‘Since the appointment is admittedly a religious function without any administrative colour to it, a religious Head alone would be the competent person to judge what is good cause or not.’
The Madras High Court has held that any act on the part of the nominee of a religious head of a mutt which undermines his position as a religious head can be a ‘good cause’ of his removal.
Kasiviswanatha Pandara Sannidhi, claiming to be the head of Thiruvavaduthurai Adheenam (mutt), had approached the high court by filing a writ petition seeking to forbear the HR& CE Authorities and Meenakshisundara Thambiran (appointed as head of the mutt) from hindering or preventing the petitioner from functioning as the mutt head.
Kasiviswanatha was removed by the previous head of the mutt on the ground that he was not attending regular rituals and performing poojas and was incarcerated in prison and, thereby, was disabled from performing due rituals and poojas and such person cannot be a Junior Pandara Sannadhi and therefore, disentitled to succeed as Madathipathi.
Relying on the Supreme Court decision in Sri Mahalinga Thambiran Swamigal v. His Holiness Sri LA Sri Kasivasi Arulnandi Thambiran Swamigal, it was contended on behalf of Kasiviswanatha that the power to revoke the nomination of the religious head cannot be exercised arbitrarily, but only for good cause. According to him, what is ‘good cause demonstrated in the present case’ is not expressed by the mutt or by the previous Pandara Sannadhi who had passed the order of removal of the petitioner as Junior Pandara Sannadhi.
In this context, Justice V Parthiban observed: “Though what is a good cause has not been defined, but any act on the part of the nominee which undermines his position as a religious head, can be a valid reason of his removal from the position he occupies. After all, in this case, the earlier Head of the Mutt felt that continuation of the petitioner as Junior Pandara Sannadhi would completely erase the esteem and the reputation enjoyed by the Mutt for centuries before its scores of devotees and its followers.”
“The good cause needs to be defined in terms of subjective satisfaction of the Pandara Sannadhi, since he alone is in a better position to understand and advise how the Junior Pandara Sannadhi is to function and whether his functioning is in furtherance of philosophical custom, usage and practice of the Mutt by the petitioner. Since the appointment is admittedly a religious function without any administrative colour to it, a religious Head alone would be the competent person to judge what is good cause or not. Of course, such judgment can be put to test only in extreme cases where the Head of the Mutt acts whimsically and capriciously against the interest of the Mutt,” the court added.
The court further observed that in the areas of purely religious function, the courts must be wary of interfering when strong evidence is required either way to decide the claim and counterclaim of the parties. “The Courts cannot be the sole repository of all knowledge and wisdom in all matters and can substitute its views particularly in matters of religious function. The Courts in such situation have to do tight rope walking without falling on either side namely unnecessary judicial activism or mute spectator to any blatant wrong doing against public interest. The Courts have to maintain the fine balance in order to protect its hallowed existence,” the court said.
Read The Order Here: