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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

“The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”, a sacrilegious book =The sum and substance of the grievance of the respondents is really two-fold: firstly, the appellants failed to take any positive action to prohibit the availability of the objectionable book or dissociate themselves from the objectionable book; secondly, instead of taking some coercive action against Peter Heehs (such as removing him from the Ashram) the appellants assisted him in getting a visa for his continued stay in India by standing guarantee for him. 30. In our opinion, the second grievance would arise only if there is substance in the first grievance, namely, that the appellants failed to take proactive measures to have the objectionable book proscribed and that they failed to dissociate themselves from the contents of the book. This really begs the question whether the objectionable book ought at all to be proscribed or its sale prohibited. As we have seen above, the matter is very much alive before the Orissa High Court and it is for that Court to take a final call on the legality or otherwise of the action taken by the concerned authorities in the State in prohibiting the availability of the objectionable book. Until that decision is taken by the High Court, it would be premature to hold that the book is objectionable enough as not to be made available to readers. 31. In Swami Paramatmanand Saraswati it was held by this Court (relying upon several earlier decisions) that it is only the allegations made in the plaint that ought to be looked into in the first instance to determine whether the suit filed lies within the ambit of Section 92 of the CPC. It was also held that if the allegations in the plaint indicate that the suit has been filed to remedy the infringement of a private right or to vindicate a private right, then the suit would not fall within the ambit of Section 92 of the CPC. Finally, it was also held that in deciding whether the suit falls within the ambit of Section 92 of the CPC, the Court must consider the purpose for which the suit was filed. This view was reiterated in Vidyodaya Trust. 32. Considering the purpose of the suit filed by the respondents, it is quite clear that it was to highlight the failure of the appellants to take action against the availability of the objectionable book and against the author. As we have noted above, the issue whether the book is objectionable or not, whether it deserves to be proscribed or not, whether it violates the provisions of Section 153-A or Section 295-A of the Indian Penal Code has yet to be determined by the Orissa High Court. Until that determination is made, it would be premature to expect the appellants to take any precipitate action in the matter against the author. 33. The best that the appellants could have done under the circumstances was to make it clear whether they have anything to do with the objectionable book or not. The High Court has noted quite explicitly that the appellants have not sponsored the book nor was it published under the aegis of the Aurobindo Ashram. The appellants have also, it may be recalled, expressed displeasure with the contents of the objectionable book through the communication of 11th November, 2008. This being the position, we are of the opinion that the appellants have done what could reasonably be expected of them in relation to the objectionable book, pending a determination by the Orissa High Court. 34. The High Court has effectively faulted the appellants for not making the first strike to secure a ban on the objectionable book. This is really a question of the degree of reaction to the objectionable book on which we would not like to comment. The appellants could have expressed their displeasure over the contents of the objectionable book, or dissociated themselves from the objectionable book or even taken proactive steps to have the objectionable book banned or proscribed. That the appellants chose only to express their displeasure may be construed as a mild reaction (as compared to outright condemnation of the objectionable book), particularly since the appellants had nothing to do with its publication. But the question is whether the mild reaction is perverse or could in any way be held to be a breach of trust or an absence of effective administration of the Trust warranting the removal of the trustees. We do not think so. Failure to take steps to ban a book that is critical of the philosophical and spiritual guru of a Trust would not fall within the compass of administration of the Trust. It might be an omission of the exercise of proper discretion on the part of the trustees, but certainly not an omission touching upon the administration of the Trust. We are not in agreement with the High Court that the failure of the appellants to take the initiative in banning the objectionable book gives rise to a cause of action for the removal of the trustees of the Trust and settling a scheme for its administration. The trustees of a trust are entitled to a wide discretion in the administration of a trust. A disagreement with the exercise of the discretion (however passionate the disagreement might be) does not necessarily lead to a conclusion of maladministration, unless the exercise of discretion is perverse. In our opinion, the High Court ought to have allowed the application filed by the appellants for the revocation of leave granted to the respondents to initiate proceedings under Section 92 of the CPC, in the facts of this case. 35. We were invited to express a view on the constitutional freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. It is not at all necessary for us to do so. The Orissa High Court might be called upon to do so, depending on the views of the contesting parties, one of whom we were told, is the author of the objectionable book. We express no opinion on the issue and leave the matter at that. 36. This being our conclusion with regard to the first grievance of the respondents, their second grievance is rather premature. It would arise only if and when appropriate directions are issued by the Orissa High Court in the pending litigation. Conclusion 37. We find merit in the appeal and accordingly set aside the impugned judgment and order of the High Court and allow the application filed by the appellants for revocation of leave. The parties are left to bear their own costs and once again consider an amicable settlement of their dispute.


