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Authorities to work with secular mind, adopt scientific approach in religion matters: Bombay HC

The court observed that action against a religious trust should not be viewed as an act against God

Sabrangindia 08 Feb 2021

Bombay HC

In an important judgment, the Bombay High Court has held that the Police and Judicial authorities need to have a “secular mind” and “scientific approach” while dealing with cases related to religion. The Aurangabad Bench has also noted that the authorities should also avoid viewing statutory action against a religious trust as action against ‘God’.

A Division Bench of Justices TV. Nalawade and M.G Sewlikar were hearing a plea filed by one Namdev Garad, a former trustee of Jagdamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust who alleged misappropriation of assets committed by other trustees of the religious trust.

The petitioner further contended that although a judicial officer of the rank of District Judge acts as a Chairman of the trust, such illegal activities were done and the trustees also prepared false documents. Since 2011, the trustees have buried nearly two kilograms of gold and made an additional expenditure of rupees twenty-five lakhs for ceremonies in the name of Suvarna Yantras, he alleged.

Courts observations

The Bench expressed its concern over the allegations and that no action was taken, despite the presence of two judicial officers, in the capacity of a District Judge and a Civil Judge as ex-officio members of the trust. The Division Bench also strictly noted the police inaction in registering a complaint filed by Andhashradha Nirmulan Committee in the same regard.

Since the issue involved religion, the Bench examined the inquiry records of the Trust office, inquiry made by the police into the matter and deduced that the authorities showed no courage to take action against such a serious offence. The Bench delved deeper into the reasons and said,

“That might have happened due to general fear which may be in the minds of the persons like police officers or judicial officers who are of the rank of Civil Judge, Senior Division working in Charity Commissioner’s Office and they are avoiding to take steps against the trust committee which includes officers of the rank of District Judge. The general fear may be of different kinds like the possibility that they may invite trouble as the matter involves religious feelings and it can be viewed as an act against God.”

“In view of the Article 51-A of the Constitution of India, this Court holds that the authorities are expected to work with a secular mind in such cases and they need to adhere to the ‘truth’. The authority needs to have a scientific approach in such matters and they need to adhere to the provisions of law. With that approach they need to make inquiry and investigation and take action”, said the Bench.

Considering the scheme of the trust, the court noted that it does not permit such burial of gold and ceremonies in the name of Yantras. It observed that the object behind the Maharashtra Public Trust Act, 1950 was to prevent malpractices in the administration of such trusts. The Bench said, “The trustees may have personal beliefs but their personal beliefs cannot be used in the management of the trust. The person who is in the management cannot be allowed to spend or dispose of the property in the manner done in the present matter for achieving something which cannot be scientifically proved.”

Elaborating further on the role of the trustees, two of them who were judicial officers, the court said, “They are made members with expectation that the administration of the trust is done properly and no illegal activity is allowed. They are expected to see that the feelings of the devotees do not get hurt and at the same time, they are expected to see that the trust does not promote superstition as spreading superstition is itself an offence in Maharashtra.”

For the alleged activity of creation and burial of Yantras, the trust lost property of more than rupees one crore, under the garb of religious affairs. The court said, “For misappropriation of the property of the trust, the trustees used a circumstance that people generally do not interfere in religious affairs of the trust. If anybody objects to the activity, he is condemned by saying that he is hurting religious feelings. Due to the increase of such incidents, time has come to teach a lesson to such trustees. Such action will prevent activities like the present activity and will also help to check the superstition.”

The judgment concluded that the activities of the Jagdamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust certainly fell under the “prohibited acts” mentioned in the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act and the Maharashtra Public Trust Act.

The Bombay High Court directed the Police to register a case on the basis of ANIS’ complaint and investigate the same under Additional or Deputy Superintendent of Police within six months.

The judgment may be read here: 

 

Related:

AIMPLB objects to SC interference in religious matters

Ram ke Naam...

