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Bombay HC restrains ‘incomplete’ govt-appointed panel for Shirdi Trust from taking charge on Tuesday, asks state to fix defects

In an order on Thursday, the court directed the ad hoc committee appointed by it in 2019 presided over by principal district judge (PDJ), Ahmedanagar, which was handling the affairs of the Trust, to continue with the job until further orders.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: October 18, 2021 8:42:29 pm
Shirdi, Shirdi trust, Sai baba, Bombay HC, Maharashtra government, Shri Sai Baba Sansthan, Mumbai, Mumbai news, shirdi news, Indian express, Indian express news, Mumbai latest newsA division bench of Justice Ravindra Ghuge and Justice Sanjay G Mehere was hearing two fresh public interest litigations (PILs) filed by Uttamrao Shelke and Nikhil Dorje challenging the formation/constitution of a new managing committee for the Sansthan. (File)

Observing that the new managing committee of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan in Shirdi, which was recently appointed by the Maharashtra government, is “prima facie defective and incomplete,” as it did not represent persons from requisite categories as per rules, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court has restrained the panel from taking charge of the Trust till further orders. The panel was supposed to take charge of Trust management from October 19, Tuesday.

In an order on Thursday, the court directed the ad hoc committee appointed by it in 2019 presided over by principal district judge (PDJ), Ahmedanagar, which was handling the affairs of the Trust, to continue with the job until further orders.

A division bench of Justice Ravindra Ghuge and Justice Sanjay G Mehere was hearing two fresh public interest litigations (PILs) filed by Uttamrao Shelke and Nikhil Dorje challenging the formation/constitution of a new managing committee for the Sansthan, chaired by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLA Ashutosh Kale, through a September 16 notification.

The HC had, on October 4, disposed of civil applications in the 2019 PIL and asked the PDJ of Ahmednagar, who is chairman of the ad hoc committee, to ensure smooth opening of the temple on October 7 as per the SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). The HC had said that the newly appointed managing committee would officially take charge from Ahmednagar PDJ on October 19, subject to the outcome of the new pleas challenging the September 16 order of the state government.

The fresh PILs claimed that the committee members of the new panel should be placed under scanner for “grave illegalities in their selection and nomination”.
Senior Advocate Rajendra S Deshmukh, representing Dorje, and Advocate Pradnya S Talekar for Shelke submitted that most of the members of new committee are ineligible to be nominated as per Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi Act, 2004 and Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi (appointment of members of Management/Committee and forms of declarations) Rules, 2013.

The PILs stated that per the 2004 Act and 2013 Rules, the committee should be represented by at least one woman, one member from socially and economically weaker sections, eight persons possessing professional or specialised knowledge, and seven members from the general category. The same was not complied with while appointing the new committee and therefore, it should not be allowed to take charge of the Trust from October 19, the petitioners argued.

Senior Advocate R N Dhorde, a special counsel for the state government, along with Additional Government Pleader D R Kale submitted that the government has appointed first lot of 12 members as per the rules. The remaining five members would be appointed “very soon” and therefore, the new committee can be permitted to take charge of the Sansthan management on October 19, they added.

After hearing the submissions, the bench observed: “We find, prima facie, that the constitution of the Committee is defective and is incomplete…We would be failing in our duty if we permit an incomplete/deficiently constituted Committee to take charge of the Sansthan, when we are aware of frequent litigation over almost 8 to 10 years in relation to the said Sansthan….”

The Court then directed ad hoc committee chaired by PDJ, Ahmednagar, to continue administering management of Sansthan until further orders and said that state can complete the composition of committee in the meantime so as to ensure all categories are legally represented. After such composition is completed by curing defects through a notification, the same should be placed before the HC, the court said.

“We will, thereafter, consider the handing over of the charge of the Management of the Sansthan to such Committee, save and except in the face of any legal impediment,” the bench noted and posted further hearing in the PILs to October 20.

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