The Supreme Court has refused the plea of the Andhra Pradesh Government assailing the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s order that held the decision of appointing an Executive Officer for controlling and managing the affairs of Ahobilam Temple in Kurnool violative of Article 26(d) of the Constitution and affects the Mathadipathi’s right of administration.
The plea by the State came up for hearing before a Bench of Justice S.K. Kaul and Justice A.S. Oka. The Bench was not convinced why the State should interfere in matters of a temple.
Justice Kaul questioned the state counsel as to why are they stepping into that. He further said let the temple people deal with it. Why should religious places not be left to religious people, the judge asked.
A Division Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has clarified that the temple is an integral part of the Ahobilam Mutt, which is in Tamil Nadu. The question raised by the State Government that the temple and Mutt were distinct entities was refused.
The Court said that just because noted Mutt and the Temple were situated in different geographical locations – one in Tamil Nadu and the other in Andhra Pradesh, the temple does not cease to be a part of the Mutt.
Relying on the data provided in the history books, literature and archeological data, the High Court has said that the Mutt and the Temple were founded and administered by the Mathadipathis since forever.
The High Court noted that supervision power of the mutt should not be with the state, however, and its affairs should be sparingly interfered with and on cogent grounds like mismanagement etc.
The Court noted that no material on record supports the appointment of Executive Officer. The Division Bench also took note of the fact that right from the Endowments Act, 1927, the Temple has been under the management of Mathadipathis, whose nomination was neither vested in nor exercised by the Government.
The original petitioner (devotees) case was that under AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act the State Government does not have the authority to appoint the Executive Officer of either the Mutt or the Temple
In 2014, the State Government had itself recognised that there is no practice for appointment of non-hereditary trustees to the temple.