Campaign launched to prevent denotification of Udupi temple

Hereditary trustees want custody of cash-rich Janardhana temple

Campaign launched to prevent denotification of Udupi temple

 A signature campaign has begun in Udupi to pressure the government not to denotify the cash-rich historical Janardhana and Mahakali temple of Ambalpady from the list of muzrai temples. The hereditary trustees want the temple denotified.

Petitions for denotification from the muzrai list have been filed for three other temples in Udupi. They are the Ananthashayana temple dedicated to Anantha Padmanabha, Karkala; Mahalingeshwara temple, Surala, and Vishnumurthy temple, Majur, Kapu.

Subsequently, the Rajya Dharmika Parishat, which functions under the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department, has invited objections/suggestions from the public regarding the petitions.

Those who are carrying out the signature campaign want the government to retain the Janardhana temple, which is popularly known as the Ambalpady temple, as a public property. The revenue of this nearly 700-year-old muzrai temple is around Rs 6 crore a year. This is the second richest temple in terms of revenue after the Mookambika temple of Kollur in the district.

The Parishat’s notification seeking public opinion was issued by the deputy commissioner’s office on January 18 and the last date for receiving petitions from the public is February 28.

The city civil judge of Udupi in April, 2014 had ruled that the Ambalpady temple is a public temple. The hereditary trustees, the Ballals, had moved court seeking custody of the temple. But the government’s decision was upheld by the court. Later, the petitioners moved the high court where the case is still pending.

During the BJP regime, the government constituted the Rajya Dharmika Parishat headed by the muzrai minister. It has a two-member tribunal to which all Hindu temple-related legal matters are referred to. The Parishat has been formed by amending the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997. According to Section 68 of the Act, no civil court is allowed to deal with temple matters.

The tribunal has two members on it – the endowment commissioner and retired district judge Mahipal Desai.

Based on this amended law, the hereditary trustees have moved the Parishat’s tribunal seeking custody of the temple. With the issue being now reopened, the locals have begun the protest through a signature campaign.

Advocate Bhaskar Shetty, who is one of the signatories, said that Nagajyoti of the Udupi court had not given relief to the petitioner. “With temples coming under the purview of the Parishat, the demand is renewed. The matter is also pending before the high court. We will continue to resist the takeover of the temple as it is a public-funded one. There is good support for our campaign,” Shetty said.

Desai said, “Decisions taken by district courts regarding temples now can be challenged before the tribunal. Around 300 petitions seeking denotification of various temples are pending before the tribunal,” he added.  

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