Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court dismissed a government order to look after religious places/temples by stating that the government has no power to take over management of religious places by way of an executive order but can do so by bringing legislation.
A single bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar while referring to the enactment of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Act said, “If 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, it can take over management of such temples/religious endowments by legislating appropriate enactment.”
However government has no power to take over management of a temple or religious place managed by a trust or by some other committee by way of an executive order, the court added.
The court also quashed an order by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir appointing SDM Srinagar as the Receiver of the Shiv Mandir Trust and ordering officers to verify the credentials, among other permanent residential certificates, of all inmates staying in the Trust, including the temple Mahant at Abi Guzar here.
The Mahant, Swami Sureshanand Giri, had challenged an order dated 3 August 2015, bearing registration no. DivCom/Reader/555-60), and passed by the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, whereby Sub Divisional Magistrate Srinagar (East)/Tehsildar Srinagar (South) were appointed as Receiver of the Trust with a further direction to Deputy Commissioner Srinagar/Jammu and Senior Superintendent of Police Srinagar/Jammu to verify all credentials such as Permanent Residential Certificates, Stay Period, Residential Address, Occupation Status and Character Antecedent of all inmates residing in the Trust campus, including the Mahant of the Trust, within two weeks.
Giri had also challenged an order dated 10 September 2015, whereby Financial Commissioner (Revenue) held the appeal preferred by Sureshanand Giri against the Divisional Commissioner’s order as not maintainable.
The court, while taking note, said, “It is 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 3 August 2015. Similarly, (the Financial Commissioner) though admitted that (the Divisional Commissioner) had acted beyond his jurisdiction, did not set aside the order but instead dismissed the appeal preferred by petitioner.
“It is clear that this petition has been disposed of 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 inter se,” the court added.