20 May 1996
Supreme Court


Case number: C.A. No.-002471-002471 / 1984
Diary number: 65666 / 1984






DATE OF JUDGMENT:       20/05/1996


CITATION:  1996 SCC  (5)  71        JT 1996 (5)   285  1996 SCALE  (4)608



JUDGMENT:                       J U D G M E N T Punchhi  J.      Rival applicant for substitution, Gurdev Dass, claiming to be  Chela of  Uttam  Dass  deceased  appellant,  is  also permitted to be brought on record, supportive of the appeal, without deciding  the rival  claims of Gurdev Dass vis-a-vis Kesar Dass,  who  is  already  brought  on  record  claiming himself to  be Chela of Uttam Dass, deceased appellant, vide order dated 25.1.1993.      This appeal  by special  leave is  directed against the judgment and  order of  a Division  Bench of  the  Punjab  & Haryana High  Court at  Chandigarh, dated  January 11,  1984 passed in First Appeal from Order hearing No.189 of 1973.      An institution,  as held  to be  charitable, is located within the  revenue  estate  of  village  Kanganpur,  Tahsil Malerkotla, District  Sangrur, Punjab,  which was within the erstwhile Malerkotla  State, ruled  by  muslim  Nawabs.  The State got  merged in  the State  of Patiala  and East Punjab States Union  (PEPSU) on  the latter’s formation as a part B State under  the Constitution.  Later the State of PEPSU was merged with  effect from  1.11.1956 in  the State  of Punjab whereat beforehand the Sikh Gurdwaras Act, 1925 thereinafter referred to as the Act, stood enforced. Later, by Punjab Act No. 1 of 1959, the said Act was extended to the territories, which  immediately  before  the  1st  November,  1956,  were comprised in the State of Punjab and Patiala and East Punjab States Union.  The institution in question stands located in the extended  territories. Dispute  arose whether  the  said institution is a Sikh Gurdwara or not.      The scheme  of the  Act is  to give  to the Sikhs their religious shrines  or places  of worship  in accordance with the procedure  devised in  the Act.  Those have been divided into  two   categories.  Regarding   those  about  which  no substantial doubt  existed they found their way out-right in Schedule I and their management vesting to be carried out as



provided in  Part III.  Regarding the second category of the doubtful ones,  their nature  as to  whether they  were Sikh Gurdwaras  or   not,  was   determinable  substantively   in accordance with  the tests  provided in  Section 16,  but by adoption of procedure under Sections 7 to 11 of the Act.      Under sub-section  (1) of  Section 7  of the  Act,  any fifty or  more Sikh  worshippers of a Gurdwara, each of whom is more  than  twenty-one  years  of  age  and  was  on  the commencement of  this Act,  or in  the case  of the extended territories from  the commencement  of the  Amending Act,  a resident in the police station area in which the Gurdwara is situated, may  forward to  the State Government, through the appropriate Secretary  to Govt.,  a petition praying to have the Gurdwara declared a Sikh Gurdwara within a period of 180 days from  the commencement  of the Amending Act. Under sub- section (3) of Section 7 of the Act, on receiving a petition duly signed  and forwarded  under  the  Provisions  of  sub- section (1),  the State  Government shall, as soon as may be publish  it   along   with   the   accompanying   list,   by notification,  and  shall  cause  it  and  the  list  to  be published, in  such manner  as may  be  prescribed,  at  the headquarters of  the district  and of  the tehsil and in the revenue estate in which the Gurdwara is situated, and at the headquarters of  every district  and of  every tehsil and in every  revenue   estate  in   which  any  of  the  immovable properties mentioned  in the list is situated and shall also give such other notice thereof as may be prescribed.      Under  sub-section  (4)  of  this  section,  the  State Government shall also, as soon as may be, send by registered post a  notice of  the claim to any right, title or interest included in the list to each of the persons named therein as being in  possession of such right, title or interest either on his  own behalf or on behalf of an insane person or minor or on behalf of the Gurdwara.      Sections 8  and 9  of the Act are reproduced hereafter:      S. 8.  When a notification has been published under the      provisions of  sub-section (3)  of Section 7 in respect      of any  Gurdwara, any  hereditary office-holder  or any      twenty or more worshippers of the Gurdwara each of whom      is more  than twenty-one  years of  age and  was on the      commencement of  this  Act  or,  in  The  case  of  the      extended  territories,   on  the  commencement  of  the      Amending Act,  as the  case may  be, a  resident  of  a      police station  area in which the Gurdwara is situated,      may  forward   to  the  State  Government  through  the      appropriate Secretary to Government, so as to reach the      Secretary within  ninety days  from  the  date  of  the      publication of  the notification, a petition signed and      verified by the petitioner, or petitioners, as the case      may be  claiming  that  the  Gurdwara  is  not  a  Sikh      Gurdwara, and may in such petition make a further claim      that any  hereditary office-holder  or any  person  who      would have  succeeded to  such office-holder  under the      system of management prevailing before the first day of      January,  1920,   or,  in  the  case  of  the  extended      territories,   before the  first day of November, 1956,      as the  case may  be, may  be restored to office on the      grounds that  such Gurdwara  is not a Sikh Gurdwara and      that such  office-holder ceased  to be an office-holder      after that day.           Provided that  the State Government may in respect      of any  such Gurdwara  declare by  notification that  a      petition of twenty or more worshippers of such Gurdwara      shall be  deemed  to  be  duly  forwarded  whether  the      petitioners were  or were  not on  the commencement  of



