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Kullu's Raghunath temple to remain royal family property: SC

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Press Trust of India New Delhi
The 17th century Raghunath temple of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh will remain a royal family property with the Supreme Court today disposing of a plea challenging a high court order rejecting a petition against a state government order for taking its control.

The newly formed BJP government in the state told the apex court that it has reversed the decision of the previous government for taking over the control of the temple.

Disposing of the petition, a bench of justices R K Agrawal and A M Sapre said that since the state government has reversed the decision, the plea has become infructous

The court, however, said that the petition challenging the status of the shrine can always be filed, if fresh cause of action arises.

Advocate Ajay Marwah, appearing for the state, said that the government took the decision as it was a private property.

He said that by way of a subsequent notification on January 8, 2018, the government omitted Shri Raghunathji temple from schedule-1 of Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act, 1984.

Former BJP MP Maheshwar Singh, the scion of the royal family of Kullu, had challenged the order of August 31 last year of the Himachal Pradesh High Court in the apex court, saying there was a clear cut finding that the temple was a private property.

Singh had contended that this temple was established by his ancestors for a specific purpose that there was a "curse by a Brahmin" and to get rid of that curse, an idol of Lord Rama was brought from Ayodhaya.

He had claimed that the temple of Shri Raghunathji was built and established by late Raja Jagat Singh, who during the years 1637 to 1672 AD was reigning the Kingdom at Kullu and the reasons for establishing the temple and installing the idol of Shri Raghunathji (Rama) along with idol of Sita Mata, was contained in the history of Punjab Hill States.

Singh had said that since the establishment and installation of the idols, the temple was maintained by the king and his successors.

In his plea, he had said, "As per the traditions maintained by the rajas of Kullu, the eldest son of a raja is designated as 'chharibardar' (vice regent) of Lord Raghunathji without any interruption and only he can enter the sanctum sanctorum and no one else."

He had cited an order of 1942 by a trial court at Hoshiarpur, which had held it to be a private property.

The apex court had in September last year stayed the order of the state government for taking over the temple and forming of a trust to manage it.

The high court on August 31 last year had said that the state government's decision cannot be challenged by way of a writ petition and can be adjudicated through a civil suit.

"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 while rejecting the petition filed by Singh and without entering into the merits of the case.

Subsequent to the decision of high court, on September 2 last year, the Kullu district administration formed a trust to manage the affairs of the temple.

Then chief minister Virbhadra Singh had argued that the Raghunath temple was public property and the government had the right to acquire it as there were representations from various people after two thefts had taken place in it.

Lord Raghunath is a prominent deity of the Kullu valley and a historic week-long Dussehra festivity is organised every year in its honour.

The state government had given a status of international festival to the festivity as huge numbers of foreigners participated in it.

Palanquins of nearly 300 deities of the Kullu valley come down the hills to pay obeisance to Lord Raghunath during Dussehra, which was observed for the first time in 1660.

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First Published: Jan 29 2018 | 9:45 PM IST

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