Topic: Acharya Maharajshri Narendera Prasadji Anand Prasadji Maharaj v. The State of Gujarat

Acharya Maharajshri Narendera Prasadji Anand Prasadji Maharaj v. The State of Gujarat
Equivalent citations: 1974 AIR 2098, 1975 SCR (2) 317 - Bench: Ray, A.N. (Cj), Beg, M. Hameedullah, Alagiriswami, A., Goswami, P.K., Sarkaria, Ranjit Singh - Citation: 1974 Air 2098 1975 Scr (2) 317, 1975 Scc (1) 11 - Citator Info : R 1981 Sc1576 (3) - Date of Judgment: 03/10/1974

ACT:

Constitution of India, 1950-Article 26, 31 (2)-Right to compulsorily     acquire, property     of     religious denomination--Scope of right under Article 26(c). Constitution of India, 1950-Article 31 A-Gujarat Devasthan Inams Abolition Act, 1969-If entitled to the protection of Article 31A.

HEADNOTE:

The Gujarat Legislature enacted Gujarat Devasthan Inams Abolition Act,     1969.    Section 5 of the Act provides     for abolition of certain Devasthan Inams together     with their incidents and    makes Devasthan lands liable to     payment of land revenue.     Section 8 vests all public roads, lanes, tracks, bridges, ditches, dikes and fences etc., situated in Devasthan lands in Government and further provides that     all rights    held by an Inamdar in such property would be deemed to have been extinguished. Section 9 of the Act provides for compensation in the form of cash annuity. By Section 31 certain     exemptions granted to the Devasthan lands by     the Bombay    Tenancy & Agricultural Lands Act, 1948    and Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceiling Act 1960 have been deleted. It was contended by the appellants that the Act violated Article     26(c)     of the Constitution    since it deprived religious denominations of their ownership of property; that in addition to fulfilling the requirements of Article 31(2) the Act had to fulfil the requirements of Article 26(c) also; that the Act was not saved by     the provisions of Article     3 1 A since the operation of Article 26(c) is     not included in the former Article and that Section 31 of     the Act is     violative of Article 26(c) since the compensation available to religious denominations is grossly inadequate. Held:Article 26 guarantees the right to own    and acquire movable     and immovable     property for    managing religious affairs. This right cannot take away the right of the State to compulsorily acquire property in accordance with the provisions of Article 31(2). If the acquisition of property of a religious denomination by the State can be proved to be such as to destroy or completely negative its right to     own or acquire movable and immovable property for even     the survival of a religious institution the question may have to be examined in a different    light.-     However, such     an allegation is    not made in the present appeals. When     the property is acquired by the State in accordance with     the provisions of Article 31(2) and the acquisition cannot be assailed on any valid ground, the right to own that property vanishes as that right is transferred to the State. There is no conflict between Article 26 and Article 31. The court also negatived     the contention of the appellants that     the decision in Khaja Mian Wakf Estate [1971] 2 S.C.R. 790     has been over-ruled by the Bank Nationalisation case [1970] 3 S.C.R. 530. [327 C-E]

The Act is passed in furtherance of agrarian reform and is fairly protected under the saving provision of Article    31A. The right Conferred under Article 26(c) is not absolute     and unqualified right. No rights in an organised society can be absolute. Where in a free play of social forces it is     not possible to bring about a voluntary harmony, the State     has to step in to set right the imbalance between competing interests and    there the Directive Principles-of State Policy, although not enforceable in courts, have a definite and Positive role introducing an obligation upon the State under Article 37 in making laws to regulate the conduct of men and their affairs.    In doing so a distinction will    have to be made between those laws which directly infringe     the freedom of religion and others, although indirectly, affect- ing some secular activities or religious institutions or bodies. The core of religion is not    interfered with in providing for amenities for sufferers of any kind. The 318

Act does not violate the rights guaranteed under Article 26(c).    The Act does not make any inroad in such a way as to affect    directly the substance of the    right conferred by Article     26(c).     One fundamental right of a person may    have to co-exist in harmony with     the exercise    of another fundamental right by others and also with reasonable     and valid exercise     of power by the State in the light of     the Directive Principles in the interest of social welfare as a whole.     The Courts duty is to strike     a balance between conflicting claims of different interests. [328 F-H; 329B] Commissioner, Hindu Religious     Endowments,Madras v.    Shri Lakhsmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt, [1954] S.C.R. 1005/1028-1029, referred to.

