Devaswom Managing Commit. & Anr Vs. C.K. Rajan & Others  Insc 375
(14 August 2003)
S.B. Sinha & G.P. Mathur.
With C.A. Nos. 2149/1994, 2150/1994, & 2151/1994 S.B.
and ambit of a Public Interest Litigation in the matter of management of a
temple governed by the provisions of a statutory enactment is the primal
question involved in these appeals.
Sree Krishna Temple, Guruvayur draws millions of people
all over the country. This ancient temple of unique importance is worshipped
and held in great reverence by lakhs of devotees. The temple owns extensive
movable and immovable properties and endowments. It has its own heritages and
State of Kerala having regard to importance of the said temple with a view to
make suitable provision for the proper administration of the Guruvayoor Devaswom
enacted the Guruvayoor Devaswom Act, 1978 (Act 14 of 1978) (for short 'the
Act'). The management of the temple is carried out in terms of the provisions
of the said Act.
PROVISIONS OF THE STATUTE:
of the relevant provisions of the said Act inter alia are:
Dissolution and supersession of Committee:
in the opinion of the Government, the Committee is not competent to perform or
makes default in performing the duties imposed on it under this Act or abuses
or exceeds its powers; the Government may after such inquiry as may be
necessary, by notification in the Gazette, supersede the Committee for such
period, not exceeding six months, as the Government may deem fit.
Before issuing a notification under sub- section (1) the Government shall
communicate to the Committee the grounds on which they propose to do so, fix a
reasonable time for the Committee to show cause against the proposal and
consider its explanations and objections, if any.
member of the Committee may, within a period of one month from the date of
publication of the notification under sub-section (1), institute a suit in the
court to set aside the notification.
Where the Committee is superseded under this section the Commissioner shall
exercise the powers and perform the functions of the Committee until the expiry
of the period of supersession.
that the period during which the Committee remains superseded shall not have
the effect of extending the maximum term of office of a member nominated under
clause (d) or clause (e) of sub-section (1) of section 4 beyond a period of two
Powers and duties of Administrator:
The Administrator shall be the secretary to the Committee and its chief
executive officer and shall, subject to the control of the Committee, have
powers to carry out its decisions in accordance with the provisions of this
The Administrator shall arrange for the proper collection of offerings made in
The Administrator shall have power to incur expenditure not exceeding five
thousand rupees to meet unforeseen contingencies during the interval between
two meetings of the Committee.
Administrator may, as soon as may be after the commencement of this Act,
prepare and submit to the Committee a schedule setting forth the duties,
designations and grades of the officers and employees who may in his opinion
constitute the establishment of the Temple and embodying his proposals with
regard to the salaries and allowances payable to them.
Committee shall forward the schedule submitted to it under sub-section (1) with
its recommendations thereon to the Commissioner for approval.
Commissioner shall, after considering the recommendations of the Committee,
approve such schedule either without modification or with such modifications as
he deems necessary, and there upon such schedule as approved by the
Commissioner shall come into force.
change shall be effected in the schedule except with the approval of the
Subject to such exceptions as the Committee may by general or special order
direct, the officers and employees of the Devaswom in the service of the Devaswom
immediately before the commencement of this Act shall continue as such, and the
conditions of their service shall be such as may be prescribed by regulations
made under this Act.
person who does not profess the Hindu Religion or believe in Temple worship shall be disqualified for
being appointed as, or for being, an officer or employee of the Devaswom.
Accounts and Audit:
Committee shall keep regular accounts of all receipts and disbursements.
accounts of the Devaswom shall be subject to concurrent audit, that is to say,
the audit shall take place as and when expenditure is incurred.
audit shall be made by auditors appointed in the prescribed manner, who shall
be deemed to be public servants within the meaning of section 21 of the Indian
Penal Code (Central Act 45 of 1860).
Authority to whom audit report is to be submitted:
completing the audit for any year or shorter period or for any transactions as
he deems fit, the auditor shall send a report to the Commissioner.
Power of Government to call for records and pass orders:
Government may call for and examine the record of the Commissioner or of the
Committee in respect of any proceeding, not being a proceeding in respect of
which a suit or application to the court is provided by this Act, to satisfy
themselves that the provisions of this Act have not been violated or the
interests of the Devaswom have been safeguarded and if, in any case, it appears
to the Government that any decision or order passed in such proceeding has
violated the provisions of this Act or is not in the interest of the Devaswom,
they may modify, annual or reverse such decision or order or remit such
decision or order for reconsideration:
that the Government shall not pass any order prejudicial to any party unless he
has had a reasonable opportunity of making his representations.
Government may stay the execution of any such decision or order pending the
exercise of their powers under sub- section (1) in respect thereof.
Removal of difficulties:
difficulty arises in giving effect to the provisions of this Act, the
Government may, as occasion may require, by order do anything not inconsistent
with this Act or the rules made thereunder, which appears to them necessary for
the purpose of removing the difficulty.
Government may, by notification in the Gazette, make rules to carry out the
purposes of this Act.
particular, and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing power,
such rules may provide for –
publication of the administration report under section 13;
custody of the records and properties of the Devaswom;
payment of contributions towards the leave allowances, pension and provident
fund of the Administrator;
other matter which is required to be, or may be, prescribed under this Act.
Every rule made under this Act shall be laid as soon as may be after it is made
before the Legislative Assembly while it is in session for a total period of
fourteen days which may be comprised in one session or in two successive
sessions, and if, before the expiry of the session in which it is so laid or
the session immediately following, the Legislative Assembly makes any modification
in the rule or decides that the rule should not be made, the rule shall
thereafter have effect only in such modified form or be of no effect, as the
case may be so however that any such modification or annulment shall be without
prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under that rule."
The State of Kerala in exercise of its power conferred
under Section 38 of the Act made rules known as The Guruvayoor Devaswom Rules,
1980 (for short 'the Rules'). Rule 10 of the Rules provides for publication of
Administration Report and is in the following terms:
Committee to submit Administration Report:
Committee shall prepare and submit to the Commissioner, a report on the
administration of the affairs of the Devaswom relating to each calendar year
within three months of the completion of the year.
Commissioner shall forward such report with his comments to Government within
30 days of its receipt by him.
Administration report shall among other things contain details about,
working of the Act,
income and expenditure,
amenities provided to the worshippers,
features or incidents during the year,
working of subordinate temples and other institutions under the management of
the Devaswom and
other matters of public interest.
report shall be published on the notice board of the Devaswom and in the Kerala
Abstract of the report shall be published at least in one Malayalam daily
having wide circulation in the area." The statutory provisions contained
in the said Act and the rules framed thereunder are of wide amplitude as would
appear from the following:
Section 5C read with section 5(3)(c) of the Act read with section 5(4) permits
the State Government to initiate proceedings against, and remove, any member of
the Managing Committee if they are satisfied that he has been guilty of
corruption or misconduct in the administration of the temple;
Section 6 permits the State Government to dissolve and supersede the Managing
Committee as a whole for incompetence or default in performing its duties
imposed on it under Section 10 of the Act after giving it an opportunity to
Section 13 read with rule 10 permits the monitoring of the Managing Committees
functioning by requiring it to submit and public a report on the administration
of the affairs of the temple;
Section 23 read with rule 17 provides for the Committee keeping regular
accounts of receipts and disbursements and concurrence audit of those accounts,
i.e., an audit that takes as and when an expenditure is incurred, by auditors
appointed in the prescribed manner;
Section 25 provides that the auditor shall specify in its report all cases of
irregular, illegal or improper expenditure or failure to recover money or
rather properties to the Devaswom or loss or waste of money or other property
thereof, caused by neglect or misconduct;
Section 26(2) permits the Commissioner appointed under Section 2(b) of the Act
to pass an order of surcharge against the Managing Committee or any officer or
employee if he is satisfied that they are guilty of misappropriation or willful
waste or of gross neglect resulting in loss to the temple after giving them an
opportunity to show cause why an order of surcharge should not be passed; and
Under Section 33, the State Government in turn is empowered to call for and
modify, annul or reverse decision of the Commissioner or of the Managing
Committee after calling for and examining the record if the government is
satisfied that the decision has violated the provisions of the Act or is not in
the interest of the temple after giving a reasonable opportunity to any party
that may be prejudiced by such order.
