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Tuesday, February 29, 2000


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State assures new team to manage Pandharpur temple
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA


MUMBAI, FEB 28: Maharashtra Government today assured the Mumbai High Court that it would constitute a new committee superceding the earlier one to manage the affairs of Vithal Rukmani temple at Pandharpur, which had come into disrepute following allegations of corruption and malpractices.

The assurance was given by Additional Advocate General P Janardhan before Justice D G Deshpande who heard a civil application moved by Pandharpur Varkari Sena in an appeal filed by Badve and Utpat families of priests who challenged constitutional validity of Pandharpur Temple Act which took away their hereditary rights over management of the shrine.

The appeal arose out of a suit filed by Sena before a civil court in Solapur challenging the act's validity.

The suit was disposed of following which an appeal was preferred before a district court which too dismissed it. The aggrieved families of priests then moved the high court by filing a second appeal.

On the second appeal, the high court delivered certain interim orders for appointment of a committee comprising one member from Badve and Utpat families each. Besides, the court had allowed the then temple committee to continue with the management of the shrine under the overall supervision of the district collector who was appointed as the administrator.

Hearing a civil application moved by the Sena in the second appeal, the court today allowed the committee, set up on March 11, 1997, to move for vacating its earlier interim order appointing collector as administrator of the shrine.

The application urged for appointment of a committee under Section 2(1) of Pandharpur Temples Act albeit the term of existing committee had not expired.

Counsel for the existing committee, Bal Apte, submitted that the civil application was not maintainable in the second appeal because they were not parties in this matter. He also informed the court that a public interest litigation filed by Pandharpur Varkari Sena was earlier dismissed by high court which allowed the Sena liberty to move a civil application.

He urged that the act provided for the machinery to control the functioning of temple committee. It also provided for the control by the Charity Commissioner. Hence this civil application was not maintainable because the petitioner could also move the charity commissioner for redressal of its grievance.

Meanwhile, Shripatrao Bhonsle, a journalist, filed an application seeking to intervene in the matter as he was a devotee of the temple and had come across corrupt practices.

He said the committee had invited tenders through newspapers for printing temple stationery. He had staked his claim and was promised that the contract would be awarded to him if he paid 20 per cent as commission to him. Besides he claimed to be aware of several corrupt practices prevailing in the management of the shrine.

He further alleged that the existing committee and the families of Badve and Utpat families of the priests were hand in glove with each other in these alleged corrupt practices.

The court has adjourned the matter to March 13 next for considering the application for intervention.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

   

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