Objection on the score of inadequacy of compensation cannot be agitated against a legislation which relates to agrarian reform    and, therefore, protected by     Article 31A.     The objection on the score of violation of Article 14, 19 and 31 is not entertainable. [329.F-E]

ARGUMENTS

For the appellants:

1. The impugned Act (The Gujarat Devasthan Inams Abolition Act, 1939) violates Article 26(c) of the Constitution which confers     on every religious denomination the     fundamental right "to own and acquire movable and immovable property", ,subject only to "public order, morality and health". The impugned Act aims at agrarian reform but is not concerned with public order, morality and health. Since it deprives religious denominations of their ownership of property, it transgresses Article 26(c) and. is invalid.

2.Article 31-A     provides that legislation covered by    that Article     cannot     be ,deemed to be void     on the ground of inconsistency with Articles 14, 19 and 21.     Since     the impugned act is inconsistent with Articles    26(c) whose operation is not excluded by Article 31A, it is not saved by the provisions of the latter.

3.The Court below was wrong in holding that the question whether     the impugned Act contravenes Article 26(c) depends on whether the Act is in conformity    with the Directive Principles embodied in Part-IV of the Constitution. It is well established by decisions of this Hon'ble Court that the Directive Principles cannot over-ride    fundamental rights. Where a fundamental right has been expressly made subject to certain reasonable restrictions, then the relevant Directive Principle would be taken into consideration by the court in deciding whether in a particular case the restriction imposed is reasonable or not.

But where a fundamental right is in    absolute terms, it cannot    be Subject to restrictions in    the general public interest.

Since fundamental right in Article 26(c) is subject only to public    order,    morality and health, only those Directive Principles which relate to public order, morality and health would be relevant in construing whether a     particular legislation is violative of Article 26(c).

4. While the fundamental    rights     in the American Constitution have been stated in general terms, those in our Constitution have been concretely defined. The ,Court below was in     error    in relying on American     decisions for     its conclusion that the fundamental rights in our    Constitution are subject to the Directive Principles in Part-IV thereof- American decisions are not useful in deciding the scope of our fundamental rights.

5. The impugned Act in so far as it     is concerned    with compulsory acquisition of Property, fulfils the requirements of Article 31(2). It has, however, to fulfil it, ,addition the requirements of Article 26(c) also.     It was held in     the Bank Nationalisation Case [1970] (3) SCR 530 that the    work "law" in Article 31(2) means a valid law, i. e. law which does not violate any other fundamental right. The impugned Act must accordingly be consistent not only with Article 31(2) but also Article 26(c). Observations to the contrary effect in Khajimian Wakf Estate etc. v. State of Madras     and Anr. [1971](2) SCR page 790(at page 797) are    inconsistent with the ratio of the Bank Nationalisation case, which     was decided by a    larger Bench, and are,    it is    respectfully submitted, not good law.

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6.The court below was not right in holding that     the substance of the right under Article 26(c) is not affected if the property of religious denominations is    compulsorily acquired by providing for a reasonable pensation.    This view, it is submitted, is not correct,     because compulsory acquisition of property 'limits the    right of ownership guaranteed by Article 26(c). The observations in The State of Bihar Versus Maharajadhiraja Sir Kameshwar Singh of    Dar- bhanga and others [1952] SCR 839 relied upon the Court below are not relevant, as the Bihar Act in question was included in the IXth Schedule of the Constitution and was beyond     the challenge based on any fundamental right. Section 31 of the Bombay    Tenancy     and Agricultural Lands Act 1948 and     the Gujarat Agricultural Land Ceiling Act 1960 applicable to the agricultural lands of religious denominations.    It cannot be disputed that    the compensation available to religious denominations for the lands covered by these Acts is grossly inadequate. Section 31 of the impugned Act is, therefore, violative of Article 26 (c) of the Constitution of India even supposing that the rest of the Act is valid. For the Respondents:

