The 'Case Study: Sastri Yagnapurushadji & Ors. v. Muldas Brudardas Vaishya & Anor.' emphasises the verdict of the Supreme Court extensively and liberally referred to the writings and teachings of distinguished scholars and writers in the Hindu religion in order to provide a comprehensive explanation of its meaning.

The 'Case Study: Sastri Yagnapurushadji & Ors. v. Muldas Brudardas Vaishya & Another.' emphasises the verdict of the Supreme Court extensively and liberally referred to the writings and teachings of distinguished scholars and writers in the Hindu religion in order to provide a comprehensive explanation of its meaning.

Case Title: Sastri Yagnapurushadji & Ors. v. Muldas Brudardas Vaishya & Anor.

Court: Supreme Court of India

Bench: Gajendragadkar, P.B. (CJ), Wanchoo, K.N., Hidayatullah, M., Ramaswami, V., Satyanarayanaraju, P

Citation: 1966 AIR 1119

Decided on: 14-01-1966

Facts of the Case

1. In the Supreme Court of India this case arose as an appeal from the judgment made by the Bombay High Court on 3rd October 1958.

2. The appellant, Sastri Yaganapurushadji was a follower of the Swaminarayan Sect and they were known as Satsangis.

3. The Respondent, Muldas Brudardas was the President of the Mahagujrat Dalit Association.

4. When the Act (Bombay Harijan Temple Entry Act, 1947) was passed respondent made a declaration that he will visit the Swaminarayan Temple as it was their legal right.

5. When the appellant got to know about this declaration he demanded an injunction to prevent Harijans from entering and worshipping in Swami Narayan Temple.

Arguments advanced on behalf of the Petitioner

  • The Provision under the Bombay Harijan Temple Entry Act, 1947, as amended by Act 77 of 1948 did not apply to Satsangis as their sect was different from Hindus. So, provisions under this Act were Ultra Vires.
  • The injunction restraining the respondent from entering the temple was decreed by the trial court. While the respondent’s appeal was pending in the high court, the Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship( Entry Authorization) Act, 1956 was passed, due to which it became necessary to consider whether the Act passed in 1956 was intra vires or not.

Arguments advanced on behalf of the Respondent

  • The High Court has mistaken while considering the respondent’s appeal as competent because the vakalatnama filed on behalf of the respondent was invalid.
  • As Section 3 of Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorization ship), 1956 violated Article 26(b) of the Constitution of India.
  • The Swaminarayan sect’s religion is different from the Hindu religion so Swaminarayan temples did not come under the ambit of this Act.

Principles of the Law Argued

Bombay Harijan Temple Entry Act, 1947

This Act was a series of provincial laws that were brought into force with the main aim of removing the restrictions on the entry of Untouchables or lower classes into the temples both in British India and Princely state. It was imposed after the Congress was formed under the Government of India Act, of 1935.

Ultra Vires

Ultra Vires is a Latin phrase which means ‘Beyond the powers’. In law, it is used to describe those acts which were done without the authority of law. The actions which are done by the government which exceed the scope of the law of power given to them such actions were taken to be as Ultra Vires. The acts are Ultra Vires can also be termed as “invalid”. The Constitution is considered the yardstick to measure the proper scope of power.

Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorization) Act, 1956

Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorization) Act, 1956, 1956 repealed the Bombay Harijan Temple Entry Act, 1947. This act was enforced with the purpose of making better provisions for opening the temples for the entry of people of all classes and sections of the Hindu religion for public worship. If violated, the offender can either be punished with a penalty of up to five hundred rupees or six months imprisonment.

Intra Vires

The literal meaning of the Latin phrase Intra Vires is “inside the powers.” An action where the power to make a ruling is given to the judge, such decisions are known as Intra Vires. These can also be taken as “Valid.” The limits of these actions are conferred by statute or other constituting documents.

Section 3 of Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorization) Act, 1956

This section of the act deals with opening Hindu temples for all classes and sections of the Hindu religion. This section speaks that no person shall be prevented, obstructed or discouraged from entering or praying in a Hindu Temple. Any person who is a Hindu may enter, pray or perform any religious act in a Hindu Temple.

Article 26(b) of Constitution of India

Article 26 of the Constitution of India deals with a person’s freedom in managing his or her religious affairs. The clause (b) of this article states that a person has the freedom to manage his own affairs in matters of religion subject to public order, morality and health.

Obiter Dictum of the Case

Hindu religion is a religion in which one does not observe any single God or power, it also does not have the concept of a single philosophy, and it does not follow any single religious practice. It does not seem to traditional features of a religion. It can be described as a way of life and nothing else.

The idea of the philosophy of Hindu is based upon the belief in the existence of birth and rebirth. A Person’s life is a road, path and the aim of which is infinite. The Journey of a human’s life is not restricted but it is a new start of a story.

The Hindu religion has been developing since ancient times, it develops whenever a saint or a religious body tried to reform the Hindu religion the corrupted practices formed in this religion were fought, these practices lead to the birth of different sects, but they followed the basic notions of the Hindu religion and philosophy. These sects are always taken as part of this religion and the temples of these sects are not Hindu temples.

Ratio Decidendi

The Bombay Harijans Temple Worship (Removal of Disabilities) Act was passed in the year 1956 with the main objective of breaking down the orthodox behaviour of the higher classes of Hindus towards the Harijans. It basically adopted the steps for eliminating untouchability from the roots. Even the previous act which was the Bombay Harijan Temple Entry Act, of 1947 contributed to providing solutions for the eradication of the suffering of Harijans. It allowed them to enter into temples for the worship of deities without any restrictions.