                                                                  REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                         CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDCITON

                    CIVIL APPEAL NO.    12       OF 2016
              (Arising out of S.L.P. (Civil) No. 25788 of 2013)

Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and Ors.
 …Appellants
                                   Versus
R. Ramanathan and Ors.
...Respondents


                               J U D G M E N T

Madan B. Lokur, J.


1.    Leave granted.
2.    The dispute that has arisen in this appeal is one that could have  and
ought to have been settled  in  the  first  instance  in  the  Trial  Court.
Unfortunately, the feelings (if not the animosity) between the parties  have
run so high that any meaningful discussion between  them  to  sort  out  the
pending issues has been  ruled  out.  When  feelings  are  strong  (and  get
further hardened over time) and  tempers  are  high,  there  is  a  loss  of
balance and equilibrium. It is unfortunate  that  this  state  of  mind  has
persisted with both parties  who  are  well  educated  and  perhaps  have  a
philosophical and spiritual bent of mind, being trustees  and  residents  of
the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry and followers of Sri Aurobindo.
3.    On our part, we attempted to amicably sort  out  the  problem  between
the  parties,  but  one  of  them  refused  to  appreciate  the  meaning  of
‘dissociation’ while the other expressed the  view  that  mere  dissociation
was not enough and there must be condemnation! At the end  of  the  day,  we
felt that each party wanted to score a brownie point over the other,  little
realizing that while they would be left with some ephemeral brownie  points,
the brownies (and the cream) would be shared by somebody  else.  In  another
decision altogether, this Court had occasion to remark  that  public  trusts
for charitable and religious purpose are run for the benefit of the  public.
No individual should take benefit from them. If the  persons  in  management
of the trusts are subjected to  multiplicity  of  legal  proceedings,  funds
which are to be used for charitable or religious purposes  would  be  wasted
on litigation.[1] How true.
4.    It is time for all of us, litigants, lawyers and judges to  introspect
and decide whether a litigation being pursued is really worth the while  and
alternatively whether an amicable  dispute  resolution  mechanism  could  be
availed of to settle the dispute to the satisfaction of the litigants.  Most
problems have a positive solution and a concerted effort  must  be  made  by
all concerned to find that solution of  least  resistance  to  the  problem.
This is not only in the interest of the parties involved  but  also  in  the
larger interest of the justice delivery system.
The facts

5.    The respondents are residents of or are otherwise concerned  with  the
Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry. They filed a civil suit being O.S.  No.
15/2010[2] before the District Judge, Pondicherry under  the  provisions  of
Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter referred  to  as  the
‘CPC’).[3]  It was prayed therein  that  appellants  2  to  6  who  are  the
trustees in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust (appellant No. 1 and  hereinafter
referred to as ‘the Trust’) be removed and new trustees be  appointed  since
these appellants have  failed  the  philosophy  of  Sri  Aurobindo  and  the
Mother.   A  prayer  was  also  made  for  settling   a   scheme   for   the
administration of the Trust.
Plaint filed by the respondents
6.    The averments made in the plaint principally pertain to a book  titled
“The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” written by one Peter Heehs  and  the  fall  out
thereafter.  The book purports to be a biography of Sri  Aurobindo  and  was
published in May 2008 by Columbia University Press  in  the  United  States.
For convenience, and for no other reason, this book  is  hereafter  referred
to as the book or the objectionable book.
7.    The respondents summarized their grievances  in  paragraph  2  of  the
plaint and the relevant portion thereof reads as follows:-
“The plaintiffs who represent the interest of the  community  of  followers,
devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo (for whose  benefit  the  Trust  was
created) are constrained to file the present suit, inter  alia  seeking  the
removal of the present Trustees when the Trustees acted in bad faith and  in
breach  of  their  obligations  as  trustees.   Instead  of  promoting   Sri
Aurobindo’s tenets  and  philosophy,  the  Trustees  have  and  continue  to
harbor, defend and  openly  extend  support  to  one  Mr.  Peter  Heehs  who
authored “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo”, a  sacrilegious  book  which  falsely
portrays Sri Aurobindo as a liar  and  a  mentally  imbalanced  person,  and
ridiculing his spiritual encounters and experiences as  an  outcome  of  Sri
Aurobindo’s tantric sexual indulgence and schizophrenic state of mind.   The
fact that such an offensive and venomous book was  authored  by  none  other
than one of the Ashram’s  own  members,  sent  shock  waves  throughout  the
community of thousands of devotees and disciples’ of Sri Aurobindo.   Masses
of devotees appealed to the Trustees to publicly condemn the content of  the
book and to clarify that the  book  was  not  an  official  publication/work
supported by the Trust, and further to seek the  expulsion  of  Peter  Heehs
from the Ashram.  Instead of publicly dissociating itself from  Peter  Heehs
and his book, the Trustees in absolute breach of trust, have  for  over  two
years harbored Peter Heehs within the Ashram itself and gone to  the  extent
of standing as a financial guarantor for Peter Heehs’ conduct for  his  visa
renewals.  Despite mass public outcries to the Trustees to
expel Peter Heehs.