    this Act  or, in  the case of the extended territories,      on the  commencement of  the Amending  Act, as the case      may be,  residents in  the police station area in which      such Gurdwara  is situated,  and shall  thereafter deal      with any  petition that may be otherwise duly forwarded      in respect  of any such Gurdwara as if the petition had      been  duly  forwarded  by  petitioners  who  were  such      residents.      S. 9(1) If no petition has been presented in accordance      with the  provisions of  Section  8  in  respect  of  a      Gurdwara to  which a  notification published  under the      provisions of sub-section (3) of Section 7 relates, the      State Government  shall, after the expiration of ninety      days from  the date  of such  notification,  publish  a      notification  declaring  the  Gurdwara  to  be  a  Sikh      Gurdwara.   (2) The publication of a notification under      the provisions  of sub-section  (1) shall be conclusive      proof that  the Gurdwara  is a  Sikh Gurdwara,  and the      provisions of Part III shall apply to the Gurdwara with      effect  from   the  date  of  the  publication  of  the      notification.      Section 10  deals with  the  petitions,  of  claims  to property included  in a list published under sub-section (3) of Section 7.      Section 11  deals with  the claim for compensation by a hereditary  office-holder   of  a  Gurdwara  notified  under Section 7 or his presumptive successor.      Chapter III  of the  Act deals with the appointment and proceedings before a Tribunal, which Tribunal is constituted under Section  12. The  Tribunal, known as the Sikh Gurdwara Tribunal 7  is  to  dispose  of  all  petitions  made  under Sections 5,  6, 8,  10 and 11 of the Act. The other relevant section of  the Act for our purposes is Section 16, which is as follows : ISSUE AS TO WHETHER A GURDWARA IS A SIKH GURDWARA TO BE DECIDED FIRST AND HOW ISSUE IS TO BE DECIDED --      (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law in force  if in  any proceeding  before  a  tribunal  it  is disputed that a gurdwara should or should not be declared to be a  Sikh Gurdwara,  the tribunal  shall, before  enquiring into any  other matter  in  dispute  relating  to  the  said gurdwara, decide whether it should or should not be declared a Sikh  Gurudwara in  accordance with the Provisions of sub- section      (2) If the tribunal finds that the gurdwara                (i) was  established by,  or in memory of any           of the  Ten Sikh Gurus, or in commemoration of any           incident in  the life of any of the Ten Sikh Gurus           and was  used for  public worship  by Sikh, before           and  at  the  time  of  the  presentation  of  the           petition under sub-section (1) of Section 7 ; or                (ii) owing  to some  tradition connected with           one of  the Ten  Sikh Gurus,  was used  for public           worship predominantly  by Sikhs, before and at the           time of  the presentation  of the  petition  under           sub-section (1) of section 7]; or                (iii) was  established for  use by  Sikhs for           the purpose  of public  worship and  was used  for           such worship  by Sikhs,  before and at the time of           the presentation of the petition under sub-section           (1) of section 7 ; or                (iv) was  established in  memory  of  a  Sikh           martyr, saint  or historical  person and  was used           for public  worship by  Sikhs, before  and at  the           time of  the presentation  of the  petition  under



