Bababudangiri row: HC says 2018 govt. order on rituals infringes rights of Hindus, Muslims

A file photo of Sree Dattatreya Bababudan Swamy Dargah in Chikkamagaluru.  

Observing that the Government Order of 2018 on Sree Dattatreya Bababudan Swamy Dargah in Chikkamagaluru infringes the rights of both Hindus and Muslims, the High Court of Karnataka on Tuesday quashed the GO which had authorised only the Mujawar appointed by Shah Khadri to perform prescribed religious practices and rituals of both the communities by entering the santum sactorum.

“Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion. By the impugned order [of 2018], firstly, the State have infringed upon the right of Hindu community to have the puja and archana done in the manner as per their faith. Secondly, State have imposed upon the Mujawar to perform ‘paduka pooja’ and to light ‘nanda deepa’ contrary to his faith. Both these acts amount to flagrant violation of rights of both communities guaranteed by Article 25 of the Constitution of India,” the court observed.

The court also found that the report of a three-member high-level committee (HLC), headed by a retired High Court judge, was “not free from bias” as the HCL had rejected the second report of the Endowment Commissioner, before whom one of the members of the HCL had deposed on the same issue.

Rahmath Tarikere, professor, Kannada University, Hampi, one of the members of the HLC, had earlier deposed before the Endowment Commissioner expressing his views on the shrine, the court noted from the records.

Justice P.S. Dinesh Kumar delivered the verdict while allowing a petition filed in April 2018 by the Sri Guru Dattareya Peeta Devasthana Samvardhana Samithi, Chikkamagaluru. The petitioner had questioned the legality of March 19, 2018, Government Order, which had besides codifying the religious rituals to be performed at the shrine, authorised only the Mujawar to perform these rituals.

While remitting the matter back to the State government for considering it afresh, the court made it clear that the fresh consideration had to be made as per the law and without reference to the report of the HLC.

‘Contrary to govt. stand’

The March 19, 2018, GO, the court said, was also contrary to the stand taken by the State government before the Supreme Court that the Cabinet would take a decision after considering the pros and cons of the second report submitted by the Endowment Commissioner. However, the government delegated the consideration to a HLC, which rejected the Commissioner’s report, the court noted. The High Court also pointed out that the 2018 GO had incorrectly extracted the recommendation of the Cabinet sub-committee.

“The recommendation extracted gives an impression that the practices recommended are in consonance with the order of this court, which is factually incorrect because, the six recommendations recorded in the impugned order are those contained in the earlier report of the Endowment Commissioner dated February 25, 1989 which has been quashed by this court. Therefore, the decision arrived at is on an incorrect premise,” the High Court observed.

Justice Kumar also held that the “HLC misdirected itself” in recommending that the practices prevailing as on August 15, 1947, must be continued while replying the provisions of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, as the shrine was decreed as “a religious institution being a holy place of worship belonging to or of the Hindus and Mohammadans alike where they worship, and it is not a Wakf property” by a trial court way back in 1980 and this decree was confirmed by both the High Court and the apex court.

The GO was issued when Siddaramaiah was the Chief Minister. However, when the petition came up for hearing before the High Court in June 2018, the government, headed by then Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, had given an undertaking not to take further steps based on the GO till the matter was adjudicated by the court. The Advocate-General, appointed by the present government, had defended before the High Court the 2018 GO as well as the decision of the previous regime to appoint the HLC.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 3:13:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/bababudangiri-row-hc-says-2018-govt-order-on-rituals-infringes-rights-of-hindus-muslims/article36726618.ece

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