OF THE PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION:
C.K. Rajan addressed a letter dated 3.2.1993 to one of the Hon'ble Judges of
the High Court of Kerala and thereby bringing to his notice purported serious irregularities,
corrupt practices, mal- administration and mismanagement prevailing in the
temple. He was called by the High Court and its Registrar recorded his
statement on 11.2.1993. The said letter was treated as an original petition
under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The High Court in its order
dated 12.2.1993 highlighted 23 aspects of the matter which had been brought to
its notice and appointed one Shri S. Krishnan Unni, District Judge Officiating
as the Director of Training, High Court of Kerala as the Commissioner to make a
general enquiry and in particular make a study on the various aspects
highlighted in the said complaint.
Commissioner pursuant to the order of the High Court seized all the records of
the temple, examined 85 witnesses and submitted as many as 15 interim reports
on 15.2.1993, 10.3.1993, 30.3.1993, 3.4.1993, 16.4.1993, 12.5.1993, 9.6.1993,
26.6.1993, 20.7.1993, 21.7.1993, 4.8.1993, 11.8.1993, 13.8.1993, 2.9.1993,
2.9.1993. It submitted its final report on 25.9.1993.
order passed by the High Court on 12.2.1993 was the subject matter of a Special
Leave Petition before this Court being SLP (Civil).../93 CC 20040 wherein this
Court suggested in its order dated 26.3.1993 the following guidelines for
consideration of the Court:
is not disputed that the management of the Guruvayur temple is governed by the Guruvayur
Devaswom Act, 1978. There may be other State legislations governing the
functioning of religious institution in the State. The High Court shall take
into consideration the relevant provisions of these enactments.
The Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Committee and the State of Kerala are necessary parties in this
public interest litigation. The High Court shall take into consideration the
objections including of preliminary nature raised/ to be raised by these
appointment, tenure of office and other conditions of service of the
Administrator and other officers connected with the Guruvayur, as are provided
by law shall be kept in view while passing any orders concerning these
High Court is requested to conclude the proceedings expeditiously and if
possible, within six months from today." Another Special Leave Petition
was filed praying for an order restraining the Enquiry Commissioner from
submitting his final report being SLP (Civil) NO. 3231/93 but the same was
dismissed vide this Court's order dated 10.5.1993 observing:
counsel for the petitioner urged and vehemently pleaded for restraining the
Enquiry Commissioner from submitting his final report as in that case the High
Court may not decide the preliminary objection raised on their behalf that
there being a detailed procedure provided in the Statute, the High Court should
not have exercised its extraordinary jurisdiction. We do not find any
justification for such apprehension.
result, this petition fails and is dismissed." Pursuant to or in
furtherance of the observations made by this Court, an application was filed
for determining the maintainability of the matter as a preliminary issue.
However, in the meantime, the Commissioner had submitted 10 interims reports,
examined a number of persons and a large number of persons were also impleaded
as parties in the writ petition.
V.R. Reddy appearing for the State of Kerala allegedly conceded that the plea
regarding want of jurisdiction raised did not merit consideration at that stage
and the same had become infructuous.
Bench noticed that the reports contained various observations and recommendations
as regard the interim reports. Some statements were filed in respect of some of
the reports by some of the respondents only. Correctness or otherwise of
various reports and suggestions made therein were, however, not questioned.
third respondent had filed the following statements to the following interim
the interim reports Date of the statement 3 5.4.1993 4 17.10.1993 6 17.10.1993
7 17.10.1993 8 17.10.1993 9 17.10.1993 10 17.10.1993 11 17.10.1993 12
17.10.1993 13 17.10.1993 14 18.9.1993 15 17.10.1993 The first respondent -
State of Kerala had filed the following statements in relation to the following
interim reports :
Statement filed by the Commissioner and Secretary (Finance) dated 15.10.1993
Statement filed by the Government Pleader dated 2.12.1993
Preliminary objections dated 29.5.1993" As noticed hereinbefore, the
Commissioner filed his final report on 25.9.1993.
State of Kerala prayed for time for filing objections to the Commissioner's
final report and was granted time thrice but it ultimately failed to respond
affidavit by way of an objection to the said reports was filed by any party.
During hearing of the matter, the Chairman, The Guruvayur Devaswom Managing
Committee (for short 'the Committee'), and the State agreed with many of the
recommendations made by the Commissioner. Appellant herein also substantially
agreed with various recommendations of the Commissioner.
Court specifically asked for objections to the recommendations of the Commissioner.
The fifth respondent - M.P. Gopalakrishnan and the third respondent - Chairman
of the Committee filed objections but at the argument stage only a few of the
matters stated in the statements were highlighted or pressed.
considerations of the various matters the High Court in its impugned judgment
arrived at its findings on the recommendations of the Commission, the summary
whereof has been stated in para 64 thereof.
High Court lamented:
temple and the idol of Guruvayur is the very Brahman itself, so easily
obtained, which can, in the ordinary course, be obtained only after undergoing
all trials and tribulations.
is the greatness of this Lord of Guruvayur (Sree Krishna), the temple sought by
millions all over and about which every Hindu holds a candle, but alas! Its
administration has sunk to low levels, to be ashamed of; we hope and pray that
this litigation will give a turning point for the improvement and better
administration of the Devaswom." SUBMISSIONS:
K.K. Venugopal and Mr. V.R. Reddy, the learned senior counsels appearing on
behalf of the appellant and the State of Kerala respectively, at the outset
invited our attention to the orders of this Court dated 26.3.1993 passed in SLP
(C) No..../93 CC 20040, and orders dated 26.4.1993 as well as 10.5.1993 passed
in SLP (C) No. 3231/93 and submitted that keeping in view of the fact that this
Court was approached at least on three different occasions wherein the
jurisdiction of the Court to initiate a public interest litigation was
questioned, the High Court committed a manifest error in not deciding the same
as a preliminary issue.
learned counsels further drew our attention to the order passed in CMP No.
10669 of 1993 requesting the High Court to consider the maintainability as a
preliminary issue. It was submitted that a wrong statement has further been
recorded in the said order to the effect that the Managing Committee has
unanimously resolved welcoming the enquiry and they would not take steps
assailing the same.
