The Bombay High Court had an unusual decision to make on Friday: Can the gods hold demat accounts?
That was the essence of a case filed by the Shree Ganpat Panchaytan Sansthan Trust, a private trust formed by the
erstwhile rulers of the Sangli princely state that registered its holdings in the names of its five deities — Ganesha, Chintama-neshwar, Chintamaneshwari Devi, Suryanarayan and Laxminarayan.
This is possible under the law and many trusts register their properties in the names of deities, believing it to be auspicious.
In March 2008, the trust approached Karur Vaishya Bank’s Borivli branch for opening savings and demat accounts in the deities’ names. The savings accounts were opened, but the National Securities Depository Ltd (NSDL) on April 29, 2008, refused to open the demat accounts.
NSDL said the applicants were “artificial persons” in whose names demat accounts can’t be opened.
The trust challenged NSDL’s decision in the high court.
Its counsel, Anil Anturkar, said the law treats deities at par with legal entities. Anturkar said the deities were “entitled” to own properties, were assessable under the Income-Tax Act and even PAN cards were issued in their names.
He added that there was no legal restriction on deities holding demat accounts.
NSDL’s lawyer, Janak Dwarkadas, countered that it would be difficult to initiate action against the account holders if any default or irregularity was committed.
Ultimately, the court ruled against the trust.
“Gods and goddesses are meant to be worshipped in temples, not dragged into commercial activities like share trading,” observed the division bench comprising Justice P.B. Majmudar and Justice R.M. Sawant.
“Since individual skill and day-to-day monitoring is required for operating such accounts, they cannot be opened in the names of artificial entities like gods.”