condemn and dissociate the Trust from the sacrilegious work

stop the circulation of the book so as to protect  the  future  interest  of
the trust

The Trustees, in pursuit of some hidden agenda, chose to protect and  render
support to that very individual who has maliciously disparaged, debased  and
brought disrepute to Sri Aurobindo’s philosophy and the ashram community  at
large.  The Trustees have repeatedly disobeyed and  declined  to  carry  out
the directions of the Settler of the Trust, failed to execute the  trust  in
accordance  with  its  object  of  Trust  and  have  thus  acted  in   gross
dereliction of their duty as trustees.  The repeated conduct and failure  of
the Trustees has proven  that  the  Trustees  are  unfit  and  incapable  of
administrating the trust in conformity with the  ideals  of  Sri  Aurobindo.
Thus it is in the interest of the trust and its beneficiaries to remove  the
existing trustees and consequently appoint new trustees having faith in  Sri
Aurobindo’s philosophy and ideals and who are capable of  administering  the
trust and protecting its interest in accordance with its objects.”


8.    More specifically, it was stated that  the  book  contains  deliberate
and baseless distortions relating to the life of Sri Aurobindo, inter  alia,
to the effect that he had romantic affairs with the Mother involving  veiled
tantric sexual practices; that he was a frequent liar  and  lied  about  his
spiritual experiences; that his spiritual experiences were based  on  sexual
and schizophrenic stimuli and that he was the initiator of the  Hindu-Muslim
divide and was responsible for the partition of the country.
9.    It was stated that Peter Heehs claimed to be one of  the  founders  of
the archives of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram whereas the sole  founder  was  one
Jayanthilal Parekh and that this impersonation was mala fide  and  malicious
to lend credibility to his book.
10.    In  sum  and  substance,  according  to  the  respondents  what   was
outrageous and intolerable, as far as they and other  devotees  and  inmates
of Sri Aurobindo Ashram are concerned, was:
“a)   That the author of the deeply offensive  book  against  Sri  Aurobindo
was none other than one of the ashramites;
b)    That an individual who had been allowed to  reside,  use  and  benefit
from the  facilities  and  resources  of  the  Ashram  to  pursue  spiritual
enlightenment through Sri  Aurobindo’s  philosophy  had  instead  flagrantly
misused the Ashram’s name and its resources to launch a  disparaging  attack
on the soul and foundations of the Ashram, its faith, tenets and beliefs;



c)    That Peter Heehs, the author has intentionally tried  to  mislead  the
public  to  believe  that  the  sacrilegious  work  has  been  published  in
consultation/affiliation with the Ashram by audaciously claiming that he  is
one of the “founders of the Ashram Archives” in  a  clear  attempt  to  give
credibility to the source and foundation of a book.



d)    That the book was made possible by extensively misusing  the  Ashram’s
own research database and resources to  which  Peter  Heehs  had  privileged
access, and which has been gathered and  developed  over  40  years  by  the
Ashram’s inmates, devotees and researchers, and includes rare  materials  of
great historical value.  This database which is  intended  to  document  the
greatness of Sri Aurobindo’s life and work was misused  by  Peter  Heehs  to
misrepresent Sri Aurobindo in bad light.



e)    Work done by large teams of dedicated inmates of the  Ashram  over  40
years was claimed by Peter Heehs to be his  own  personal  research  in  the
book.



f)    Some of the rare materials published by Peter Heehs in his  book  were
without proper permission of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust.”