High Court was further wrongly opined that the said CMP has become infructuous
having regard to the fact that 10 interim reports have been submitted by the
Enquiry Commissioner and the work of the Commissioner was practically nearing
would urge that the High Court misdirected itself in not only entertaining the
letter of the Fifth Respondent as a public interest litigation but also by
appointing a commissioner and directing seizure of all the documents resulting
in serious adverse publicity against the appellant-committee, purported to be
relying on or on the basis of the statement of Respondent No.1 that some of the
allegations made by him would be borne out from the records maintained by the
our attention to the provisions of Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952 and the Kerala
Public Men's Corruption (Investigations and Inquiries) Act, 1987 (Act 24 of
1988), the learned counsel would submit that for all intent and purport the
High Court exercised its jurisdiction in terms thereof and, thus, assumed a
jurisdiction which it did not have. A full-fledged enquiry akin to the
provisions of the 1952 Act and Kerala Public Men's Corruption (Investigations
and Inquiries) Act, 1987 is unknown in a public interest litigation and in this
behalf our attention has been drawn to the appointment of amicus as also the
appointment of lawyers for the Commissioner.
learned counsel, in particular, drew our attention to the order dated 17th
February, 1993 passed in O.P. No. 2071 of 1993 and submitted that a perusal
thereof would show that the High Court even directed the Director of Public
Relations for wide publication of these matters and invited complaints and
suggestions from the public in general.
reason of the said order, the High Court also appointed M/s. Menon & Menon,
Chartered Accountants, Ernakulam as auditors. The Enquiry Commissioner was
given accommodation at the High Court as also at Guruvayur. The Registrar of
the High Court was directed to depute appropriate and necessary staff to the
Enquiry Commissioner. Even a police officer was appointed to assist the Enquiry
Commissioner in the field work.
High Court also, the learned counsel would submit, must be held to have
committed a manifest error in taking over the administration of the temple for
all intent and purport; even by going to the extent of directing that the
Administrator would not be transferred.
would urge that the said Act contains provisions for effective management of
the temple and the purported assumption of jurisdiction by the High Court must
be held to be bad in law. Further contention of the learned counsel was that
the Commissioner examined 85 witnesses but their names and particulars,
although asked for, were not supplied nor were they allowed to be
cross-examined. It was pointed out that the names of the witnesses and the
documents which were marked as Exhibits were indicated only in the Final Report
and despite the fact that no opportunity was given to the affected parties to
cross- examine the witnesses, strictures were passed against them relying on or
on the basis of their unsworn testimony.
learned counsel would urge that the High Court acted illegally and without
jurisdiction in passing the impugned directions purported to be acting as a parens
patriae inasmuch as the statutory acts governed the field. There is no reason,
the learned counsel would contend, to by-pass the provisions of the Act as also
the Code of Civil Procedure.
learned counsel would argue that a roving enquiry is not contemplated in a
public interest litigation.
would further submit that when the management of a temple is governed by a
statutory enactment wherein power has been conferred upon the Government to
look into the grievances and pass an appropriate orders thereupon, the High
Court must be held to have exceeded its jurisdiction in issuing the impugned
directions inasmuch as before embarking thereupon it was obligatory on its part
to ask the Government to remedy the defects. It is not a case, the learned
counsel would contend, where the complainant belonged to a weaker section or
was not in a position to take recourse of the said Act or initiate a proceeding
in terms of Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Mr. Venugopal would
contend that indisputably the High Court has inherent powers but such inherent
powers cannot be exercised in defiance of law. Once such a power is exercised
by an organ of the State, the same would be against the rule of law.
Reddy appearing on behalf of the State of Kerala drew our attention to the
affidavit filed by the State and submitted that the High Court misunderstood
his submissions to the effect that he had not pressed the High Court to decide
the maintainability of the petitioner as a preliminary issue. According to the
learned counsel, as by the time the order of this Court dated 12.2.1993 was
communicated; 10 interim reports had been submitted, a submission was made only
to the effect that the merit of those reports may be directed to be considered
by the State. The learned counsel would contend that the very fact that the
parties agitated the question of jurisdiction second time before this Court is
a clear pointer to show that the question as regards jurisdiction of the High
Court to entertain such application was not given up.
Rao, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent No. 5, on the
other hand, would submit that there are precedents wherein enquiries were
directed to be made through a Commission for finding out the correctness or
otherwise of the allegations made in a writ petition. It was submitted that
even provisions of the Commission of Enquiry Act was resorted to for the
purpose of enquiry as regard management of temples. Reference in this State of Rajasthan and Others [1964 (1) SCR 561] and
Sri Sri Sri SCC 705].
Rao would argue that devotees who are mostly conservatives would expect that
the management of the temple is carried out strictly in terms of the heritage
and tradition of the temple and tenets and practices relating to offering of puja
and matters ancillary thereto and connected therewith should scrupulously be
followed. Any deviation or departure from the established practices and tenets
would hurt the sentiments of the devotees and as such they would be entitled to
bring the same to the notice of the High Court which is conferred with the
jurisdiction to investigate into the matter not only in exercise of its power
under Article 226 of the Constitution but also in terms of various statutes as
also under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Referring to the decision of this
Court in Bandhua Mukthi Morcha submit that therein this Court has laid down the
procedure for making enquiry into the allegations or causing the same to be
made for the purpose of gathering necessary facts so as to grant appropriate reliefs
to the needy and poor. Mr. Subba Rao would urge that the High Court has merely
followed the procedure laid down by this Court in Bandhua Mukti Morcha (supra)
and, thus, the question of giving an opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses
or their particulars be disclosed does not arise. Only when a report is
submitted, the concerned parties were entitled to file affidavits thereagainst.
But in this case, even no such affidavit has been filed.
Rao has drawn our pointed attention to the following orders:
Order dated 25.8.1993 of the High Court in C.M.P. No. 10669 of 1993 filed by Guruvayur
Devasom Managing Committee;
Judgment dated 10.1.1994 (iii) Order dated 25th August, 1993 in C.M.P. No. 10699/93 in O.P. No.
2071 of 1993.
learned counsel would submit, in view of the aforesaid it does not lie in the
mouth of any of the learned counsels to contend that the High Court had no
jurisdiction to initiate the proceedings.
in this connection has also been placed on State of Mr. Subba Rao would further
urge that only because a floodgate of litigation would be opened if a public
interest litigation is entertained, the same itself cannot be a ground for
holding that public interest litigation should be entertained. Our attention in
this Unisys Ltd. [(2001) 2 All ER 801].
Rao would urge that the High Court is a parens patriae in relation to the
devotees is neither in doubt nor in dispute.
Thomas & Others [(1976) 1 SCR 906 at 951] and Charan Lal Sahu etc.
of the High Court and this Court under Articles 226 and 32 of the Constitution
of India remain untrammeled despite existence of statutory provisions
controlling the power of executive and, thus, it was argued that the High Court
and this Court cannot be stripped of its constitutional powers to look into the
omissions and commissions on the part of the administrators of the temple. A
proceeding initiated as a public interest litigation would lie before the High
Court or this Court, according to Mr. Subba Rao, when it is found that despite
existence of statutory provisions the State or the other statutory
functionaries were not taking recourse to the provisions thereof for remedying
the grievances of the devotees. In any event, as a Hindu temple is a juristic
person the very fact that Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure seeks to
protect the same, for the self-same purpose Articles 226 and 32 could also be
taken recourse to. Our attention in Income-Tax, Calcutta [(1969) 1 SCC 555] and Manohar Ganesh Tambekar
OF PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION:
Courts exercising their power of judicial review found to its dismay that the
poorest of the poor, depraved, the illiterate, the urban and rural unorganized labour
sector, women, children, handicapped by 'ignorance, indigence and illiteracy'
and other down trodden have either no access to justice or had been denied
justice. A new branch of proceedings known as 'Social Interest Litigation' or
'Public Interest Litigation' was evolved with a view to render complete justice
to the aforementioned classes of persons. It expanded its wings in course of
time. The Courts in pro bono publico granted relief to the inmates of the
prisons, provided legal aid, directed speedy trial, maintenance of human
dignity and covered several other areas.
actions, pro bono publico and test litigations were entertained in keeping with
the current accent on justice to the common man and a necessary disincentive to
those who wish to by pass the real issues on the merits by suspect reliance on
peripheral procedural Faizullabhai & Others (1976) 3 SCR 591).
