Written by: Riya Ganguly (Intern)
Edited by: Anubhav Yadav (Content Head & Developer)
SRI RAGHAVENDRA SWAMY MUTT VS. STATE OF ANDHRA PRADESH (WP 0641 OF 2021)
A petition (WP.No.9641 of 2021) was filed by the petitioner on 21st September 2021, seeking to declare the memo no. dated 04/07/2018 and 05/12/2018, along with the Rc.No.DP1/25031/3/2020 dated 19/04/2021, issued by the respondent as null and void via the issuance of any requisite writ.
- The petitioner was a mutt, based at Manthralayam in Kurnool. It was the contention of the petitioner that the respondent via the issuance of the above dated memos and directions was trying to interfere with the activities of the Mutt by directing the petitioner to pay the minimum wages to people employed in the mutt.
- The counsel argued that the Mutt was a religious institution which was discharging both religious and secular functions, and hence, the State (respondent) did not have the right to interfere with the Management of the Mutt.
- The counsel elucidated that the above dated memos related to specific temples and not to the Mutt and the aforesaid direction related to temple employees for extension of minimum time scale of pay.
- To elaborate on the distinction between the mutt and the temple, the counsel relied upon section 2(17) of the A.P. Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions & Endowments Act, 1987 (The Act), which defined Mutt as an institution headed by a person whose primary job was to engage himself in teaching, propagation of religious philosophy etc., and impart religious training etc. whereas, a temple was a place, which was dedicated to and keep used as a place of public religious worship. Due to the distinction between these two organisations, the state did not have the power or control to interfere in these affairs of a Mutt.
- Moreover, under Section 6 of the Act also, the income or the change in income of the Mutt cannot lead to a change in the classification of the Mutt. Hence, a mutt cannot be subsequently a temple.
- It was further submitted that the Minimum Wages Act would not apply to a religious Mutt by relying on the case laws of Tirumala, Tirupati v. Commissioner of Endowments, Endowment Department, Hyderabad ((2006) (3) ALD 22)
- The counsel relied upon Sections 2(17), 2(23) and 29 read with Section 6 of the Act, to prove that the respondents had control and authority over the Mutt. The P. Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Office Holders and Servants Service Rules, 2000, stated that the Rules shall apply to the servants of all the Mutts.
- In the light of the above rules, the respondents were entitled to issue the directions to the petitioners.
- Enunciating on the issue of wages, the counsel submitted that it did not insist upon the payment of the wages, but was trying to ensure the principle of equal pay for equal work and the extension of minimum time scale, as enunciated in the case of State of Punjab v. Jagjit Singh ((2017) 1 SCC 148).
The single judge of the court headed by Justice DVSS Somayajulu held on that a mutt was distinct from temple as given under Section 2(17) of the Act. The Mutt has its own area of operation and the respondents cannot interfere in its secular activity. Hence, the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is not applicable to the Mutt. Further, the court held that it was only in cases of misconduct or mismanagement of the properties by the Mahant under Section 51 of the Act that the State could interfere.
Moreover, under Section 6 of the Act, a mutt cannot be reclassified into temple. Further, the commissioner/ Additional commissioner had no power to extend the application of Minimum Wage or the minimum time scale.