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Introduction: The recent judgment by the Allahabad High Court sheds light on a distressing reality: temples in Uttar Pradesh are struggling to receive their dues from the state government. This article provides a detailed analysis of the case, highlighting the court’s observations, legal implications, and the broader context of governmental neglect.

It is most terribly painful and most distressing to learn that none other than the Allahabad High Court which is one of the oldest High Courts in India and it is Uttar Pradesh Bar Council which has maximum number of members all over the world in any Bar Council in any country of the world in a most landmark, learned, laudable, logical and latest judgment titled Thakur Rangji Maharaj Virajman Mandir vs State Of UP And 3 Others in Writ – C No. – 7877 of 2024 that was pronounced as recently as on 18.03.2024 was extremely distressed and pained to note that temples and trusts in Uttar Pradesh were being forced to approach the Court for getting their dues released. We must note here that the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal made the comment while referring the matter to the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – Mr Yogi Adityanath for necessary action. We must also pay our whole unremitting attention here to the unpalatable truth that the Allahabad High Court also summoned the Secretary of UP’s Board of Revenue for an explanation about the unpaid annuity to at least nine temples in Vrindavan for the past four years.

By all accounts, the Allahabad High Court very rightly called it strange that the temple authorities were running from pillar to post to get their dues released from these government officials. The Bench lamented that, “This Court is pained to note that temples and trusts have to knock the doors of the Court for getting their dues released from the State Government, which should have automatically flowed from the Treasury of the State into the account of temple.” We must note that the Bench then also hastened to add that in this modern age of technology, the State should automatically transfer the amount to temples as soon as the financial year begins.

It must definitely be disclosed here that the Allahabad High Court was hearing a petition that had been filed by Thakur Rangji Maharaj Virajman Mandir (petitioner) for payment of the annuity under Section 99 of UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act by District Magistrate of Mathura and its senior Treasury Officer. It must also be revealed here that the petitioner brought to the light of the Allahabad High Court that annuity amounting to Rs 9,125,07 had not been released to nine temples due to lack of permission by the Board of Revenue. However, we must certainly also note here that the government submitted that Rs 2,23,199 had been paid and now a balance of Rs 6,89,308 was remaining.

Temples Not Getting Dues From UP Government Allahabad HC

Adding more to it, the Allahabad High Court also noted that annuity amounting to Rs 3,52.080 in the case of the petitioner had not been paid from 2020 to 2023 and expressed its amazement on the Revenue Board’s statement that money could not be released due to paucity of funds. Of course, the Bench very rightly lamented that, “It is not a question of payment for a single year, but the annuity has not been transferred to the temple in question for the last four years.” Most alarmingly, the Allahabad High Court also said that the letter written by the District Magistrate of Mathura to the concerned Special Secretary of UP government in this regard was “an indicator to the effect that the official sitting at Lucknow do not care for the release of annuities to the trusts and temples.”

What’s more, the Bench lamentably found that no serious effort had been made to release the annuity into the account of the temple or get a budget sanctioned for it from the government. Resultantly, we see that the Allahabad High Court in this leading case then referred the matter to the State Chief Secretary for necessary action by the Chief Minister. The Allahabad High Court will now hear the matter again on March 20, 2024.

At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, bold and balanced judgment authored by the Single Judge Bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal of the Allahabad High Court sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “In pursuance to the order dated 11.03.2024, personal affidavit of Commissioner/Secretary, Board of Revenue, U.P. has been filed today, which is taken on record.”

As we see, the Bench then points out in para 2 that, “Dr. Rajeshwar Tripathi, learned Chief Standing Counsel, has invited the attention of the Court to annexure no. 4 of the personal affidavit wherein the details of various amounts released by the Commissioner/Secretary, Board of Revenue towards different temples of the State have been given.”

While quite commendably shedding more light pertaining to the amount that had to be paid to the temples, the Bench then discloses in para 3 of this noteworthy judgment that, “In paragraph nos. 5 and 6, brief description has been given as to the partial annuity released to the temples at Mathura. According to paragraph no. 5, the total amount to be paid to temples at Mathura is Rs. 9,12,507/- out of which Rs. 2,23,199/- has been paid and balance amount of Rs. 6,89,308/- remains to be paid to nine temples.”

