The article is written by Tushar Singh Samota, a law student from University Five Year Law College, Rajasthan University. It discusses Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code,1908 along with its essentials and applicability. The discussion will be supported by various judicial pronouncements.
It has been published by Rachit Garg.
The Indian Trusts Act of 1882 mainly regulates private trusts in India. To protect the public’s interests in public trusts and charities, a particular type of litigation under Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 was developed. It grants civil courts the authority to hear representative lawsuits brought by the Advocate General or two or more trust beneficiaries. The Court is given broad powers, including the ability to change the initial purpose of the trusts in certain circumstances. This section replaces the provisions under The Religious Endowment Act of 1863 or other such legislation. The presence of a public trust with a religious or charitable purpose is a requirement for a suit under this provision of the CPC.
What is a public trust?
Religious or charitable public trusts are essential communitarian vehicles for the provision of public facilities, social services, and diverse cultural activities. They aid in vindicating human rights and implementing a strong social inclusion strategy. However, trusts are prone to a variety of issues, including mismanagement of cash and property, fraud, carelessness, apathy, and internal arguments among trustees. As a result, it is the legal system’s job to safeguard the sanctity of trusts to satisfy the expectations of both donors and the general public.
In the absence of comprehensive legislation in India on the issue of public trusts, Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 has taken on enormous relevance. As the present trend shows, civil court rulings are impacted by protection elements such as regulation and facilitation. As a result, courts have taken on the function of parens patriae (parent of the nation) for the sake of public confidence.
The rationale behind public trusts
The establishment and administration of public trusts are one-of-a-kind phenomena. It entails dedicating property or revenue to a public purpose, divesting that property right, placing trust in trustees, and eventually helping public beneficiaries. It is founded on the interaction between common law and equity. The donors’ and beneficiaries’ expectations, as well as the trusts’ socio-cultural significance, inspire their successful operation. Their functioning is built on the confidence of trustees, recipients, and contributors. After all, trust implies a willingness to accept the risks of failure while expecting such failures to be prevented or repaired, which can only be secured by a safety mechanism.
Essential of Section 92 CPC
Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 deals with public charities and offers several ways to fix a public trust that isn’t working properly. Under this Section, the Court of the District Judge has the power to administer public charities. The following are the key components of the provision:
- It allows the Advocate General or two or more other parties with an interest in the trust to file a lawsuit regarding a breach of the trust with the court’s permission for the reliefs specified therein.
- The plaintiffs are merely acting as the beneficiaries’ representatives, and the action is brought on behalf of all.
- It shields public trusts with charitable or religious purposes from being harassed by lawsuits brought against them.
- Before the Advocate General files an action of this sort, prima facie evidence fulfilling breach of trust or any of the required factors for obtaining court orders must be present.
- The litigation may be brought against people in possession of trust property who have a claim against the trust, or against trustees who have committed a breach of trust. For the court to rule on the issue, the defendants must show that the claims in the plaint are false and frivolous and that they were filed with the intent of harassing the trust.
When is Section 92 applicable?
Section 92 is a comprehensive Code in and of itself for claims based on an alleged breach of any express or constructive trust established for charitable or religious reasons. The requirements discussed above must be met for the Section to apply. The grant of leave to file a claim is a condition precedent, not a simple irregularity that may be remedied.
In that regard, the requirements of Section 92 are mandatory, and the defendant cannot relinquish that right and bestow jurisdiction on a court. The court is not required to make a reasoned order when granting leave to sue under this Section. It does not even have to give notice to the defendant of an application for leave to file as the order granting leave is administrative.
While granting leave under Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code, the District Judge issues a court order. It should imply that the District Judge deliberated before issuing leave. However, as the rights of the parties are not impacted, it is not necessary to pass a detailed order but it would suffice if the order demonstrated that it has been passed by the District Judge after due application of mind.
In the case of Bishwanath v. Sri Thakur Radha Ballabhji, 1967 it was determined that to invoke Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure, three requirements must be met:
- Firstly, the trust was established for charitable or public purposes,
- Secondly, there was a breach of trust, and
- Lastly, a court order was required to be followed in the administration of such a trust.
If any of the three elements mentioned in this case is not met, then the suit will fall beyond the purview of the aforementioned Section.
Representative actions are socially helpful since they bring individuals with similar issues together. A suit under this Section is one of a unique kind, brought to preserve public rights in trusts and charities and to respect an express or constructive trust based on an action alleging a breach of such trust or the need for instructions regarding its administration against a trustee to fall under the purview of the provisions of Section 92, CPC. However, since the right established is a personal right to act in a particular office, the clause does not apply if the lawsuit is between individuals who each individually claim a right to succeed to the office of trustee.
To maintain a suit under Section 92, it must be demonstrated that there is a trust for public purposes of a charitable or religious nature; that there is a breach of such trust; or that the court’s direction is required for the administration of the trust, and that the relief sought in the suit is one or more of the reliefs specified in the section. This Section would not apply to the claim if any of these elements were not met. As Section 92 deals with the concept of public charities so only public trusts are covered under this section.
So, to bring a suit under this Section, it must be demonstrated that the beneficial interest in the trust is vested in an indeterminate and fluctuating group of persons and that the trust is permanent. A religious endowment must thus be classified as private or public depending on whether the beneficiaries are specific individuals or the broader public or a subset thereof according to the circumstances accordingly.
