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SC: Shebait cannot usurp temple property, needs to protect it

SC: Shebait cannot usurp temple property, needs to protect it

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the Shebait/Archak is duty bound to protect the property of the temple, and the Shebait "cannot usurp such property for their own gains."
SC: Shebait cannot usurp temple property, needs to protect it

A five-judge Constitution bench is already hearing the Ayodhya title dispute where the Shebait, Nirmohi Akhara, claims on the property has been challenged by the Sunni Central Waqf Board. Though the judgement is passed by a three-judge bench, it cannot have an impact on the decision taken by the Constitution bench.

A bench comprising Justices N.V. Ramana, Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Ajay Rastogi said,"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."

Sri Ganapathi Dev Temple Trust had moved the top court challenging the Karnataka High Court judgement upholding the entry of government's name into the revenue records of the suit property. This was based on the supposition that Balakrishna Bhat, who belonged to the family of Shebait, was the tenant at the property.

Hence, the property was vested with state government under Section 44 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act. The court 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. Shebait family admitted they have no right over the suit property and it belongs to the temple.

The apex court said that the High Court unacceptably granted relief in the favour of the Shebait family while setting aside the concurrent findings of the three revenue authorities as well as the order of the single judge.

The lower court findings said 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.

The Shebait family has not produced on record any report proving that they had acquired any right or title in respect of the suit property. "Nor have they produced any registered document showing that they have acquired any such right, in which case they would have been exempt from the requirement under Section 128", observed the court.

Hence it is not open to the respondents to claim that the land was deemed to have vested in the state government under the 1961 Act, and consequently they were not required to have reported acquisition of rights in the suit property under Section 128.

"We are of the considered opinion that if a party has admitted that he is not in possession as a tenant but as an unauthorized occupant of the disputed property, the property cannot be deemed to be vested with the state government under the 1961 Act. Consequently, the revenue entry should continue to remain in the name of the temple/owner of the property," ruled the court.

( With inputs from IANS )

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