(1.)This batch of applications by the hereditary trustees or persons in management of religious or charitable institutions, under Article 226 of the Constitution, is to declare the provisions of Sections 1, 2, 5, 6, 8, 12, 14 to 17, 20 to 21, 25 to 29, 35, 36, 38 to 40 and 50 to 56, 77 and others of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act (Act XVII of 1966) (hereinafter called 'the Act') as unconstitutional and ultra vires.
(2.)There are as many as 102 petitions which are now before us for consideration. It is expedient to make a brief statement of the various allegations in the several affidavits filed in support of the petitions. It may be noted at the very outset that some of the institutions or endowments in question are admittedly public. The others, of course, are claimed to be private in character. These alleged private institutions, endowments and societies are registered under the Societies Registration Act and on that account it is averred that the provisions of the Act are not applicable to them. Some claim to be religious denominations within the meaning of Art. 26 of the Constitution as they profess and follow the tenets and philosophy of Vasavi, otherwise known as Kanyakaparameswari, and as such claim that they are entitled to manage their own affairs of religion and the properties of the institutions and endowments without any interference. The Lingayats in some of the petitions set up a like claim on a similar basis. There are hereditary trustees and other persons who are in charge of the management of the institutions or endowments. All the petitioners claim that they are entitled to manage the institutions and their properties in their own right without any interference from the functionaries under the Act and that they are continuing in management hereditarily since generations and managing the institutions efficiently and diligently without giving room for any adverse comment or imputation of charges of mismanagement, mis-appropriation or malfeasance and, in fact, they have improved the institutions and funds to a great extent. They allege that the respondents are illegally trying to interfere with their management by asking them to produce accounts and records, requiring them to get the institutions registered under the provisions of the Act and making efforts to notify the institutions or endowments under section 6; to appoint non-hereditary trustees and executive officers and to constitute Boards of Trustees even though their management is found to be good and efficient. They aver that the office of hereditary trusteeship is property within the meaning of Article 19 (1) (f) of the Constitution and that the material provisions of the Act are unconstitutional and ultra vires as the same are hit by the provisions of Arts. 14, 19 (1) (f), 25, 26 and 31 of the Constitution of India. Hence these writ petitions.
(3.)The respondents countered the material allegations in the affidavits filed by the petitioners, contending inter alia that all the petitioners-institutions are public and none of them private in character, that they are religious and charitable institutions and endowments within the meaning of the Act and are amenable to the jurisdiction of the functionaries under the Act, that none of these institutions or endowments are religious denominations or a section thereof within the meaning of Article 26 of the Constitution, that none of the hereditary trustees in the State has any beneficial interest in the institutions oi endowed properties except a bare right to manage the affairs of the institutions and secular matters, that the office of hereditary trusteeship is not property within the meaning of Art 19 (1) (f), that none of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the petitioners has been infringed, that the Andhra Pradesh State Legislature is competent to enact the impugned Act, that all the provisions of the Act are valid and intra vires and none of the provisions is hit by Art. 14, 19 (1) (f), 25, 26 and 31 of the Constitution, that the action of the respondents complained of in these applications is justified in law as well as on facts, that there is no merit in any of the grounds raised by the petitioners and that these applications merit dismissal.