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SC curbs State bid to control temples

SC curbs State bid to control temples

Author: Pratap Patnaik
Publication: Deccan Herald
Date: August 14, 2009
URL: http://www.deccanherald.com/content/17158/sc-curbs-state-bid-control.html

The Supreme Court on Friday directed that the Karnataka government may not take over the management of any temple in the State under a law enacted in 1997.

A Bench headed by Justice R V Raveendran stayed Section 25 of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, that permitted the State Government to take over the management of temples. "Section 25 of the Act is stayed,'' the Bench said after the State Government failed to defend itself with reasoned arguments.

Appearing for Udupi and Dakshina Kannada Temples Management Association, senior advocate K K Venugopal and advocate Sharan Thakur sought direction restraining the State Government from taking over the management of temples. State Government advocate Sanjay Hegde said the Supreme Court had earlier stayed the Karnataka High Court ruling.

"If committees are constituted under the 1997 Act, the applicants will be put in irreparable injury and hardship,'' said a petition filed by the Sahasra Lingeswar temple and others.
In September 2006, a Karnataka High Court Division Bench comprising Justices Gururajan and C R Kumaraswamy struck down the entire Act as unconstitutional. The Bench stated it was arbitrary and violative of Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order on April 2, 2007, following a special leave petition (SLP) by the State Government.

The State Government's argument was two-fold: protecting the livelihood of 70,000 priests and managing hundreds of temples and trusts.

These issues were at the centre of a controversy between the temples and the state government ever since the Act came into being.

The State Government had submitted that a high-powered committee headed by Justice M Rama Jois had been formed to look into the grievances of the priests and other office bearers of the temples.

The priests and temple trusts challenged the Act in the High Court, claiming it was discriminatory and not uniformly applicable to all religious institutions, including mutts.
The State Government had issued notices to over 200 temples in North Karnataka, including the Banashankari temple in Badami, Veerabhadreshwara temple at Godachi in Raibagh taluk of Belgaum district and the Hanuman temple in Haveri, informing them about the appointment of committees that would recommend taking over their management.

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