11.   In view  of  the  above,  the  respondents  and  others  made  several
petitions to the appellants  including  on  20th  September,  2008  and  2nd
October, 2008 but the appellants did not take any remedial action either  in
respect of the objectionable book or in  respect  of  Peter  Heehs.  It  was
stated that one Pranab Bhattacharya, the  Head  of  the  Physical  Education
Department had expelled Peter Heehs from the Physical  Education  Department
of the Ashram on 30th October, 2008.  The  expulsion  notice  was  displayed
prominently on the notice board but in spite of such and other actions,  the
appellants failed to take any appropriate corrective measures.
12.   It was stated in the plaint that through a communication made on  11th
November, 2008 the Trust expressed and admitted  its  displeasure  with  the
contents of the book written by Peter Heehs and  claimed  that  disciplinary
action had been initiated against him.  It was clarified  that  Peter  Heehs
was not the founder of the archives of the  Ashram  but  Jayanthilal  Parekh
was its founder.  However, this  does  not  appear  to  have  satisfied  the
respondents.
13.   Quite independent  of  the  actions  taken  within  the  Ashram,  some
devotees of  Sri  Aurobindo  took  other  proactive  measures  to  stop  the
circulation of the objectionable book. This eventually  led  the  Government
of Orissa to order forfeiture of the book under Section 95 of  the  Criminal
Procedure Code[4] for being a work punishable  under Section  295-A  of  the
Indian Penal Code.[5]
14.   The forfeiture process was initiated by one of  the  devotees  of  Sri
Aurobindo who filed a writ petition in the Orissa High Court being W.P.  No.
15939 of 2008 to prohibit the printing, publication and distribution of  the
objectionable book.  This led the Orissa High Court to pass an order on  4th
November, 2008 requiring the petitioner therein to make a representation  to
the Government of India which in turn was required to pass an order  on  the
representation. The petitioner did make a representation and the  Government
of India passed an order in December, 2008 directing  the  State  Government
of Delhi and the Union  Government  in  Pondicherry  to  ensure  that  there
should be no publication of the objectionable book without  obtaining  a  no
objection from the Government of India.
15.   The Government of Orissa also independently examined  the  matter  and
on 9th April, 2009 a Gazette Notification was issued in which  grounds  were
given to conclude that the objectionable book contained matters  which  were
deliberately and maliciously intended to insult  the  religious  beliefs  of
the  devotees  of  Sri  Aurobindo  thereby  affecting   public   peace   and
tranquility making the publication of  the  objectionable  book  an  offence
punishable under Sections 295-A and  153-A  of  the  Indian  Penal  Code.[6]
Therefore, every copy of  the  objectionable  book,  its  copies,  reprints,
translations or other documents  containing  extracts  taken  therefrom  was
forfeited to the Government.
16.   The relevant extract of the  Gazette  Notification  dated  9th  April,
2009 reads as follows:
S.R.O.NO.127/2009 – Where as on a careful consideration of materials  placed
on record, it appears to the State Government that the book titled  as  ‘The
Lives of Sri Aurobindo” written by Peter Heehs  and  published  by  Columbia
University Press, New York, U.S.A. contain objectionable  matters  depicting
distorted facts about  the   life  and  character  of  Sri  Aurobindo.   And
whereas the State Government, on the following grounds, is  of  the  opinion
that the said book contains matters which are deliberately  and  maliciously
intended to insult religious beliefs of millions of Indians who idolize  Sri
Aurobindo as a  National  Hero  and  incarnation  of  “Almighty”  and  which
promotes communal disaffection affecting public peace  and  tranquility  the
publication of which is punishable under  sections  295A  and  153A  of  the
Indian Penal Code,1860  (45 of 1860), namely –
(a) the book depicts wrong and distorted facts on the life and character  of
Sri Aurobindo, which is clearly blasphemous
(b)  the book contains absurd, irrelevant and self-made  stories,  which  do
not have any  scriptural  support  and  has  caused  widespread  indignation
amongst the devotees
(c) the writings portrayed in the book have seriously  hurt  the  sentiments
of the apostles of Sri Aurobindo and the  said  book,  with  deliberate  and
malicious intention has insulted the religious beliefs of millions;
(d)  the said book, inter  alia,  narrates  at  page  245  that  “but  those
familiar with the literature of psychiatry and clinical  psychiatry  may  be
struck by the similarity between Aurobindo’s powers and experiences and  the
symptoms of schizophrenia”;
(e)  it is mentioned at page 399 that “Early in  the  afternoon  the  Mother
rejoined him, and they walked together to the small outer  room  where  they
sat together on a sofa, the Mother on Sri  Aurobindo’s   right.   Here  they
remained for the next few hours as  ashramites  and  visitors  –  more  than
three thousand by the end of the 1940s -  passed before  them  one  by  one,
“There  is  no  suggestion  of  a  vulgar  jostle  anywhere  in  the  moving
procession,” a visitor noted.  “The mystic sits  bare-bodied  except  for  a
part of his dhoti thrown around his shoulders, A kindly light plays  in  his
eyes,” Sri Aurobindo looked directly  at  each  person  for  a  moment  “the
moving   visitor is conscious of a particular contact with these  [eyes]  as
he bends down to do his obeisance.  They leave upon him a mysterious  ‘feel’
that baffles description.  The contact, almost physical,  instills  a  faint
sense of a fragrance into his heart and he has a perception of a  glow  akin
to that  spreading  in  every  fibre  of  his  being.”   Most  visitors  had
similarly positive experiences. But some, particularly those from the  West,
were distracted by the theatricality of the setting and the  religiosity  of
the pageantry.”
Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by  Sub-section  (l)  of
section 95 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of  1974),  the  State
Government do hereby declare that every copy of the book titled  “The  Lives
of Sri  Aurobindo”   written  by  Peter  Heehs  and  published  by  Columbia
University Press New York, U.S.A.  its  copies,  reprints,  translations  or
other documents containing extracts taken  therefrom  be  forfeited  to  the
Government.


