A Full Bench of the Kerala High Court on Friday held that the Guruvayur Devaswom managing committee has no power to contribute amounts from the Devaswom fund either to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) or to any other government agencies under the provision of the Guruvayur Devaswom Act.
The Bench comprising Justice A. Hariprasad, Justice Anu Sivaraman and Justice M.R. Anitha observed that “all the properties, including movable and immovable properties and money, dedicated to or endowed in the name of Lord Guruvayurappan or any property acquires in any manner by Guruvayur Devaswom shall vest in the idol of Lord Guruvayurappa, consecrated in Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur.”
The Bench passed the verdict on a petition filed by R.V. Babu, general secretary, Hindu Aikya Vedi Kerala; A. Nagesh, president, BJP, Thrissur district; Bijesh Kumar, general secretary, Guruvayur Kshetra Raksha Samithi; and others challenging the decision of the Devaswom to contribute ₹5 crore to the CMDRF.
A Division Bench had referred to the Full Bench the petitions in view of the conflicting decision by two Division Benches on the power of the managing committee to make donations or divert the Devasowm funds for other purposes.
The Bench made it clear that the managing committee was bound to administer, control and manage all the properties belonging to the Guruvayur Devaswom and their status as a 'trustee'. The committee, being the trustee in management of the Devaswom properties, was legally bound to perform its duties with utmost care and caution.
The court held that the managing committee cannot delegate their powers and duties to the State government or any other entity.
The court said the properties belonging to Sree Krishna Temple and the income derived there, including the endowments and offerings, were vested in the diety. It was to be remembered that though the administration of the temple was a secular act, the property and funds belonging to the temple were religious trust properties. So, the managers of religious trusts should adhere to the legal principles when dealing with trust properties.
The petitioners argued that no property of the Devaswom was alienable, other than for purposes necessary or beneficial to the Devaswom as per the Act.