Updated: September 30, 2021 7:49:13 am
The Karnataka High Court quashed a 2018 order of the state government entrusting the religious ceremonies at a shrine shared by Hindus and Muslims in the Chikamagalur district of the state to a Muslim Mujawar.
The High Court asked the state to “reconsider the matter afresh” keeping in mind the shared customs at the Datta Peetha shrine in the Bababudangiri Hills in Chikmagalur.
In an order issued September 28 on a plea filed against the 2018 order by the Sree Guru Dattatreya Peeta Devasthana, a single judge bench of Justice P S Dinesh Kumar ruled that the order entrusting ceremonies to the Mujawar of the shrine at the exclusion of Hindu priests is “unsustainable in law”.
The High Court also 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 Datta Peetha shrine issue has been a controversial one for several years in Karnataka 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.
A temple in the name of Dattatreya Devaru and a dargah in the name of Baba Budan Dargah are located at the cave in the Bababudangiri Hills.
The high court has ruled that the Karnataka government had erred in going by recommendations of a high-level committee to allow ceremonies to be conducted by a Mujawar and while rejecting a 2010-report of an Endowment Commissioner on shared status.
The court pointed out that “the State Government has chosen to accept the High Level Committee’s recommendation to reject the Endowment Commissioner’s Report” despite the high-level committee report not being “free from the vice of bias”.
“It is nobody’s case that the place of worship is being converted. On the other hand, it is the common case of both communities that it is a place of worship for both Hindus and Muslims,” the High Court pointed out.
The court referred to the order of the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in the Ram Janmabhoomi Temple case and stated “that faith is a matter for the individual believer. Once the court has intrinsic material to accept that the faith or belief is genuine, it must defer to the belief of the worshipper.”
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