Court in pro bono publico proceedings intervened when there had been callous
neglect as a policy of State, a lack of probity in public life, abuse of power
in control and destruction of environment.
also protected the inmates of persons and homes. It sought to restrain
exploitation of labour practices.
court expanded the meaning of life and liberty as envisaged in Article 21 of
the Constitution of India. It jealously enforced Article 23 of the
Constitution. Statutes were interpreted with human rights angle in view.
Statutes were interpreted in the light of international treatises, protocols
and conventions. Justice was made available having regard to the concept of
human right even in cases where the State was not otherwise apparently liable.
(See Kapila The people of India have
turned to courts more and more for justice whenever there had been a legitimate
grievance against the State's statutory authorities and other public
organizations. People come to courts as the final resort, to protect their
rights and to secure probity in public life.
bono publico constituted a significant state in the present day judicial
system. They, however, provided the dockets with much greater responsibility
for rendering the concept of justice available to the disadvantaged sections of
the society. Public interest litigation has come to stay and its necessity
cannot be overemphasized.
courts evolved a jurisprudence of compassion. Procedural propriety was to move
over giving place to substantive concerns of the deprivation of rights. The
rule of locus standi was diluted. The Court in place of disinterested and dispassionate
adjudicator became active participant in the dispensation of justice.
with the passage of time, things started taking different shapes. The process
was sometimes abused. Proceedings were initiated in the name of public interest
litigation for ventilating private disputes. Some petitions were publicity
balance was, therefore, required to be struck. The Courts started exercising
greater care and caution in the matter of exercise of jurisdiction of public
insisted on furnishing of security before granting injunction and imposing very
heavy costs when a petition was found to be bogus. It took strict action when
it was found that the motive to file a public interest litigation was oblique.
decisions rendered by this Court in different types of public interest
litigations are varied.
principles evolved by this Court in this behalf may be suitably summarized as under
The Court in exercise of powers under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Constitution
of India can entertain a petition filed by any interested person in the welfare
of the people who is in a disadvantaged position and, thus, not in a position
to knock the doors of the Court.
Court is constitutionally bound to protect the fundamental rights of such
disadvantaged people so as to direct the State to fulfill its constitutional
Issues of public importance, enforcement of fundamental rights of large number
of public vis-à-vis the constitutional duties and functions of the State, if
raised, the Court treat a letter or a telegram as a public interest litigation
upon relaxing procedural laws Central Jail, Tihar, New Delhi (1978) 4 SCC 104
and Hussainara Khatoon
Whenever injustice is meted out to a large number of people, the Court will not
hesitate in stepping in. Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India as
well as the International Conventions on Human Rights provide for reasonable
and fair trial.
AIR 1979 SC 468, it was held:
Assurance of a fair trial is the first imperative of the dispensation of
justice and the central criterion for the court to consider when a motion for
transfer is made is not the hypersensitivity or relative convenience of a party
or easy availability of legal services or like mini-grievances. Something more
substantial, more compelling, more imperiling, from the point of view of public
justice and its attendant, environment, is necessitous if the Court is to
exercise its power of transfer.
is the cardinal principle although the circumstances may be myriad and vary
from case to case. We have to test the petitioner's grounds on this touch-stone
bearing in mind the rule that normally the complainant has the right to choose
any court having jurisdiction and the accused cannot dictate where the case
against him should be tried. Even so, the process of justice should not harass
the parties and from that angle the court may weigh the circumstances." Agarwal
and Ors. 2003 (5) SCALE 138).
common rule of locus standi is relaxed so as to enable the Court to look into
the grievances complained on behalf of the poor, depraved, illiterate and the
disabled who cannot vindicate the legal wrong or legal injury caused to them
for any violation of any constitutional or legal right. (See Fertilizer
Corporation Kamagar and Others [(2002) 2 SCC 333]).
When the Court is prima facie satisfied about variation of any constitutional
right of a group of people belonging to the disadvantaged category, it may not
allow the State or the Government from raising the question as to the
maintainability of the petition. (See Bandhua Mukti Morcha (supra)).
Although procedural laws apply on PIL cases but the question as to whether the
principles of res judicata or principles analogous thereto would apply depend
on the nature of the petition as also facts and circumstances of the case. (See
Rural Litigation and others (1986) 1 SCC 100).
The dispute between two warring groups purely in the realm of private law would
not be allowed to be agitated as a public interest and Others 1989 Supp (1) SCC
in an appropriate case, although the petitioner might have moved a Court in his
private interest and for redressal of the personal grievances, the Court in
furtherance of the public interest may treat it necessary to enquire into the
state of affairs of the subject of litigation in the interest of justice. (See Shivajirao
The Court in special situations may appoint Commission, or other bodies for the
purpose of investigating into the allegations and finding out facts. It may
also direct management of a public institution taken over by such committee.
(See Bandhua Mukti Morcha Others [(1987) 2 SCC 295], this Court held:
It is only when courts are apprised of gross violation of fundamental rights by
a group or a class action on when basic human rights are invaded or when there
are complaints of such acts as shock the judicial conscience that the courts,
especially this Court, should leave aside procedural shackles and hear such
petitions and extend its jurisdiction under all available provisions for
remedying the hardships and miseries of the needy, the underdog and the
neglected. I will be second to none in extending help when such is required.
this does mean that the doors of this Court are always open for anyone to walk
in. It is necessary to have some self-imposed restraint on public interest
litigants." this Court opined :
It is thus clear that only a person acting bona fide and having sufficient
interest in the proceeding of PIL will along have a locus standi and can
approach the court to wipe out the tears of the poor and needy, suffering from
violation of their fundamental rights, but not a person for personal gain or
private profit or political motive or any oblique consideration. Similarly, a
vexatious petition under the colour of PIL brought before the court for
vindicating any personal grievance, deserves rejection at the threshold."
The Court will not ordinarily transgress into a policy. It shall also take
utmost care not to transgress its jurisdiction while purporting to protect the
rights of the people from being violated.
664], it was held:
It is now well settled that the courts, in the exercise of their jurisdiction,
will not transgress into the field of policy decision.
to have an infrastructural project or not and what is the type of project to be
undertaken and how it has to be executed, are part of policy-making process and
the courts are ill-equipped to adjudicate on a policy decision so undertaken.
The court, no doubt, has a duty to see that in the undertaking of a decision,
no law is violated and people's fundamental rights are not transgressed upon
except to the extent permissible under the Constitution. Even then any
challenge to such a policy decision must be before the execution of the project
is undertaken. Any delay in the execution of the project means overrun in costs
and the decision to undertake a project, if challenged after its execution has
commenced, should be thrown out at the very threshold on the ground of latches
if the petitioner had the knowledge of such a decision and could have
approached the court at that time. Just because a petition is termed as a PIL
does not mean that ordinary principles applicable to litigation will not apply.
Latches is one of them.
While protecting the rights of the people from being violated in any manner
utmost care has to be taken that the court does not transgress its
jurisdiction. There is, in our constitutional framework a fairly clear
demarcation of powers. The court has come down heavily whenever the executive
has sought to impinge upon the court's jurisdiction."
The Court would ordinarily not step out of the known areas of judicial review.
