Court sacks 18 Saibaba temple trustees

Court sacks 18 Saibaba temple trustees

In a jolt to the ruling Democratic Front government in Maharashtra, the Bombay High Court Tuesday sacked the 18 members of the Shirdi-based Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust (SSST), a lawyer said.

The court's Aurangabad bench ordered the government to "appoint a new committee within 15 days, failing which, the collector and other officials would take over as administrators", lawyer R.N. Dhorde, representing the SSST, told IANS.

A division bench of Justice Naresh Patil and Justice T.V. Nalawade passed the order, sending shockwaves in the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party circles which control the prestigious SSST managing committee.

The court order came on a public suit filed by social activist Sandeep Kulkarni, who alleged that the SSST managing committee misappropriated funds worth Rs.2 billion.

The existing managing committee, which had a tenure of only three years, had been managing the SSST affairs for over seven years on an ad hoc basis since the government had failed to appoint a new committee, said an SSST official, preferring anonymity.

One of the richest religious trusts in the country with assets worth nearly Rs.20 billion, the SSST is the governing and administrative body of the world famous Shri Saibaba's samadhi temple and all others temples in the premises, and devotes itself towards development of Shirdi village and surroundings.

The official said that, on an average, the temples collected around Rs.12.50 million per day in offerings and donations.

The present SSST managing committee’s three-year tenure expired in 2007 but the state government failed to appoint a new committee, allowing the trustees to continue with annual extensions, Kulkarni said in his petition.

Veteran Congressman Jayant Sasane is the SSST chairman and NCP’s Shankarrao Kolhe is the vice chairman. Seven other Congress and six NCP leaders are also in the committee.

The court’s decision was welcomed with cheers, beating of drums and fire-crackers by people of Shirdi town in the afternoon.

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