Cave shrine: SC notice to CS in contempt plea

Cave shrine: SC notice to CS in contempt plea

The Supreme Court on Monday served a notice on the Karnataka’s chief secretary and others on a plea by Syed Ghouse Mohiyuddin Shakhadri for contempt action for limiting his role to the religious rituals and withdrawing management and administration of cave shrine of Shri Guru Dattatreya Baba Budangiri Swamy dargah in Chikkamagaluru district.

A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph sought a response from Karnataka Chief Secretary T M Vijay Bhaskar and other top officers on a contempt petition filed by advocate Neela Gokahle on behalf of Shakhadri.

The court, however, exempted Bhaskar and others from personal appearance before it.

In his plea, Shakhadri contended despite the undertaking given to the top court, the state government had on June 11 issued an order “deviating substantially” from the assurance.

“The order dated 11.06.2018 (by state government) has restricted the jurisdiction of powers/duties of the petitioner herein only to religious rights and rituals, while the management and administration of the institution has been directed to be under the control of the department of Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments,” his application contended.

“This is a departure from the GO dated 19.03.2018, which had directed that the management and administration shall be taken over by the department of Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments, only if the Sajjada Nasheen was found to neglect his duties or misappropriate income and property of the institution or if he failed to maintain the administration,” it added.

The ‘dargah’ at Chikkamagaluru is visited and venerated by thousands of Hindus and Muslims alike but there have been demands for “liberation” of the shrine on the ground that it was a temple of Lord Dattatreya.

Earlier, the top court had in April, this year, closed the contempt proceedings after the then Chief Secretary tendered her unconditional apology for delay in resolving the dispute.

Shakhadri had then contended the state officers had failed to comply with the directions issued by the apex court on September 3, 2015 and March 27 and September 22, 2017.

A government order was then issued after having accepted a report of a high-level committee headed by chairman retired Karnataka HC judge Justice H N Nagamohan Das, which stated the shrine is declared not a wakf property but one under jurisdiction of ‘Muzrai’ department.

A ‘Muzwar’ appointed by Shakhadri, a hereditary post, would perform daily rites, including entering of ‘Garbhagudi’ and offering of flowers to the feet of ‘Datta Peetha’.

The government has rejected a 2010 report by the Commissioner for Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments, Bengaluru, which, among others, stated that ‘Hindu archak’ has to be appointed by the management committee for performing daily worship.