SASTRI YAGNAPURUSHADJI AND OTHERS v. MULDAS BRUDARDAS VAISHYA AND ANOTHER

Citations: 1966 AIR 1119, 1966 SCR (3) 242

Date of the judgment: 14/01/1966

Bench: GAJENDRAGADKAR, P.B. (CJ), WANCHOO, K.N., HIDAYATULLAH, M., RAMASWAMI, V., SATYANARAYANA RAJU, P.

Petitioner name: SASTRI YAGNAPURUSHADJI AND OTHERS

Respondent name: MULDAS BRUDARDAS VAISHYA AND ANOTHER


Introduction

In this case, the Supreme Court attempted to define the meaning of the term ‘Hindu’. The court referred to the history of the vedas and compared the principles of Hinduism with another sect named Swami Narayana, whom the petitioner was the follower. Another aspect this case highlights is the discrimination of the Harijans, represented by the respondent, as they were considered untouchables and were restricted from entering the Hindu Temples. This case marks the foundation for the future cases based on the concept of Hindu religion and its institutions.


Facts

1. The respondent, Muldas Brudardas Vaishya, was the president of the Maha Gujarat Dalit Sang at Ahmadabad.

As per the section 3 of the Bombay Harijan temple entry act, 1947, he made a declaration for the rights of the non Satsangi Harijans to allow access to the temple of Swaminarayan sect.


2. Being the followers of the Swaminarayan sect, the appellants were called Satsangi. Filing a suit upon such declaration, they contended that their sect was distinct and different from the Hindu religion. So the relevant provisions of the Bombay Harijan temple entry act, 1947 were ultra vires on their sect. In addition to this, an injunction was also demanded in order to prevent the non Satsangi Harijans from entering and worshiping in Swaminarayan temples.


3. Appellant’s declaration that their sect did not come under the ambit of former Bombay Harijan temple act 1947 and Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship Act 1956 was just to obstruct harijans from entering their Sect’s temples.

Court History

Civil Court: Initially, the suit was instituted at the civil court, senior division in Ahmedabad. The order of the trial court was in the favor of the appellants. Through this, they were issued the claimed decree and the injunction. The said decree was given on 24th September, 1951.

High Court: Not being satisfied by the judgment, the respondents, on 8th March, 1957, appealed in the High court. Consequently, the High court sent back the case to the trial court for finding the issue of whether the Art. 25 (2) (b) of the constitution was applicable on the Swaminarayan temple at Ahmedabad and other corresponding Hindu religious institutions. Verifying the same, the suit was then dismissed by the High court that canceled the above provided injunctions against the respondents.

Supreme Court: When the present appeal was brought in the Supreme Court, it followed the judgment of the High court and laid down the meaning of the term Hindu as a result.


Issues

There were two main legal issues raised in this case as:

  1. Whether the Swaminarayan sect was distinct and different from the Hindu religion as they were Satsangi?

  2. Whether the Bombay Hindu places of Public Worship Act, 1956 was ultra vires for the temples of Swaminarayan sect and other subordinate temples?

Arguments

1. Firstly, the appellants contended that the High court had treated the appeal by the respondent as competent which was wrong.

It was so because the Vakalatnama filed on his behalf against the assistant Government pleader of that time was invalid.


2. Secondly, the appellants raised the claims of the Section 3 of Bombay Hindu places of Public Worship Act, 1956 as ultra vires. They contended that the above act was in contravention to their fundamental rights as guaranteed by the Art. 26 of the Indian Constitution.


3. Further, they argued that in order to do the actual worship and enter the sacred portions of the temple, only authorized Poojaris are permitted and not even the Satsangi Hindus are allowed.


4. The main controversy lies upon the Appellant’s argument that the Swaminarayan sect is a religion which in nature is distinct and different from the Hindu religion and thus their temple is outside the ambit of section 3 of the act.


Judgment

1. It was held by the Honorable Supreme Court that the religion of the Swaminarayan sect is not different and distinct from that of the Hindu religion. The Harijans cannot be denied the access to enter as well as worship in the temples of the Swaminarayan sect since the Bombay Legislature has passed the act so as to remove any disability suffered by the Harijans. Thus, section 3 of the said act was not held in contravention to the fundamental rights as provided in 26(b) of the Constitution. The court also said that the article 17 prevents Untouchability by any means.


2. It was clear that being an elementary rule of justice, no party is to suffer for the mistakes of the court or any of its subordinate offices. So the Government pleader would have signed the memo of appeal and the Vakalatnama by correcting it immediately.


3. The court laid down the definition of the term “Hindu” as a result of the contention of appellants Whether their sect falls under the Hindu religion or not,”. For this, a plethora of sources were taken into account.

4. The court drew the meaning of Hindu religion from works of eminent experts and scholars including views of Dr. Radhakrishan, Tilak, Williams and Max Muller on the philosophy of the Hindu religion and its developments.


5. Quoting BhagavadGita, Justice Gajendragadhkar said that at times when the Irreligion is dominating and religion is on the verge of declination, God is born so as to restore the balance of religion and he guides the destiny of the human race towards salvation.


6. Further, it was said that Hindu religion is difficult to define as it does not worship any one god, and does not follow any particular set of religious traditions and performances. Being a Hindu means acceptance of vedas, recognition of the fact of getting salvation, performing Idol worship and belief in rebirths and another life after death. Since, following characteristics were a part of Swaminarayan sect, they were Hindus as well. Thus the appeal was dismissed.



This article is written by Ishita Gupta of Panjab University chandigarh.

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