1.The rights conferred on the religious denominations under Article 26(c) and (d)of     the Constitution of India enables them to own and acquire properties and to administer them according to law. In the submission of     the respondents, these rights under Article 26(c) and (d) do not however derogate the    power of the State to    acquire     the properties under Article 31 of the Constitution. It was further     submitted that Article 26(c) and (d) must be    read together with the result the right of the State to acquire property would not be affected, merely because the property is owned by a religious denomination.

2.It was submitted that the right under Article 26(c) is not unbounded or absolute.     The same is subject to reasonable regulation.

3.What is reasonable regulation must depend on the nature of the fundamental right sought to be regulated the purpose for which    it is     conferred and     the general    pattern     of Constitutional    rights and obligation.    It must also depend on the Directive Principles enumerated in Part IV and     the socioeconomic structure envisaged by the Constitution.

4.That in the event of conflict between the individual right and the legislation implementing socioeconomic policies laid down in Part    IV, greater weight should be given to     the policy enumerated in the Directive Principles.

5.That the socioeconomic policy sought to be implemented through     the legislation made in pursuance of Directive Principles would be rejoiner as "public purpose" or as intended to promote "public interest" and as a reasonable restriction on the fundamental rights.    The two being parts of one scheme and "complementary and supplementary to    each other."

6.Any law under which property was compulsorily     acquired for a public purpose, the law satisfied the requirements of Art. 31(2) and 31(2A), it should be presumed that such an acquisition would amount to reasonable regulation on     the exercise of the fundamental right to    hold the Property, empowered in the interest of general public.

JUDGMENT:

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeals Nos 746-748, 756, 760, 778, 800, 802, 826, 789, 790, 798, 799, 1035 & 1303 of 1971.

Appeals from the Judgment & Order dated the 31st August/1st/ 2nd/ and 3rd September, 1970 of the Gujarat High Court in Special Civil Applns. Nos. 60, 168, 169, 173, 63, 87,    154, 869, 167, 123, 337, 606, 119 and 604 of 1970 respectively. V. M.     Tarkunde (In CA. No. 746/71) P. C. Bhahtari, C.S. Rao, B.Dadachanji, O. C. Mathur and.Ravinder Narain for the appellants, (In Case. Nos. 746-748, 754, 760 & 826/71). 320

Vimal Dave and Kalidas Mehta, for the appellants. (In     CAs Nos. 778, 798-799/71).

P. C. Kapur for the appellants (In C. No. 802/71). R. M. Mehta and S. K. Dholkia for the appellants '(In     CAS Nos.800 & 1303/71).

I. N. Shroff and H. S. Parihar, for the appellants (In     CAs Nos. 789-790/71).

C.C. Patel, Ambrish Kumar and M. V.    Goswami     for the appellants (In CAs Nos. 1035/71).

S.T. Desai, R. H. Dhebar and M. N.    Shroff,     for the respondents.(In all the appeals).

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Goswami, J. These appeals are by certificate granted by     the High Court of     Gujarat. Since a common question of     law arises    for consideration in all these appeals and     the learned counsel in all the appeals adopted the arguments of Mr. Tarkunde,    the learned counsel for     the appellant     (in Civil Appeal No. 746 of 1971) the facts of that appeal alone need be stated and this judgment will govern all     the appeals.

The appellant is the Managing Trustee of the Trust of     the Temples of Laxminarayan Deo of Vadtal and is the Acharya of the Gadi of the Swaminarayan Sampraday at Vadtal which is a public    trust registered under the Bombay Public Trust    Act. Under the scheme of the Trust the appellant is authorised to look after the management of the properties of     the Trust. It is    not disputed that the Swaminarayan Sampraday is a religious denomination which believes in Lord    Krishna     and Radha. The Institution holds Devasthan Inam lands and     the appellant challenges the constitutional validity of     the Gujarat     Devasthan Inams Abolition Act, 1969    (hereinafter referred to as the Act).

