Libertatem Magazine

Supreme Court Rules That ‘Overseeing Committee’ Shall Look After All Affairs of ‘Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple’

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Case: Ramachnadrapura Math Vs. Sri Samsthana Mahabaleshwara Devaru & Ors.


The Petitioners being aggrieved by the order passed by the High Court of Karnataka came before the Supreme Court. The issue raised was with regard to the status of ‘Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple’. 

Facts of the Case

A notification was issued under Section 23 of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997. The ‘Gokarna Mahabaleshwar Temple’ was also included in the list of the said notification. The Petitioners being aggrieved by such notification made a representation seeking that the temple is deleted from the list of the notification. The Petitioners claimed that the temple should be removed from the notification as it was attached to their ‘Mutt’ and was therefore not covered by the Act in view of Section 1(4) of the Act,1997. The Government then ordered the deletion of ‘Shri Mahabaleshwara Temple’ from the list of notified temples. The temple was then assailed in the public interest by the devotees and representatives of the former trustees by filing Writ Petition in the High Court of Karnataka. The High Court then on consideration quashed the previous order of the Government, the result of which was that the temple in question remained to be notified under the Act, 1997. It was held that a determination was required to be made as to whether the temple belonged to the ‘Mutt’ by a competent Civil Court since disputed questions of fact cannot be decided in a Writ Petition. The Division Bench constituted the Committee termed as “Overseeing Committee”. The petitioner ‘Mutt’ would, therefore, on the apprehension of getting divested of the right to administer the temple and aggrieved by the impugned order in the High Court moved before the Supreme Court. 

Arguments placed before Court

Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, learned counsel appearing on the behalf of the Petitioners, claimed that the temple should be removed from the notification as it was attached to their ‘Mutt’ and was therefore not covered by the Act in view of Section 1(4) of the Act,1997. He further stated that Adi Shankaracharya who established the ‘Mutt’ at Gokarna ordered his disciples to look after the affairs of the ‘Mutt’ and the Gokarna Temple. 

Shri. S.S.Nagananda, learned counsel appearing for the Respondents argued that the Petitioners taking benefit of the interim extension of the limited interim order granted by the High Court will continue to be in charge of the temple. They further contested the position of ‘Mutt’ and referred to the consideration made by the High Court to hold otherwise. 

Court’s Observations

The main question arising was whether the factual aspect relating to the status of the temple has been established in accordance with the requirement under law to establish the factual position. The Court thus observed that there is not sufficient evidence regarding the ‘Mutt’ of the Petitioners. 

Court’s Judgement

The Court concluded that the Overseeing Committee shall function under the Chairmanship of Hon’ble Justice Sri. B.N Srikrishna, Former Judge, Supreme court of India and manages the affairs of the temple in all respects. Further, the Appellant shall hand over charge of the affairs of the temple to the Assistant Commissioner who shall also act as Secretary to the ‘Overseeing Committee’.

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