The Supreme Court on Monday observed that presiding deity of the temple is the owner of the land attached to the temple while the Pujari is only to perform puja and to maintain the properties of the deity.
The Court was hearing a Special Leave Petition filed by the State of Madhya Pradesh challenging an order of Madhya Pradesh High Court which quashed the two circulars issued by the State Government to delete the names of Pujari from revenue record pertaining to temple properties.
The bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice AS Bopanna relied upon earlier judgments including ‘Ayodhya’ judgment and held that even if temple was being managed by the Pujari, his name is required to be mentioned as Pujari along with name of deity. We do not find any mandate in any of the judgments to hold that the name of Pujari or manager is required to be mentioned in the revenue record.
The bench further said, “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 manager or that of the priest is not required to be mentioned in the column of occupier as well. In Ghanshyamdas II, it was held that if the name of the Pujari is recorded in the column No. 12 i.e. column of remarks, it will not affect the rights of the Pujari so long as he is performing his functions properly and cultivating the land or getting the land cultivated through servants. 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.”
The Apex Court also clarified that the name of the Collector as manager cannot be recorded in respect of property vested in the deity as the Collector cannot be a manager of all temples unless it is a temple vested with the State.