Thursday, February 2, 2023

Kerala HC directs Pinarayi Vijayan govt to return Rs 10 crore donation from Guruvayur temple board

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The Kerala High Court has directed the state government to return the Rs 10 crore given by the Devaswom Board to the Chief Minister’s Fund from the Guruvayur Temple Devaswom funds. 

The bench comprising Justices A. Hariprasad, Anu Sivaraman and M.R. Anitha has given the verdict that the payment made by the temple board to the chief minister’s fund is illegal. The Court has declared the division bench’s judgment last year as per incuriam and held that Section 27 of Guruvayur Devaswom Act is non-exhaustive and that the Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee (GDMC) has flexibility in using the funds.

The Guruvayur Devaswom Board is one of the four Devaswom boards in Kerala that manages the affairs of temples across the state. The Guruvayur Devaswom Board presides over 12 temples including the Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayur, 30 km from Thrissur.

The full bench of the High Court has held that unless a contrary intention, GDMC is legally bound to administer and manage the Devaswom and its properties in accordance with the settled legal principles relating to the administration of Hindu Religious Trusts with utmost care and caution. The trustees cannot delegate its power and duties to any other person.

Guruvayurappan is the heir to all the properties related to Guruvayur Temple. Adding that, the court said that the governing body can only act within the limits of the law.

“All the properties including movable and immovable properties and money, dedicated to or endowed in the name of Lord Guruvayurappan or any property acquired in any manner by Guruvayur Devaswom shall vest in the idol of Lord Guruvayurappan, consecrated in Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur,” the bench said.

Having the above discussed view, the Court has overruled the decision adopted by the Division Bench in WP(C) No. 19035 of 2019 on Section 27 of the Act of 1978 is legally unsound and unsustainable. 

The order also directed the division bench of the high court to decide on how to recover the amount donated to the Chief Minister’s relief fund. The Board had given Rs 10 crore to the Chief Minister’s Disaster Relief Fund during the floods and the Covid-19 period.

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  1. This is a very important judgement on what constitues “orders per incurim” and needs to be widely publicised. No doubt, the State Govt will move the Supreme Court, this judgement will certainly come handy in preserving the legal rights of the Hindu temples sand religious places established centuries ago.

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