The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad Bench observed that government officials, including police officers and judicial officers, should act with a ‘secular mind’ in matters concerning religious emotions and resist the general fear of inviting issues. The Court added that there is a need for authorities to have a ‘Scientific method’ which should prevent the viewing as action against God in regulatory action against a religious trust.
The court accordingly ordered the police to report a crime against the trustees of the Jagadamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust, Mohote Ahmednagar, for the offenses of conspiracy, theft, misappropriation, breach of trust and even those under the Black Magic Act, 2013.
A petition submitted by Shri Namdev Garad was reviewed by the division bench, consisting of Justice T.V. Nalawade and Justice M.G. Sewlikar, a former trustee of the Jagdamba Trust, accuses the trustees of the trust of commissioning ‘criminal actions.’ The complainant contended that the trustees had buried 2 kg Gold since 2011 and made an additional investment of Rs. 25 lakhs in the name of Suvarna Yantras for ceremonies.
The complainant underlined the inability of the different agencies to take up the present case. It was suggested that the crimes were committed despite the fact that the involvement, in the capacities of a District Judge and a Civil Judge, of two judicial officers as ex-officio members of the Trust. The Court, to that extent said, “It is shocking that he approved all the recommendations made by Shri even though District Judge was a member of the trust said Shinde.” In addition, the petitioner also called the attention of the court to the police’s inaction in lodging a complaint filed by the Andhashradha Nirmulan Committee (ANIS), seeking an action in respect of the aforementioned unlawful activities.
The general apprehension may be of different sorts, such as the likelihood that they may create trouble as the matter contains religious sentiments and may be act against God. In view of Article 51-A of the Indian Constitution, this Court holds that in such a situation the authorities are required to work with secular mind, and they must stick to the ‘truth.’
The Court noted that such a burying of gold and rituals in the name of Yantras would not be allowed by the trust scheme. It further noted that the intention behind the Public Trust Act of Maharashtra in 1950 was to stop malpractices in the management of such trusts. It further claimed that the trustees fall foul of the Black Magic Act in disseminating tales about Yoginis and Tantras. The trustees can have personal views, but the administration of the trust may not use their personal beliefs. To accomplish something that cannot be scientific, the person in the management cannot invest or dispose of the property in the manner carried out in the present case.
The Court was also dismayed by the widespread spike in allegations received by such trustees against mismanagement. “If anyone objects to the activity, he is criticized by saying that he is hurting religious sentiments. Due to the increase of such events, time has arrived to teach lessons to these trustees. Such action will prevent actions like the present activity and will also help to check the superstition.” In finding protection under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India, the respondent relied on precedents.
The Court dismissed those claims, however, arguing that enactments such as the Public Confidence Act of Maharashtra and the Black Magic Act are in the context of the limitations that the statute has opted to enforce. The Court strongly condemned the authorities’ lack of intervention and found it imperative that authorities operate with a ‘secular mind’ and ‘adhering to the facts.’
The general fear can be of various sorts, such as the likelihood that they may invite trouble because religious sentiments are involved in the matter and it can be viewed as an act against God. In view of Article 51-A of the Indian Constitution, this Court holds that in such a case the authorities are required to work with a secular mind, and they need to stick to the ‘fact.’
The Court then instructed the registration of the case and required the investigation to be carried out by a police officer of the rank of Additional Police Superintendent or Deputy Police Superintendent. It also denied the injunction for retention of the order claimed by the prosecutor for Respondents.