Supreme Court says let religious people manage the Ahobila Temple, not Executive Officer. It declined to entertain A.P. government appeal against High Court order regarding Ahobila temple

29 Jan 2023 773 Views

The State High Court decision was that only the Mattadhipathis of the Ahobilam Math, and not the Executive Officer appointed under the State's religious endowments law, can be in charge of the Ahobilam temple's administration

January 27, 2023 02:16 pm | Updated January 28, 2023 12:35 am IST - NEW DELHI
The Supreme Court of India is illuminated in the colours of the national flag on Republic Day’s eve, in New Delhi, on Jan. 25, 2023. 
The Supreme Court on January 27 declined to entertain an appeal by the Andhra Pradesh government against a State High Court decision that only the Mathadipathi of the Ahobilam Math, and not the Executive Officer appointed under the State's religious endowments law, can be in charge of the Ahobilam temple's administration.
A Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul asked why the State should intervene in a temple's affairs.
“Why are you stepping into that? Let the temple people deal with it... Why should religious places not be left to religious people?” the court asked senior advocate Niranjan Reddy, appearing for the Andhra Pradesh government.
Senior advocates Satish Parasaran, C. Sridharan, and advocates Vipin Nair and P.B. Suresh appeared for the caveators.
The High Court had, in its judgment in October last year, held that the Sri Ahobilam Mutt Parampara Aadheena Sri Lakshmi Swamy Ahobilam Devasthanam, known to be one of the oldest of temples, has been associated with the Math due to common religious practices and involvement in administration. The temple was "necessarily a part and parcel, and an integral and inseparable part" of the Ahobilam Math.
The High Court had concluded that only the Mathadipathi of the Ahobilam Math could be in charge of the administration of the temple and not an Executive Officer appointed by the Commissioner of the State Endowments Department under Section 29 of the Andhra Pradesh Religious Endowments and Charitable Institutions Act of 1987.
The State had argued that a "Math is an independent juristic person". Similarly, a temple is also an independent juristic person.
"This being the situation, a temple, definitionally, can never be a part of the Math or the same as the Math, since they are two separate individual juristic entities," the State argued in its appeal.
It said that at best it could be argued that the juristic person, the Ahobilam Math, through its Mathadipathi, was "managing the affairs of the juristic person, the temple".
"It can never lead to a conclusion that the Math and the temple are the same entity, as held by the High Court. This finding is incongruous and therefore completely unsustainable," the State had contended.
The devotees, in their original petition before the High Court, had argued that the State did not have any authority to appoint an Executive Officer for the Math or the temple under the 1987 Act. Maths were accorded a special status in law and given the right to manage their own affairs. 


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