         sub-section (1) of section 7; or                (v) owing to some incident connected with the           Sikh  religion   was  used   for  public   worship           predominantly by  Sikhs, before and at the time of           the presentation of the petition under sub-section           (1) of section 7, the tribunal shall decide that it should be declared to be a Sikh Gurdwara, and record an order accordingly.      (3) Where the tribunal finds that a gurdwara should not be declared  to be  a Sikh  Gurdwara  it  shall  record  its finding in  an order,  send subject  before the first day of November, 1956,  the tribunal  shall,  notwithstanding  such finding  continue   to  have  jurisdiction  in  all  matters relating to  such claim; and if the tribunal finds it proved that such  office-holder ceased to be an office-holder on or after the  first day of January, 1920 ors in the case of the extended territories, after the first day of November, 1956, it may by order direct that such office-holder or person who would have so succeeded be restored to office.      Having noticed the legal provisions on the subject, let us proceed further on the factual aspect. It transpires that fifty four  worshippers of the institution in question moved a petition  under Section  7 (1)  of the  Act to  the  State Government of  Punjab praying that the institution described as "Gurdwara  Sahib Dera  Kanganpur" be  declared as  a Sikh Gurdwara. A  list of property claimed to be belonging to the institution, as  part thereof,  was publicized  as  required under Section  7 (3) of the Act. Notice of this petition was given to  Mahant Uttam  Das (now dead). His interest as well as the  interest of the institution is now being represented by two rival claimant parties herein, as substituted.      Mahant Uttam  Das filed  a petition  under Section 8 to the State  Government,  which  was  forwarded  to  the  Sikh Gurdwaras Tribunal  for decision.  Uttam Das  stated in  his petition that  the institution  in question  was not  a Sikh Gurdwara, but a Dera of Udasis. He claimed that the Dera was originally founded  by Baba Bakhat Mal, who was succeeded by his Chela Mahant Tehal Dass, Mahant Tehal Dass was succeeded by his  Chela Mahant Seva Dass, who in turn was succeeded by his Chela  Mahant Gurmukh Dass, who in turn was succeeded by his Chela  Mahant Mathura Dass, who in turn was succeeded by his Chela  Mahant Kahan  Dass, who  in turn was succeeded by his chela  Mahant Sunder Dass and to whom had the petitioner succeeded being  Chela of  Sunder Dass.  Mahant Uttam Das in this manner claimed that he was the hereditary office holder of the Dera and was competent to file the petition. His further claim  in the  petition was that the institution was never used  for the  Sikh mode  of worship  and hence  not a Gurdwara. Besides,  it was  claimed that the Dera was of the Udasis sect  where the  idol  of  Baba  Sri  Chand  was  the principal object of worship. In addition thereto, he claimed that there  were Smadhs (sign-spots) of the previous mahants and where the Geeta and Ramayan were recited.      Now, who are Udasis? It has been judicially settled and understood at  all times that the Udasis are a sect distinct from the  Sikhs. They  have a monastic order of origin. They are the  followers of Baba Sir Chand. Unlike the Sikhs, they sometime  worship   idols  and   Smadhs  of  their  monastic ancestors. They  worship other objects too, such as the ball of ashes  etc. They are considered to be Hindus and at times called Sikhs  in the  wider sense  of the  term.  They  bear reverence to  the Guru  Granth Sahib  and  read  it  without renouncing Hinduism.  An institution  of this  kind where  a Udasi recites  Guru Granth  Sahib in  the presence of a Sikh congregation  by   itself  is  not  enough  to  declare  the



