Kerala 2018 floods | ₹5 crore donated by Guruvayur Devaswom to CMDRF may be an “essentially philanthropic” act, observes Supreme Court

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit observed this while ordering parties to maintain “status quo until further consideration” in the case.

September 19, 2022 01:33 pm | Updated 02:10 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

A bicycle is hung from a tree branch to avoid being washed away in flood waters as a man rows with his dog in a country boat at Kuttanad in Alappuzha on Aug. 20, 2018.

A bicycle is hung from a tree branch to avoid being washed away in flood waters as a man rows with his dog in a country boat at Kuttanad in Alappuzha on Aug. 20, 2018. | Photo Credit: AP

The Supreme Court on September 19 orally observed that ₹5 crore contributed by the Guruvayur Temple to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund (CMDRF) soon after the devastating 2018 floods in Kerala may be by nature an “essentially philanthropic” act.

A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice U.U. Lalit observed this while ordering parties to maintain “status quo until further consideration” in the case.

The temple had appealed against a Kerala High Court decision which declared the temple management’s contribution as illegal on the ground that the money was the deity’s property and was sourced from the contributions deposited by the worshippers in the temple hundis.

“Is the temple not running a hospital for all who come for treatment… It is after all a Lord Krishna temple. Have you not heard of ‘ Vasudeiva Kutumbakam’ (The world is one family),” Justice S. Ravindra Bhat asked the caveators, who were petitioners in the High Court.

Senior advocate Aryama Sundaram, for the temple management, said everyone had contributed to Kerala’s flood relief efforts at the time. “Even judges and lawyers had contributed to help,” Mr. Sundaram submitted.

Chief Justice Lalit orally asked that while contributions from worshippers were usually used to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities in the temple, was it right to say that the temple should restrict its benevolence to only those who enter its premises.

The High Court had found the contribution “bad in law” in a judgment in 2020. A Review Bench of the High Court had, in May this year, agreed that the temple management had no authority to make contributions to the Chief Minister’s Fund or any government body under the Guruvayur Devaswom Act.

The State government had in the High Court contended that the temple management’s decision was in accordance with the Disaster Management Act. The temple’s resolve to donate to the CMDRF was meant to help a large population of people ravaged by the flood. Many of the flood’s victims happen to be devotees of Lord Guruvayoorappan, the temple deity.

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