Why SC refuses to quash FIR’s against Amish Devgan for his 'Lootera Chishti' remark

Authorities to work with secular mind, adopt scientific approach in religion matters: Bombay HC

The court observed that action against a religious trust should not be viewed as an act against God

Bombay HC

In an important judgment, the Bombay High Court has held that the Police and Judicial authorities need to have a “secular mind” and “scientific approach” while dealing with cases related to religion. The Aurangabad Bench has also noted that the authorities should also avoid viewing statutory action against a religious trust as action against ‘God’.

A Division Bench of Justices TV. Nalawade and M.G Sewlikar were hearing a plea filed by one Namdev Garad, a former trustee of Jagdamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust who alleged misappropriation of assets committed by other trustees of the religious trust.

The petitioner further contended that although a judicial officer of the rank of District Judge acts as a Chairman of the trust, such illegal activities were done and the trustees also prepared false documents. Since 2011, the trustees have buried nearly two kilograms of gold and made an additional expenditure of rupees twenty-five lakhs for ceremonies in the name of Suvarna Yantras, he alleged.

Courts observations

The Bench expressed its concern over the allegations and that no action was taken, despite the presence of two judicial officers, in the capacity of a District Judge and a Civil Judge as ex-officio members of the trust. The Division Bench also strictly noted the police inaction in registering a complaint filed by Andhashradha Nirmulan Committee in the same regard.

Since the issue involved religion, the Bench examined the inquiry records of the Trust office, inquiry made by the police into the matter and deduced that the authorities showed no courage to take action against such a serious offence. The Bench delved deeper into the reasons and said,

“That might have happened due to general fear which may be in the minds of the persons like police officers or judicial officers who are of the rank of Civil Judge, Senior Division working in Charity Commissioner’s Office and they are avoiding to take steps against the trust committee which includes officers of the rank of District Judge. The general fear may be of different kinds like the possibility that they may invite trouble as the matter involves religious feelings and it can be viewed as an act against God.”

“In view of the Article 51-A of the Constitution of India, this Court holds that the authorities are expected to work with a secular mind in such cases and they need to adhere to the ‘truth’. The authority needs to have a scientific approach in such matters and they need to adhere to the provisions of law. With that approach they need to make inquiry and investigation and take action”, said the Bench.

Considering the scheme of the trust, the court noted that it does not permit such burial of gold and ceremonies in the name of Yantras. It observed that the object behind the Maharashtra Public Trust Act, 1950 was to prevent malpractices in the administration of such trusts. The Bench said, “The trustees may have personal beliefs but their personal beliefs cannot be used in the management of the trust. The person who is in the management cannot be allowed to spend or dispose of the property in the manner done in the present matter for achieving something which cannot be scientifically proved.”

Elaborating further on the role of the trustees, two of them who were judicial officers, the court said, “They are made members with expectation that the administration of the trust is done properly and no illegal activity is allowed. They are expected to see that the feelings of the devotees do not get hurt and at the same time, they are expected to see that the trust does not promote superstition as spreading superstition is itself an offence in Maharashtra.”

For the alleged activity of creation and burial of Yantras, the trust lost property of more than rupees one crore, under the garb of religious affairs. The court said, “For misappropriation of the property of the trust, the trustees used a circumstance that people generally do not interfere in religious affairs of the trust. If anybody objects to the activity, he is condemned by saying that he is hurting religious feelings. Due to the increase of such incidents, time has come to teach a lesson to such trustees. Such action will prevent activities like the present activity and will also help to check the superstition.”

The judgment concluded that the activities of the Jagdamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust certainly fell under the “prohibited acts” mentioned in the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act and the Maharashtra Public Trust Act.

The Bombay High Court directed the Police to register a case on the basis of ANIS’ complaint and investigate the same under Additional or Deputy Superintendent of Police within six months.

The judgment may be read here: 

 

Related:

AIMPLB objects to SC interference in religious matters

Ram ke Naam...

Why SC refuses to quash FIR’s against Amish Devgan for his 'Lootera Chishti' remark

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