Remedies under Section 92
The variety of remedies provided by Section 92 is fairly broad. By focusing on the welfare of the trust, the judiciary has, on the whole, increased the effectiveness of its work. The courts have shown restraint and tolerated modest carelessness or mistakes in record-keeping. They have also been forceful and have dismissed trustees where there has been flagrant abuse of power, fraud, or misappropriation. In several situations involving the appointment of new trustees, the courts have taken into consideration the founder’s desires, the organisation’s socio-historical significance, the person’s or family’s past affiliation with the institution, competency, and prior precedents.
The Judiciary has stressed respect for the institutional trust, avoiding interfering with the spiritual, ceremonial, or ethical code, and protecting the trust property and interests of the body of worshipers while formulating schemes under Section 92. By allowing for the diversity of schemes, it has also given room for future adaptation to changes. The requirements of this Section primarily address several flaws in how public trusts operate. The list of reliefs listed in Section 92 is not all-inclusive, nevertheless. The “Residuary powers” phrase in the Section gives civil courts the authority to provide whatever remedies that may be necessary for a given instance.
The Supreme Court noted in Prag Das Ji Guru Bhagwandasji v. Patel Ishwarlalbhai Narsibhai, (1952) that it cannot pronounce that the suit properties belong to the trust since such relief has not been envisioned under Section 92. Although this observation is not intended to diminish the court’s residuary jurisdiction under this section, it has had unforeseen implications. This is demonstrated in practice, where the categorization of remedies into certain headings has resulted in rigidity and the courts’ inability to deal with a variety of issues.
Ghat Talab Kaulan Wala v. Baba Gopal Das Chela Sruti Das, (2020)
The Court determined in this case of Ghat Talab Kaulan Wala v. Baba Gopal Das Chela Sruti Das, (2020) that Section 92 of the CPC allows for a claim against a Trust to be brought to dismiss any trustee, appointing a new trustee, or vesting any property in a trustee, among other things. Because the complaint, in this case, was brought by a Trust against a Sevadar, the method outlined in Section 92 of the Civil Procedure Code would not apply. It went on to say that Section 92 of the Code gives a person the ability to sue if there is an alleged breach of an explicit or constructive trust established for a charitable or religious purpose.
Bhupinder Singh v. Joginder Singh, (2019)
Referring to Section 92 of the Code, the Apex Court in this case of Bhupinder Singh v. Joginder Singh, (2019) stated that an action under the provision might be filed by the Advocate General or by two or more people with an interest in the trust who have secured leave of the Court. It was also said that no dispute granting leave is an essential prerequisite before an action under Section 92, CPC can be heard. Even though the Defendants have not raised any defences, the Court’s permission is required before filing an action under Section 92 of the Code.
However, it was also noted that the aforementioned leave is not necessarily obligatory and that in an emergency, the Court can grant leave even without providing notice to the opposing party, although the responder has the right to make an application for revocation of the granted leave.
Jamia Masjid v. K V Rudrappa, (2021)
In this case, Jamia Masjid v. K V Rudrappa, (2021) if the title is challenged, the Court may have to consider whether the Trust owns the plan for administration and management via a representative suit brought under Section 92 of the CPC. Furthermore, the parties involved would be prevented from filing a second suit on the same or nearly the same matter under the concept of Res Judicata.
Thus, the court stated that there was a prima facie conclusion that the suit property belonged to him. The concerns in the first complaint, which were for the administration and management of trust properties and funds, are separate from the ones in the current proceedings. The Supreme Court granted the appeal and reversed the HC’s decision.
Paramatmananda v. Ramji Tripathi, (1974)
It was decided in the case of Paramatmananda v. Ramji Tripathi (1974), that just the accusations in the plaint should be examined in the first instance to determine whether the complaint fits within the purview of Section 92. However, if the evidence is taken and it is discovered that the breach of trust alleged has not been established and that the prayer for the direction of the Court is vague and not based on any solid foundation in fact or reason, but is made solely to bring the suit under Section 92, then the suit must be dismissed.
As a result, we can conclude that a decision in a lawsuit brought under Section 92 of the CPC has a final effect against the entire world, either as a judgement in rem or by considering everyone as a party to the lawsuit. A lawsuit under Section 92 CPC may only be brought to a permanent public trust, and the judgement in such a lawsuit would be rendered in rem rather than in personam. When the District Judge rules that the property is a public trust and establishes a plan for its management, and no one objects to the public or permanent nature of the trust, no party can dispute the permanent nature of the trust.
It is not permissible for a third party to assert that the District Judge should not have appointed the person so appointed by him but rather should have appointed some others who had a better claim when there is a public trust and a person has been named as trustee in a suit brought against the then trustee. To that extent, a judgement issued according to Section 92 CPC binds not only the parties to the lawsuit but also third parties.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Under Section 92 CPC, who may file a lawsuit?
Under Section 92 of CPC only public trusts, not private trusts may file a lawsuit.
What is the primary goal of Civil Procedure Code Section 92?
The fundamental goal of Section 92 is to shield public trusts with charitable or religious motives from being harassed by lawsuits brought against them.
Who may file on a trust’s behalf?
Without pleading with all of the trust’s trustees, a lawsuit against the entity cannot be maintained. Suits, however, may be brought by any one or more of the trustees with the consent of the other trustees.
Can a trust bring a claim in its name?
A trust is neither a juristic person nor a legal entity since a juristic person has its legal existence and can bring or receive legal action in a court of law.
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