Courts cannot appoint Fit Persons to manage temples, rules High Court

Power to do so rests exclusively with the State government, says Division Bench

In a significant ruling, the Madras High Court has held that courts cannot appoint a Fit Person to perform the functions of a board of trustees of a temple, during exigencies, since such power to appoint came under the exclusive domain of the State government, under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Act of 1959.

Justices R. Subbiah and T. Krishnavalli agreed with Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian that courts at best could only direct the government to appoint a Fit Person to manage the affairs of a temple and not pick and choose a lawyer or any other individual, on its own, to administer temples under the control of the HR&CE Department.

The judgment was passed while allowing an appeal preferred by the government against an order passed by a single judge of the High Court on April 24, 2019, appointing advocate M. Baskar as a Fit Person to manage the affairs of Chennai Sri Kalikambal Kamateswara Devasthanam, located on Thambu Chetty Street in Parrys Corner.

The appointment was made until an elected body takes charge of the Devasthanam. Assailing the decision, the AAG said Section 47(1)(c) of the HR&CE Act empowers only the government to appoint a Fit Person through the Commissioner, Joint Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of the HR&CE.

Election to board

Concurring with him, the judges set aside the single judge’s order with an observation that it was for the government to appoint a Fit Person for the management of the Devasthanam. They also left it to the government to conduct the elections to the board of trustees at the earliest, as it had been done in the past.

Though a request was made on behalf of some of the devotees to allow the Fit Person appointed by the single judge to continue until an elected body takes charge of the administration, the Division Bench rejected it in limine. “We are not in a position to accept the request,” the judges said.

“When the appointment of a Fit Person is contrary to Section 47 of the Act, the Fit Person appointed by this court cannot be permitted to continue to perform his duties any further. When a statute prescribes a particular act to be done in a particular manner, it should be done only in that manner and not in any other manner,” the Bench asserted.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 10:51:38 PM |

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