To put things in perspective, the Bench envisages in para 4 of this robust judgment that, “Section 99 of U.P.Z.A. & L.R. Act provides for payment of annuity. Petitioner had earlier approached this Court through Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 56678 of 2007 wherein a direction was given by this Court to release the annuity of the temple. In the instant case the annuity has not been paid from 01.01.2020 to 31.12.2023 amounting to Rs. 3,52,080/-.”

Most astonishingly, one finds that the Bench then wonders aloud observing succinctly in para 5 of this remarkable judgment that, “The Court is surprised to read the personal affidavit of Commissioner/Secretary, Board of Revenue wherein it has been mentioned that the amount could not be released to the temple in question alongwith eight other temples of Vrindavan due to paucity of fund.”

Most lamentably, the Bench minces just no words to wonder aloud noting in para 6 that, “It is not a question of payment for a single year, but the annuity has not been transferred to the temple in question for last four years.”

Most significantly, the Bench then propounds aptly in para 7 what constitutes the cornerstone of this notable judgment observing that, “This Court is pained to note that temples and trusts have to knock the doors of the Court for getting their dues released from the State Government, which should have automatically flowed from the Treasury of the State into the account of temple. It is an annual feature and the officer concerned should have made the necessary arrangement for releasing the annuity of the temple in question.”

It is worth noting that the Bench notes in para 8 of this notable judgment that, “In this modern age of technology, once the financial year begins the State should automatically transfer the amount into the account of the temple. Letter written by the District Magistrate, Mathura to the Special Secretary, Government of U.P. at Lucknow is an indicator to the effect that the official sitting at Lucknow do not care for the release of annuities to the trusts and temples.”

Most damningly, the Bench concedes in para 9 of this sagacious judgment lamenting that, “From perusal of the personal affidavit of Commissioner/Secretary, Board of Revenue, it transpires that no effort has been made by the officer concerned for last four years for getting the annuity transferred into the account of the temple. Moreover, no correspondence has been brought on record to demonstrate that any serious effort has been made by him to get the budget sanctioned from the State Government. The temple authorities are running from pillar to post for getting their dues released from these government officials, which is strange.”

It is worth noting that the Bench then notes in para 10 of this progressive judgment that, “Let Commissioner/Secretary, Board of Revenue, U.P. remain present in the Court on 20.03.2024 and explain as to why the annuity for the temple in question along with eight other temples of Vrindavan has been withheld for last four years.”

What’s more, we see that the Bench then further directs in para 11 of this pragmatic judgment that, “Let this order be handed over to learned Chief Standing Counsel Dr. Rajeshwar Tripathi within 24 hours for necessary compliance. Further, the Registrar (Compliance) shall intimate this order through FAX within 24 hours to the Chief Secretary, Government of U.P. who shall place this matter before the Chief Minister for necessary action.”

Still more, the Bench then further directs in para 12 of this refreshing judgment that, “Hearing to continue.”

Finally, we see that the Bench then concludes by holding and directing in para 13 of this enlightening judgment that, “Put up, as fresh, on 20.03.2024 at 10.00 AM.”

All in all, we thus see that the Allahabad High Court while seeking the intervention of the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh – Shri Yogi Adityanath minced just no words to hold in no uncertain terms that it was pained to note that temples and trusts in Uttar Pradesh were being forced to approach the Court for getting their dues released. What one definitely finds most painful to note is that all this is happening when we have a party like BJP having a very strong Hindu vote base ruling in Uttar Pradesh since last seven years! There can definitely be just no denying or disputing it!

Conclusion:In conclusion, the Allahabad High Court’s judgment serves as a poignant reminder of the imperative to safeguard the rights and interests of religious institutions. The denial of dues to temples not only reflects administrative lapses but also raises broader questions about the government’s commitment to upholding constitutional principles of religious freedom and equality before the law. As the case proceeds, it remains incumbent upon all stakeholders to ensure the prompt and equitable resolution of this pressing issue.

Through its proactive stance and principled adjudication, the judiciary reaffirms its role as a guardian of justice and protector of fundamental rights. The upcoming hearing on March 20, 2024, presents an opportunity for concrete action and tangible progress towards rectifying the injustices faced by temples in Uttar Pradesh.

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