Authorities Should Avoid Viewing Action Against Religious Trust As Against God; Need To Have Secular Mind, Scientific Approach : Bombay High Court

first_imgTop StoriesAuthorities Should Avoid Viewing Action Against Religious Trust As Against God; Need To Have Secular Mind, Scientific Approach : Bombay High Court Krimul Malhotra6 Feb 2021 8:59 PMShare This – xThe Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court noted that government authorities, including police officers and judicial officers should work with a ‘secular mind’ and avoid the general fear of inviting trouble in matters involving religious feelings. The Court added that authorities need to have a ‘scientific approach’ and should avoid viewing statutory action against a religious trust…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginThe Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court noted that government authorities, including police officers and judicial officers should work with a ‘secular mind’ and avoid the general fear of inviting trouble in matters involving religious feelings. The Court added that authorities need to have a ‘scientific approach’ and should avoid viewing statutory action against a religious trust as action against God.The court accordingly directed the police to register a crime for the offences of conspiracy, cheating, misappropriation, breach of trust and also those under the Black Magic Act, 2013 against the trustees of the Jagadamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust, Mohote Ahmednagar. The division bench, comprising Justice T.V. Nalawade and Justice M.G. Sewlikar, examined a petition filed by Shri. Namdev Garad, a former trustee of the Jagdamba Trust alleging the commission of ‘illegal acts’ by the trustees of the trust. The petitioner contended that since 2011, the trustees had buried 2. k.g. of gold and made an additional expenditure of Rs. 25 lakhs for ceremonies in the name of Suvarna Yantras. The petitioner highlighted the inaction of various authorities to take up the present matter. It was submitted that the acts were committed 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. To that effect, the Court stated, “It is surprising that even when District Judge was Member of the trust, he accepted all the proposals made by Shri. Shinde.” Further, the petitioner also brought the court’s attention to the inaction of the police in registering a complaint filed by Andhashradha Nirmulan Committee (ANIS), requesting an action in respect of the aforementioned illegal activites. In that regard, the court permitted the intervention of ANIS in the present matter and directed that the said complaint be treated as the base for starting the investigation. “The general fear may be of different kind like possibility that they may invite trouble as the matter involves religious feelings and it can be viewed as 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 secular mind in such case and they need to adhere to the ‘truth’. The authority needs to have scientific approach in such matters and they need to adhere to the provisions of law.” The Court observed that the scheme of the trust does not permit such burial of gold and ceremonies in the name of Yantras. It further noted that the object behind the Maharashtra Public Trust Act, 1950 was to prevent malpractices in the administration of such trusts. It also further stated that the acts of the trustees, in the nature of spreading stories about Yoginis and Tantras, fell foul of the Black Magic Act. “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.” The Court was further dismayed by the rampant increase in complaints received against mismanagement by such trustees. “If anybody objects to the activity, he is condemned by saying that he is hurting religious feelings. Due to increase of such incidents, time has come to teach lesson to such trustees. Such action will prevent activities like the present activity and will also help to check the superstition.” The Respondent relied upon precedents to seek protection under Article 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. However, the Court rejected such contentions stating that enactments such as the Maharashtra Public Trust Act and the Black Magic Act are in the nature of restrictions the law has chosen to impose. The Court strongly condemned the lack of action by the authorities, and deemed it imperative for authorities to work with a ‘secular mind’ and ‘adhere to the truth’. “The general fear may be of different kind like possibility that they may invite trouble as the matter involves religious feelings and it can be viewed as 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 secular mind in such case and they need to adhere to the ‘truth’. The authority needs to have scientific approach in such matters and they need to adhere to the provisions of law.” Therefore, the Court directed the registration of the crime, and ordered that the investigation be made by a police officer of the rank of Additional Superintendent of Police or Deputy Superintendent of Police. It also refused the relief for stay of the order claimed by the counsel for Respondents. 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