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Case brief : The Commissioner, Madras vs. Lakshmindra of Sri Shirur Mutt.

 Case brief : The Commissioner, Hindu Religious Endowments, Madras vs. Lakshmindra Thirtha Swamiar of Sri Shirur Mutt.

FACTS:

Shri Madhwacharya the much-revered saint, had established the 8 maths. A sanyasi or a swami will preside over the Shirur Math. The ex-officio posts of all the eight maths to be held by swamis in rotational manner. These all swamis were responsible for the administration of the Shri Madhwacharya made Shri Krishna Math. In order to celebrate the appointment of new president a grand ceremony which is similar to a festival is held called ‘Pariyayam’. This is celebrated by feeding all the brahmins who come to the math by the Swami. Shirur Math appointed Lakshmindra Thirtha Swaminar i.e. the present respondent as the swami. He handled the ceremonies of 1946 and also previously handled the 1931 ceremony. He incurred huge liability in form of debt through the ceremonies of 1931 and 1946. The 1951 Act had appointed a Madras Commissioner of Hindu Religious Endowments who intervened in the debt situation and sensing a mismanagement of the math started exerting his authorities as per the act. Therefore, in pursuant to the provisions of the act of control the daily administration of accounts

Clashes arouse between the swami and the agent as the agent ignored the authority of the swami in many instances. Due to which litigation arouse in pursuant of the interference. Petition before the Madras High Court was filed to stop such an interference and the court favoured the Math. Being aggrieved by the Madras High Court Judgment the government appealed before the Supreme Court.

Issues Raised:

  1. Whether Swami had a right under Article 19(1)(f) of the Constitution i.e. the right to property?

  2. Whether government was competent to interfere into the matters of religious institutions?

Contention by Parties

Appellant’s Arguments:

  1. The government argued that the government is responsible for the regulation of financial, economic, political activities of the religion in the situation where there is danger to public order, morality and heath of citizens

  2. The government further argued that all the non-essential part of the religious institutions is docile to state intervention.

  3. The attorney general had argued that there is a clear difference between fees and taxes. It is true, as he has pointed out, that there are a number of entries in List I of the Seventh Schedule which relate to taxes and duties of various sorts; whereas the last entry, namely entry 96, speaks of “fees” in respect of any of the matters dealt with in the list. Exactly the same is with regard to entries 46 to 62 in List II all of which relate to taxes and here again the last entry deals only with “fees” leviable in respect of the different matters specified in the list

Respondent’s Arguments:

  1. Respondent argued that the Power to levy ‘taxes’ is solely assigned to the Parliament, however obligation of several ‘fees’ lies inside the authorities of the State Legislatures now the 1951 Act remained enacted by the Madras State Legislature. 

  2. The respondent also contented that taxing the 5% levy under the 1951 Act was corrupt in law since the State Legislature was constitutionally ineffectual to enact such a legislation. 

  3. It was further argued that , if any religious sect for an example any Hindu sect believes that some kind of ritual is to be carried out in in a particular part of the year and at a particular time of the day in a manner prescribed by the sect, it must be performed in that manner only.

  4. These religious sects shouldn’t be regarded as commercial and secular entities instead should be regarded as religious practices and shall be considered to be matter of religion under Article 26(b).

Judgment

The Apex Court’s 7 judge bench held:

The Supreme Court held that the doctrines of the religion itself will decide that what is the essential parts of those religion. This should always be primarily ascertained. The test of Essential Religious Practices was first laid forth in this case i.e. Shirur Mutt case. If any religious sect for an example any Hindu sect believes that some kind of ritual is to be carried out in in a particular part of the year and at a particular time of the day in a manner prescribed by the sect, it must be performed in that manner only. They court further observed that by the mere fact that use commercial commodities and engages employment of servants and indulge in expenditure of funds, so they may be called as secular entities and thus become an entity indulging in commercial activities is flawed in its reasoning.

These religious sects shouldn’t be regarded as commercial and secular entities instead should be regarded as religious practices and shall be considered to be matter of religion under Article 26(b). The state should not interfere in the religious practices enshrined under Article 25(2)(a) but should make regulations or to check the non-conformity of the religious institutions when they run counter to morality, health, public order. The state also should check when the religious institutions holds economic, commercial, political activities. Only in these cases can there be an interference to the autonomy of the religious sects.

Rule of Law-

The provision of the law which was under scrutiny by the Hon’ble apex court of India was the Article 26.

Conclusion

In Conclusion it could be said that in this case the Supreme Court through its judgement has laid an observation The state should not interfere in the religious practices enshrined under Article 25(2)(a) but should make regulations or to check the non-conformity of the religious institutions when they run counter to morality, health, public order.


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