17.   Notwithstanding the above coercive action taken by the  Government  of
Orissa and the Government of India, the appellants did not  take  any  steps
to expel Peter Heehs from the Ashram or to sever all ties of the Trust  with
him; no restatement was made by the Trust  disassociating  itself  from  the
objectionable book and no steps were taken by the  appellants  to  stop  the
publication of the book by  contacting  Columbia  University  Press  in  the
United States, while independent organizations such as Google, Flipkart  and
A1 Books made  the  objectionable  book  permanently  unavailable  on  their
websites and through sales channels in India.
18.   On the contrary, the appellants stood financial guarantee for  renewal
of Peter Heehs’ visa to stay in India. Notwithstanding  this,  the  devotees
of Sri Aurobindo and the residents of the Ashram continued to  persuade  the
appellants and addressed to them further letters dated 28th  May,  2010  and
2nd July, 2010 and several other letters.  The only  replies  received  from
the appellants were on 21st June, 2010 and 22nd  July,  2010  but  no  clear
stand was taken therein to redress the grievances  of  the  respondents.  It
was alleged in the plaint that these acts  of  omission  and  commission  by
appellants Nos. 2 to 6 was a clear indication  that  they  were  mismanaging
the affairs of the Trust and needed to be removed.
19.   Leave to sue was granted by the Trial Judge  to  the  respondents  and
summons was then issued in the civil suit to the  appellants  who  preferred
I.A. No. 494 of 2011 to revoke the  leave  granted.   This  application  was
dismissed by the Trial Judge by an order dated 6th October, 2012.
Order of the Trial Court
20.   The Trial Court was of the view that  where  leave  is  granted  under
Section 92 of the CPC without notice to the defendants in  the  suit,  those
defendants would have a right to apply for revocation  of  leave.   However,
since leave was granted to the respondents in the present case after  giving
full opportunity to the appellants to put forth their case, the question  of
revocation would arise only after evidence is  led  in  the  matter  and  on
final determination of the suit.
21.   The Trial Court rejected the contention of  the  appellants  that  the
documents referred to and relied upon by the respondents were fabricated  on
the ground that this could be adjudicated only after  oral  and  documentary
evidence was led on both sides in a full-fledged trial.  It was  also  noted
that several impleadment applications were  filed  in  the  suit  for  being
heard in the matter.  Therefore if leave is revoked, those applicants  would
lose their right and the real truth would not come out.
22.   Based on the above reasoning the Trial Judge rejected the  application
to revoke the leave granted to the respondents.
23.   Feeling aggrieved, the appellants preferred a civil revision  petition
being C.R.P. (P.D.) No. 4357 of 2012 which  came  to  be  dismissed  by  the
impugned judgment and order  dated  2nd  April,  2013  by  the  Madras  High
Court.[7]
Decision of the High Court
24.   The High Court took the view that the main allegation  in  the  plaint
is with regard to the objectionable book written  by  Peter  Heehs  who  was
allowed to reside in the Ashram and allowed access to the  archives  of  the
Ashram.
25.   The High Court took into consideration  the  law  laid  down  by  this
Court in Swami Parmatmanand Saraswati v.  Ramji  Tripathi[8]  to  hold  that
only the allegations in the plaint  should  be  looked  into  in  the  first
instance to determine whether  the  suit  filed  by  the  respondents  falls
within the scope and ambit of Section 92 of the CPC.  However, reliance  was
also placed on Vidyodaya Trust v. Mohan Prasad R & Ors.[9] to hold that  the
Court should go beyond the relief prayed for  and  focus  on  the  basis  on
which the suit was filed and whether it was for vindicating  public  rights.
Taking the law into consideration as well  as  the  averments  made  in  the
plaint, the High Court held as follows:
“According to me, for the purpose of deciding the  issue  involved  in  this
revision, there is no necessity to go into the veracity of the  contents  of
the book.  Admittedly, the plaintiffs have not filed the copy  of  the  book
and it is their allegation that the book has not  been  published  in  India
and it will be available for  access  only  through  the  Internet.   In  my
opinion, in the absence of producing the book before this court, it  is  not
possible to comment on the statements made in the book about Sri  Aurobindo.
 Even assuming that in the said book, derogatory remarks  are  made  against
Sri Aurobindo and his relationship with  the  Mother,  in  my  opinion,  the
revision petitioners cannot be held responsible for the same as  admittedly,
the revision petitioners have not sponsored the book nor published the  book
under the aegis of Aurobindo Ashram.  The only allegation made  against  the
revision petitioners is that they have not taken any steps to remove such  a
person from the Ashram.  According to me, such inaction on the part  of  the
revision petitioners cannot be brought into the caption of breach of  trust.
Nevertheless, having regard to the scope of section 92 of the Code of  Civil
Procedure and as per the law laid down by the Honourable  Supreme  Court  in
Vidyodaya Trust case, the court has to go beyond the  relief  and  focus  on
the basis for which the suit was filed to find out whether  a  suit  can  be
entertained under section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure.”