institution to  be a  Sikh Gurdwara, unless it stands proved that the  institution was  established for  use by Sikhs for the purpose  of public worship and was used for such worship by Since  as per  requirement of Section 16 (2) (III) of the Act.      Notice was  issued  to  the  Sikh  Gurdwara  Parbandhak Committee,  the  respondent  herein  by  the  Tribunal.  The Committee in  its written statement challenged the status of Mahant Uttam  Das as the hereditary office holder, The locus standi of Uttam Das to file the petition was also challenged on the  ground that  no mode  of succession to the office of the hereditary  office holder was disclosed in the petition, It was  countered that  the Rule  of Succession was not from Guru to Chela and that the institution was a Sikh Gurdwara.      The Tribunal framed the following two issues :      1.  Whether  the  petitioner  is  a  hereditary  office           holder?      2. Whether  the institution  notified as Gurdwara Sahib           Dera Kanganpur is a Sikh Gurdwara?      The priority  of deciding which issue first is given in the marginal note to Section 16 itself quoted and emphasized above, making  it clear  that the  issue as  to whether  the Institution is  a Sikh  Gurdwara is to be decided first. The tribunal  rather   treated  issue   No.1   as   preliminary, presumably on  the basis  that judicial  dicta of that court required such issue as to the locus standi of the hereditary office holder  approaching under Section 8, to be determined first.      In Hari  Kishan  Chela  Daya  Singh  v.  The  Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar a Ors. [AIR 1976 P&H 130], the  High Court of Punjab & Haryana has ruled that the Tribunal  is  not  to  decide  whether  the  Institution  in question is a Sikh Gurdwara or not, before adjudicating upon the locus  standi of the person who claims himself to be the "hereditary office-holder". For coming to that view, certain decisions of  the Lahore  High Court  have been  taken taken into consideration.  In particular,  backing has  been taken from the  decision of  the Lahore High Court in Sunder Singh v. Narain  Das [AIR 1934 Lah. 920], suggesting that when the locus standi  of a  petition under  Section 8 is challenged, that question  would have  to be  decided before  the  trial could proceed,  which position  is not  affected by  Section 16(1) of  the Act, as the said provision could only apply to a petition  properly brought  before the  Tribunal. The same was accepted  to be  the legal  position in  Mahant Budh Das etc. v.  The S.G.P.C.  [AIR 1978  P&H 130],  as well  as  in Balbir Dass  v. The S.G.P.C. [AIR 1980 43 (FB)]. The view of the High  Court seems  to have  crystalized that  the  locus standi of  the applicant  under Section  8 of  the Act  is a preliminary issue  and if the applicant fails on that score, the question  whether the  Institution claimed  to be a Sikh Gurdwara or  not, need  not be  decided by  the Tribunal. In that event,  the legal  consequence, as envisaged in Section 9, must  follow, mandating  the State  Government to declare the Institution  in question as a Sikh Gurdwara, without its actually being  one, on  the assumption  that  the  petition preferred under  Section 8  when failing on the basis of the locus standi, would tantamount to filing no petition at all.      We have strong reservations to such unpurposive view of the High  Court for  more  than  one  reason.  The  marginal note/caption to  Section 16 is the foremost pointer that the issue whether the Institution in question is a Sikh Gurdwara or not,  has to  be decided first and other questions later. The marginal  notes or  captions are,  undoubtedly, part and parcel of  legislative exercise  and the  language  employed