The High Courts although may pass an order for doing complete justice to the
parties, it does not have a power akin to Article 142 of the Constitution of
Ordinarily the High Court should not entertain a writ petition by way of Public
Interest Litigation questioning constitutionality or validity of a Statute or a
The scope of Article 142 was considered in several decisions and recently in
Supreme Court 409 by which the decision of this Court in Vinay Chandra Mishra,
Re (1995) 2 SCC 584 was partly overruled, it was held that the plenary powers
of this Court under Article 142 of the Constitution are inherent in the Court
and are "COMPLEMENTARY" to those powers which are specifically
conferred on the Court by various statutes. This power exists as a separate and
independent basis of jurisdiction apart from the statutes. The Court further
observed that though the powers conferred on the Court by Article 142 are
curative in nature, they cannot be construed as powers which authorise the
Court to ignore the substantive rights of a litigant. The Court further
observed that this power cannot be used to "supplant" substantive law
applicable to the case or cause under consideration of the Court. Article 142,
even with the width of its amplitude, cannot be used to build a new edifice
where none existed earlier, by ignoring express statutory provisions dealing
with a subject and thereby achieve something indirectly which cannot be
achieved directly." 4 SCC 409) This Court in Balco Employees' Union (Regd.) (supra) succinctly opined:
interest litigation, or PIL as it is more commonly known, entered the Indian
judicial process in 1970. It will not be incorrect to say that it is primarily
the Judges who have innovated this type of litigation as there was a dire need
for it. At that stage, it was intended to vindicate public interest where
fundamental and other rights of the people who were poor, ignorant or in
socially or economically disadvantageous position and were unable to seek legal
redress were required to be espoused. PIL was not meant to be adversarial in
nature and was to be a cooperative and collaborative effort of the parties and
the court so as to secure justice for the poor and the weaker sections of the
community who were not in a position to protect their own interests. Public
interest litigation was intended to mean nothing more than what words
themselves said viz. "litigation in the interest of the public".
PIL initially was invoked mostly in cases connected with the relief to the
people and the weaker sections of the society and in areas where there was
violation of human rights under Article 21, but with the passage of time,
petitions have been entertained in other spheres. Prof. S. B. Sathe has summarised
the extent of the jurisdiction which has now been exercised in the following words
may, therefore, be described as satisfying one or more of the following
parameters. These are not exclusive but merely descriptive :
Where the concerns underlying a petition are not individualist but are shared
widely by a large number of people (bonded labour, undertrial prisoners, prison
Where the affected persons belong to the disadvantaged sections of society
(women, children, bonded labour, unorganised labour etc.).
Where judicial law making is necessary to avoid exploitation (inter-country
adoption, the education of the children of the prostitutes).
Where judicial intervention is necessary for the protection of the sanctity of
democratic institutions (independence of the judiciary, existence of grievances
Where administrative decisions related to development are harmful to the
environment and jeopardize people's right to natural resources such as air or
water." There is, in recent years, a feeling which is not without any
foundation that public interest litigation is now tending to become publicity
interest litigation or private interest litigation and has a tendency to be
not a pill or a panacea for all wrongs.
essentially meant to protect basic human rights of the weak and the
disadvantaged and was a procedure which was innovated where a public-spirited
person files a petition in effect on behalf of such persons who on account of
poverty, helplessness or economic and social disabilities could not approach
the court for relief. There, have been, in recent times, increasingly instances
of abuse of PIL.
there is a need to re-emphasize the parameters within which PIL can be resorted
to by a petitioner and entertained by the court.
aspect has come up for consideration before this Court and all we need to do is
to recapitulate and re-emphasize the same." We do not intend to say that
the dicta of this Court in Balco Employees Union (supra) contains the last
words. But the same may be considered to be in the nature of guidelines for
entertaining public interest litigation.
on administrative side of this Court, certain guidelines have been issued to be
followed for entertaining Letters/ Petitions received by this Court as Public
not intend to lay down any strict rule as to the scope and extent of Public
Interest Litigation, as each case has to be judged on its own merits.
Furthermore, different problems may have to be dealt with differently.
case at hand does not fall in any of the aforementioned categories, where a PIL
could be entertained.
reported decision has also been brought to our notice where a Public Interest
Litigation was entertained in similar matter.
have also not come across any case so far where the functions required to be
performed by statutory functionaries had been rendered redundant by a Court by
issuing directions upon usurpation of statutory power. The right of a person
belonging to a particular religious denominations may sometimes fall foul of
Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. Only whence the fundamental
right of a person is infringed by the State an action in relation thereto may
be justified. Any right other than the fundamental rights contained in Articles
25 and 26 of the Constitution of India may either flow from a statute or from
the customary laws. Indisputably a devotee will have a cause of action to
initiate an action before the High Court when his right under statutory law is
violated. He may also have a cause of action by reason of action or inaction on
the part of the State or a statutory authority; an appropriate order is
required to be passed or a direction is required to be issued by the High
Court. In some cases, a person may feel aggrieved in his individual capacity,
but the public at large may not.
trite, where a segment of public is not interested in the cause, public
interest litigation would not ordinarily be entertained.
possible to contend that the Hindus in general and the devotees visiting the
temple in particular are interested in proper management of the temple at the
hands of the statutory functionaries.
may be so but the Act is a self-contained Code. Duties and functions are
prescribed in the Act and the rules framed thereunder.
have been created thereunder for ventilation of the grievances of the affected
persons. Ordinarily, therefore, such forums should be moved at the first
instance. The State should be asked to look into the grievances of the
aggrieved devotees, both as parens patriae as also in discharge of its
8 SCC 143], it has been held:
It is not in dispute in this case that after the management sent its letter
dated 6-8- 1992 for the approval of its 31 staff, viz., both teaching and
non-teaching staff, both the District Inspector of Schools and the Secretary of
the Board sought for certain information through their letters dated 21-9-1992.
Instead of sending any reply, the management filed the writ petition in the
High Court, leading to passing of the impugned orders. Thus, till this date the
appellant-authorities have not yet exercised their discretion. Submission for
the respondents was that this Court itself should examine and decide the
question in issue based on the material on record to set at rest the
long-standing issue. We have no hesitation to decline such a suggestion. The
courts can either direct the statutory authorities, where it is not exercising
its discretion, by mandamus to exercise its discretion, or when exercised, to
see whether it has been validly exercised. It would be inappropriate for the
Court to substitute itself for the statutory authorities to decide the matter.
Supplied) Existence of certain gray areas may not be ruled out but such a case
was required to be made out before the High Court which has not been done in
the instant case. For any court of law including this Court, it is difficult to
draw a strict line of demarcation as to which matters and to what extent a
public interest litigation should be entertained but, as noticed hereinbefore,
the decisions of this Court render broad guidelines. This Court and the High
Court should, unless there exists strong reasons to deviate or depart therefrom,
not undertake an unnecessary journey through the public interest litigation
High Court should not have proceeded simply to supplant, ignore or by-pass the
statute. The High Court has not shown any strong and cogent reasons for an
Administrator to continue in an office even after expiry of his tenure. It
appears from the orders dated 7th February, 1993 that the High Court without cogent and sufficient reason allowed
Administrator to continue in office although his term was over and he was
posted elsewhere. He also could not have been conferred powers wider than
Section 17 of the Act. The High Court took over the power of appointment of the
Commissioner bypassing the procedure set out in the Act by calling upon the
Government to furnish the names of 5 IAS Officers to the Court so that it could
exercise the power of appointment of the Commissioner.
Court should be circumspect in entertaining such public interest litigation for
another reason. There may be dispute amongst the devotees as to what practices
should be followed by the temple authorities. There may be dispute as regard
the rites and rituals to be performed in the temple or omission thereof. Any
decision in favour of one sector of the people may heart the sentiments of the
other. The Courts normally, thus, at the first instance would not enter into
such disputed arena, particularly, when by reason thereof the fundamental right
of a group of devotees under Articles 25 and 26 may be infringed.
any other wing of the State, the Courts also while passing an order should
ensure that the fundamental rights of a group of citizens under Articles 25 and
26 are not infringed. Such care and caution on the part of the High Court would
be a welcome step.
access to justice poses a fundamental problem facing the third world today, its
importance in India has increased. Laws are designed to
improve the socio-economic conditions of the poor but making the law is not
enough, it must be implemented. The core issues which have been highlighted by
the learned counsels by the party must be considered from that angle.
