BENGALURU: In a major development, the Karnataka High Court on Friday put an end to a decade-old dispute by quashing an order passed by the then B S Yeddyurappa-led BJP government handing over control of the Sri Mahabaleshwara temple at Gokarna in Uttara Kannada district to the Sri Ramachandrapura Mutt in Hosanagara taluk of Shivamogga district.
While the JD(S) and Congress had termed the handover as votebank politics and unwarranted, the BJP government had justified it saying that the temple had been under the control of one individual for five decades and had seen no development.
However, the move had opened a Pandora’s box with others also staking claim to manage temples. The Mysore royal family had made a request to the government to hand over maintenance of 36 temples, including the Chamundeshwari temple atop Chamundi Hills, which were part of the erstwhile Mysore maharaja’s kingdom. The Thontadarya Peetha of Gadag too had sought control over the famous Siddalingeshwara temple and mutt premises at Yediyur in Tumakuru district. The Kaginele centre in Haveri district was also sought by a Kuruba community mutt.
While quashing the government’s order dated August 12, 2008, a division bench of Justices B V Nagarathna and Aravind Kumar ordered that the temple continue to be listed among the notified temples under the Muzrai Department. The court also ordered constitution of an oversight committee headed by the Deputy Commissioner to look after the temple affairs.
However, it said that the arrangement of constituting the committee will come into effect from September 10. The bench was hearing a batch of pleas including Sri Samsthana Mahabaleshwara Devaru, trust of Karwar, and others challenging the validity of the government order.
■ Aug 12, 2008: B S Yeddyurappa govt decides to hand over Gokarna temple to Sri Ramachan-drapura mutt for administration
■ Aug 14, 2008: Ramachandra-pura mutt takes over the temple
■ Sept 2008: Balachandra Dixit, one of the trustees, files a writ petition in High Court
■ Oct 2016: Siddaramaiah government proposes appointing an administrator to the temple, but it was opposed by many communities
■ Nov 2016: Gokarna temple gets ISO 9001:2008 certification
The court observed that the government did not have the power or competence to exclude or delete Gokarna temple from the list, notified as an institution on April 30, 2003. Hence, it could not have issued the order on the assumption that the temple was attached to Mutt. The order is illegal and tainted , the court said.
After the arguments of both sides, the counsel for the respondent Mutt sought a stay on the judgment, but court did not consider it. In response to the request of the petitioners, the court directed the Deputy Commissioner of Uttara Kannada district to prepare an inventory of movable and immovable assets and also of bank accounts of the temple.
Meanwhile, the Oversight Committee headed by the Uttara Kannada Deputy Commissioner will oversee the affairs of Gokarna Temple.
The members are SP of the district, Assistant Commissioner of Kumta sub-division, two eminent persons/scholars, to be nominated by the government and Upadivantas of Gokarna temple, to be nominated by the DC.
This apart, the court also appointed Justice B N Srikrishna, former Supreme Court judge, to advise the committee.
Cong welcomes HC order
KPCC president Dinesh Gundu Rao welcomed the HC verdict quashing
B S Yeddyurappa government’s order to handover Gokarna temple to Sri Ramachandrapura mutt in 2008. Rao said the government must take steps to implement the court order.
Tradition to continue: Mutt
“We are yet to receive the order copy from court. Sri Mutt will continue its tradition of offering puja, and administration of Gokarna Temple,” Sandesh Talakalakoppa, media joint secretary to Seer Raghaveshwara Bharathi, told TNIE.