On 6th Sept 2021 Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the matter “The STATE OF MADHYA PRADESH & ORS. VERSUS PUJARI UTTHAN AVAM KALYAN SAMITI & ANR.” ruled that all temple property is owned by the deity as a legal person and the name of neither the District Collector nor the Pujari be put in the property ownership papers(Revenue records).

The highlights of the judgement are as follows:

  1. The land and other immovable property of a (public, not private)Temple belongs to the deity. Say we have a temple for Lord Krishna or Maa Lakshmi, the immovable property is owned by Lord Krishna or Maa Lakshmi i.e. the deity (and no one else).
  2. The main deity will be accepted as a Juristic person.
  3. The Govt. has no ownership on the immovable property of the Temple.
  4. The Priests or Servitors are not also the owners of the immovable property. They are mere managers and don’t have right to lease or sell Temple’s immovable properties.
  5. The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the judgement ordered that all the Temples’ land shall be entered in the name of the Deity in the state revenue records. Section 27 of the judgement says “In the ownership column, the name of the deity alone is required to be mentioned, as the deity being a juristic person is the owner of the land. The occupation of the land is also by the deity which is carried out by the servant or the managers on behalf of the deity.....Therefore, the name of the Pujari cannot be mandated to be recorded either in the column of ownership or occupancy but may be recorded in the remark’s column.

What will be the long term impact of such a judgement?

  1. I consider this as a (baby) step in freeing the temples from Govt. Control. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has denied property of the temple being owned by the Govt. Govt. will have no right whatsoever in Temple’s immovable properties.
  2. It is very common that the hereditary priests whose name is entered in to the revenue records have sold off temple’s land. As of to date, huge swathes of temples’ land has been sold off by many corrupt servitors. This Judgment will ensure that this kind of corruption doesn’t occur as Priests’/servitors’ name will be struck off from revenue records.
  3. With the ownership of the land registered in the name of the deity, the income from the land and other immovable property will be utilized in the benefit of the temple. We already see that many Hindu temples are in depleted conditions.

Hindu temples belong to the Hindu society. The earnings made should be given back to the society (after paying the salaries and doing maintenance of the temple etc.).

It should neither be taken by Govt for funding its fiscal deficit nor paying Imam’s salary in Madrassas, nor siphoned off by the corrupt servitors.

And a system like this should be put in place for management of all religious institutions.

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