Patna, Feb 18 (PTI) The Bihar government has began the process to make deities owners of the temple land instead of priests, Law Minister Pramod Kumar said on Friday.
The Law Department will soon issue a circular, removing the names of priests from the revenue records to protect the properties from unauthorised claims, Kumar told PTI on the decision that is likely to have widespread socio-political ramifications in the state.
'A priest cannot be treated as landowner ('bhuswami'), and the revenue records will now have the name of the deities of the shrines,' Kumar said.
It would help in dealing with largescale irregularities in temple land as priests have been buying and selling those as owners, he said.
'The Bihar government will simply implement the Supreme Court judgment passed on September 6, 2021. The SC bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and AS Bopanna had ruled that 'there is no mandate under the law' that the name of pujari or manager is required to be mentioned in the revenue records since the deity as the juristic person is the owner of the land,' the minister said.
The bench had also cited the Ram Janmabhoomi case verdict to support its view that the deity presiding over a temple is a juristic person and can hold property in their name, he said.
'In the ownership column, the name of the deity is required to be mentioned. The occupation of the land is also by the deity, which is carried out by the servant or the managers, on behalf of the deity,' he said.
Kumar said that he is visiting all divisional headquarters of the state regarding the matter and asking officers concerned to start the process at the earliest.
'All district revenue officers have been asked to identify the land sold by priests or heads of mutts in their areas. All such registration of properties will be cancelled, and the Bihar Religious Trust Board will take possession of those land,' he said.
Recently, the Bihar Religious Trust Board stayed the sale of land belonging to 299 temples in Bhagalpur division because of procedural discrepancies, he said.
The Board is also scrutinising revenue records of 5,533 acres of land belonging to different temples and mutts in the Darbhanga division, he said.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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