Maruti Dev Trust vs. Sitram Narayan Deshpande: Land Ownership Judgement

In a significant legal case, the Supreme Court of India resolved the dispute between Maruti Dev Trust and Sitram Narayan Deshpande regarding land ownership. The High Court ruling, based on the registration date of the trust, resulted in the tenants becoming deemed purchasers. As a result, the ownership of the land vested in them. This judgement highlights the complexities of trust registration and land ownership issues in the context of public trusts and agricultural lands.


  • The High Court directed the authorities to hold proceedings under Section 32G of the 1948 Act to fix the purchase price of 6 acres and 19 gunthas of lands at Pimpli Village.
  • The appellants are trustees of Shree Maruti Deo Trust Pimpli Limtek, a public trust registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act, 1950.
  • The 1948 Act initially granted protection against eviction to tenants of agricultural lands without automatic purchase rights.
  • Section 32 to 32R was inserted through the Bombay Act No.XIII of 1957, allowing tenants in possession on Tillers day (1.04.1957) to become owners of the land with certain exceptions.
  • The insertion of Section 88B in 1957 exempted certain provisions for lands held by local authorities, universities, and trusts for specific purposes.
  • The High Court ruled that the Collector could not grant a certificate of Exemption to the Trust as the land had vested in the petitioners on 1.04.1957.
  • Sitram Narayan Deshpande was put in possession of the suit land in 1922 for service rendered to the temple.
  • The suit land has belonged to the Maruti Dev Temple since time immemorial.
  • The land was let out to the forefathers of respondent nos. 1 to 4 and they claim to be tenants.
  • In 1986, the Trustee filed an application for exemption of the land under Section 88B of the 1948 Act.
  • Pune Archives recorded the land as belonging to the Maruti Dev Trust since 1858.
  • The Public Trusts Act was renamed as ‘The Maharashtra Public Trusts Act, 1950’ in 2012.
  • The Deputy Charity Commissioner confirmed Maruti Dev Trust as a Public Trust under the Public Trusts Act.
  • The claim of ownership by respondent contradicted the trust’s interest leading to rejection of Trust registration by Joint Charity Commissioner.
  • Section 88B of the 1948 Act exempts trust-owned land for religious purposes from certain provisions of the Act.
  • A certificate was issued in 1987 declaring the Trust as an institution of public religious worship eligible for exemption under Section 88B.
  • The Gram Sabha decided in 1983 to register the Trust as a Public Trust.

Also Read: Land Dispute Resolution: Supreme Court Ruling on Specific Performance


  • Whether the High Court was justified in quashing the Exemption Certificate issued by the Collector in terms of Section 88B of the 1948 Act in favour of the Trust.
  • The High Court’s decision was based on the grounds that the Trust was registered for the first time on 8.8.1984, not on 1.04.1957 (Tillers’ Day).
  • The High Court held that since the Trust was not registered on Tillers’ Day, the tenants in possession of the land on that day became deemed purchasers, resulting in the ownership of the land vesting in them.

Also Read: Enforceability of Agreement to Sell: Supreme Court Judgment in the Case of Govindappa v. Bale Venkataramanappa


