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Deity sole owner of land attached to temple, not priest: Supreme Court

Making an important remark regarding the property of temples, the Supreme Court on Monday said that the priest of the temple cannot be considered as the owner of the land and the deity is the owner of the land attached to the temple (Bhumiswami). A bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice AS Bopanna said that the priest can only do land-related work for the purpose of managing the temple property.

"Only the name of the deity should be written in the ownership column, as the deity being a juristic person, is the owner of the land. The land is occupied by the deity only, whose works are done by the servants or managers on behalf of the deity. Hence, there is no need to mention the name of the manager or the priest in the ownership column," the apex court said.

The Bench observed that the law, in this case, is clear that the priest is not a Kashtkar Mourushi (tenant in cultivation) or a government lessee or an ordinary tenant of Maufi land (land exempted from payment of revenue), but the land is assigned to him by the Aukaf Department (belonging to the Devasthan) for the purpose of management only.

Along with this, the Supreme Court said, "The priest is only a guarantee to manage the property of the deity and if the priest fails to do his work, such as praying and managing the land, then it can also be changed. Is. Thus he cannot be considered as the owner of the land."

The court was hearing the state government's petition against an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. In this order, the court had quashed two circulars issued by the state government under MP Law Revenue Code-1959. These circulars ordered the removal of the name of the priest from the revenue record, so that the priest could not sell the temple properties illegally.

Source : DNA India