The Act came into force on November 15, 1969 and it extends to the Bombay area of the State of Gujarat. The preamble shows that it is an Act "to abolish inams held by religious or charitable institution in the Bombay area of the State of Gujarat     and to provide for    matters     consequential     and incidental thereto".

Section     2 contains the definitions.     By section    2(6) "Devasthan inam' means an inam consisting of    a grant or recognition as a grant-

(a) of    a village, portion of a     village or land, whether such grant    be-

(i) of soil with or without exemption    from payment of

land revenue or

(ii) of assignment of the whole of the    land revenue    of the     village, portion of     the village, or as the case may be, land, or of a share of such land revenue, or

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(iii) of     total    or partial exemption    from payment of land

revenue in respect of any land, or

(b)of cash allowance or allowance in kind by whatever name called, by    the ruling authority     for the time being for a religious or charitable institution and entered as    such in the alienation register kept under section 53 of the Code or in any other revenue record or public record maintained in     respect of alienations or    determined as    such by a decision    under section    5 of the Gujarat Surviving Alienations Abolition     Act,    1963 (Gujarat XXXIII of 1963) but does not include- "

*     *     *     *

By section 2(7) " 'Devasthan land, means a village, portion of a village or land held under a Devasthan inam". By section 2(9) " inferior holder' means a person who is in possession of a Devasthan land whether by inheritance, or succession or    valid transfer under the tenancy law or otherwise and who, being liable to pay assessment in cash or kind hold such land, whether on payment of assessment or not".

By section 2    (10) " Inamdar' means in the religious or charitable institution for which a Devasthan inam is held, whether     such inam is actually entered in the relevant revenue     record     in the name of such institution or of     any person     in charge of     such institution or    having     the management thereof".

By section 2(12) " ,religious institution'     means     any institution belonging to any religion". By section 2(14) " unauthorised holder' means a person in possession of a Devasthan land under any kind of alienation thereof     which is null and void under the law applicable to such land immediately before the appointed day". Section 5 provides for "abolition of certain Devasthan inams together with    their incidents and 'Devasthan lands to be liable to payment of land revenue-Notwithstanding any usage or custom, settlement, grant, agreement, sanad or order or anything contained in any decree or order of a court or     any law, for the time being applicable to any Devasthan inam, with effect on and from the appointed,day- (a)all Devasthan inams except in so far as they consist of a grant or recognition as a grant of cash allowance or allowance in    kind shall be and are hereby abolished;

(b)save as expressly provided by or under this Act all rights    legally     subsisting immediately before the    said day, in     the Devasthan     inams    so abolished and all other incidents     of such inams shall    be and are hereby extinguished; and

(c)subject to the other provisions of this Act, all     Devasthan lands shall    be and     are hereby made liable to the payment of land 322

revenue in accordance with the provisions of the Code and the rules made thereunder,     and accordingly the provisions therein relating to unalienated land shall apply to all Devasthan lands".

Sections 6 and 7 say also be quoted

6."Occupancy rights in respect of Devasthan     land.-In the case of    a Devasthan land, the person deemed to be the occupant primarily     liable to the State Government     for payment of land revenue in respect of    such land in accordance with the provisions of     the Code and the rules made thereunder shall be- (a)where such land is in possession of the inamdar and had been cultivated on behalf of the inamdar immediately before the appointed day, the inamdar,

(b)where such land is in the possession of an authorised holder or an inferior holder, such authorised holder or inferior holder, as the case may be, and

(c)where    such land is in possession of    a person other than the    inamdar, authorised holder, unauthorised holder or inferior holder, the inamdar".

