THE SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT ON TEMPLES OWNERSHIP

WHY IN THE NEWS?

Recently, Supreme Court has said that Pandits and Pujaris can not claim the ownership rights of the temple.

HOW THIS OWNERSHIP ISSUE STARTED?

The hearing of a Special Leave Petition filed by Madhya Pradesh was going on and this judgement was passed during its hearing, where SC had challenged Madhya Pradesh High Court, which was violating two circulars issued by the state government under the MP Law Revenue Code, 1959 (Code).

WHAT ARE CIRCULARS AND OF WHICH CIRCULARS SC TALKING ABOUT

Circulars are implemented by the Executive branch of the Government. Union Executive consists of President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Council of Ministers, and Attorney general of India. State Executive consists of Governor, Chief Ministers, Council of Ministers, and Advocate General of India. 

Here those circulars were implemented by the State Government. 

According to those circulars names of Pujaris has to be deleted from the Revenue Records to protect the temple properties from unauthorized sale by pujaris. 

JUDGEMENTS BY THE SUPREME COURT

Supreme Court has said that all the temple property is owned by the deity as a legal person and any Pandit or Pujari or even any government official cannot claim the ownership rights of the temple, even in name of its management.

The Supreme Court bench was led by Hemant Gupta and AS Bopanna.

In the words of the Supreme Court – “In the ownership column, the name of the deity alone is required to be mentioned as the deity, being a juristic person is the owner of the land”. 

The court said in his judgement says that all occupations of the land are done by the deity, which will be done by the managers, priests, servants etc. 

WHAT PUJARIS COMMENTED ON THE JUDGEMENT

Pujaris claimed that they have “BhumiSwami Rights” because they are the hereditary manager of the temples. But Supreme Court clarified here that they don’t possess such rights.

To put a force on their statements, they reminded the case of Ram Janm Bhoomi, where they said that their deity is presiding over the temple and he was a juristic person and thus hold that property in his name.

And, they(SC) has also added that not only priests or pujaris are exempted from holding the ownership rights, but also district collector or if any officer appointed can’t hold the ownership rights or they can’t put their names in the revenue record.

And then in the last, they have also mentioned the distinction between the private and public temples. Public temples are those which are for all or open for all, and these judgements are only for public temples.

Private temples include temples of houses, and the rule that the only deity owns the property of that temples is not applied here.

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