At a later time, Article 17 of the Indian Constitution abolished untouchability and its practice in any form was made forbidden. If not followed the offence was made punishable. In effect of Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, The Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955 was provided. Section 3 of this Act declared that the Hindu temples must be open for all the classes of the Hindu Community and the restriction on the entry of Harijans into the temple is discouraged.

The appellant contended that Section 3 was so vast that they were to be allowed to worship those idols which were restricted only for the poojaris to worship, the court held it as misconceived. As this disagreement was not raised in the plaint, therefore, it was illegitimate of the appellant to raise this issue. Apart from that the court had no intention to invade the traditional rites in which the actual worship is allowed. The right provided by Section 3 allowed entry into the temple only up to the extent to which all other people were allowed to worship and not to invade special limits of poojaris.

As observed by Monier William,

“Hinduism is not a mere philosophy based upon Brahamanism. The religion reflected the character of the Hindus, which includes not only one person but many of them. It is based on universal receptivity.”

Hindu religion is based upon the development of the search for the truth by the mind. Various famous philosophers like Shankar, Ramanuja, Vallabha and Madhva based their work upon the synthesis between Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita. Hinduism is based on tolerance and willingness to accept a person’s viewpoint even if it is contradicting.

It was observed by Tilak:

“Acceptance of Vedas, acceptance of the fact that ways of salvation are diverse and realizing that gods worshipped are enormous in number are distinguished features of Hindu Religion.”

Hon’ble held that Swaminarayan pursued the philosophy of followers of Ramanuja. His teachings involved Acceptance of Vedas, pious and religious life and achieving salvation by devotion to Lord Krishna. The devotion of Lord Krishna proclaims that Swaminarayan was a Hindu Saint who wanted to set free the corrupt practices of followers and preachers of Vallabhacharya.

When a reformer tries to eradicate corrupt practices of a religion a new sect is born and is rooted in the Hindu Religion. The contention is that Swaminarayan worshipped in this particular temple and it should not be regarded as a Hindu Temple.

Jurisprudential Value of the Judgment

In this case, the Court held that the Swaminarayan Sect is not separate and distinct from the sects of the Hindu religion and the temples of this sect are to be taken in the ambit of Section 2 of the Bombay Harijan Temple Worship (Removal of Disabilities) Act, 1958.

Swaminarayan sect was not considered separate from the Hindu religion by both Trial Court and the Bombay High Court. The appellants gave four main arguments. First of which was, Swaminarayan considered himself to be above God and a person considering the divinity of Him cannot be taken as a follower of the Hindu religion. Second, the Swaminarayan temple was established for the worship of Himself and not of the traditional Hindu idols which shows that the Satsangis belong to a different sect. Third, the sect professes that worship of any other idle other than Swaminarayan will be a betrayal of his faith. Fourth was the procedure of “Initiation” adopted by the Acharyas indicating that a devotee became a Satsangi and has the distinguished character of a sect’s follower.

For the verification of the appellant’s contention, the court observed the features of a person to be Hindu. The court felt that it was a tough task to define Hindu Religion or to give an acceptable description of it, all they could say about the religion was that it is a way of leading life. As Dr Radhakrishnan said, the court found the existence of idealism as a feature of the Hindu religion. There are some concepts which can be treated as features of the Hindu religion. These features may include: Vedas are taken as the highest authority while dealing with religious and philosophical matters, keeping belief in rebirth and pre-existence.

Some sections of the Hindu community do not believe in idol worship, and those who believe in it have different idols for different communities. A large number of Gods are worshipped by the different sections of Hinduism. Saints and religious reformers have tried to remove corrupted and superstitious practices since ancient times, and this led to the birth of different sects. If read a person would realize that even though there is a diversion in views but still there was some amount of unity which kept them in the community of the Hindu religion.

The common aim of all the sects under the Hindu religion is to attain Moksha or Nirvana, which is a state in which the soul of an individual is absorbed by the infinite. There is a great diversion in the views of different sects in achieving Nirvana. It can be described as a way of life which is based on certain concepts.

The court considered the plea to be misconceived when it analysed Swaminarayan’s life teaching. He was the follower of Ramanuja, whose main principles were the main injunctions of Vedas of a God is to be followed and also believed attainment of salvation by walking on the path of the devotion of Lord Krishna. Swaminarayan’s main purpose was to remove the corrupt practices and restore its glory. The worship of Swaminarayan of temples in temples is not incompatible with the beliefs of the Hindu religion. Saints are revered because the presence of divinity in their life elevates them to the divine throne. The philosophy of the Satsangis allows its followers to gain the blessings of Swaminarayan in the form of his teachings without compromising their own religion. The sect does not put emphasis on the process of conversion of religion in these situations sects have no role while deciding if the sect of a person falls under the religion of Hinduism.

Application of Law in Contemporary Times

Ultra Vires

The meaning of the phrase “Ultra Vires” is ‘Beyond the Powers’ when someone acts within the scope of powers provided to him by law, contract or agreement. Ultra Vires are taken as invalid.

Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorization) Act, 1956

Bombay Harijan Temple Entry Act, 1947 was repealed and was replaced by Bombay Hindu Places of Public Worship (Entry Authorisation) Act, 1956.

This Act was made to have better provisions for throwing open the place of worship for all Hindu classes and Sections.

Its Section 3 states that a person who is a Hindu shall be allowed to enter the temple and no one can obstruct the person from entering and praying in the temple

Article 26(b) of Constitution of India

This Article of the Constitution deals with a person’s freedom to manage religion-oriented affairs. Its sub-section (b) says that a person has the right to manage his own religious affairs without compromising the public order, morality and health of another person.

Important Links

Manika Dass

Manika Dass

Law College of Dehradun (Uttaranchal University)

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