The Karnataka High Court directed the state government to hand over the key and account authorization concerning Ummathuru Sri Urkatheshwari Ammanavara Temple to the trust.

The Court allowed the Petitions challenging the order of the Principal Secretary, Revenue (Religious And Charitable Endowment Department) labelling it as a declared institute under chapter VIII of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997 (Act).

The Court noted that the order was unsatisfactory, relied solely on the borrowed opinion of the enquiry report and the recommendation of the Tehsildar and lacked application of mind under Section 42 of the Act.

The Bench of Justice K. V. Aravind held, “in view of order dated 10.03.2022 passed by respondent No.1 under Section 42 of the Act being quashed, W.P.No.14910/2021 is allowed directing the respondents to handover the key, accounts authorization to operate the bank account and such other acts in relation to Ummathuru Sri Urkatheshwari Ammanavara Temple to petitioner No.1-Trust”.

The Bench observed, “mere reference to enquiry report of respondent No.3 and recommendation of respondent No.2 and concluding under Section 42 of the Act is only on the borrowed opinion. The order declaring the institution under Chapter VIII by respondent No.1 is without recording satisfaction under Section 42 of the Act and without application of mind”.

Advocate K. Chandranath Ariga appeared for the Petitioner and Additional Government Advocate Basavaraj Godachi appeared for the Respondent.

The writ petitions sought directions against Tahsildar to follow the court's and challenged the order of the Department labelling it as a declared institute. Trust (Petitioner no 1), registered through a deed. They filed an application under Section 92(A) of the Civil Procedure Code, 1973 (CPC) but it was dismissed. The petitioners sought the Court's intervention to open the Temple lock, for Trust management, leading to a court order. Subsequently, proceedings were initiated under Section 43 of the Act, and the Commissioner issued notices. Despite objections and submissions from the Trust, the State based on recommendations, declared it an institution under Chapter VIII of the Act.

The Court noted that the Tehsildar (Respondent no 2 ) issued a show cause notice under Section 43(1) of the Act. The petitioners submitted objections and written submissions. Respondent No.3, the authorized officer, conducted an inquiry as per Section 43(6) of the Act and submitted a report. Tehsildar, following Section 43(7), recommended declaring the Trust an institution under Section 42. The State, acting on this recommendation, declared Trust as such. However, the Court noted discrepancies with the enquiry report.

Section 42 of the Act mandates the State Government to declare an institution under Chapter-VIII of the Act on being satisfied with the report of the Commissioner under Section 43 of the Act”, the Bench noted. However, the Court noted that the impugned order revealed that the State while reiterating the enquiry officer's conclusions and acknowledging the Commissioner's recommendation, failed to record satisfaction on the report submitted under Section 43 of the Act.

Respondent No.3 in his enquiry report has referred to various aspects with regard to litigations between various parties from 1944-1945 to 1952- 53 and upto 2014. The enquiry report further places undisputed facts upto 2014. There was no dispute regarding the management of the Temple. The dispute has arisen on creation of Trust in 2014 consisting of 15 trustees. This conclusion is without any basis. Respondent No.3 has not recorded any finding as to how the creation of Trust after lapse of 69 years results in mismanagement in the temple… The entire dispute has arisen due to the complaint lodged by respondent Nos.5 to 13 with reference to mismanagement of the Temple by the Trust”, the Bench noted.

The Court noted that the enquiry report by respondent No.3 referenced litigations from 1944-1945 to 2014, noting no dispute until the Trust's creation in 2014. The report's conclusion on mismanagement due to the Trust's creation lacked a basis. Respondent No.3's findings on religious peace contradicted other reasons, indicating a lack of consistency.

Furthermore, the Bench noted that if the respondents have any disputes against the Trust, they can seek relief under Section 92 of CPC to file a suit before the Principal Civil Court or original jurisdiction within the local limits of the jurisdiction where the Trust is located. However, the Court held that the actions of the State exceeded the scope of Section 43 of the Act, rendering the impugned order under Section 42 unsustainable.

The Court further noted that, “Section 78 of the Act excludes applicability of Religious Endowment Act, 1863 to institutions governed under 1997 Act. Similarly, the bar of civil suit under Section 92(2) of CPC is in respect of institutions governed by the Religious Endowment Act, 1863. In the present case, the proceedings have been instituted under Section 43 of the 1997 Act and Section 92 of CPC is applicable”.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the Petition, quashed the impugned order and directed the Respondents to hand over the key and accounts authorization concerning Ummathuru Sri Urkatheshwari Ammanavara Temple to the Trust.

Cause Title: Ummatturu Urkatheshwari v State Of Karnataka

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