26.   Thereafter, the High Court held that since the Ashram had  nothing  to
do with the publication of the objectionable book by one of its  inmates  it
could not be held that there is a breach of  trust.  However  (and  this  is
important) the High Court concluded that since the appellants had not  taken
any action to secure the ban of  the  objectionable  book  or  to  take  any
action against Peter Heehs, the respondents had made out  a  case  to  bring
the suit within the ambit of Section 92 of the CPC and therefore  the  Trial
Court was right in rejecting the application to revoke leave.  It  was  also
held that  under  these  circumstances,  the  respondents  had  no  personal
interest in the matter and the suit was not filed by them to  vindicate  any
personal interest.  Consequently, they had the necessary  locus  to  file  a
suit under Section 92 of the CPC.
27.   The High Court also held, reversing the Trial Court  in  this  regard,
that merely because leave had been granted after hearing the appellants,  it
would not be a ground to deny to them the right to file an  application  for
revocation of leave.
28.   On the above basis, the High Court rejected the revision petition  and
it is under these  circumstances  that  the  rejection  is  under  challenge
before us.
Discussion and findings
29.   The sum and substance of the grievance of the  respondents  is  really
two-fold: firstly, the appellants failed to  take  any  positive  action  to
prohibit  the  availability  of  the  objectionable   book   or   dissociate
themselves from the objectionable book; secondly,  instead  of  taking  some
coercive action against Peter Heehs (such as removing him from  the  Ashram)
the appellants assisted him in getting a visa  for  his  continued  stay  in
India by standing guarantee for him.
30.   In our opinion, the second grievance would  arise  only  if  there  is
substance in the first grievance, namely,  that  the  appellants  failed  to
take proactive measures to have the objectionable book proscribed  and  that
they failed to dissociate themselves from the contents  of  the  book.  This
really begs the question whether the objectionable book ought at all  to  be
proscribed or its sale prohibited. As we have  seen  above,  the  matter  is
very much alive before the Orissa High Court and it is  for  that  Court  to
take a final call on the legality or otherwise of the action  taken  by  the
concerned authorities in the State in prohibiting the  availability  of  the
objectionable book. Until that decision is  taken  by  the  High  Court,  it
would be premature to hold that the book is objectionable enough as  not  to
be made available to readers.
31.   In Swami Paramatmanand Saraswati it was held by  this  Court  (relying
upon several earlier decisions) that it is only the allegations made in  the
plaint that ought to be looked into  in  the  first  instance  to  determine
whether the suit filed lies within the ambit of Section 92 of  the  CPC.  It
was also held that if the allegations in the plaint indicate that  the  suit
has been filed  to  remedy  the  infringement  of  a  private  right  or  to
vindicate a private right, then the suit would not fall within the ambit  of
Section 92 of the CPC. Finally, it was also held that  in  deciding  whether
the suit falls within the ambit of Section 92 of the  CPC,  the  Court  must
consider the purpose for which the suit was filed. This view was  reiterated
in Vidyodaya Trust.
32.   Considering the purpose of the suit filed by the  respondents,  it  is
quite clear that it was to highlight the failure of the appellants  to  take
action against the availability of the objectionable book  and  against  the
author. As we have noted above, the issue whether the book is  objectionable
or not, whether it deserves to be proscribed or  not,  whether  it  violates
the provisions of Section 153-A or Section 295-A of the  Indian  Penal  Code
has yet to be determined by the Orissa High Court. Until that  determination
is made, it would  be  premature  to  expect  the  appellants  to  take  any
precipitate action in the matter against the author.