7."Eviction of unauthorised holder and regrant of Devasthan land to him     in cretain circumstances and disposal of     land not regranted.-

(1) Where any    Devasthan land     is in     the possession of an unauthorised holder, it shall be resumed and such unauthorised holder shall be summarily evicted there from by     the Collector in accordance with the provisions of the Code :

Provided    that where in     the case of     any unauthorised holder the State Government is of opinion that in view of the investment by such holder in the development of the land or in the non-agricultural use of the land     or otherwise, the eviction of such    holder    from the land will involve undue hardship to him, the State Government may direct the Collector to regrant the land to such holder on payment of such amount and subject to such terms     and conditions as the State Government     may determine and the Collector shall regrant     the land to such holder accordingly.

(2)Devasthan land which is not    regranted under subsection (1) shall be disposed of in accordance with the provisions of the Code and the rules made thereunder applicable to     the disposal of unoccupied unalienated land". Section 8 vests all public roads, lanes and tracks, bridges, ditches, dikes and fences, etc. and various things mentioned therein     situated in Devasthan lands in Government and     all rights held by an inamdar

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in such property shall be deemed to have been    extinguished and it     shall be lawful for the Collector, subject to     the general     or special orders of     the State Government, to dispose     of them as he deems fit, subject always to     the rights    of way     and other rights of     the public or of individuals legally subsisting.

Section 9 reads as follows

"Compensation in form of cash annuity,-In     the case of a Devasthan inam not consisting of a grant or recognition as a grant of    cash allowance or allowance in kind, there shall be paid to the inamdar as compensation for     the abolition of all his rights in Devasthan inam, in the form of an annuity in perpetuity-- (a)a sum of money equal to an average of the full assessment lawfully leviable on     all the lands comprised in such inam during a period of three years immediately preceding the appointed day, if the grant consisted of grant of soil with or without exemption    from payment of land revenue.

(b)a sum of money equal to an average of the amount of land revenue or, as the case may be, the share in such land revenue received or due to the inamdar during a period of three years immediately preceding the appointed day, if the grant consisted of assignment of    land revenue or a share in such land revenue. Section 10 provides for the method of awarding compensation to inamdar.

Section 11 may be set out

"     Method of    awarding compensation     for abortion    etc. of rights of other person in property.-

(1)If any person is aggrieved     by the provisions of    this Act as     abolishing, extinguishing or modifying any of his rights to or    interest in,     property and     if compensation    for    such     abolition,

extinguishment or modification has not    been provided    for in the other provisions of    this Act, such person may apply to the Collector for compensation.

(2) The     application under sub-section     (1) shall be made    to the     Collector in     the prescribed form within the     prescribed period.The Collector shall, after holding a formal inquiry in the    manner provided by the Code, make    an award determining     the compensation in the manner and according to the method provided for in subsection (1) of section    23 and     section 24 of the    Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894).

(3)Nothing in this section shall entitle any person to compensation on the ground    that any Devasthan land which was     wholly     or partially exempt from payment of land revenue has

-M255SupCI/75

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been under the provisions of this Act    made subject to the payment of full assessment in accordance with the provisions of the Code". By section 12, "Provisions of Land Acquisition Act, applicable to awards-

(1)Every award made under section II shall be in the form prescribed in section 26 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894) and the provisions of the said Act, shall, so far as may be, apply to the making of such award". x     x     x

x

Section    13 provides for appeal against Collector's award to the Gujarat Revenue Tribunal.

Section     19 makes actions taken or things done     after    18th March,    1968, but before the appointed day, in    relation to 'Devasthan lands so as to affect the rights of     the tenant from such land or to evict the tenant therefrom, void. By section 31, the following Acts have    been amended

1.Inter-alia, a     new section    88E is inserted     in the Bombay Tenancy     and Agricultural Lands Act, 1948 and the same     may be quoted :

