Temple and Public trust

The main question that needs decision is whether Kalika Mataji TEMPLE is a TEMPLE within the meaning of S.2(17) and a Public Trust under S.2(13) of the Act. TEMPLE has been defined in S.2 (17) of the Act, which reads thus:

“TEMPLE” means a place by whatever designation known and used as place of public religious worship and dedicated to or for the benefit of or used as of right by the Hindu community or any section thereof as place of public religious worship.” and Public Trust has been defined in S.2(13) thereof which reads as under:

“ “Public trust” means an express or constructive trust for either a public religious or charitable purpose or both and includes a TEMPLE, a math, a wakf, a dharmada or any other religious or charitable endowment and a society formed either for a religious or charitable purpose or for both and registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.”

 A bare conjoint reading of the two definitions would show that public trust is of an inclusive definition to bring within its ambit, an express or constructive trust for which a public religious or charitable purpose or for both which includes a TEMPLE, a math, a wakf, a dharmada or any other religious or charitable endowment and a society formed either for religious or charitable purpose or for both and a registered society under Societies Registration Act. A public place by whatever designation is TEMPLE when it is used as a place of public religious worship. It must be dedicated to or for the benefit of or used as of right by the Hindu community or any section thereof, as a place of public religious worship.

Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, at page 1512 defines ‘Public trust’ to mean by one constituted for the benefit either of the public at large or of some considerable portion of it answering a particular description; public trusts and charitable trusts may be considered in general as synonymous expressions. At page 1510 ‘Charitable trust’ has been defined as ‘Trusts designed for the benefit of a class or the public generally. They are essentially different from private trusts in that the beneficiaries are uncertain. In general, such trust must be created for charitable, educational, religious or scientific purposes.’ In P. Ramanatha Aiyhar’s ‘The Las Lexicon’ Reprint Edition 1987, at page 1298 ‘Public and Private Trust’ has been defined as ‘in the case of a TEMPLE an idol publicly constituted and publicly accessible in which the appearance may be what one may describe as ambiguous, one would except and ought to insist upon clear evidence of permission given or licence given and permission withheld because it is equally true that a private individual may construct, out of his private purse, a private TEMPLE and idol retaining the control and MANAGEMENT in his own hands and that of his family or some other selected individuals and so conduct himself as to provide conclusive evidence of dedication by implication and by conduct. There is a broard difference when one comes to construe a dedication, between conduct which shows that the owner of property is giving individuals and conduct which shows that he intends certain members of a class whom he desires to benefit to act indiscriminately without permission that is to say, as of right. A useful test, for a Judge to apply to see whether the evidence satisfies the conditions of the private trust, is to ask himself whether any of the acts testified to by the witnesses could have been prevented or penalised by proceedings for trespass. In private trust the beneficial interest is vested absolutely in one or more individuals who are, or within a given time, may be definitely ascertained. On the other hand public trust has for its object the members of an uncertain and fluctuating body and the trust itself is of a permanent and indefinite character and is not confined within the limits prescribed to a settlement of a private trust.[AIR 1995 SC 167 : (1994) 2 Suppl. SCR 687 : (1995) 1 Suppl. SCC 485 : JT 1994 (5) SC 152 : (1994) 3 SCALE 796]