Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay HC directs temple trustees to be charged with cheating and conspiracy
The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court held, “if no scientific approach is adopted, ‘truth’ will always suffer defeat”, and directed offences of cheating and conspiracy be registered against the trustees of the Jagadamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust after allegations were made on gold being hidden under the statue of goddess in the temple.
A Division Bench of Justices T.V. Nalawade and M.G. Sewlikar was hearing a criminal petition filed by Namdev Garad, former trustee of the trust situated at Mohote, Ahmednagar district, to call the entire record of accounts and audits of the trust, from 2009-2019, including details of precious metals collected and procedure undertaken for them. The plea seeks the registration of an FIR against the persons involved in the commission of the crime, and to excavate and dig out the alleged “enchanted gold hidden under the statue of the goddesses at the temple”.
Mr. Garad alleged that in 2011 and afterwards, some illegal acts were committed by the trustees, who were involved in the burying of around 2 kg of gold in the name of “yantras”, and showing an additional expenditure of ₹25 lakh “for conducting ceremonies with respect to the so-called yantras”. He also alleged misappropriation of funds despite a judicial officer of the rank of District Judge being the chairman of the trust.
An affidavit filed by the trust said a decision was taken for the renovation of the temple and the use of “91 Suvarna Yantras” which were to be found “below the statues of various Gods and Goddess[es]”. It is contended that by passing the resolution, gold weighing 1,890 gm was made available by the trustees and around ₹24 lakh was approved as material and labour charges for the preparation of yantras and for performing religious rituals.
The court noted: “The record of so-called inquiry made by clerical staff of the trust office, inaction on the part of Deputy Charity Commissioner, show of inquiry made by police into the matter show that authorities have no courage to take action even when such serious thing has happened. That might have happened due to general fear which may be in the minds of the persons that they are avoiding taking steps against the Trust committee. The general fear may be of different kind like possibility that they may invite trouble as the matter involves religious feelings and it can be viewed as act against God.”
The court directed the trustees to be charged with cheating and held, “The authorities are expected to work with a secular mind in such a case and they need to adhere to the ‘truth’. The authority needs to have scientific approach in such matters, and they need to adhere to the provisions of law. With that approach they need to make inquiry and investigation and take action. The authority cannot accept the religious propositions like made in the present matter for trustees as such propositions cannot be scientifically proved. If no such approach is adopted, ‘truth’ will always suffer defeat and the tendency like one shown by the trustees in the present matter will go on increasing.”