In a major embarrassment to the Maharashtra government, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay high court on Tuesday dissolved the management committee of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan in Shirdi.
The division bench of justice NH Patil and justice TV Nala-wade said it was dismayed at the government’s failure to form a new committee after the three-year term of the present committee expired in August 2007.
The court has directed the state to constitute a new committee within 15 days, failing which an ad-hoc committee will take over the management of the temple.
The Sansthan’s annual income is around Rs540 crore, and the law allows the management committee to disburse 50% of its income for charitable purposes.
Following allegations of misappropriation of funds, financial irregularities and mismanagement, two residents of Shirdi, Rajendra Gondkar and Sandip Kulkarni, had approached the court questioning the authority of a committee whose term was over.
The committee includes heavyweights such as state agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, Congress leader Jayant Sasane and NCP leader Shankarrao Kolhe.
The petitioners’ counsel, SB Talekar, told the court that the 16 committee members were appoi-nted without any scrutiny of their antecedents or verification of the required qualifications, and that though disbursements were to be made under the supervision of a scrutiny committee headed by a retired high court judge, no such committee has been appointed in the past five years.