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Temple Administration - Supreme Court Raises Concerns About Appointments Made On Basis Of Political Affiliation

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
26 Sep 2022 2:31 PM GMT
Temple Administration - Supreme Court Raises Concerns About Appointments Made On Basis Of Political Affiliation
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Raising concerns about political interference in the administration of temples and shrines across the country, the Supreme Court on Monday orally expressed the need for laying down guidelines for transparent norms and parameters in the appointment of trustees or members of administrative committees. A bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar was hearing a Special...

Raising concerns about political interference in the administration of temples and shrines across the country, the Supreme Court on Monday orally expressed the need for laying down guidelines for transparent norms and parameters in the appointment of trustees or members of administrative committees. 

A bench comprising Justices Ajay Rastogi and CT Ravikumar was hearing a Special Leave Petition filed against a recent judgment of the Bombay High Court (Aurangabad Bench) which set aside the the appointment of the managing committee of the Sai Baba Shirdi Trust, after observing that party workers and politicians were illegally accommodated in the committee. The special leave petition was filed by MLA Ashutosh Kale who had chaired the Committee which was dissolved by the High Court. 

Though the petitioner pressed for stay of the High Court judgment, the bench declined. The bench pointed out the paragraphs in the High Court judgment which showed how all the members of the Management Committee were politically affiliated or associated. They were either members of the State Legislature or the Presidents of Municipal Councils or the candidates defeated in the elections of the local bodies.

During the hearing, Justice Rastogi expressed concerns regarding the appointment of politicians in the Management Committee of Shri. Saibaba Sansthan.  

"Governments come and go after elections..but what is paramount is the interests of the devotees", Justice Rastogi observed. The judge stressed that there is a need to eschew political interference and people from different fields, known for their character and integrity, must be appointed so that the interests of the devotees are protected.

Justice Ajay Rastogi further expressed the need to streamline the procedure for appointment of such trustees or members of Management Committee in respect of all the shrines and temples in India. "There should be a transparent procedure", Justice Rastogi said.

Somiran Sharma, Advocate appearing for the petitioners submitted that even though the High Court has taken a view that the petitioner is not fit to be appointed as a member of the managing committee because he is a politician, the Shree Sai Baba Sansthan Trust (Shirdi) Act, 2004 and the Rules framed thereunder do not exclude politicians and infact allows appointment of politicians. The bench replied that though it is true that the provisions of the Act and the Rules do not mention the exclusion of politicians specifically,  but every time the ruling party changes, they want to appoint their own persons.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the State of Maharashtra, shared the concern of the bench and expressed that there was a need to liberate the shrines and temples in India from the shackles of the political parties in power.

S.B. Talekar, Advocate appearing for the original PIL petitioner before the High Court Shri. Uttamrao Shelke pointed that despite direction by the Bombay High Court to frame rules prescribing mode and manner for appointment of members of Management Committee, no criteria or parameters or mode and manner for appointment of Committee members are prescribed so far.

Senior Advocate Shekhar Naphade, appearing for another PIL petitioners from Nagpur. too pointed out that in all other shrines in Maharashtra including Siddhivinayak Temple, there are similar provisions and no norms for appointment are prescribed by the Government.

Along with the petition of Kale, the bench also considered another petition filed by five other members of the now dissolved committee.

After hearing the parties, the bench issued notice on the petitions, after observing that directions are needed to streamline the process of appointment of members in relation of management of temples and shrines. 

The petitions will be listed next in the first week of November.

Cases : Ashutosh Ashokrao Kale vs State of Maharahstra | SLP(C) No. 16460-16461/2022 and connected matter 

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