therein provides  the key  to the  legislative  intent.  The words so employed are not mere surplusage. Secondly, for the purposes of  Section 8,  the averments  made therein  by the hereditary office-holder  need be  taken  as  sufficient  on their face  value, bestowing  jurisdiction on  the  Tribunal relating to  the Institution  in question.  The fact  that a petition under Section 8 was received, per se ousts applicability of  Section 9  because that  can operate  only when no  claim under Section 8 is preferred at all. Thirdly, when the  issue of locus standi, at the very threshold, is a triable issue, that per se obligates the tribunal to priorly decide the question of the Institution being a Sikh Gurdwara or not  as the  first issue,  for occasion may arise for not deciding the  issue of  locus standi  at all  in  the  given eventuality. Since  the tribunal  has  proceeded  to  decide issue No.1  as a  preliminary one,  we  would  not  like  to stretch this matter any further except to express our doubt, to be  resolved later in an appropriate case, because of the consequences which  have been made to follow. In none of the cases in which priority of locus standi has been established or followed  has the  High  Court  taken  into  account  the marginal note/caption of Section 16 and its importance.      It is  noteworthy that when the tribunal finds that the Institution/Gurdwara can not be declared as a Sikh Gurdwara, it ceases  to have  jurisdiction in  all matters  concerning such Gurdwara. Only a limited jurisdiction is kept conferred on  the  tribunal  under  sub-section  (3)  to  be  deciding restoration to  office of a hereditary office holder or of a person, Who  would have  succeeded such office holder, under the system  of management prevailing, before a certain date. The  tribunal  shall  in  that  event  notwithstanding  such finding of  the  institution  being  not  a  Sikh  Gurdwara, continue to  have jurisdiction  in all  matters relating  to such claim on grounds tenable under Section 8.      Instantly wide  Orders  dated  February  8,  1973,  The tribunal had  all  the  same  held  that  Uttam  Das  was  a hereditary office  holder of the institution in question. No appeal was  filed by  the respondent  Committee against  the aforementioned orders  of the tribunal. In a sense the order dated February  8, 1973  was  a  final  order  deciding  the contentions of  the parties  as to  whether Uttam  Das was a hereditary office holder or not. leading to consequences. An appeal against  the final  order of the tribunal undoubtedly lay under  Section 34  of the Act before a Division Bench of the High Court. As said earlier, no such step was taken. The second battle began.      On the  basis of  the evidence  led by the parties, the tribunal then  got engaged  to decide issue no.2. Vide Order dated May  5,  1972  it  concluded  against  the  Committee- respondent by holding as follows :           "The fact  that  emerges  from      all this evidence is, that the Dera      is meant  for the looking after and      maintenance of  blind  persons  who      are entrusted  to its  charges  and      for running  the Langar  to provide      food  for  them  and  also  to  the      Faqirs  and  other  needy  persons.      There  is  an  admission  of  Kahan      Dass,  one   of  the   petitioner’s      ancestor  that   he   recited   and      displayed Guru  Granth  Sahib.  The      question that  arises  is,  whether      these facts  are  enough  to  prove      that    this     institution    was



