe evidence that the priests were merely the monthly paid servantsof the temple, and it must be within the experience of all who havehad experience of such matters in Ceylon that this is frequently, ifnot generally, the position of the priests of Sivite temples. Theevidence as to the appointment of the defendant is fairly clear. Ithink the appellant has made too much of the discrepancy betweenthe plaintiff’s statement that he appointed the defendant and thefact that the appointment was made by one of the plaintiff’s sonsduring the plaintiff’s absence from Ceylon, for it wa$ admitted by thedefendant himself in action No. 52,781 that he was appointed by theplaintiff, and it was proved in that action that the plaintiff’s twosons, Mr. Bajendra and Mr. Mahesa, habitually acted on behalf oftheir father during his absence from Ceylon in the management ofthe temple.
I entirely agree with the District Judge that there is no reason todistrust the evidence of the plaintiff, which is corroborated by thedefendant’s admissions in action No. 52,781 as to the manner of hisappointment and the subordinate position which he occupied withregard to the trustee in the management of the temple ceremonies.On the other hand, the evidence of the defendant that he took officeas kurukkal on the invitation of Mr. Mahesa and the congregationof the temple is not convincing, and even if true is consistentwith the view that the substantive appointment was made by theplaintiff's son, on behalf of the trustee, at the instance or on therecommendation of a section of the congregation/' But the DistrictJudge has rejected the defendant’s evidence as to his appointmentfor reasons with which I agree.
* (1905) * Bat. 49.
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In my opinion the District Judge, on – the evidence before him,eould not have come to any other conclusion than that the defendantwas appointed and was liable to be dismissed by the trustee. Theappeal must be dismissed with costs.
I agree with my Lord that the District Judge ewq&'to a rightconclusion on the facts, and that as. the defendant's appoint-ment was made by the plaintiff, according to the defendant’sown admission in action No. 52,781, the plaintiff was entitled todismiss him. I should like, however, to add a few words withreference to the decision in Sivapragasam v. Swaminathar Aiyar.1It is a well-known fact that Hindu temples in Ceylon are under thecontrol and management of persons in whom the fabric is vested
by right of private ownership; (2) by grant or assignment by theowners of the land on which the temple is built; (3) by. appointmentby the congregation; (4) by deed of trust, a term well, understoodamong Hindus. I have not exhausted all the means; by whichmanagers or trustees are appointed, but I think there can be nodoubt that the plaintiff was the trustee of the temple in question,and had the right to appoint kurukkals or priests without consultingthe congregation. The congregation might offer him advice, buthe was at liberty to disregard it if he thought fit. In India as well ashere certain customary laws are recognized and observed as applyingto the manager or trustee, not only in his capacity as such, but inhis fiduciary relation to the congregation, in matters affecting thetemporalities of the temple and their proper appropriation. It is notright to say, if the judgment in Sivapragasam v. Swaminathar Aiyar 1was intended to go so far, that there is no law in this country whichrecognizes the status of the manager or trustee of a Hindu temple.There is the Hindu customary law, which is capable of proof in theway in which customs and usages to other .matters can be proved.Whether these customs and usages have been imported from India,or have grown up amongst the Hindus of this country and possessthe sanctity of age, their existence cannot be overlooked; they arepotent factors which have governed, and still govern, the ownership,devolution, and management of Hindu temples and the administra-tion of their temporalities.- I have myself been engaged in theearly part of my career at the Bar in cases in the District Court ofJaffna, where questions of Hindu customary law with reference to themanagement of Hindu temples and other connected subjects had beenexpressly raised and decided., I think it is too late in the day nowto ignore the existence of such laws and customs.
I agree to dismiss the appeal- with costs.
1 (2906) 2 Sal. 49.
RAMANATHAN v. KURUKKAL