  • All tenants are deemed to have purchased the land from their landlords on or before the tillers’ day.
  • The Tribunal is responsible for determining the price of the land to be paid by tenants who are deemed to have purchased it.
  • Exemptions are provided for lands owned by Trusts for public religious, educational, or social purposes.
  • The High Court noted that the petitioners were tenants on tillers’ day, but the Trust was registered much later.
  • The Tribunal issues notices to tenants, landlords, and other interested parties to appear and determine willingness to purchase the land.
  • If a tenant is willing to purchase the land, the Tribunal will determine the purchase price after an inquiry.
  • The Deputy or Assistant Charity Commissioner deals with the registration of Trusts under the Public Trusts Act.
  • Entries related to Trusts are recorded in the register by the appointed officials after necessary hearings and inquiries.
  • Any person aggrieved by the findings recorded may appeal to the Charity Commissioner.
  • The Chapter provisions apply to the making of entries in the register, which are deemed final and conclusive.
  • Only Trusts registered under specific enactments are deemed to be registered under the Public Trusts Act.
  • Public notices are published by the Tribunal after the tillers’ day, calling upon tenants, landlords, and other interested parties to appear.
  • Section 2(13) of the Public Trusts Act defines ‘public trust’ as an express or constructive trust for a public religious or charitable purpose.
  • The legislature deemed all public trusts registered under specific enactments to be registered under the Public Trusts Act.
  • The Court should not insert words or expressions into a statute that are not explicitly stated.
  • The Mahant Ramswarup Guru Chhote Balakdas vs Motiram Khandu Patil case is different as it dealt with trusts outside Maharashtra.
  • A constructive trust is a formula through which equity expresses conscience.
  • The trust in question was rightfully registered under the Public Trusts Act for public religious worship.
  • The Court’s role is to declare the existence of a trust, not to create one.
  • Constructive trusts can arise in various situations such as money paid by accident, mistake, or fraud.
  • The repeal of Section 94 of the Act does not hinder declaring a trust outside the Act’s scope.
  • The Courts of Equity retain general jurisdiction over trusts like Maruti Dev Temple Devasthan.
  • A fiduciary cannot exploit their position for personal gain.
  • A tenant on land held by a Public Trust does not become a purchaser solely by virtue of occupancy.
  • Constructive trusts are established by law regardless of the parties’ intent.
  • The trust is deemed to have been registered under the Public Trusts Act before Tillers’ Day in 1957.
  • The Bombay Trusts Act amendments accommodated trusts previously registered under Madhya Pradesh Trusts Act.
  • The registration of the trust under the Public Trusts Act cannot be disputed.
  • Deemed purchasers’ rights from Tillers’ Day in 1957 should not be affected by subsequent trust registration.
  • A constructive trust arises by law, and specific criteria must be met for tax exemption under Section 88B of the 1948 Act.
  • Receiving money that cannot in good conscience be retained can give rise to a trust in equity.
  • Section 94 of the Indian Trusts Act allowed the creation of constructive trusts, which later was repealed by the Benami Transactions Prohibitions Act, 1988.
  • The creation of a trust under Section 94 did not require a deed, but it had specific eligibility criteria.
  • The Public Trusts Act was enacted to regulate and provide for better administration of public trusts in the State of Bombay, now Maharashtra and Gujarat.
  • The Act brought Mahants, Pujaris, etc. administering deity properties within its ambit to ensure proper accountability of donations and offerings.
  • Previously, these administrators exercised ownership rights over temples and properties without proper record-keeping.
  • The Act created a specialized organization to handle charity matters and regulated existing trusts.
  • The Act aimed to prevent unjust enrichment of Mahants, Pujaris, Acharyas, etc. who thrived on temple incomes prior to its enactment.
  • The High Court relied on past judgments like Laxminarayan Temple vs L.M. Chandore and Chhatrapati Charitable Devasthan Trust vs Parisa Appa Bhoske when allowing the writ petition.
  • In the Laxminarayan Temple case, it was clarified that ‘trust’ in the Act extends beyond educational purposes to include religious worship institutions.
  • The concept of ‘Constructive Trust’ was explained in cases where parties receive money that should rightfully benefit others.
  • Various acts like the Mussalman Wakf (Bombay Amendment) Act of 1935 governed trusts before the Public Trusts Act came into force.
  • The Act mandated registration of trusts before 1.04.1957 for exemption under Section 88B of the 1948 Act to avoid tenants becoming owners.

Also Read: Judicial Standards and Compulsory Retirement Case: Supreme Court of India Judgment


  • The judgment and order passed by the High Court is affirmed.
  • The appeal is dismissed without any order as to costs.
  • The validity of Section 32 of the Public Trusts Act is not in question.


Case Number: C.A. No.-002607-002607 / 2013

Click here to read/download original judgement

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