Two weeks after the Himachal Pradesh High Court paved way for the takeover of the renowned Shri Raghunath Temple at Kullu by the Himachal Pradesh government, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the process.
Acting on a petition filed by Kullu MLA Maheshwar Singh, a bench of Justice RK Agrawal and Justice DY Chandrachud issued notice to the state government asking it to respond to the issues raised by the petitioner.
A sitting MLA and scion of the erstwhile Kullu royal family, Singh is the caretaker of the temple. In his special leave petition, he has challenged the Himachal High Court’s August 31 order rejecting his petition challenging the state government July 26, 2016 notification taking over the temple administration.
The state government had exercised its powers under Section 29 of the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1984 to take control and management of Shri Raghunath Temple.
Singh had contended before the high court that the shrine was a private property and that the rules of natural justice had not been followed in the takeover. Pointing out that the royal family had been traditionally taking care of the historic temple; he had termed the takeover as illegal, arbitrary and against the provisions of the Constitution.
“This petition involves seriously disputed questions of fact and even otherwise the rival claims of the parties are such, which can only be investigated and determined on the basis of evidence, which may be led by the parties in a properly instituted civil suit rather than by a court exercising prerogative of issuing writs,” the High Court had said refusing to entertain Singh plea against the state takeover of the temple.
Initially, the High Court had stayed the notification, but later it rejected Singh's petition terming it as “not maintainable” under Article 226 of the Constitution.
Singh has now contended before the Supreme Court that the High Court did not adjudicate his petition on merits and erroneously held that he should have filed a civil suit against government notification. Singh said the high court disposed of his writ petition without going into the merits of the case.