Administration of temple by entertaining complaints does not lead to a happy
state of affairs.
enquiry is not contemplated. Principles of natural justice and fair play ought
to be followed even in the pro bono public proceedings.
Courts undoubtedly would be parens patriae in relation to idols, but when the
statute governs the field and the State takes over the management, ordinarily
the Courts would not step in.
Lal Sahu (supra) the history of the doctrine of parens patriae was traced. This
Therefore, conceptually and from the jurisprudential point of view, especially
in the background of the Preamble to the Constitution of India and the mandate
of the Directive Principles, it was possible to authorise the Central
Government to take over the claims of the victims to fight against the
multinational corporation in respect of the claims. Because of the situation
the victims were under disability in pursuing their claims in the circumstances
of the situation fully and properly. On its plain terms the State has taken
over the exclusive right to represent and act in place of every person who has
made or is entitled to make a claim for all purposes connected with such claim
in the same manner and to the same effect as such person. Whether such
provision is valid or not in the background of the requirement of the
Constitution and the Code of Civil Procedure, is another debate. But there is
no prohibition or inhibition, in our opinion, conceptually or jurisprudentially
for the Indian State taking over the claims of the victims or for the State
acting for the victims as the Act has sought to provide. The actual meaning of
what the Act has provided and the validity thereof, however, will have to be
examined in the light of the specific submissions advanced in this case."
Mr. Subba Rao referred to N.M. Thomas (supra) for the proposition that court is
also a 'State' within the meaning of Article 12 but that would not mean that in
a given case the court shall assume the role of the Executive Government of the
State. Statutory functions are assigned to the State by the Legislature and not
by the Court. The Courts while exercising its jurisdiction ordinarily must
remind itself about the doctrine of separation of powers which, however,
although does not mean that the Court shall not step-in in any circumstance
whatsoever but the Court while exercising its power must also remind itself
about the rule of self-restraint. The Courts, as indicated hereinbefore,
ordinarily is reluctant to assume the functions of the statutory functionaries.
It allows them to perform their duties at the first instance.
court steps in by Mandamus when the State fails to perform its duty. It shall
also step in when the discretion is exercised but the same has not been done
legally and validly. It steps in by way of a judicial review over the orders
passed. Existence of alternative remedy albeit is no bar to exercise
jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India but ordinarily it
will not do so unless it is found that an order has been passed wholly without
jurisdiction or contradictory to the constitutional or statutory provisions or
where an order has been passed without complying with the principles of natural
Mumbai and Others (1998) 8 SCC 1).
trite that only because floodgates of cases will be opened, by itself may not
be no ground to close the doors of courts of justice.
doors of the courts must be kept open but the Court cannot shut its eyes to the
ground realities while entertaining a public interest litigation.
of self-restraint, thus, should be adhered to, subject of course to, just
Court in this case adopted an unusual procedure. It directed seizure of the
records only on the premise that the writ petitioner contended that the
allegations can be verified with reference to the records.
in view of decision of this Court in Bandhua Mukthi Morcha (supra) the Court
may appoint a Commissioner or amicus for finding out the truth but what has
been overlooked by the High Court was that it could take recourse thereto when
truth cannot be found out otherwise. It should have at the outset called upon
the State as also the Managing Committee to express their view points. Reliance
placed by Mr. Subba Rao on Bandhua Mukthi Morcha (supra) is not apposite as
therein the purpose was to activate the statutory machinery for protecting the basic
fundamental right of any person under Article 21 and 23 of the Constitution of
India. If the allegations are verifiable on records, the courts could have
itself examined the same. Before doing so, it must give an opportunity to the
parties to explain things.
because the Court arrives at prima facie finding that "all is not
well", the same would not necessarily mean that it must appoint a
Commissioner and thereby purporting to exercise jurisdiction akin to the
provisions of the Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952 or Kerala Public Men's
Corruption (Investigations and Inquiries) Act, 1987. The power under the said
statute is to be exercised by the State if an exigency of situation arises therefor.
expression "public men" has been defined in Kerala Public Men's
Corruption (Investigations and Inquiries) Act, 1987. The said definition
includes the Chairman and members of the Appellant Management Committee. Their
alleged acts of omission or commission could, therefore, be a subject matter of
inquiry under the said Act.
High Court further assumed the jurisdiction akin to the Commission of Enquiry
Act by appointing a Commissioner to engage in a wide range inquiry into the
affairs of an institution. Such a course of action was also uncalled for in
absence of any allegation that the persons in charge of the documents would
destroy or tamper with the evidence. No reason was assigned by the High Court
as to why such an extreme step was necessary. No emergent situation has been
pointed out by the Fifth Respondent to act in such a hurry.
very fact that our attention has been drawn that the State in a given situation
can take recourse to the Commission of Enquiry Act, 1952 for the purpose of
enquiring into the alleged irregularities in the matter of management of temple
is itself a pointer to the fact that the State may take recourse thereto if
such a course of action may be found to be necessary by the State itself.
this connection, it may be noticed:
Under Section 3 of the Commission of Enquiry Act, where the appropriate
government is of the opinion that it is necessary so to do and resolutions are
passed by the concerned legislatures, it may appoint a Commission of Inquiry
for the purpose of making inquiry into any definite matter of public importance.
Under Section 3(4), the report of the Commission, along with the action taken
report of the Government, is laid before the concerned legislature.
Under Section 4, the powers of the Commission include summoning and examining a
witness, requiring production of any document, requisitioning any public record
and the like. Under Section 5, the Commission may authorise a Gazetted Officer
to enter any place or building and seize documents, which in the opinion of the
Commission would be useful for the purposes of the enquiry.
Under Sections 5A and 5B, the Commission may utilize the services of officers,
investigation agencies or assessors for the purposes of the inquiry.
Under Sections 8B and 8C, the Commission provides an opportunity of hearing to
all persons who may be prejudicially affected by the inquiry, including the
opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses.
the administration of the temple is within its control and it exercises the
said power in terms of a Statute, the State, it is expected, normally would itself
probe into the alleged irregularities.
State through its machinery as provided for in one Act can arrive at the
requisite finding of fact for the purpose of remedying the defects, it may not
find it necessary to take recourse to the remedies provided for in another
statute. It is trite that recourse to a provision to another statute may be
resorted to when the State finds that its powers under the Act governing the
field is inadequate. The High Courts and the Supreme Court would not ordinarily
issue a writ of mandamus directing the State to carry out its statutory
functions in a particular manner. Normally, the Courts would ask the State to
perform its statutory functions, if necessary within a time frame and
undoubtedly as and when an order is passed by the State in exercise of its
power under the Statute, it will examine the correctness or legality thereof by
way of judicial review.
these principles in mind, we do not also think that the High Court rightly
exercised its jurisdiction in appointing a police officer to help the
Commissioner, asking the State not to transfer the administrator against whom
allegedly there were serious allegations or whose term was over or appoint a
administrator from the panel of names furnished by the State. The question has
been raised as to whether having regard to the fact that Sree Krishna temple
can be visited by any devotee who has a right to worship Lord Vishnu can enjoy
any denominational right to manage temple. We may, however, notice that U.P.
