HC: Handing over Gokarna temple management to mutt is illegal

The High Court of Karnataka on Friday quashed a 2008 government order handing over the management of the Mahabaleshwara temple at Gokarna in Uttara Kannada district to Sree Ramachandrapura Mutt, Hosanagar.

The court also constituted a overseeing committee, to be headed by the Uttara Kannada Deputy Commissioner (DC), to monitor the daily affairs of the Mahabaleshwara and allied temples, and appointed B.N. Srikrishna, a former judge of the Supreme Court, as adviser to the committee.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices B.V. Nagarathna and Aravind Kumar, delivered the verdict on a batch of 10-year-old PIL petitions, filed by Sri Samsthana Mahabaleshwara Devaru, a registered trust and its trustee, Balachandra Vigneshwara Dixit, and several others from Gokarna and other places.

The Bench held that the State government did not have the power or competence to exclude or delete Gokarna temple, which was included in the list of notified temples on April 30, 2003.

Quashing the government order of August 12, 2008, excluding Mahabaleshwara and allied temples from the notified list and handing them over to the mutt, the Bench said the government could not have done it by way of a notification under the provisions of the General Clauses Act.

The Bench also held that the question whether Gokarna temple is attached to mutt, is a mixed question of facts and law. “The documents produced by the mutt in these writ petitions cannot be considered as conclusive proof of the said fact. The disputed question of fact cannot be decided in these writ petitions by exercising power under the Article 226 of Constitution of India, but it would have to be tried and decided by a competent civil court,” the Bench observed.

Hence, the Bench said the State could not have issued the government order on the assumption that the Gokarna temple was attached to the mutt.

Deletion of temple from the notification and handing over to the mutt is improper exercise of power and hit by Article 14 of the Constitution, and action of the government is “tainted as it is not for a bona fide, but to confer a benefit on the respondent mutt,” the court said.

As certain legislations for regulating Hindu religious institutions were struck down by the High Court and the matter pending adjudication before the Supreme Court, the Bench constituted a overseeing committee, members of which are Superintendent of Police, Uttara Kannada district, Assistant Commissioner of Kumta sub-division, two eminent persons/scholars capable of discharging their functions (to be nominated by the State government), and two Upadivantas of Gokarna temple (to be nominated by the DC). The committee will start functioning with effect from September 10.

The Bench also directed the DC to record inventories of movable and immovable assets of the temple and submit a report to the court within two weeks.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 7:31:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/hc-handing-over-gokarna-temple-management-to-mutt-is-illegal/article24660233.ece

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