88E. "Cessor of exemption in     respect of certain public trust lands-

(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in section 88B, with effect on and from     the specified date lands which are the property of an institution for public religious worship shall cease to     be exempted    from those provisions of the Act except sections 31 to 3 ID (both     inclusive) from which they    were exempted     under     section 88B     and     all certificates granted under that     section in respect of such lands shall stand revoked. (2)Where    any such land ceases to be so exempted, then in

the case     of tenancy subsisting     immediately before the specified date thetenant shall be deemed to have    purchased the land on     the specified     date and the provisions of section 32 to 32R (both inclusive) shall so far as may be applicable, apply".

x     x     x

x

2.Similarly under section 3 of the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Act,     1960,    after    sub- section (2) a new-sub-section (3) has    been inserted which reads as under :

"(3) The     Devasthan lands which     immediately before the date of the commencement of     the Gujarat Devasthan Inams Abolition Act,    1969 (Gujarat    16 of    1969) were exempted under clause (d) of sub-section (1)     shall    with effect on and from the said date cease to be exempted lands"

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From the foregoing provisions of the Act set out above it is clear that the Act is passed in furtherance    of agrarian reforms and that is not disputed before us. According to    the appellant    as a consequence of     the enforcement of the Act his rights in respect of 729 bighas of Devasthan inam lands will be extinguished.     Action     was also taken under the Bombay Land Revenue Code in order to effect changes in the record of rights imposing liability to land revenue in view of the abolition of Devasthan Inams under the Act.     Some other notices under the Act have    also been served on the appellant to hand over his record as inamdar. That led to the application under article 226 of the Constitution in the High Court challenging the validity of the Act without    success. Hence this     appeal by certificate.

Mr. Tarkunde,    learned counsel, whose arguments have    been adopted     by the appellants in all other appeals before us makes the following submissions :

(1)The    Act violates Articles 26(c) of     the Constitution since it deprives religious denomination of their ownership of property.

(2)Tile Act in so far as it is    concerned with compulsory     acquisition of property fulfils- the requirements of Article 31(2). it has, however, to fulfil in addition     the requirements of    Article 26(c) also. It is submitted     that    the observations to     the contrary    in Khajamian Wakf Estates etc. v. State of Madras & Anr.(1) are    inconsistent with the     ratio of the Bank Nationalisation case [Rustom Cavasjee Cooper v. Union of India(2)] which was decided by a larger Bench. He further submits that the compulsory acquisition of property limits the substance of the right of ownership guaranteed     by Article 26(c).

(3)The Act is not saved by the provisions of Article 31A since the operation of Article 26(c) is not excluded     under    the former Article.

(4)At any rate section 31 of the Act is violative     of Article     26(c)     since     the compensation available to religious denominations for the lands covered by     the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural     Lands    Act, 1948 and the Gujarat Agricultural Lands Ceil- ing Act, 1960 is grossly inadequate.

Mr. S. T. 'Desai, learned counsel for the respondent on     the other hand submits that there is nothing in Article 26(c) and (d) to debar the State from acquiring the properties owned by the religious denominations under Article 31(2) of the Constitution. Secondly, he submits that the right of property embodies in Article 26(c) is not an absolute right but is subject to reasonable regulation by the     State.     He further submits that the reasonable regulation must depend, in a large measure, on the Directive Principles enumerated in Part IV of the Constitution

(1) [1971] 2 S.C.R. 790.

(2) [1970] 3 S.C.R. 530.

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and the socioeconomic structure    envisaged by     the Constitution. Thirdly, he sub.-nits that if under any law a property is compulsorily acquired for public purpose and the law satisfies    the requirements of Article 31 A the Court should    readily     permit     the imposition of a     reasonable restriction on the exercise of the right to hold property in the interest of the general public.

With regard to the first objection the learned counsel submits     that    the Act violates Article 26(c) of the Constitution which offers to every religious    denomination the fundamental right     "to own and acquire    movable     and immovable property" subject only to "public order, morality and health".    He submits that the Act aims    at agrarian reform but is not concerned with "public order, morality and health". Since it deprives religious denominations of their ownership of property, it transgresses Article 26(c) and is invalid. He also draws our attention to Article 25(1) which has subjected the rights therein not only to public order, morality and health, but also to "the other provisions of Part III". Ho, therefore, submits that the right guaranteed under Article 26(c) is Rot subject to "the other pro visions of Part III" and therefore, there cart be no acquisition of property under Article 31 of the Constitution. Articles 25 to 28 in Part III of the Constitution are placed under a sub-title "Right to Freedom of Religion" and    deal with matters in the background of that freedom.     It is    true that Article 25 is made subject to "public order, morality and health" and also "to the other provisions of this Part" while Article 26 is only subject to "public order, morality and health". Insertion of the expression "the other provi- sions of this Part" in Article 25 is understandable when we find the particular rights which are taken care of in    this Article, namely, the right to freedom of conscience and     the right freely to profess, practice and    propagate religion. Bearing     in mind the overlapping nature of the sensitive rights, in Article 19(1) (a) with reference to citizens and in Article 25(1) with reference to- all persons the founders of the     Constitution left no room for doubt in expressly subjecting Article 25(1) to the other provisions of    Part III. Not only so sub-Article 2 of Article 25 provides    that ".nothing in this Article shall affect the operation of     any existing law or prevent the State from making any     law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may    be associated    with religious practice". The same considerations are, however, not exactly necessary while dealing with "freedom to manage religious affairs" which is the rubric of Article 26.     We may now read Article 26 :

Freedom to 26. "Subject     to public order, morality and health

manage     every religious denomination or any section

religious     thereof shall have the right- affairs.

(a)to establish and maintain institutions for religious and charitable purposes;

(b)to manage its own affairs in matters of religion;

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(c)to own and acquire movable and immovable property; and

(d)to administer such property in accordance with law".

While Article 25, as stated earlier, confers the particular rights    on all persons, Article 26 is confined to religious denominations or any section thereof. Article 19(1) confers the various rights specified therein from (a)     to (g) on citizens. A religious denomination or a section thereof as such is not a citizen.    In that sense the fields of the     two Articles may be to sonic extent different.    Again while Article     26(c)    refers    to the right "to own    and acquire movable     and immovable property", Article 19(1)(f) confers the right on    citizens "to acquire, hold and     dispose of property". We are not required to consider in this case why the same expression is not used in the said two clauses of the two Articles. One. thing is, however,     clear    that Article 26 guarantees intervals the right to own and acquire movable     and immovable     property for    managing religious affairs. This right, however, cannot take away the right of the State to compulsorily acquire property in accordance with the provisions of Article 31(2).     If, on the other hand, acquisition of property of a religious denomination by the State can- be proved to be such     as to     destroy or completely negative its right to own and acquire movable and immovable property for even the survival of    a religious institution the question may have to     be examined in a different light. That kind of a factual position, however, is not     taken in these appeals before us. When, however, property is acquired by the State in accordance with law and with the provisions of Article 31(2) and the     acquisition cannot    be assailed on any valid ground open to     the person concerned, be it a religious institution, the right to     own that property vanishes as that right is transferred to     the State.    Thereafter there is no question of any right to     own the particular property subject to public order, morality and health and Article 26 will in the circumstances be of no relevance. This being the legal position, there is no conflict between Article 26 and Article 31. In Khajamian     Wakf Estates'     case (at page 797) a Constitutional    Bench of this Court dealing with Article 26(c) and (d) observed as follows :

"It was    next urged that by acquiring     the properties belonging     to     religious denominations the legislature violated    Art. 26(c) and (d) which provide that religious denominations shall have the right to own     and acquire movable    and immovable property     and administer such property in accordance    with law. These provisions do not take away     the right of the State to acquire property belonging     to religious denominations. Those denominations can own acquire properties     and administer them in accordance with law.    That does not mean that the property owned by    them cannot be acquired.    As a     result     of acquisition they cease to own that property. Thereafter their right    to administer    that property ceases because it is no longer their property.     Art. 26 does not interfere with the right of the State to acquire property." 328

It is submitted by Mr. Tarkunde that the above    observations of this Court     are inconsistent with     the ratio of     the decision in Rustom Cavasjee Cooper's case, popularly known as the     Bank Nationalisation case, which was decided by a larger Bench. It is difficult to accept the submission that the views expressed in Khajamian Wakf     Estates' case     are contrary to Rustom Cavasjee Cooper's case. Apart from    that this Bench cannot pass upon the correctness or otherwise of the views expressed in Khajaraian Wakf Estate's case. Besides, we do not even think that the submission is well- founded even to merit reconsideration of the Khajamian    Wakf Estates' case.

