The Supreme Court on Wednesday set aside an order of Jharkhand High Court ordering CBI investigation in the matter of an alleged illegal transfer of a temple property.
The bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta observed that the High Court misdirected itself in directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to take over investigation in a matter which relates to the rights of the trustees to sell property of a religious Trust or Deity, giving rise to civil dispute.
While considering Public interest litigation, the High Court had 'found' that the permission to transfer the property of the deity [Shree Ram Janki Ji Asthan Tapowan Mandir] was obtained by the temple trust from Bihar State Board of Religious Trust by misrepresentation and fraud. Since the allegations are against Government and Board, the High Court had directed the CBI to investigate.
In the appeal filed by the Trust, the bench said that the High Court should have refrained from entertaining such Public Interest Litigation in respect of alleged wrongful sale of property of the religious bodies. The vesting of the property in Deity is a religious endowment but has no public element in it, the grievance of which can be made in a writ petition filed in the public interest, it said.
The court also noted that the High Court has issued directions for CBI investigation without their being any complaint to the local police in respect of the property of the religious Trust. Setting aside the High Court order, bench said:
"It may be kept in mind that the public order (Entry 1) and the police (Entry 2) is a State subject falling in List II of the VII Schedule of the Constitution. It is a primary responsibility of the investigating agency of the State Police to investigate all offences which are committed within its jurisdiction. The investigations can be entrusted to Central Bureau of Investigation on satisfaction of the conditions as specified therein only in exceptional circumstances as laid down in State of West Bengal (supra) case. Such power cannot and should not be exercised in a routine manner without examining the complexities, nature of offence and some time the tardy progress in the investigations involving high officials of the State investigating agency itself."
Setting aside the High Court order, the court further said:
"The sweeping remarks that the allegations are against the Government and the Board which consist of Government functionaries; therefore, the matter requires to be investigated by CBI are wholly untenable and such sweeping remarks against the Government and/or the Board should not have been made. The functioning in the Government is by different Officers and the working of the Executive has inbuilt checks and balances. Therefore, merely because, permission has been granted by a functionary of the State Government will not disclose a criminal offence. The High Court has thus travelled much beyond its jurisdiction in directing investigations by CBI in a matter of sale of property of the Deity."