The Delhi High Court has ruled that womenfolk in the families of priests of the Kalkaji temple are entitled to get the share of the offerings collected during festivals.
Terming as "discriminatory" the practice that allows only male members of the priests' families to have the right over the offerings, Justice S Ravindra Bhat dismissed a civil suit filed by U N Bhardwaj, one of the priests, seeking an order restraining his three sisters from claiming share of the collection through 'Sewa Bari' (turn).
"It would be anachronistic and regressive to affirm the plaintiff's contention that the discriminatory practice of excluding female heirs from the benefits of property rights to which Baris are attached — which appears to have existed all this while — should be continued. Such is not the mandate of law; such is not the custom or practice of any denomination, as claimed," said the court.
Justice Bhat rejected the argument that from the time immemorial only male descendants of the family were entitled to the proceeds to bid for the Bari (turn) since they perform puja and other rituals in the temple, but the daughters were not entitled to get any share except R1 lakh, as fixed by the High Court in 2006, from the total collection of offerings.
According to Bhardwaj, his family's turn to perform 'puja sewa' falls once in every two years through bidding and the highest bidder (among the parties) gets the right to collect all the offerings.
The brothers have the right to claim share of the collections, he added.
The court dismissed the contention that the married daughters belong to different gotra and the right to perform 'puja sewa' is not transferable to women.