The learned counsel also strenuously relied upon     the following passage in    the Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras v. Shri Lakshmindra Thiratha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt.(1)

"Under article 26(b), therefore, a religious denomination or organisation enjoys complete autonomy in the matter of deciding as to    what rites and ceremonies are essential according to the tenets of the religion they hold and no outside authority has any jurisdiction to interfere     with     their    decision in such matters .... A law which takes away the right of administration from     the hands of a religious denomination altogether and vests it in any other authority would amount to a violation of the right guaranteed under clause (d) of article 26."

We do not think that the above opinion of the Court in    that case is of any assistance to the appellants. The first     and the second submissions of the learned counsel    are, therefore, of no avail.

When we look at the object of the Act and of    the various provisions enacted in furtherance of agrarian    reform,     the Act is     squarely protected under the saving provision of Article 31A. But it is then submitted that Article 31A does not provide against the vice of contravention of Article 26 while Articles     14, 19 and 31 are expressly mentioned in Article     3 1 A. The question, therefore, arises whether     the right under Article 26(c) is an absolute and     unqualified right to the extent that no agrarian reform can touch    upon the lands owned by the religious de. nominations. No rights in an organised society can be absolute. Enjoyment of one's rights must be consistent with the enjoyment of rights    also by others. Where in a free play of social forces it is     not possible to bring about a voluntary harmony, the State     has to step in to set right the imbalance between competing interests and    there the Directive Principles of State Policy, although not enforceable in courts, have a definite and positive role introducing an obligation upon the State under Article 37 in making laws to regulate the conduct of men and their affairs.    In doing so, a distinction will have to be made between those laws which directly infringe     the freedom     of religion    and others, although     indirectly, affecting some secular activities or religious    institutions or bodies. For example if a    religious institution    owns large areas of land far exceeding the coiling under relevant laws and indulges in activities detrimental to the interest of the agricultural

(1) [1954] S.C.R. 1005,1028-1029.

329

tenants, who are at their mercy, freedom of    religion or freedom     to manage religious affairs cannot be pleaded as a shield    against regulatory remedial measures adopted by     the State to put a stop to exploitation and unrest in other quarters in the interest of general social welfare. The core of religion is not interfered with in providing for amenities for sufferers of any kind. We take the view that the Act and its provisions do no violence to     the rights guaranteed under Article 26(c). In the view we have taken it is also not necessary to mention Article 26 in Article 3 1 A and its    omission therein is not at    all of     any consequence.

Right guaranteed under Article 26(c) not being absolute     and unqualified is consistent with reasonable replacements    made by the State provided the substance of the freedom is    riot affected. The Act does not make any inroad in such a way as to affect directly the substance of that    freedom. A particular fundamental right cannot exist in isolation in a watertight compartment. One fundamental right of a person may have to co-exist in harmony with the exercise of another fundamental right by others and also with reasonable     and valid exercise     of power by the State in the light of     the Directive Principles in the interests of social welfare as a whole.     The Court's duty is to strike     a balance between competing claims of different interests. So far as the fourth submission is concerned, the objection is on the score of adequacy of compensation which cannot be agitated against a legislation which admittedly relates to agrarian reform and is, therefore, under the canopy of protection of Article 31A of the Constitution and objection on the score of violation of Articles 14, 19 and 31 is     not entertainable.    Hence this submission also fails. in the result all the appeals arc dismissed with costs. P.H.P.

Appeals dismissed