|“Indian Trust Act not applicable to a private religious trust”|
“Grandson cannot claim trusteeship over property when his father is alive”
MADURAI: A property donated exclusively for the benefit of a religious sub-sect, such as Sourashtra Brahmins, cannot be termed as a ‘charitable endowment’ under the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959, the Madras High Court has ruled.
Dismissing a batch of appeal Suits filed before the Madurai Bench, Justice G. Rajasuria said that a reading of Section 6 (5) of the Act would show that the term could be applied only to those property donated for the benefit of Hindus in general or of a larger section thereof.
He was dealing with a civil dispute which had its genesis as early as in 1931 when a landlord donated his house at Chidambaram to be used as a ‘choultry’ (guest house) where Sourashtra Brahmins could stay to witness Arudhra Dhrisanam of Lord Nataraja. He also endowed three more property, the income from which was meant for providing food to the occupants of the choultry.
The donor executed a trust deed with six trustees including his wife and adopted son. But the latter, in 1944, sold away all the four property quite antithetical to the terms and conditions of the trust deed. Thereafter, the property were transferred, mortgaged, redeemed and converted by the successive purchasers until the grandson of the donor filed a civil suit in 1987.
The First Additional Subordinate Court here in 1999 decreed the suit in favour of the grandson and held that the properties belonged to the Trust.
Aggrieved against the decree, the owners filed the appellate suits before the principal seat of the High Court in Chennai.
The cases were transferred to the Madurai Bench pursuant to its establishment in July 2004. Setting aside the lower court decree, Mr. Justice Rajasuria said that the grandson had chosen to file the “vexatious” suit at the instance of his father. The grandson could not claim trusteeship over the property when his father was alive.
Further, the Indian Trust Act would not be applicable to a private religious trust, he added.
Even assuming that the Indian Trust Act would apply to the present case, the Trust could only be deemed to have been extinguished as its properties were alienated as early as in 1944 and the charity work was stopped.
“In such a case, the plaintiff (grandson) has no locus standi at all to file the suit,” the Judge said.
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