Govt can’t take control of temple property: HC

Excelsior Correspondent
SRINAGAR, Oct 2: The High Court has ruled that the Government cannot take control of the temple properties as these are not public or State properties.
Hearing a petition filed against the order passed by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, appointing Sub-Divisional Magistrate Srinagar as receiver of Shiv Mandir situated at Abi-Guzar, Srinagar, Court said the Divisional Commissioner has no power to pass such kind of order as no such legislation is in force which may give power to Government to overtake the temple property.
The Court of Justice Sanjeev Kumar set aside the order of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir with the remarks that the Divisional Commissioner had absolutely no jurisdiction to entertain the applications and pass orders.
Justice Kumar observed that the dispute, if any, arises with respect to the management of such properties, are disputes of civil nature and therefore, shall be dealt by civil court of competent jurisdiction and not by passing executive order.
Senior Counsel Bashir Ahmad Bashir appearing for petitioner (Swami Sureshanand Giri) submitted before the Court that the subject-matter of writ petition (Shiv Mandir) does not fall and come within the umbrella of Land Revenue Act, inasmuch as there was no dispute vis-à-vis the subject matter of writ petition pending before Divisional Commissioner Kashmir.
Advocate Bashir further contended that the appointment of Receiver is to be dealt with in terms of provisions of Code of Civil Procedure and Divisional Commissioner has no jurisdiction or authority to do so.
“After having bird’s eye view of the case in hand, it becomes crystal clear that the subject-matter of writ petition does not fall within the four corners of Land Revenue Act and therefore, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, had no jurisdiction to entertain the application and pass impugned order dated 3rd August 2015”, Justice Kumar said.
Court further said that the temples and other religious places and the land appurtenant thereto are generally managed by Committees or Trusts, and Mahants who are appointed as Managers. They besides performing religious duties in the temple, also manage properties attached to such temples and in some cases have right to received remuneration out of the offerings made in such temples.
Court, however, made it clear that in case Government feels that a particular temple or religious place and properties attached thereto are required to be maintained and managed in better manner and in larger public interest then it (Government) can take over management of such temples/religious endowments by legislating appropriate enactment.
“The Government, however, has no power to take over management of a temple or religious place managed by Trust or by some other committee by way of an executive fiat”, Court recorded.
Court during proceedings also put a specific query to State Counsel Asif Bhat as to whether any provision of J&K Land Revenue Act, Criminal Procedure Code or any other enactment has been passed by the Government in this regard but no such fact was brought to the notice court, which empowers revenue officers, including Divisional Commissioner, to pass order of appointing receiver on temple property.
“Viewed thus, writ petition is disposed of and order No. DivCom/Reader/555-60 dated 3rd August 2015, passed by Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, as also order dated 10th September 2015, passed by Financial Commissioner (Revenue), J&K, Srinagar, are set-aside”, Court directed with the observation that the direction has been passed purely on the question of jurisdiction and shall not be taken as expression of opinion on merits of the controversy of the rights of the parties.