The Supreme Court Monday quashed the Tamil Nadu government’s order appointing executive officer to manage the affairs and properties of the ancient Sri Sabhanayagar Temple, better known as Nataraja temple, in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu.
A Bench of Justices B S Chauhan and S A Bonde held that the the temple will be managed by priests and cannot be taken over by the state government over allegations of mismanagement of temple properties.
The court set aside the order of the Madras High Court which had in 2009 transferred the administration of the 1000-year-old Lord Shiva temple to the government. It allowed a batch of appeals from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and others against the HC judgment.
Swamy had contended that an attempt was made after Independence to bring the temple administration under state control in August 1951 but the Supreme Court had held that the ‘Podu Dikshitars’ (priests) had a right to administer the temple as a religious denomination.
Referring to the provisions of Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, Swamy had submitted that “Section 107 specifically bars the application of the Act to institutions coming under the purview of or enjoying the protection of Article 26 of the Constitution”.
He contended that if there were allegations of misappropriation of temple’s property then it should be dealt with under the provisions of Indian Penal Code and not by taking over the temple administration.
The state government in 1987 had appointed an official to manage the endowments and assets owned by the temple.