Saturday, December 9, 2023

Supreme Court adjourns plea by Trustee of Sree Valayanad Devi Temple in Calicut against appointment of non-Hereditary Trustees

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The Supreme Court adjourned the plea filed by Zamorin Raja of Calicut, the Hereditary Trustee of the Sree Valayanad Devi Temple, Kozhikode challenging the appointment of the people as non-hereditary Trustees of the Temple violating the provisions of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951.

The matter was listed before the bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Surya Kant and Justice Bela M. Trivedi. The court had issued notice on September 8, 2019 and directed the respondents to file reply. The Court had allowed the parties to place a compilation of relevant judgments of the Kerala High Court on the applicability of provisions of Section 39 of the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951. 

The Special Leave Petition challenged the order passed by the Division Bench of Kerala High Court comprising Justice P.R. Ramachandra Menon and Justice Devan Ramachandran wherein the court upheld the appointment of the persons as Non-Hereditary Trustees holding that Devaswom Authorities have complete discretion to appoint non-hereditary trustees and it cannot be interdicted by the court.  

Sree Valayanad Devi temple, situated in Valayanad, Kozhikode in North Kerala, is dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy or Goddess Parvathy. The Devi temple is one of the Saktheya temples where pujas are performed in accordance with the practice of Rurujit worship. 

The presiding deity of this temple is the goddess from Kashmir, known as Chandika, also called Mahartham and Kalasarppini. The temple was built in the 14th century by Zamorins, the temple has unique architecture and is different in plenty of aspects from all other Devi temples in the area.

The Matter would now be heard after 10 days.

Kerala High Court

The petitioner contended that the persons who are now appointed as Non-hereditary Trustees should not have been so appointed on account of the fact that they had acted against the interests of the Temple and without the Commissioner of the Devaswom Board complying with Section 39 of the HR & CE Act. Their conduct is also in contravention of the trust reposed on them by the devotees of the temple.

It was submitted that before such appointments were made, it was incumbent upon the Devaswom Authorities to have consulted the petitioner, who is concededly the Hereditary Trustee.

The petitioner relied on the case, Sreedharan Nambissan v. Commissioner, Malabar Devaswom Board [2018 (2) KLT 115] wherein the court had declared the law that before Non-hereditary Trustees are appointed under Section 39(5) of the Act, the Hereditary Trustee may also be consulted. To which the bench replied, “…. our view in the said judgment was in a case where appointments were being made under Section 39(5) of the Act wherein, we have concluded that the Hereditary Trustee has a right to be consulted but that his concurrence is not necessary.”

The Kerala High Court observed that there is no discretion vested on the Devaswom Authorities as to question the appointment of Non-hereditary trustees as they are bound to do so because Ex.P1 Scheme makes it mandatory.

The order recorded that if these Non-hereditary Trustees are acting against the interests of the Temple are issues that can certainly be raised by the petitioner in a proper complaint or representation so that it can then obtain the attention of the competent Authorities. “We say this noticing Section 45 of the HR & CE Act, which vests the power to suspend, remove or dismiss trustees; Hereditary or Non-hereditary; with the Commissioner of the Devaswom and the petitioner, if he is so desirous, will always be at liberty to approach the said Authority under the provisions of that Section.”

Further, the Kerala High Court had given liberty to the petitioner approached the Commissioner of the Malabar Devaswom Board with an appropriate complaint/representation under Section 45 of the Act within the period of 15 days and he will consider the same within a further period of 2 months. 

Case Name- Zamorin Raja of Calicut Vs Malabar Devaswom Board

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