Kochi: In a significant order, the Kerala High Court on Friday held that all movable and immovable properties dedicated to the presiding deity of the famous Sri Krishna temple in Guruvayur shall vest in the idol of Lord Guruvayurappan and its managing committee had no power to divert any funds to the government or any other agency.
A full bench of the court made the observations on a batch of petitions challenging the decision of the Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee (GDMC) in May this year to donate the temple funds to the Chief Minister's Distress Relief Fund (CMDRF) for flood hit victims in the state.
The court overruled a 2019 order of a division bench, holding that its view on Section 27 of the Guruvayur Devaswom Act of 1978 related to the authority of the GDMC to incur "certain expenses" out of the Devaswom funds.
The division bench had incorrectly interpreted the word "certain" as it could be taken as a clear indication of the non-exhaustive nature of items wherein the GDMC could have the authority to expend the Devaswom funds, the court said.
In a over 100-page order dealing with the role of the committee and aspects related to expenditure to be incurred as per the Devaswom Act, it said the GDMC was bound to administer control and manage all the properties belonging to Guruvayur Devaswom and its status was that of a trustee. "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 the Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur", the court said in its order.
"None of the provisions in the Act of 1978, including Section 27, authorises GDMC, or the Administrator or the Commissioner to contribute or part with or give away in any manner any amount from the funds belonging to the Guruvayur Devaswom, either to the CMDRF or to any other governmental agency, for any purpose specified under the Act....," it said.
The full court directed the registry to post all the petitions challenging the contribution for hearing and disposal in accordance with the roster.
The petitioners had contended that the decision was in total violation of the provisions of the Guruvayur Devaswom Act and diversion of the Devaswom funds to CMDRF also violated their fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
The court said GDMC constituted under Section 3 of the 1978 act was legally bound to administer, control and manage all the properties belonging to the devaswom in accordance with the provisions of the act. "The Administrator and the Commissioner shall also function within the framework of the statute", it said. The court said the legal status of GDMC constituted under Section 3 of the Act is that of a trustee in management of the Devaswom properties and the committee is duty bound to scrupulously follow the stipulations contained in the act. Unless a contrary intention, either expressly or by necessary implication, arises from the provisions of the statute in any particular subject or context, GMDC 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, the court said.
(With PTI inputs)