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When the beneficiaries of trust are incapable of being specified - the trust is public; SC.

Supreme Court of India

Justice D Y Chandrachud & Justice Ajay Rastogi

The SC {The Idol of Sri Renganathaswamy v. P K Thoppulan Chettiar, Ramanuja Koodam Anandhana Trust} holds that where the beneficiaries of a trust or charity are limited to a finite group of identifiable individuals, the trust or charity is of a private character. However, where the beneficiaries are either the public at large or an amorphous and fluctuating body of persons incapable of being specifically identifiable, the trust or charity is of a public character.

It was held by the SC that, in the present case, the Deed of Settlement states that the charity is to be carried on for the benefit of the devotees of Sri Renganathaswamy who visit during the Chithirai Gajendra Moksham and Padi Eighteen festivals. The devotees as the ultimate beneficiaries of the charity are not an identifiable group of individuals, but constitute an uncertain and fluctuating body of persons. The devotees as a class of beneficiaries are not definitive. Therefore, the respondent trust is a public trust.

In the present case, in view of aforesaid, allowing the appeal, it was held by the SC that the suit filed by the first respondent is not maintainable as under Section 34 of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1959, the Commissioner is the appropriate authority to approve the proposed sale of land by the first respondent. The suit - seeking permission to sell the suit property- was accordingly dismissed.

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