    established for  use by  Sikhs  for      the  purpose   of  public  worship,      which is an essential ingredient of      Section  16(2)(iii)   of  the  Act,      under   which    the    respondent-      committee claims  it to  be a  Sikh      Gurudwara. Though,  we are clear in      our mind that Guru Granth Sahib had      been the  only object of worship in      this institution during the time of      Mahant Kahan Dass and no other mode      of worship  was carried on in it at      any time,  we  are  constrained  to      hold that  this fact by itself does      not suffice  to prove  that it is a      Sikh  Gurdwara.   It  is,  however,      established beyond  doubt that  the      petitioner’s claim  that it  is  an      Udasi institution has no basis. All      that we  can say  is that  it is  a      charitable  institution  meant  for      the upkeep  and maintenance  of the      blind and for running the Langar to      provide food  to the travellers and      other needy  persons who visit this      Dera.           As  a   result  of  the  above      discussion, we  allow the  petition      and find  that the  institution  in      dispute mentioned  in  Notification      No.1415-GP., dated  25th September,      1964, is not a Sikh Gurdwara.      The First  Appeal  filed  by  the  respondent-Committee before the  High Court, was specifically against order dated 5.5.1973 of  the tribunal,  as is  evident from  the opening sheet of the appeal. A lone ground no.13 was inserted in the body thereof  posing that  the tribunal  had gone  wrong  in holding that  the incumbent  of the  institution i.e. Mahant Uttam Das  was a  hereditary office  holder.  Other  grounds pertained to  the question  whether or  not the  institution answered the  description given in Section 16(2)(iii) of the Sikh Gurdwara Act.      The Division  Bench of the High Court surprisingly gave its total  attention to  the first  issue decided  under the earlier order  of the  tribunal dated  February 8, 1973. The High Court  held that since the petition of Mahant Uttam Das under Section  8 did not contain any abstract averment about any usage  or custom  Of succession  or nomination,  he  had failed  to  bring  himself  within  the  definition  of  the expression ’hereditary office holder’, as defined in Section 2 (4)(iv) of the Act, as interpreted by various Full Benches and Division  Benches that  Court  and  hence  lacked  locus standi. On  that basis the judgment of the tribunal on issue no.1 was  set aside.  It  ordered  dismissal  of  Section  8 petition of Uttam Dass as incompetent, lacking in pleadings. On the  second issue, the High Court treated itself disabled to proceed  further in  order to determine the nature of the institution because  of judicial  authority on  the  subject barring such  exercise. It  held that it would not interfere with the  observations of  the tribunal regarding the nature of institution.  Thus reversing finding on issue no.1 alone, it held  that petition  under  Section  8  of  the  Act  was incompetent. The  said order is the subject-matter of appeal before us.      Clause (iv)  of sub-section (4) of Section 2 of the Act



defines "hereditary office" :           "to mean  an office  to  which      before the  first  day  of  January      1920,  or   in  the   case  of  the      extended  territories,  before  the      first day of November, 1956, as the      case may be, devolved, according to      hereditary right  or by  nomination      by the  office holder  for the time      being, and hereditary office-holder      means the  holder of  a  hereditary      office.’      Thus, the hereditary office holder, who is competent to move a petition under Section 8 must plead and prove that he acquired  the   said  status   by  devolution  according  to hereditary right  or by  nomination as  per  custom  of  the institution. Here, the controversy between the parties is as to the accuracy and sufficiency of pleadings in this regard, on which  learned counsel  for the  parties were at variance loaded as  they  were  with  case  law  on  that  aspect  as developed in the High Court.      The High  Court primarily  based its decision on a Full Bench decision of that Court in Hari Kishan Chela Daya Singh Vs. The  Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar & Ors. AIR  1976 Punjab  & Haryana 130. The view taken therein was that  the person  claiming himself  to be  a  hereditary office  holder  must  allege  and  prove  the  complete  and consistent Rule  of Descent  covering all  eventualities  by which he  or his predecessor had and could have come to hold the office  on the  prescribed date. Any omission therein of whatever magnitude, big or small, was viewed as fatal to his locus standi. Strictness was ordered to rule the roost.      The rule  of strictness in pleadings was not adhered to in a  subsequent Full  Bench decision  in Mahant Budh Dass’s case [supra]  and gave  way to the principle of ’substantial compliance’. The  view taken  was that  if the appellant had made his  claim in  the petition in such a manner from which inference could  be clearly and substantially drawn that the appellant had  claimed to  be  a  hereditary  office-holder, there would  be substantial compliance With the provision of Section 8. It was not necessary to use the expression in the petition that  he is a hereditary office holder. Noticeably, the Hon.  Judge who  authored Hari Kishan’s case was a party to Mahant Budh Dass’s case [supra].      In Balbir  Dass Vs.  The Shiromani  Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar  - AIR 1980 Punjab & Haryana 43, another Full Bench  of the  High Court  took a  moderate view on the requirement of  pleadings and  the theory  of strictness and technicality of  pleadings were  termed to  be medieval. The Full  Bench   sacked  up   its  views   from  the  following observations of  this Court  in Kedar  Lal Syal Vs. Hari Lal Syal - AIR 1952 SC Page 47 :           "The Court  would be  slow  to      throw  out   a  claim   on  a  mere      technicality of  pleading when  the      substance of the thing is there and      no prejudice is caused to the other      side,    however     clumsily    or      inartistically the  plaint  may  be      worded."      On the same lines, another Full Bench of that court [to which one  of us  i.e. M.M.  Punchhi,J. was  a party when in that court], adopted the same moderate view in Mahant Dharam Das Chela  Karam Parkash  v. S.G.P.C. [AIR 1987 P&H 64]. The view expressed  in Balbir  Dass’s case  [supra} was accorded