33.   The best that the appellants could have done under  the  circumstances
was  to  make  it  clear  whether  they  have  anything  to  do   with   the
objectionable book or not. The High Court has noted  quite  explicitly  that
the appellants have not sponsored the book nor was it  published  under  the
aegis of  the  Aurobindo  Ashram.  The  appellants  have  also,  it  may  be
recalled, expressed displeasure with the contents of the objectionable  book
through the communication of 11th November, 2008. This being  the  position,
we are of the opinion that the appellants have done  what  could  reasonably
be expected of them  in  relation  to  the  objectionable  book,  pending  a
determination by the Orissa High Court.
34.   The High Court has effectively faulted the appellants for  not  making
the first strike to secure a ban on the objectionable book. This  is  really
a question of the degree of reaction to the objectionable book on  which  we
would not like  to  comment.  The  appellants  could  have  expressed  their
displeasure over the contents of  the  objectionable  book,  or  dissociated
themselves from the objectionable book or  even  taken  proactive  steps  to
have the objectionable book banned or proscribed. That the appellants  chose
only to express their displeasure may be construed as a  mild  reaction  (as
compared to outright condemnation of the objectionable  book),  particularly
since the appellants had  nothing  to  do  with  its  publication.  But  the
question is whether the mild reaction is perverse or could  in  any  way  be
held to be a breach of trust or an absence of  effective  administration  of
the Trust warranting the removal of  the  trustees.  We  do  not  think  so.
Failure to take steps to ban a book that is critical  of  the  philosophical
and spiritual guru  of  a  Trust  would  not  fall  within  the  compass  of
administration of the Trust. It might be an  omission  of  the  exercise  of
proper discretion on  the  part  of  the  trustees,  but  certainly  not  an
omission touching upon the administration of  the  Trust.   We  are  not  in
agreement with the High Court that the failure of  the  appellants  to  take
the initiative in banning the objectionable book gives rise to  a  cause  of
action for the removal of the trustees of the Trust and  settling  a  scheme
for its administration. The trustees of a  trust  are  entitled  to  a  wide
discretion in the  administration  of  a  trust.  A  disagreement  with  the
exercise of the discretion (however passionate the  disagreement  might  be)
does not necessarily lead to a conclusion of maladministration,  unless  the
exercise of discretion is perverse.   In our opinion, the High  Court  ought
to have allowed the application filed by the appellants for  the  revocation
of leave granted to the respondents to initiate  proceedings  under  Section
92 of the CPC, in the facts of this case.
35.   We were invited to express a view on  the  constitutional  freedom  of
speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 (1) (a) of the  Constitution.
It is not at all necessary for us to do so. The Orissa High Court  might  be
called upon to do so, depending on the views of the contesting parties,  one
of whom we were told, is the author of the objectionable  book.  We  express
no opinion on the issue and leave the matter at that.
36.   This being our conclusion with regard to the first  grievance  of  the
respondents, their second grievance is  rather  premature.  It  would  arise
only if and when appropriate directions are issued by the Orissa High  Court
in the pending litigation.
Conclusion
37.   We find merit in the appeal and accordingly  set  aside  the  impugned
judgment and order of the High Court and allow the application filed by  the
appellants for revocation of leave. The parties are left to bear  their  own
costs and once again consider an amicable settlement of their dispute.
                                                                 ……………………….J
                                                                (Madan    B.
Lokur)


