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Madras High Court
Suppan Asari And Ors. vs Vannia Konar And Ors. on 19 February, 1914
Equivalent citations: 24 Ind Cas 467, (1914) 27 MLJ 110


1. The suit is brought by certain plaintiffs named on behalf of themselves, their caste, the Karnams, and the Villais. The lower courts have found that they have been using the path A. B. which runs on the northern side of the Kamatchiamman temple in Tinnevelly and leads to the bathing ghat and the temple for a long time and therefore they have acquired a customary right to use it. The main objection that is raised in second appeal is that a caste cannot acquire a customary right. It is argued that every custom must be local and must be alleged to be confined to a village or district. According to English law this may be so. But the question is when it is found that certain castes have been exercising a certain right whether a legal origin cannot be found for it. For it is clear law that when a right has been enjoyed time out of mind-in this case the origin of the right is not shown a legal origin if possible will be presumed. If the right is claimed with reference to a defined locality then it is a customary right.

2. But when the right is claimed on behalf of individuals or bodies politic or corporations, then the right is said to be acquired by prescription. A caste is for this purpose recognised as a corporation with civil rights. The cases show that properties are purchased for the caste and by the caste. Their right to hold and manage property has been recognised. Courts have often given effect to the resolution of the caste as a body as to the management of property. Suits have been brought on behalf of caste and against caste. All the members of the caste cannot be parties to such suits. Certain persons were allowed therefore to represent their under Section 30 of the Civil Procedure Code. In these circumstances we do not see why the members of a caste cannot acquire a right by long user. It may be true that all the members of the caste may not have been exercising the right, but it is sufficient if the persons who exercise the rights claimed to do so on behalf of the caste. In principle there is no difference between such acquisition and the acquisition of a right by a joint family or a corporation. We are therefore of opinion that on the facts proved in this case the castes represented by the plaintiffs must be held entitled to the right claimed by them.

3. The next contention is that the suit is not maintainable as the right claimed is a public right. The right that is found is a right existing in the castes represented by the plaintiffs and certain other castes. It is not a right vested in the general public. The castes as already stated must for this purpose be treated as corporations. The argument of the appellant’s pleader assumes that for this purpose the exclusive right claimed by a caste is a public right. We disallow this contention also and dismiss the second appeal with costs of Respondents Nos. 11 to 14.

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