(1997) 4 SCC 606 at 633, held:
Hindu....has a right of entry into the Hindu temple and worship the deity.
the Hindu believers of Shaiva form of worship are not denominational
part of the Hindu religious form of worship.. They are not entitled to the
protection, in particular, of clauses (b) and (d) of Article 26 as a religious
denomination in the matter of management, administration and the governance of
the temples." Others (1997) 5 SCC 303 at 304).
not intend to say anything further, as at present advised.
further do not intend to enter into the controversy as to whether the complaint
of the first respondent was actuated by any person's ill-will or bias towards the
Reddy submitted a status report on the action which has already been taken or
yet to be taken or not possible to be taken which is reproduced below:
Para 65 of the judgment of the High
Court Action taken/ reply U
Vigilance enquiry to be ordered against Shri Rajan, former Member of the
Managing Committee to find out whether he is holding income disproportionate to
enquiry was conducted and the allegation was not substantiated in the enquiry.
"Production of film Guruvayoor Mahathmyam" Action to be taken to levy
is underway to make use of the prints of the film and to recover the loss, if
any, from the persons responsible after ascertaining the actual loss.
Follow up action regarding Ooottupura and Western Gopuram Devaswom has taken
action (iv) Works at Vengad estate, Loss of 142 bags of cement Devaswom has
Obtaining 4 Kgs of Gold lying with the Reserve Bank of India.
gold has been received back by the Devaswom as Gold lockets of "Guruvayoorappan"
V Part-I, Chapter 3 of final report
in the nomination of the members of Guruvayoor Devaswom Managing Committee
should be avoided.
issue is pending before the Supreme Court of India in another Civil Appeal No.
6675/99. At present persons who are not members of any political party alone
are appointed as members of the Committee.
Remedial measures in the 'Devaprasanam' to be performed. Devaswom is taking
action in consultation with the 'Thanthri'.
Part-1 Chapter 4 of final report
Method for quality checking of goods Devaswom has already taken action
Special arrangements for Darshan to sick, handicapped, disabled, etc. Devaswom
is doing this regularly.
Rules to be framed for free accommodation in the Guest Houses This has been
framed by the Devaswom.
I Chapter 8 of the Final report Recommendations regarding movable &
immovable properties Devaswom has implemented this.
Recommendation regarding management of finance.
has been implemented. A senior officer from the Accountant General's Office has
been appointed as Chief Finance & Accounts Officer on deputation basis and
two Assistant Audit Officers from the Accountant General's Office have also
been on deputation basis.
the funds in Guruvayoor Branches of the Banks This has been implemented.
there have been practical difficulties due to lack of competitive demands for
regarding the performance of Devaswom Commissioner Government consider the
observation as totally unfortunate and not justifiable. The Commissioner who is
the Secretary to Government was holding additional charge of the Commissioner.
The Commissioner was in fact discharging his duties to the satisfaction of the
Government and taking steps to strengthen the Devaswom administration. The Hon'ble
High Court did not appreciate these facts while commending on his performance.
Construction of Sree Padmam building Explanation of the Devaswom obtained and
remedial action taken.
(4) Appointment of District Judge as Law Officer cum disciplinary authority
Government are not agreeable with this recommendation/ direction. As per the Guruvayoor
Devaswom Act and the Regulations there-under, Guruvayoor Devaswom Managing Committee
is the appointing and disciplinary authority in respect of the employees of the
Devaswom. Government do not consider it necessary to have a District Judge as
disciplinary authority. As far as Law Officer is concerned, there is a team of
Lawyers to attend the legal matters of the Devaswom. In view of these facts,
Government do not consider it necessary to post a District Judge as suggested
by the Hon'ble High Court.
Functioning of the Devaswom Commissioner and the Government While commenting on
the statutory powers of the Commissioner, the Court has adversely commented on
the performance of the Commissioners, past and present. It is submitted that
the specific comments of the High Court against the Commissioner are totally
unfortunate and not justified. The Commissioner who is a Secretary to
Government was holding the additional charge of the Commissioner. The
Commissioner was in fact discharging his duty to the satisfaction of the
Government and had taken all steps to rejuvenate and strengthen the Devaswom
administration. The Hon'ble High Court did not appreciate these facts and in
fact adversely commented on his performance.
High Court has also adversely commented on the performance of the Devaswom
Commissioners since the inception of the Act. The Court has observed that the Devaswom
Commissioner during the period of Judgment and his predecessors since the Act
came into being in 1978 have been mere 'spectators, not involved, not concerned
seriously with the administration.
observation cannot be justified in anyway. The Commissioner as well as the
Government take interest in the matters relating to the Devaswom in order to
ensure that the functioning of the Managing Committee and the Administrator is
in accordance with the provisions of the Act and Rules. Proper directions are
also given as and when needed, exercising the provisions of the Act.
Recommendation regarding politicisation and administrative disfunction (para 55
of the judgment) & recommendations regarding accommodation facilities to
pilgrims and acquisition of land (para 57 of the judgment) The question
regarding politicisation is now being considered by the Hon'ble Supreme Court
in another Civil Appeal No. 6675/99.
at present, persons who are not members of any political party alone are
appointed as members of the Committee. Regarding the suggestion to make the
term of the Managing Committee as four years, the Legislature, after
considering the entire matter had decided that the term of nominated members
shall be two years only.
they can be renominated after the period, if the Government desire so.
direction to construct cheap lodging houses for devotees, Devaswom has already
initiated action on this. As regards the direction to acquire lands within a
radius of 100 mts. from the outer wall of the temple, action has been initiated
for acquisition of land as a phased programme.
There should be a technical audit in every five years (para 58 of the judgment)
There is already an audit conducted by the Local Fund Audit Department. They
take care of the technical matters also. Government do not consider that a
special technical audit in every five years is necessary.
Recommendation to conduct a study by the Institute of Management in Government on the administrative
reforms to be carried out in the Devaswom.
detailed study has been conducted by the Centre for Management Development.
report is under consideration of the Devaswom.
The post of Commissioner, Guruvayoor Devaswom and the Secretary to Government, Devaswom
Department should be held by two persons.
posts are now held by two separate persons.
Direction to submit a panel of five senior IAS Officers (Secretaries to
Government) to the High Court to enable the Court to select one person as Devaswom
implemented as the Hon'ble Supreme Court has stayed this direction.
cannot agree to this direction, as the direction is against the statutory
the Commissioner for Guruvayoor Devaswom is as per section 2(b) of the Guruvayoor
Devaswom Act, 1978. Furnishing a panel of names and selection by the Court are
matters extraneous to the provisions of the Act.
will advert to this issue a little later.
PRELIMINARY ISSUE ABOUT MAINTAINABILITY OF THE WRIT PETITION:
learned counsel for the parties have addressed us at great length on this
issue. But in our opinion the question of examining the maintainability of the
writ petition as a preliminary issue by the High Court has become academic.
Parties addressed the High Court on the merit of the matter and upon
considering the rival submissions, the impugned order has been passed.
order disposing C.M.P. No. 10669 of 1993, the High Court recorded:
we stated earlier, our function herein is only to record and not to adjudicate.
The rival submissions made before us pose interesting questions on varied
matters which are of far reaching and wide consequences. We are of the view
that the weighty submissions made by counsel to the extent they are relevant
when the final report comes up for consideration may be considered in depth
of the pleas raised by Mr. Kelu Nambiar have not so far been highlighted or adjucated
in any decision of this Court. All that we want to say is that at least some of
them will require very serious consideration in evaluating the final report and
in moulding the final relief to be afforded in this litigation.
made clear even from the beginning of the arguments, it is not our function to
adjudicate the above pleas at this stage. We make that position clear and leave
the point there." For the reasons stated therein, the High Court has
proceeded in the matter on merit. We do not find any illegality therein.
in this case the appellant and the State took part in the proceedings. The
State advisedly did so having regard to the fact that before the question of
maintainability of the writ petition could be decided, the enquiry had reached
almost a closing point. We are not impressed with the submission of Mr. Reddy
that he while conceding that the Court may proceed with the matter represented
before the High Court that the suggestions and observations made by the
Commissioner in the said interim reports could be considered by the State. This
Court would only go by the records of the High Court. It will not ordinarily
entertain any doubt as regards correctness or otherwise of the proceedings of
the High Court. This is the state of law which is firmly established. (See Ramdas
Shrinivas Nayak (supra).