agreement.  The  Bench  viewed  that  the  argument  of  the Shiromani  Gurdwara   Parbandhak  Committee  based  on  Hari Kishan’s case  was not  correct that  in all  cases,  custom regarding the  succession, peculiar  to a given Institution, dealing with  all eventualities  pertaining to  the mode  of succession, must  be pleaded.  The Bench  observed  that  it would be  misreading of  the judgment.  The factum  that the same learned Judge who had authored Hari Kishan’s case was a member of  the Bench  in Mahant  Budh Dass’s case, where the theory of ’strict compliance’ was adopted, was employed as a part of reading down Hari Kishan’s case.      Reverting  to   the  judgment   under  appeals   it  is noticeable that  the Bench  fell into the trap of misreading of  Hari  Kishan’s  case  by  viewing  that  the  custom  or practice, whatever  prevailing in the Institution, had to be pleaded and  the petition  must bear  the specific custom of the Institution  by which the appellant and his predecessors came to hold the office either by way of hereditary right or by nomination.  The Bench  heavily leaned  on Hari  Kishan’s case, bypassed  Mahant Budh Dass’s case even though noticed, by trailing  to a  number of  Division Bench  cases based on Hari Kishan’s  case. On  that basis,  it went  on to  record satisfaction  that   the  averments,  as  required  by  Hari Kishan’s case,  did not  meet its  standards. It observed as follows :           Since the  petition  does  not      contain  any   averment  about  any      usage or  custom of  inheritance or      nomination   for   succession   the      petitioner  has   failed  to  bring      himself within  the  definition  of      hereditary office-holder as defined      in Section  2(4)(iv) of  the Act as      interpreted by various Full Benches      and Division Benches of this Court.      The nature of the Institution, it being of a charitable nature, as  determined by  the Tribunal,  was therefore left uninterfered with. There was no cross-appeal at the instance of the  Present appellant  before the  High Court  as to the competency of  the  Tribunal  to  give  such  finding  after finding that  the Institution  was not  a Sikh Gurdwara. The appellant, prima  facie, submitted  to the finding as to the nature of the Institution.      As is  evident, the  High Court  fell into  an error in construing the  pleadings under  Section  8  on  the  strict standards set  out in Hari Kishan’s case. When the appellant had placed  the line  of succession  from Guru  to Chela, he automatically meant  that he  was basing his claim on custom and usage,  reflective from  such long course of conduct and traditions. The  Tribunal in  its order  dated 19.10.1972 on the basis  of the  pleadings in the petition under Section 8 and on  the evidence  recorded and  tendered,  inclusive  of revenue  records   of  the  State,  had  come  to  the  firm conclusion  that   the  succession  to  the  office  of  the Mahantship in  the  Institution  in  question  had  been  by devolution from Guru to Chela according to hereditary right, even though  the Bhekh had assembled and given Turban to the last Mahant Uttam Das but not as an appointing authority and rather in  the affirmance,  according to  the wishes  of the predecessor-in-office. The  line of  descent had  been  laid with sufficient  clarity giving  rise to the conclusion that substantially the custom and usage relating to succession  had been  observed to  carry on  the rule  of descent by  conduct. We, thus, are of the view that the High Court fell  into a  grave-  error  in  upsetting  the  well-



considered and well-reasoned orders of the Tribunal.      We, thus,  allow this  appeal, set  aside the  impugned order of  the High Court dated 11.1.1984, restoring back the orders of  the Tribunal  dated 19.10.1973  and the orders of the  Tribunal   dated  5.5.1973  in  affirmance,  which  has otherwise been  left uninterfered  with  even  by  the  High Court.      The appellant shall get his costs.