HR&CE can’t run day-to-day affairs of mutt, says Madras HC

The functions were taken over by the department by framing a scheme after allegations were raised about alienation of the mutt’s properties by its 101st pontiff.
Madras High Court. (File photo)
Madras High Court. (File photo)

CHENNAI: Ruling against an order issued by the HR&CE department in 1960 to appoint a manager/executive officer to run the secular functions of Senghol Mutt in Thoothukudi, the Madras High Court has ordered the department to hand over the administration back to the mutt’s head within 12 weeks.

The functions were taken over by the department by framing a scheme after allegations were raised about alienation of the mutt’s properties by its 101st pontiff. A petition filed by the mutt’s 103rd head Srilasri Sivaprakasa Desika Sathiyagnana Pandara Sannidhi Swamigal to the commissioner of HR&CE seeking to restore the administration to the mutt was rejected in 2022. The mutt head later moved the HC against the order. 

Justice S Sounthar, while allowing a petition filed by the mutt’s 103rd head, said Section 65 of HR&CE Act, 1959, empowers the commissioner to constitute a body of persons to assist the administration but not appoint a manager/executive officer “to carry on day-to-day administration of the mutt.” The enabling Section 58 (2) (d) and 3 (b) of HR&CE Act, 1951, was struck down by the courts and later deleted in 1959 Act, the court pointed out. 

“When legislature, in its wisdom, had chosen to delete the provisions in the earlier Act, the commissioner is not entitled to make such appointment while framing the scheme. Therefore the commissioner’s order to continue with the administration of secular affairs of the mutt along with its head is without jurisdiction and clearly repugnant to provisions of the present Act,” the judge said.

While quashing the order of the commissioner passed on January 11, 2022, the judge directed him to take steps to hand over the affairs of the mutt to its 103rd head within 12 weeks. Senior advocate G Rajagopalan appeared for the petitioner. The Senghol Mutt traces its name to the customary practice of Pandya Kings receiving sceptre from the mutt heads during their coronation.

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