The Madhya Pradesh High Court ruled that the Registrar of the Public Trust had no discretion under the Madhya Pradesh Public Trust Act 1951 to dismiss existing trustees and order the trust to hold elections for these.
Judge Subodh Abhayankar essentially dealt with a petition for writ, in which the petitioners sought the annulment of the order of 17.11.2021, adopted by the Registrar of Public Trust, Barwani District, in which two of the trustees were removed from office , and the Trust, namely Shri Digamber Jain Siddh Kshetra Bawangajaji, was instructed to conduct elections for the position of directors.
The claimants’ case was that being registered as a religious and charitable trust, it is governed by its own Constitution. The said document includes details of the management, appointment and election of the Trust and no waivers are permitted.
According to them, the Complainant/Defendant has filed a Motion with the Registrar, without reference to the Provision of the Act, alleging that one of the Trustees of the relevant Trust, is unlawfully appointed.
In addition to the removal of the Trustee, the request also requested the suspension of the election process initiated by the Trust.
The applicants allege that the impugned order was issued by the authority against the principals of natural justice, without giving them the opportunity to be heard.
The Applicants argued that the power exercised by the Registrar through the impugned order went beyond the functions assigned to him under section 22 of the Act. Additionally, to make any other order, the Registrar would have to file an application with the District Judge under Section 26 of the Act for directions.
They relied on two rulings from the court’s division benches in Daludas v. Registrar of Public Trusts, Hoshangabad and Sheoprasad Dubey v. Registrar, Public Trusts, Sagar & Ors. to support their claims.
The Complainant/Respondent argued that the impugned order does not suffer from any infirmity. It was further argued that with respect to Section 26 of the Act, a mere reading of his application would reveal that it contained no material under Section 26 of the Act, which therefore, did not call for the case to be sent back to the district. Judge for directions.
He relied on Supreme Court decisions in Shri Sant Sadguru Janardan Swami (Moingiri Maharaj) Sahakari Dugdha Utpadak Sanstha and Anr. v. State of Maharashtra and ou., and the High Court of Mohanrao Wakode v. Status of MPs & Golds. and Shri Shri 1008 Kunwar Raj Rajeshwai Hindayla Darbar by Pn. Hariom Parakash Maharaj (Baba) v. State of the deputy.
After reviewing the submissions of the parties and the documents in the file, the court ruled that the Registrar did not have the discretionary power to remove the trustees and to order the Trust to proceed with the election by appointing two new trustees among Bharatvarshiya Digambar Jain Tirthkshetra Committee.
It was further observed that Section 25 of the Act sets out the procedure for filling vacancies on the board and not for removing directors. Similarly, Section 26 of the Act simply provides that the Registrar shall file a Request for Directions with the District Judge if dissatisfied with the operation of the Trustees.
Citing the court’s observations in Daluram case, the court noted that-
“In the considered the opinion of this Court that the dispute between the parties in the aforesaid Public Warrant relates solely to its administration, and for which directions should have been sought from the District Judge, as provided in Section 26 of the Act. Thus, the Registrar Public Trust, Barwani clearly acted beyond its jurisdiction to issue the contested order which cannot be tolerated in the eyes of the law.“
Commenting on the decisions referred to by the Complainant, the tribunal noted that since none of the judgments were similar to the factual and legal matrix of the case at issue, it was not bound by them in the present case. Accordingly, the court granted the motion and quashed the contested order, ordering the Registrar of the Barwani District Public Trust to take appropriate action in accordance with the law for the proper administration of the public trust.
Case title: Saurabh and another against the State of MPs and Ors
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