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Mahant Ramanand Chela vs State Of Uttaranchal on 22 September, 2017




CIVIL APPEAL No. 3881 OF 2009






1 In the writ proceedings before the High Court of Uttarakhand, an order

dated 1 September 2005 of the Collector, Haridwar was challenged. The High

Court by its judgment dated 15 May 2007 dealt with two writ petitions. The

decision on the first has been dealt with in the judgment delivered today in
Signature Not Verified

Kutchi Lal Rameshwar Ashram Trust Evam Anna Kshetra Trust Thr. Velji
Digitally signed by
Date: 2017.09.22
16:59:21 IST

Devshi Patel v Collector, Haridwar1.

1 (Civil Appeal No. 3878 of 2009)


2 In the present case, proceedings were initiated before the Collector on a

report submitted on 4 August 2004 by the Inspector in-charge Kotawali, Haridwar

stating that Mahant Dharmanand, a disciple of Amritanand (resident of Pili Kothi

Bhopatwala, Pargana Jwalapur, District Haridwar) was murdered by unknown

persons and no disciple or successor of the deceased was reported. The

Tehsildar in a report dated 26 August 2004 stated that the name of Dharmanand

was entered in the revenue records since 2004. The Tehsildar opined that there

being no legal heir, the property stands vested in the state government by


3 Notices were published in the newspapers by the Collectorate, calling for

objections. The Collector noted in his order that among the applications received

in response to the notice was one by a person by the name of Dayasagar stating

that the saints of the Chidanandji Sect are the true and lawful heirs. The

petitioner submitted his objection claiming to be a disciple of late Amritanand,

Mahant Dharmanand and stated that he was the occupier of the Garibdasi,

Chidanand Ashram, Pili Kothi Bhopatwala, Haridwar. The petitioner claimed that

he was the guru bhai of late Mahant Dharmanand and that during the lifetime of

Amritanand, the names of Dharmanand and the petitioner were included in the

ration cards. According to the petitioner, he was made Gaddinashin following the

customs and practices of the Pilikothi, Garibdasi Sant Samaj and Sant Mandal,

Haridwar. The Collector noted that Dharmanand was murdered by unknown

persons and a criminal case was registered under Section 302 of the Penal

Code. Following the death of Dharmanand, it was found that he had not left

behind a natural heir and there were a number of people disputing the property of

Chidanand Ashram. The Collector noted that in order to obviate a breach of law

and order, the property was taken into government custody.

4 The Collector has basically entered two findings in his impugned order.

Firstly, the Collector noted that the petitioner staked a claim to succession on the

basis that as the guru bhai of Dharmanand who was a sanyasi, he had stepped

into his shoes under the customs of the sect. On this aspect, the Collector has

held that there is no evidence to indicate that Dharmanand had in fact renounced

the world so as to be called a sanyasi in the true sense of the term. The

petitioner, the Collector noted had not established any tradition or practice on the

basis of which he claimed to succeed to Dharmanand. Since the status of

Dharmanand as sanyasi was held not to be proved, the Collector rejected the

case of the petitioner to succeed on the basis of tradition or usage.

5 Alternately, the Collector held that even on the hypothesis that

Dharmanand was a sanyasi, the petitioner failed to establish his own status as

his heir. The ration card which the petitioner produced was found to have several

interpolations which cast serious doubt on its authenticity. The Collector also

noted that the proceedings register which was produced by the petitioner

contained material omissions and had blank pages. The Collector noted that the

petitioner, during the course of his cross-examination had no knowledge of when

Dharmanand was murdered. He had no information on the establishment of the

Ashram nor was he aware of the persons who resided with Dharmanand. The

evidence of DW2 Krishnanand was that after the death of Amritanand it was the

petitioner who became the Mahant. This was in contrast to the case of the

petitioner which was that he had succeeded Dharmanand. DW3, Swamy

Gyananand stated that after the murder of Dharmanand in May 2004, the last

rites were performed by his brother whereas according to the petitioner, they

were performed by other saints. The Collector has arrived at the conclusion that

the case set up by the petitioner is patently unreliable and suffers from material

contradictions. Holding that the property has vested in the state government

under the doctrine of escheat, the Collector has directed that it be mutated in the

name of the state.

6 When leave was granted in the present Civil Appeal together with the

companion appeal on 12 May 2009 an order of status quo was issued.

7 Having heard the learned Counsel and upon perusing the record, we are

unable to find that the appellant has established prima facie any claim in respect

of the property in dispute which is described as Khasra No. 19-M admeasuring

as 0.410 hectare. The petitioner was one of the two accused put up for trial in

Sessions Trial No. 93 of 2007 on a charge under Section 302 read with Section

120B of the Penal Code. By a judgment dated 31 May 2013, the Second

Additional Sessions Judge, Haridwar acquitted both the accused on the ground

that there were no eye-witnesses to the incident and the prosecution had not

been able to establish his case on the basis of circumstantial evidence. In the

submissions which have been urged on behalf of the first and second

respondents, it has sought to be urged that the Appellant had actively

participated in the conspiracy resulting in the murder of Swamy Dharmanand and

had played a prominent role in the murder. Evidently, such an inference cannot

be drawn since a copy of the judgment rendered by the Second Additional

Sessions Judge, Haridwar acquitting the petitioner has been placed on the

record. The Collector has found that :

(i) As a matter of fact, it had not been established that Dharmanand had

renounced the world and had become a Sanyasi; and

(ii) In any event, the claim of the Petitioner to have succeeded Dharmanand, even

assuming that Dharmanand was a Sanyasi, is not established.

8 We are at this stage satisfied that the Appellant has not produced any

material in these proceedings to support the claim. However, we leave it open to

the Appellant to pursue such claims which he has before a competent civil forum.

In the event that the Appellant does so, the findings contained in the order of the

Collector or of the High Court will not be conclusive upon the issues raised. To

enable the appellant to pursue his remedies in law, the interim order shall

continue for a period of four weeks.

9 The Civil Appeal is disposed of in the above terms. There shall be no order

as to costs.



New Delhi;

September 22, 2017

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