Trust moves HC seeking demat accounts for Hindu deities

The Bombay High Court will decide on the issue after a religious trust filed a petition challenging the decision of National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) to refuse it permission for opening demat accounts in the names of five Hindu deities.

"When the Income Tax department has issued PAN cards to these five deities, why should not NSDL allow opening of demat accounts in their names," the trust asked in the petition, which is likely to come up for hearing later this week.

The deities of the Sangli-based trust "Ganpati Panchayatam Sansthan" are Lord Ganesh, Chintamaneshwardev, Chintamaneshwaridevi, Suryanarayandev and Laxminarayandev.
The trust, belonging to the Patwardhan family, the erstwhile royals of Sangli, had obtained PAN cards in the names of deities in 2008. Recently, the trust applied for opening demat accounts in the names of these deities through a private bank but the request was turned down by NSDL.

The trust contended in the petition that various high courts and the Supreme Court have given decisions in different cases allowing Hindu deities to acquire property.

The counsel for the trust Uday Varunjkar argued that shares, debentures and mutual funds can also be regarded as a property. The deities have a right to acquire property, including shares and debentures and this is in keeping with various judgements of high courts and the Supreme Court.

S Ganesh, a senior officer of NSDL, filed an affidavit saying only deities of registered public trusts can acquire property.

The Sangli-based trust was a private religious body, he said and contended that private trusts which were not registered under the Bombay Public Trusts Act could not acquire property in the name of religious deities.

The private trusts can own or acquire property, including shares and debentures, in the names of trustees but not in the name of god, the NSDL official submitted.

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