[(2003) 2 SCC 111] a three-judge Bench of this Court, of which one of us (Sinha,
J.) is a member held:
parting with the case, we may notice that Mr. Tanna appearing on behalf of the South Gujarat University in C.A. No.1540 of 2002 submitted
that various other contentions had also been raised before the High Court. We
are not prepared to go into the said contentions inasmuch assuming the same to
be correct, the remedy of the appellants would lie in filing appropriate
application for review before the High Court. Incidentally, we may notice that
even in the special leave petition no substantial question of law in this
behalf has been raised nor any affidavit has been affirmed by the learned
advocate who had appeared before the High Court or by any officer of the
appellant who was present in court that certain other submissions were made
before the High Court which were not taken into consideration.
State of Maharashtra v. Ramdas Shrinivas Nayak & Anr.
[AIR 1982 SC 1249], this Court observed :- "When we drew the attention of
the learned Attorney General to the concession made before the High Court, Shri
A.K. Sen, who appeared for the State of Maharashtra before the High Court and
led the arguments for the respondents there and who appeared for Shri Antulay
before us intervened and protested that he never made any such concession and
invited us to peruse the written submission made by him in the High Court.
afraid that we cannot launch into an inquiry as to what transpired in the High
Court. It is simply not done.
Policy bars us. Judicial decorum restrains us. Matters of judicial record are
unquestionable. They are not open to doubt. Judges cannot be dragged into the
arena. "Judgments cannot be treated as mere counters in the game of
Lord Atkinson in Somasundaran v. Subramanian, AIR 1926 PC 136). We are bound to
accept the statement of the Judges recorded in their judgment, as to what
transpired in court. We cannot allow the statement of the Judges to be
contradicted by statements at the Bar or by affidavit and other evidence. If
the Judges say in their judgment that something was done, said or admitted
before them, that has to be the last word on the subject. The principle is
well- settled that statements of fact as to what transpired at the hearing,
recorded in the judgment of the court, are conclusive of the facts so stated
and no one can contradict such statements by affidavit or other evidence. If a
party thinks that the happenings in court have been wrongly recorded in a
judgment, it is incumbent upon the party, while the matter is still fresh in
the minds of the Judges, to call the attention of the very Judges, who have
made the record to the fact that the statement made with regard to his conduct
was a statement that had been made in error (Per Lord Buckmaster in Madhusudan
v. Chandrabati, AIR 1917 PC 30). That is the only way to have the record
corrected. If no such step is taken, the matter must necessarily end there. Of
course a party may resile and an Appellate Court may permit him in rare and
appropriate cases to resile from a concession on the ground that the concession
was made on a wrong appreciation of the law and had led to gross injustice;
but, he may not call in question the very fact of making the concession as
recorded in the judgment." The said decision has been followed by this
Court recently in "10. It would be logical to first deal with the plea
relating to absence of forum of appeal.
to be noted that the parties agreed before the High Court that instead of
remanding the matter to trial Court, it should consider materials on record and
render a verdict.
having done so, it is not open to the appellant to turn round or take a plea
that no concession was given. This is clearly a case of sitting on the fence,
and is not to be encouraged. If really there was no concession, the only course
open to the appellant was to move the High Court in line with what has been
said in State of Maharashtra v. Ramdas Shrinivas Nayak & Anr.
(1982(2) SCC 463). In a recent decision Bhavnagar University v. Palitana Sugar Mill Pvt. Ltd.
& Ors. (2002 AIR SCW 4939) the view in the said case was reiterated by
observing that statements of fact as to what transpired at the hearing, recorded
in the judgment of the Court, are conclusive of the facts so stated and no one
can contradict such statements by affidavit or other evidence.
party thinks that the happenings in Court have been wrongly recorded in a
judgment, it is incumbent upon the party, while the matter is still fresh in
the minds of the Judges, to call the attention of the very Judges who have made
the record. That is the only way to have the record corrected. If no such step
is taken, the matter must necessarily end there. It is not open to the
appellant to contend before this Court to the contrary." The conduct of
the appellant is also not wholly free from blemish. It did not take a firm
stand. It passed different resolutions at different points of time. It evidently
prevaricated its stand from stage to stage. Before us a purported minute of the
meeting dated 27.10.1993 has been placed which is in the following terms:
was decided that objection/ submission are to be given before the Krishnaunni
Commission appointed by the Hon'ble High Court of Kerala and it may be filed
jointly or severally by the members of the Managing Committee after consulting
with Devaswom Advocate Shri K.P. Dandapani of Ernakulam. If the Managing
Committee members find it necessary, they may engage separate Advocate.
NO. 1 It is decided that the members jointly or severally shall file
objections/ submission against the final report submitted by Krishnan Unni
Commission appointed by the Kerala High Court after consulting the Devaswom Advocate
Mr. K.P. Dandapani, Ernakulam. It is also decided that if the Managing
Committee members so choose can approach the Advocate separately.
No. 2 XXXXX
M.N. Sukumaran Nayar, Senior Advocate, has been appearing for Shri A.P.
Mohandas and Shri P.N. Narendranathan Nair, Members of the Managing Committee
in the case O.P. No. 2071 of 1993 of the Hon'ble High Court of Kerala in which
Krishnan Unni Commission is appointed to enquire into allegations of corruption
in Guruvayur Devaswom. It was decided to pass bills of Advocates fee as and
when received." Nothing stated in the said minutes run counter to the
observations made by the High Court in its order dated 25.8.1993. The High
Court itself invited objections to the reports, as would appear from its
impugned judgment. The impugned judgment of the High Court shows that the
appellant did file its objections in relation to certain reports which have
curtain of this litigation must be drawn here and now. The State admittedly
implemented many of the suggestions of the high Court.
would not be reopened. Some suggestions of the High Court are pending
consideration at the hands of the State. They may be considered. The State
shall, however, as regard the directions of the High Court which according to
it cannot be complied with, pass appropriate orders recording sufficient and
cogent reasons therefor as expeditiously as possible and not beyond a period of
three months from the date of communication of this order. The High Court, if
any proceeding is initiated in relation thereto, may deal therewith in
accordance with law. The administration of the temple, it is stated, has been
taken over by the State and the other statutory functionaries.
shall, we have no doubt in our mind, having regard to the fact that special
treatment has been accorded to the temple by the State Legislature, carry out
its activities in true letter and spirit thereof. The State and the statutory
functionaries would be well advised to give full credence to the tenets and
practices subject of course to the provisions of the statute. The State should
furthermore make all endeavours to see that the sentiments of the devotees are
respected. In view of our findings aforementioned, the adverse remarks made in
the impugned judgment against the appellant in C.A. No. 2151/1994 shall stand
parting with this case, however, we must complement the High Court about the
gigantic task undertaken by it leading to discovery of a number of
irregularities in the matter of management of temple detected in the process.
We hope and trust that the judgment of the High Court would prove to be an
eye-opener to the State and now onwards it will be able to fulfill the hopes
and aspirations of millions of devotees of Lord Krishna.
Appeals are disposed of on the aforementioned terms. No order as to costs.