Legal Provisions Regarding Religious endowment in India – Explained!

A Hindu who is of sound mind, and not a minor and who wishes to establish a religious or charitable institution may ac­cording to this law, express his purpose and endow it. A trust is not required for the purpose. All that is required is that religious or charitable purpose should be clearly specified and property intended for the endowment should be set apart for or dedicated to those purposes.

No writing is necessary to create an endow­ment except where the endowment is created by a will in which case the will must be in writing attested by at least two witnesses; if the case is governed by Section 57 of the Indian Succession Act, 1925, a clear and unequivocal manifestation of intention to create a trust and vesting the same in the donor of another as a trustee is enough to constitute dedication.

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Essentials of valid endowments:

The following are the essentials of a valid endowment.

(1) The dedication must be complete.

(2) The subject matter must be specified.

(3) The object must be definite.

(4) The settler must have capacity to make endowment.

An endowment in favour of an idol not installed at the time of endowment is valid.

In case of mahant, the devolution depends upon the custom and usage of each math. The custom that prevails in the majority of cases is that the mahant nominates his successor during his life-time or appoints a successor by will. Sometimes the successor is elected by mahant of math of the sect in the neighbourhood and sometimes by the disciples and followers of the math. In some cases the senior chela succeeds.

The Supreme Court has held in Amar Prakash v. Poorkashanand (A.I.R. 1979 SC 845) that a person, who was not a chela but was accepted as one, could be validly appointed as a successor.

In the cases of shebaits the devolution depends on terms of the deed or will by which it is created. Where there is no provi­sion in the deed or will as to the succession, the title to the property or to the management and control of the property, as the case may be, follows the line of inheritance from the founder, in other words, it passes to his heirs unless there has been some usage or course of dealing which points to a different mode of devolution. But this rule cannot be applied so as to vest the shebaitship in person, who according to the usage of the worship cannot perform the rites of the office.