The Supreme Court has observed that it is the bounden duty of the shebait, archak to protect the temple property, and they cannot usurp such property for their own gains.
Sri Ganapathi Dev Temple Trust had approached the Apex Court against the Karnataka High Court judgment upholding the entry of Government's name into the revenue records of the suit property based on the presumption that the deceased Balakrishna Bhat [ belonging to family of Archak] was the tenant of the suit property, and hence the property was vested with the State Government under Section 44 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act.
Allowing the appeal, the bench comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Ajay Rastogi observed that the appellant temple has the right, through its present managing trustee, to undertake proceedings for the benefit of the idol for having such wrongful entries set aside, and such wrongful entries would not be binding on the temple.
Rejecting the claim of family of the Archaks, the bench observed:
Therefore, it is well-settled that the deity in a Hindu temple is in deemed to be a minor, and the Shebait, archaka, etc. or the person functioning as manager/trustee of such temple acts as the guardian of the idol and conducts all transactions on its behalf. However, the Shebait or archaka is obligated to act solely for the idol's benefit. In Sri Thakur Radha Ballabhji (supra), this Court affirmed the lower courts' finding that a sale made by the manager of the deity to a third party, which was not for the necessity of the benefit of the idol, would not be binding on the deity, and worshippers or other parties who had been assisting in the management of the temple could apply to have such a sale set aside.
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