A Mathura court on Thursday held that the suit to remove the Shahi Idgah Masjid, allegedly built on the land of Shrikrishna Janam Bhoomi is maintainable.
With this, the Court allowed a revision plea by the Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi Trust and other private parties and overturned a civil court order dismissing their suit in September 2020.
Essentially, a suit had been filed in September 2020 on behalf of the deity Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman seeking the removal of the Shahi Eidgah (mosque), adjacent to the Shri Krishna temple complex in Mathura, and the transfer of 13.37-acre land to the deity.
The Petitioners/Revisionists Bhagwan Shrikrishna Virajman, Asthan Shrikrishna Janam Bhoomi through Next Friend Ranjana Agnihotri further sought cancellation of a compromise decree of 1974 by saying that the agreement between Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan and Shahi Idgah Trust in the year 1973, on the basis of which an earlier suit filed in 1964 was compromised, was fraudulent.
It was stated that in the agreement concerned, the Sansthan had conceded the property of Deity/Trust in favour of Trust Masjid Idgah. In the 2020 suit, the plaintiffs had challenged that very agreement and compromise decree of 1974.
However, a civil court in Mathura (U.P) on September 30, 2020, had refused to admit the suit and rejected the plaint under Order VII Rule 11 of CPC on the ground that the Plaintiffs, being the devotees/worshippers of Lord Krishna, have no right to file the suit.
When that order was challenged in revision by the petitioners, the District & Sessions Judge Mathura, Rajeev Bharti, on Thursday allowed their plea and directed the Trial court to hear both the parties and to pass appropriate order.
In a significant observation, the Court also observed that the provisions of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 will have no application in this dispute.
The Court, while accepting the revision plea, said that since the agreement and the subsequent compromise decree had been challenged by the plaintiff, the Place of Worship Act will not apply in this case by virtue of section 4 (3)(b) of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.
The Court reasoned that the agreement resulted in a compromise decree, which was drawn before the commencement of the Act of 1991 and since, the same is the subject matter of challenge in the suit moved by the petitioner, therefore, by virtue of section 4 (3)(b) of 1991 Act, the act shall not be applicable on this dispute.
In essence, the Court opined that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 does not debar those cases where the declaration is sought for a period prior to the coming into force in the 1991 or for enforcement of right which was recognized before coming into force of the Act.
"With regard to the entire property of Katra Keshav Deo, whether Shri Krishna Janma Bhoomi Seva Sangh had the power to enter into compromise with Trust Masjid Eidgah is a matter of evidence which can be determined only on the basis of the evidence adduced by both the parties during the trial.
22(ix). Hence, in light of the discussions made above and the legal tenets on the mentioned question, this Court is of the considered view that the provisions of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 are not applicable by virtue of section 4 (3)(b) of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991".
Section 4(3)(b) states that the bar under Section 4 will not apply to any suit, appeal or other proceeding, with respect to any matter referred to in sub-section (2) finally decided, settled or disposed of by a court, tribunal or other authority before the commencement of this Act.
The District Court also expressed the view that a worshipper as the next friend of the deity can file suit for the restoration and re-establishment of religious rights of the deity.
However, the Court did not go into the details of the evidence to be adduced to argue that the compromise decree was fraudulent as the Court observed thus:
"With regard to the entire property of Katra Keshav Deo, whether Shri Krishna Janma Bhoomi Seva Sangh had the power to enter into a compromise with Trust Masjid Idgah is a matter of evidence which can be determined only on the basis of the evidence adduced by both the parties during the trial"
The case in brief
One Seth Jugal Kishore Birla had, on Feb 8, 1944 purchased land of 13.37 acres situated in Katra Keshav Dev from the legal heirs of Raja Patnimal through a registered sale deed in the name of Mahamana Pt.Madan Mohan Malviya, Goswami Ganesh Dutt and Professor Bhikanlal Attrey.
Seth Birla created a public trust in the name of Shri Krishna Janmbhoomi Trust on October 21, 1951, which was registered on March 09, 1951, and the entire property of 13.37 acres situated in Katra Keshav Dev was dedicated to the deity and given to the trust.
A society named Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan, established on May 01, 1958 had overpowered Shri Krishna Janmbhoomi Trust.
Now, this particular society entered into a compromise with Trust Masjid Idgah on October 17, 1968, and it conceded valuable property of Deity/Trust in favour of Trust Masjid Idgah.
Based on this compromise, a decree was drawn on November 7, 1974 passed in Civil Suit No. 43 of 1967 in the Court of Civil Judge, Mathura.
Now, in 2020, the petitioners/revisionists filed a regular civil suit in the Court of Civil Judge Senior Division, Mathura.
They claimed that even though the Society (Shri Krishna Janmasthan Seva Sansthan) was not the owner, and the property had already vested in Shri Krishna Janmbhoomi Trust, therefore, it was argued, the Society had no right to file the suit and to enter into a compromise (with Trust Masjid Idgah) in respect of the land belonging to the Trust.
This particular suit was dismissed on the question of maintainability of the suit. Against the same, the instant revision plea was moved by the petitioners, which has been allowed yesterday.
The Court, in its order, came up with the following findings:
- -The Revision is maintainable against the impugned order dated September 30, 2020.
- -A worshipper as the next friend of the deity can file suit for the restoration and re-establishment of religious rights of the deity.
- -The provisions of The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 are not applicable by virtue of section 4 (3)(b) of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991.
- -Whether the plaintiffs are entitled to maintain the suit challenging the compromise Judgement and decree of 1973, on the ground of fraud, misrepresentation and collusion, would be determined only during the trial on the basis of the evidence adduced by both the parties to the suit.
- -At the admission stage and in exercising powers under Order VII Rule 11 of the CPC, Court cannot look into the merits of the case and therefore, the Ld. Lower Court has committed illegality and manifest error in passing the impugned order.