N ADITHAYAN Vs. TRAVANCORE DEVASWOM BOARD
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
TRAVANCORE DEVASWOM BOARD
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(1.)An apparently sensitive issue has been brought to the High Court invoking Art.226 of the Constitution - whether appointment of a person who is not a Malayala Brahmin, as "Poojari" (Priest) of a temple, is opposed to the recognised usage followed. If so, whether the appointment is liable to be quashed, is the ancillary question.
(2.)The above questions are mooted by the petitioner who himself is a Malayala Brahmin by community. He claims to be a worshiper of "Kongorpilly Siva Temple" at Alangad Village in Ernakulam District (hereinafter referred to as "the Siva Temple"). Administration of the temple vests with Travancore Devaswom Board (for short "the Board') which is a statutory body created under the Travancore Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950 (for short 'the Act'). A large number of other temples are also being administered by the Board in exercise of the powers vested in it by the provisions of the Act. On 6-8-1993 one Shri. K. S. Rajesh (third respondent) who is an Ezhava by caste was appointed as 'Santhikaran' of Siva Temple in the vacancy of one Mohanan Poti. (Santhikaran is the same as Poojari whose main function is to perform rituals for worship in the sanctum sanctorum of a temple). On 8-10-1993 a letter was sent by the Assistant Commissioner of the Board to a subordinate officer at the locality informing him that third respondent should be accommodated in the vacancy existing in the Siva Temple for a poojari.
(3.)According to the petitioner, no person other than a Malayala Brahmin had conducted poojas in the Siva temple and that it has become a recognised usage. Hence it is asserted that no one other than a Malayala Brahmin can be appointed to the post of Santhikaran. This is because a non Brahmin is not expected to perform pooja rituals in the sanctum sanctorum of temple in Kerala as per the recognised usage, contended the petitioner. However, he confined his case to the Siva temple in question as his counsel did not press for application of the usage to other temples in Kerala. Petitioner quoted S.24 and 31 of the Act for basing 'his contention that it was the duty of the Board to have followed the aforesaid usage prevalent in the Hindu community. Petitioner further contended that his fundamental right as enshrined in Art.25 and 26 of the Constitution is in danger if he is unable to offer worship in his own temple conducted in accordance with the recognised practice and if third respondent is to conduct the prayers it would offend his religious faith. Petitioner, therefore, prays that the appointment may be quashed.
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