SC:Non attachment of emoluments to office of Shebait doesn’t affect its rights & interests

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 13th July 2020, in the matter of Sri Marthanda Varma (D) Thr. Lrs. & Anr. v. State Of Kerala & Ors. pronounced that the mere factum that no emoluments are attached to the office of the Shebait would not make any difference to the character of the right and interest of the Shebait.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

Mere factum that no emoluments are attached to the office of the Shebait would not make any difference to the character of the right and interest of the Shebait. (Para 71)

When the idol is installed and the temple is constructed or an endowment is founded, the shebaitship is vested in the founder and unless the founder himself has disposed of the shebaitship in a particular manner or there is some usage or custom or circumstances showing a different mode of devolution, the shebaitship like any other species of heritable property follows the line of inheritance from the founder; and it is not open to the Court to lay down a new rule of succession or alter the rule of succession. (Para 73)

The shebait is the custodian of the idol, its earthly spokesman and the human ministrant; is entitled to deal with the temporal affairs and to manage the property of the idol; and even where no emoluments are attached to the office of the shebait, he has the right or interest in the endowed property which has the characteristics of a proprietary right. (Para 73)

Unless and until the line of succession of the Shebaitship and in-charge of the administration, is completely extinct, there can be no question of escheat. (Para 106)

In order to get the bar under Article 363 attracted, the dispute must fall under either of two limbs of Article 363. Under the first limb the dispute must arise out of the provisions of the Covenant, whereas under the second limb the dispute must be with respect to the right arising out of a provision of the Constitution relating to the Covenant. (Para 109[I](ii))

Copy of judgement: Judgement_13-Jul-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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