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SUPRAMANI AYER et ah v. CHANGARAPILLAI et al.
D. C., Jaffna, 24,688. <-
Hindu temple—Office of priest, right to exercise—'Cause of action.
Plaintiffs in their plaint averred that they were entitled to ashare of the office of priest in a Hindu temple ; that to the exerciseof such right' were attached certain emoluments ; and that theyhad been unlawfully prevented by the defendants from enteringthe temple and exercising their office, and had thus suffered pecu-niary loss; and they prayed for a decree declaring their right tothe share that they claimed of the office of priest, and restrainingthe defendants from interfering with them in the exercise of such1 right, and condemning the defendants in the damages they hadsustained.
Held, following the dictum of Lord Cranworth in Forbes v.Eden (L. B. 1 Sc. Ap. 568), that the plaint disclosed a good causeof action.
ri'THE facts of the case sufficiently appear in the judgment of_L Bonseb, C.J.
Rdmandthan, S.-O., and Dornhorst, for first defendant, appellant.
Wendt and Sampayo, for plaintiffs, respondents.
12th March, 1896. Bohseb, C.J.—
In this case the plaintiffs claim to be entitled by- inheritancefrom their ancestors, and also by a deed of gift from their father,
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to a share of the office of priest in a certain Hindu temple in this 1896.Colony. t They allege that to the exercise of such office in that Mareft 12.temple are attached certain emoluments, that they have been Boksbb, <XJ.unlawfully prevented from entering the temple and exercisingtheir said office, that they have thereby suffered pecuniary loss ;and they claim the intervention of the District Court of Jaffna.
The defendants objected that there was no jurisdiction in thecourts of this Island to interfere in this matter, because it was amatter affe&ting the Hindu religion and its usages and ceremonies.
The District Judge settled an issue of law in the following terms :—
“ Whether the right to officiate in a Hindu temple and to receive“ the incomes appertaining to the office of priesthood is a subject“ within the scope of the jurisdiction of this Court, and if so,
“ whether sufficient ground of action is disclosed by the plaint.”
The District Judge found those two issues in favour of theplaintiffs.
The first defendant has appealed.
The Solicitor-General, in support of the appeal contended thatthis was a spiritual matter with which the Court had no jurisdictionto deal, and he relied upon the case of Kurukal v. Kurukal, whichis reported in 1 S. C. B. 354. But that case when looked at doesnot assist him at all? It is there laid down “ that a District Court“ has no jurisdiction to interfere in the concerns of religious com-“ munities, unless in the rules which any religious community“ has made for its members in relation to the religious object which“ it has combined to maintain and support, a civil element enters“ which brings it within the sphere of the Court’s civil jurisdiction ; ”and in that case it was stated that there “ was no complaint by“ the plaintiff that he had been debarred from using the temple“ for performing his functions as a priest in all that concerns the
observance of his religion.”
In this case there was an allegation that the plaintiffs weredebarred from using the temple.
The principles of law which govern this case are stated verydeafly by Lord Cranworth in Forbes v. Eden, (L. B. 1 8c. Ap. 568)where he says that “ save for the due disposal and administration“ of property, there is no authority in the Courts, either of England“ or Scotland, to take cognizance of the rules of a voluntary .society“ entered into merely for the regulation of its own affairs. If“ funds are settled to be disposed of amongst members of a voluntary“ association according to their rules and regulations, the-‘Court must necessarily take congnizance of those rules and
Bonser, C. J.
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“ regulations for the purpose of satisfying itself as to who is entitled“ to the funds. So, likewise, if the rules of a religious association“ prescribe who shall he entitled to occupy a house, or to have the“ use of a chapel or other building.
“ If connected with any office in a voluntary association, there“ is the right to the enjoyment of any pecuniary benefit, including“ under that term the right to the use of a house or land, or a“ chapel or a school, then incidentally the Court may have imposed“ on it the duty of inquiring as to the regularity of the ^proceedings“ affecting the status in the society of any individual member of“ it.” ’
This case comes within the very words of Lord Cranworth’sopinion. The plaintiffs allege that they hold an office in a voluntaryassociation; that connected with that office there is a right ofproperty, and that that right of property has been infringed. Iam therefore of opinion that they have disclosed a good causeof action.
The appeal is dismissed with costs.
I agree with the Solicitor-General to the extent that there aremany rights, duties, and obligations which can be decided andenforced only in the forum o| the conscience, or by spiritual or
ecclesiastical courts or powers.
The pleadings in the present case seem to me not to raisequestions of morality or spiritual religion, but questions of statusinvolving the possession of a building and the right to demandand receive money. In my opinion the District Court had juris-diction.
I would affirm.
SUPRAMANI AYER et al. v. CHANGARAPILLAI et al