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Karnataka HC allows Datta Jayanti celebration at disputed Datta Peetha shrine for three days

The Karnataka government had approached the court last week for permission to carry out the rituals on the occasion of Datta Jayanti at the shrine.

The High Court ruled that the Karnataka government erred in going by recommendations of a high-level committee to allow ceremonies to be conducted by a mujawar while rejecting a 2010 report of an Endowment Commissioner on the shared status of the shrine. (file)

The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday permitted Datta Jayanti celebrations for three days from December 6 at the disputed Datta Peetha shrine in Bababudangiri Hills of Chikmagalur district.

A division bench comprising Justices Alok Aradhe and N Vishwajith Shetty granted the permission for the celebrations to be organised under the supervision of a committee set up by the state government earlier this year. The Karnataka government had approached the court for permission last week.

On July 19 this year, the Karnataka government constituted a committee, comprising both Hindu and Muslim representatives, to supervise the religious ceremonies at the shrine which is sacred to both the communities. The state government had then said that the committee will appoint a Hindu priest and a Muslim ‘mujawar’ to carry out the religious rituals at the shrine during the Datta Jayanti in December.

The Karnataka HC is currently hearing a writ appeal filed by a former ‘mujawar’ of the shrine, Syed Ghouse Mohiyiddin Shah Khadri, against a September 28, 2021, order of the High Court that had quashed a March 2018 order entrusting the religious rituals at the shrine to a ‘mujawar’.

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A HC division bench had in May this year clarified to the state that new measures for conducting religious rituals at the Datta Peetha shrine will be subject to the verdict of the HC in the appeal filed against the September 28, 2021, order of a single judge of the HC.

In May, the Karnataka government had informed the High Court that as per the HC order (September 28, 2021), a cabinet sub-committee comprising three cabinet ministers was constituted to address the issue amicably.

The Sri Guru Dattatreya Bababudan Swamy Dargah/Peetha has been in the midst of a controversy for several years with right-wing activists viewing it as the Babri of the south. The controversy tends to peak around December when annual religious ceremonies are conducted to mark Datta Jayanti.\

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A temple in the name of Dattatreya Devaru and a ‘dargah’ in the name of Baba Budan are both located at the cave in Bababudangiri Hills.

According to the government’s July 19 order, a Hindu priest appointed by the committee will conduct daily rituals at the temple, while a ‘mujawar’ will carry out customs at the ‘dargah’ every evening and on Mondays and Thursdays.

On September 28 last year, a single judge of the Karnataka HC, while hearing a plea filed against a 2018 government order by the Sree Guru Dattatreya Peeta Devasthana, ruled that the 2018 order of the government entrusting ceremonies to the ‘mujawar’ of the shrine at the exclusion of Hindu priests was “unsustainable in law”.

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The High Court stated that “the impugned order infringes the right of both communities guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution by preventing Hindus from performing ‘pooja’ as per their faith and compelling the Mujawar to offer ‘pooja’ contrary to his faith”.

The HC ruled that the Karnataka government erred in going by the recommendations of a high-level committee to allow ceremonies to be conducted by a ‘mujawar’ while rejecting a 2010 report of an Endowment Commissioner on the shared status of the shrine.

First published on: 30-11-2022 at 22:26 IST
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