2009 (4) KHC 805
IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM
Justice P.R.Raman and Justice P.R.Ramachandra Menon
W.P.(C) No. 33220 of 2008
Advocates appearing for the Parties : K. Shrihari Rao; R. Lakshmi Narayan, V. Krishna Menon
J U D G M E N T
P.R. RAMAN, J:
The petitioner is the President of the Kerala Kshetra Samrakhshna Samithy, Thrissur District, the main object of which is to protect the Hindu temples and work for its development. The Writ Petition is filed based on a paper report in the Malayala Manorama daily dated 21.09.2008 from which the petitioner learnt that in principle, the Guruvayoor Devaswom has agreed to pay an amount of Rs. One crore to the Municipality for cleaning / sanitation of the Guruvayoor Municipality. Ext. P1 is the paper cutting showing the said new items. It was also reported that crores of pilgrims were coming to the Municipality and that the Devaswom is not taking any action in the matter of cleanliness/ sanitation. Yet another item of news appeared in the newspaper was that the first respondent had decided to give two times food to the Ayyappa devotees coming to Guruvaryoor and the Chairman has expressed the difficulties to serve food to the devotees in places other than Guruvayoor.Ext.P2 is the news item dated 18.10.2008. It is stated that by Ext. P2, the first respondent finally decided to serve food to the devotees in places other than Guruvayoor as well. Ext.P3 is the representation by the Kshetra Samrakshna Samithy and Ext. P4 is the resolution by the petitioner-Samithy against such move.
2. The prayer in the Writ Petition is to direct the respondents 1,2 and 4 not to divert any amount from the Devaswom Fund in the name of food feeding to the Ayyappa devotees in any other places than Guruvayoor. The second prayer is for a direction to desist them from granting any amount to the third respondent/Municipality in the name of expenses for sanitation .
3. A counter affidavit and a reply affidavit has been filed which forms part of the records. In the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents 1 and 2, they denied the allegations.
4. In paragraph No. 3 of the counter affidavit it is averred that Guruvayoor Devaswom Act and Guruvayoor Devaswom Employees Regulations only direct protection of good faith and well being of the temple and its devotees and the powers and responsibility are vested with the Guruvayoor Devaswom Managing Committee . It is contended that since many of the decisions are to be approved by the State Government, according to them, in the matter of formation of policies, an important role is being played by the 4th respondent. According to them, Guruvayoor Devaswom Managing Committee has not taken any decision to give a sum of Rs. One crore, as alleged and that there was no discussion in the Guruvayoor Devaswom Administration Committee to grant any amount to the Guruvaryoor Municipality.
5. Since the very Writ Petition is moved, based on the paper reports, it cannot be accepted by any Court as piece of evidence in the matter and in view of the counter affidavit, we find that no ground is substantiated for issuing any direction as prayed for in prayer No.2, hence the same is rejected.
5. As regards various other allegations that too based on paper report, it has been answered in the counter affidavit denying the same. But in the matter of conducting 'Annadanam' in places other than Guruvayoor temple, it is admitted that pursuant to the instructions received from the State Government, the Devaswom has decided to supply food to Ayyappa devotees at four places, viz., Erumeli, Nilakkal, Pandalam and Ambalappuzhaby utilising the money received though the particular Head of Account meant for the 'Annadanam' at other places. It is further s stated that the same is in accordance with the provisions of the Act. According to them, the funds received towards 'Annadanam' alone is being utilised for conducting 'Annadanam' in other places outside Guruvayoor An amount of Rs. 33,78,778/- was thus actually spent for the year in question. There is a further averment that number of offers were received from the devotees who are willing to meet the expenditure incurred for this noble cause of 'Annadanam' and by mobilizing the funds from them, it will be possible to meet the expenditure for conducting 'Annadanam' at Guruvayoor and other places during 2008-09. Therefore, the reliance placed on Exts.P5 to P10 are misplaced, it is contended.
6. As per the provisions of the Guruvayoor Devaswom Act, 1978, which was enacted for providing better management in supersession of the scheme then in existence. The Preamble of the Act shows that it is expedient to provide in the public interest and in the interest of the worshipers of the temple for a proper administration of the said Devaswom in accordance with the law .
7. Section 3 of the Act deals with 'Incorporation'., as per which the administration, control and management of the Devaswom shall be vested in a Committee constituted in the manner provided therein. Section 4 provides for 'Composition of Committee'. As per Section 6A, the Commissioner shall hold charge and exercise the powers and perform the functions of the Committee'. Section10(e) specifically provides that it shall be the duty of the Committee to ensure that the funds of the endowment of the Temple are spent according to the wishes so far as may be known of the donors.
8. It is therefore contended by the petitioners that the Committee is in the possession of a Trust and they have to ensure that the funds of the endowments of the Temple are spent only in accordance with the wishes of the donors . In so far as the 'Annadanam ' is concerned, a separate fund is collected for conducting 'Annadanam', the said money could not be diverted for conducting such 'Annadanam' elsewhere outside Guruvayoor in any manner. There is force in the said contention. The administration is in the possession of a Trust. The amount received should be spent as per the wishes of the donors.
9. According to the respondents, there was wide publication in the Website inviting the public to donate funds for conducting 'Annadanam' outside Guruvayoor, pursuant to which about Rs.8 lakhs was received. Admittedly more than Rs.33 lakhs was spent and the promise said to have been made to donate funds is not fully supported by adequate materials produced in the case. But respondents were given opportunity to collect amounts from them, who have offered, to prove their bonafides. As on today, more than Rs.34 lakhs has thus been collected/retrieved. Even though at the time of spending the amount, the entire amount was not received, since the balance amount has been received subsequently, we do not think at this stage, the matter requires further consideration in our hands.
10. Devaswom Committee is in the position of a Trust. They will have to exercise their function strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Act and they cannot spend money based on the instructions from the Government, as stated in the counter affidavit. No provision has been shown that in the matter of spending money, they are bound by any such instructions. Hence we direct that, hereafter, the amount shall be spent strictly in accordance with the provisions of the Act and the Committee shall be bound to ensure that the funds of the endowments of the temple are spent according to the wishes, so far as known, of the donors. Further spending amount in advance, in anticipation to recoup the same be avoided unless the promise is made in writing and shown to be legally binding on the promiser.
11. Even though the petitioner has filed an I.A. seeking for permission to produce certain documents to show that there are other circumstances or allegations of mismanagement, since there is no prayer or ground made out for considering those allegations in the present Writ Petition, we are not expressing any opinion on the merits of those allegations and they are left open.
The Writ Petition is disposed of as above.