The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to constitute a new committee to govern the affairs of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust in Shirdi in accordance with the new rules framed by it.
“Considering the magnitude of the administration of the trust, a committee of deserving and competent persons is required to be constituted, which would administer the affairs of the trust efficiently and sincerely,” Justices A.V. Nirgude and Naresh Patil said while hearing two PILs.
“The state would certainly be conscious of the fact that sentiments of millions of people around the globe are very closely attached with the shrine of Shri Sai Baba in Shirdi,” the judges noted in their order on May 2.
The bench further observed that the ad hoc committee, appointed by the court on March 30 last year, shall continue to operate for two weeks from the date of the order.
In case, the state constitutes a new committee after a period of two weeks from May 2, the ad hoc committee would cease to operate from the date of coming into existence of the state-appointed committee, the bench noted.
The court, however, directed the ad hoc committee not to take any major financial decision till the new committee is constituted. The ad hoc committee was asked to observe the restrictions put up by the court earlier in this regard.
The judges, while disposing of the PILs, said the observations made in respect of submissions made regarding the statutory rules shall be construed as prima facie in nature and shall not affect the rights of contesting parties if they resort to challenge the rules independently.
By an order dated March 30, 2012, the High Court had appointed an adhoc committee comprising Principal Judge of Ahmednagar district, the Collector of Ahmednagar and the Chief Executive Officer of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi, to manage the affairs of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust. Since then, this committee is governing the trust.
The PILs had urged the court to direct the state to frame rules under the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust (Shirdi) Act, and lay down eligibility and qualification for being nominated to the managing committee of the Sai Baba Trust.
The petitions also challenged the state’s decision of constituting a new 14-member managing committee to run the trust. The new committee was formed after disbanding the old committee which had functioned for eight years.
Despite the High Court order on March 30 asking the state to frame rules under the Act, the government did not comply with this directive, the judges noted.
On September 27 last year, Advocate General Darius Khambata had made a statement that rules under the provisions of Section 25 of the Act, were being drafted. Accordingly, the court had adjourned the hearing on PILs for eight weeks.
On November 22 last year, the government pleader told the court that the draft rules were being prepared and are pending with the state. An adjournment was sought on that ground to January 14, 2013. The PILs were then heard on March 21 and April 17.
Meanwhile, petitioners in these PILs moved an application raising challenge to the provisions of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan (Shirdi) (Appointment of Member of Managing Committee and Forums of Dec laration) Rules, 2013.
They questioned the validity and propriety of drafting the rules hastily by the state. It was contended that the rules were not framed in its entirety. “The state has framed those rules just to accommodate some of the politicians as members of the committee,” the petitioners argued.
The PILs submitted that there is total noncompliance and inaction on the part of the administration in drafting the rules properly. This would further create and generate litigation, the petitioners argued.
It was also argued that the rules needed to be approved by the state legislature.
Government pleader S.V. Kurundkar, however, argued that the very purpose of filing PILs had come to an end when the state had officially published the statutory rules in compliance of the High Court order and the statutory provisions of the Act.