                                                                 ……………………….J
                                                                    (S.   A.
Bobde)
New Delhi;
January  5, 2016

-----------------------
[1]
      [2] Vidyodaya Trust v. Mohan Prasad R, (2008) 4 SCC 115
[3]
      [4] Subsequently renumbered as O.S. No.15/2011
[5]
      [6]  92. Public charities.—(1) In the case of any  alleged  breach  of
any  express  or  constructive  trust  created  for  public  purposes  of  a
charitable or religious nature, or where  the  direction  of  the  Court  is
deemed necessary for the administration of any  such  trust,  the  Advocate-
General, or two or more persons having an interest in the trust  and  having
obtained the leave of the Court, may institute a suit,  whether  contentious
or not, in the principal Civil Court of  original  jurisdiction  or  in  any
other Court empowered in that behalf by  the  State  Government  within  the
local limits of whose jurisdiction the whole or any  part  of  the  subject-
matter of the trust is situate to obtain a decree—
      (a) removing any trustee;
      (b) appointing a new trustee;
      (c) vesting any property in a trustee;
      (cc) directing a trustee who has been removed or a person who has
ceased to be a trustee, to deliver possession of any trust property in his
possession to the person entitled to the possession of such property;
      (d) directing accounts and inquiries;
      (e) declaring what proportion of the trust property or of the
interest therein shall be allocated to any particular object of the trust;
      (f) authorising the whole or any part of the trust property to be
let, sold, mortgaged or exchanged;
      (g) settling a scheme; or
      (h) granting such further or other relief as the nature of the case
may require.
      (2)   xxx             xxx              xxx
xxx

      (3)   xxx             xxx              xxx
xxx


[7]
      [8]  95. Power to declare certain publications forfeited and to issue
search warrants for the same.— (1) Where—
      (a) any newspaper, or book, or
      (b) any document,
      wherever printed, appears to  the  State  Government  to  contain  any
matter the publication  of  which  is  punishable  under  Section  124-A  or
Section 153-A or Section 153-B or Section 292 or Section 293 or Section 295-
A of the Indian Penal Code (45  of  1860),  the  State  Government  may,  by
notification, stating the grounds of its opinion, declare every copy of  the
issue of the newspaper containing such matter, and every copy of  such  book
or other document to be forfeited to Government, and  thereupon  any  police
officer may seize the same wherever found in India and  any  Magistrate  may
by warrant authorise any police officer not below the rank of  sub-inspector
to enter upon and search for the same in any  premises  where  any  copy  of
such issue or any such book or other document may be or  may  be  reasonably
suspected to be.
      (2) In this section and in Section 96,—
      (a) “newspaper” and “book” have the same meaning as in the Press and
Registration of Books Act, 1867 (25 of 1867);
      (b) “document” includes any painting, drawing or photograph, or other
visible representation.
      (3) No order passed or  action  taken  under  this  section  shall  be
called in question in any  Court  otherwise  than  in  accordance  with  the
provisions of Section 96.

[9]
      [10]  295-A. Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage
religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious
beliefs.—Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the
religious feelings of any class of citizens of India, by words, either
spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise,
insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that
class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term
which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
[11]
      [12]  153-A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of
religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts
prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.—(1) Whoever—
      (a) by words, either spoken or written, or  by  signs  or  by  visible
representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to  promote,  on  grounds
of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste  or  community
or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred  or
ill-will between different religious, racial, language  or  regional  groups
or castes or communities, or
      (b)  commits any act  which  is  prejudicial  to  the  maintenance  of
harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups  or
castes or communities, and which  disturbs  or  is  likely  to  disturb  the
public tranquillity, or
      (c) organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar  activity
intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained  to
use criminal force  or  violence  or  knowing  it  to  be  likely  that  the
participants in such activity will use or be trained to use  criminal  force
or violence, or participates  in  such  activity  intending  to  use  or  be
trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to  be  likely  that
the participants in such activity will use or be  trained  to  use  criminal
force or violence, against  any  religious,  racial,  language  or  regional
group or caste or community and such activity,  for  any  reason  whatsoever
causes or is likely to cause fear  or  alarm  or  a  feeling  of  insecurity
amongst members of such religious, racial, language  or  regional  group  or
caste or community,
      shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years,
or with fine, or with both.
      Offence committed in place of worship, etc.—(2) Whoever commits an
offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any
assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious
ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five
years and shall also be liable to fine.
[13]
      [14] Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust & Ors. v. S. Ramanathan & Ors,
MANU/TN/0541/2013
[15]
      [16] (1974) 2 SCC 695
[17]
      [18] (2008) 4 SCC 115

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