The Muslim shopkeepers of the Sri Bhramaramba Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple complex in Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh have hailed the Supreme Court’s order directing that people from other faiths already holding shop licences in the temple premises must not be barred from participating in the auction for shops.
The auctioning process in the premises of this temple — popularly known as the Srisailam temple — had been put off by the state government in August 2019 after some Hindu groups opposed participation of non-Hindus in it citing the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institution and Endowments Act, 1987, which bars non-Hindus from operating near temples.
An apex court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna directed that “none of the tenants/shop holders shall be excluded from participating in the auction or from the grant of leases solely on the ground of their religion”.
The direction was given Friday in two petitions—one filed by a group of 21 Muslim shopkeepers of Srisailam, and another, a contempt petition, filed by owner of a shop outside Kanaka Durga temple at Vijayawada. The bench combined both petitions.
In January 2017, the Srisailam temple administration had taken up widening of the two main approach roads to the temple, for which at least 50 shops had to be demolished. The administration had assured shop owners that new shops would be allocated to them nearby. Among the 50 shop owners are 21 Muslims.
The temple administration built the Sri Lalithambika Shopping Complex for new shops, but when the auction was to be held in 2019, several Hindu groups led by Bajrang Dal and local BJP member Srikanth Reddy objected to participation by non-Hindus, citing the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institution and Endowments Act, 1987.
While the state government halted the auction, Minister for Endowments Vellampalli Srinivasa transferred the temple’s Executive Officer (EO) to cool down tempers.