Delhi HC: Private Temple Open to Public on Festive Occasion Doesn’t Convert it to Public Temple

Delhi High Court Law Insider

Priyanka Singh

Published on: September 25, 2022 at 23:20 IST

The Delhi High Court dismissed a plea filed by one Rajesh Giri, and has observed that a private temple which is open to public on festive occasions doesn’t covert it to a public temple with respect to the title rights of the temple.

Justice C Hari Shankar observed that only trial can decide the nature of title of rights of a temple.

The Court, therefore, dismissed the plea by Giri which challenged the trial court’s order in a civil suit, dismissing the application for a decree on admissions under Order XII Rule 6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.

The plea sought the reconversion of a private property, restoring an idol at Chandni Chowk.

Giri had filed a civil suit in the trial court stating to be a worshipper of Radha Krishna Ji Maharaj, enshrined inside a private property. The suit averred that the property was bequeathed by one Nikko Bibi, holding the title rights in the name of God referring to a registered will dated 19th November 1930.

According to the suit, Nikko Bibi had executed a will earlier in April 1916, favouring a man which was cancelled with the execution of the succeeding will in 1930. However, the cancelled will about the suit property was bequeathed to two trustees.

Based on the bequest, one of the trustees mortgaged the suit property to a woman twice, wherein the mortgages were challenged later by the other trustee.

In a judgment passed in 1972, the Delhi High Court upheld the will of 19th November, 1930, observing that the trustees were entitled to reside in the property but not alienate it.

The suit alleges that after execution of the relinquishment deed, two individuals (Respondents to the suit) converted the temple into a commercial complex, where the Trial Court approved the will dated 19th November, 1930, ruling against the respondents and restricting them from asserting rights on the property.

The Court dismissed the petitioner’s application under Order XII Rule 6 on the ground that the respondents had raised a triable issue regarding the maintainability of the suit in question.

In an appeal to the High Court, the counsel for the petitioner relied on the affirmations of the application filed by one of the respondents before the trial court stating the opening of the temple to the public on one occasion regarding a festival of Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha, and the instructions of the priest to not stop anyone from worshipping on the occasion.

“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,” ruled the Court.

The Court abstained from intervening with the Trial Court’s order and said that the High Court cannot sit in appeal over lower court while exercising jurisdiction under Article 227, especially when the orders are discretionary in nature, stating, “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”.

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