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HC appoints retd judge as administrator to manage affairs of Lodhi Road's Sai Baba Temple

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Delhi High Court has appointed one of its former judges as an administrator to manage the affairs of the Sai Baba Temple at Lodhi Road here, whose administration is facing allegations of irregularities and illegalities.
The court said it has become imperative to take away the reins of management of the Shri Sai Bhakta Samaj, the society which manages the temple, from the incumbent office bearers so that they may also feel the urgency of conducting fresh elections to the managing committee.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani said it appears that the status quo, by which the incumbent office bearers are in complete control of all assets and resources of the Samaj since 2006, suits them fine and tempts them to stall and delay the process of fresh elections.
The high court appointed retired justice Pratibha Rani pro-tem as administrator to take over, manage and administer the affairs of the Samaj, including in relation to taking policy decisions as well as supervising and managing the routine day-to-day matters of the Samaj.
However, it made it clear that the administrator shall neither take any policy decisions nor make any financial commitments, for or on behalf of the Samaj, that involves a financial outflow of more than Rs 10 lakh without prior approval of this court.
"It has now become urgent and imperative to first save the institution and to preserve the solemnity of the functions that the Samaj performs in relation to the Shri Sai Temple," the judge said.
The interim order, which was passed in August, has been made available now.
The court was hearing a petition filed by several life-members of the Samaj and members of the managing committee alleging grave irregularities, illegalities and mismanagement in the administration of the affairs of the society and its failure to hold elections, which were last conducted in 2006, on one pretext or other although its rules provide for conducting of the same every three years.
The court said the disputing parties, though entrusted with the pious responsibility of managing the affairs of one of the most revered temples of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba in Delhi which attracts thousands of devotees on a daily basis, have evidently engaged in unseemly internecine feuds with other members of the fraternity, being covetous of positions on the managing committee of the Samaj.
It said all the staff and employees working for the Samaj and performing any role for the Samaj or the temple, shall take instructions from and report to the administrator or her delegate in relation to all day-to-day activities and other affairs.
Further, the court said the Samaj, throught its incumbent President and Honorary Secretary, shall make available to the administrator all its management and accounting records without demur.
It said all powers of the incumbent managing committee members/office bearers shall stand suspended until further orders and added that the administrator shall devise a method to ensure proper collection, accounting, retention and deposit of 'cash' offerings and donations that are received at the temple or in the Samaj, so that "there is no diversion or siphoning off of such monies".
The court said the elections of the managing committee of the Samaj shall be conducted on the basis of the last approved members' list comprising 622 members, on the basis of which the last elections were conducted in 2006.
Once the elections are conducted, the administrator shall declare the results and file a status report before the court.
The court directed the sub-divisional magistrate concerned of the area where the temple is situated to provide assistance, including maintaining law and order, to the administrator to enable her to carry out the task.
It asked the SHO of the police station concerned to provide police assistance to the administrator who will be entitled to a consolidated fee of Rs two lakh per month.
The court listed the matter for further consideration on November 22.
Earlier, the court had appointed retired Justice Rekha Sharma as observer for conducting elections of the Samaj. Later, she declined to continue as observer and requested to be relieved of that responsibility.
The court said the fact that two retired judges of this court have been appointed as observers upon multiple applications made by various parties, only to be removed and re-appointed, for various reasons as evident from the record, speaks volumes of the bad-blood, strained relations and stridency that prevails within the membership of the Samaj, especially among those responsible for the management of its affairs.

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First Published: Oct 29 2019 | 3:45 PM IST

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