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Public Entry To Private Temple On Festivals Does Not Convert It Into Public Temple: Delhi High Court

Nupur Thapliyal
24 Sep 2022 6:30 AM GMT
Public Entry To Private Temple On Festivals Does Not Convert It Into Public Temple: Delhi High Court
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The Delhi High Court has observed that occasional entry of public to a private temple on some festivals does not convert it into a public temple so as to empower a worshipper to maintain a suit with respect to the title rights of the temple. Justice C Hari Shankar added that the issue as to whether a temple is a private temple or a temple open to public can only be decided in a trial.The...

The Delhi High Court has observed that occasional entry of public to a private temple on some festivals does not convert it into a public temple so as to empower a worshipper to maintain a suit with respect to the title rights of the temple.

Justice C Hari Shankar added that the issue as to whether a temple is a private temple or a temple open to public can only be decided in a trial.

The Court thus dismissed a plea filed by one Rajesh Giri challenging an order passed by the trial court in a civil suit whereby his application for a decree on admissions under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 was dismissed. The civil suit sought restoration of an Idol and reconversion of a private property into a temple located at Chandni Chowk.

Giri filed a civil suit in trial court claiming to be a worshipper of an idol, Radha Krishna Ji Maharaj, enshrined in a private property. The suit argued that the said property was bequeathed by one Nikko Bibi, who held title rights in the same vide a registered will dated 19th November 1930, in the name of God.

As per the suit, Nikko Bibi had earlier executed a will in April 1916 in favour of a man which was cancelled with the execution of the subsequent will of year 1930. The cancelled will however bequeathed the suit property to two trustees.

On the basis of the said bequest, one of the trustees mortgaged the suit property to a woman on two occasions. The mortgages were later challenged by the other trustee before the Delhi High Court. In a judgment passed in 1972, the High Court upheld the will dated 19th November 1930 and observed that though the trustees were entitled to reside in the suit property, they were prohibited from alienating it.

Giri's suit thus alleged that after a relinquishment deed was executed, two individuals, respondents in the suit, converted the temple into a commercial complex.

Ruling against the respondents, the Trial Court approved the will dated 19th November 1930 and estopped them from asserting rights on the property. The Court also dismissed petitioner's application under Order XII Rule 6 on the ground that the respondents had raised a triable issue regarding his locus standi to maintain the suit in question. 

In appeal before the High Court, the petitioner's counsel relied on the averments of the application filed by one of the respondents before the trial court stating that on certain festive occasions, the temple was open to the public. The application stated that the private temple was open for general public only on the festival of "Lord Krishna" and Godess "Radha" and that the priest was instructed not to stop any body from worshipping on any day.

In this backdrop, the Court ruled:

"A reading of the aforesaid passage does not disclose any admission to the effect that the temple was a public temple. Mr. Kunal Kumar, learned Counsel for Respondent 4 submits, correctly, that a private temple may also be open to the public on certain festive occasions. That would not convert the temple into a public temple so as to empower a worshipper of a temple to maintain a suit with respect to titular rights in respect of the temple."

Finding no reason to interfere with the trial court's order, the Court said that a High Court while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution of India cannot sit in appeal over lower court orders especially where the orders are discretionary in nature.

"Additionally, as the impugned order is discretionary in nature, and Order XII Rule 6 is not a matter of right, the present petition under Article 227 cannot sustain even on that score," the Court said.

Title: RAJESH GIRI v. SUBHASH MITTAL & ORS.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 904

Click Here To Read Order 


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