THE INDORE Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has held that priests who occupy land belonging to a temple cannot claim right of its ownership but they could be conferred right of its management.
The bench passed this interim order recently while admitting a second appeal on the question of law in connection with Shri Ram Mandir and Shri Jata Shankar Mandir situated at Khajrana.
“This court is of the view that since Shri Ram Mandir and Shri Jatashankar Mandir are the owners of suit land, therefore, it confers right of management in appellants and not the right of ownership,” Justice N K Mody said.
Appellants Gopal, son of Durga Shankar Nagar, Vaini Madhav and Khemraj sons of Chhotelal Nagar claimed their father had possession and title over 3.889 hectares of agricultural land surrounding the two temples in Khajrana and being the legal heir, they have an ownership right over it.
The question of law raised in the appeal was whether any title is derived by the fathers of three appellants in respect of land/temple and on their death in favour of their sons.
Another question raised was whether a land title could be traced in favour of Durga Shankar in absolute terms or it could only confer right of management of the land/temple in question.
Filing a suit for declaration and permanent injunction over the land, the appellants in their plea denied that temple land was a Government or public property and said that it was recorded in the name of Durga Shankar and Chhotelal in the revenue records of 1953-1954 as the property of `Devsthan’.
Contesting it, Indore district administration insisted that it was a temple property and the appellants were being given `Nemnuk’, which is remuneration for their services rendered as `pujaris’ (priests).
The administration had served a notice to appellants for encroaching the government land under Section 248 of MP land Revenue Code in October 2001 against which priests filed a civil suit in a lower court.
On hearing both parties, the trial court had decreed the suit in favour of temple priests against which district administration had appealed before the XIVth Additional District Judge who passed the order in its favour in March 2005. Challenging it, the three appellants filed a second appeal at the Indore High Court bench in July 2005.