Shimla: The Himachal High Court has hauled up the state government and a well known temple trust for spending pilgrim donated offerings on a souvenir advertisement for an entertainment festival in a district.
Division bench of Chief Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary yesterday directed the state chief secretary and chief commissioner (Temples) to issue appropriate directions to all commissioners that the God’s money would not be spent for advertisements in souvenirs.
“It is made clear that the temple trust shall not spend any money by way of any advertisement in any souvenir,” the judges decreed.
Taking cognizance of a letter by Rajnish Khosla about Rs 1 lakh having been spent by Baba Balak Nath Temple Trust Fund for an advertisement in a souvenir published by Himachal Tourism in connection with Hamir Utsav, an entertainment festival, celebrated in 2009, the court by considering it as an writ petition had sought an explanation both from the temple trust as well as the state government.
The temple trust had defended its action by letting the court know that the amount was sent along with the souvenir material at the request of the Deputy Commissioner.
The judges observed, “the text of the advertisement that appeared in the souvenir has also been produced. Having gone through the material and as has been rightly perceived by all concerned in the Court, God’s money is not to be spent for advertisement about the temple or its activities.”
Issues raised about management of trust funds and other allegations, the judges noted that “we do not think it necessary to go into those aspects since there are other writ petitions pertaining to those issues.”
Temple trusts are one of the richest religious institutions in Himachal, with atleast 13 of them including Baba Balaknath Temple counted as millionaire temples in the state.
Facing a problem of plenty, the government was finding it difficult to guard the gold offerings made in these temples and had even decided to convert part of it into temple souvenirs for sale to devotees.
In 2009, nine temples shrines had stocks of over 400 Kgs of gold with Mata Chintpurni temple in Una alone being in possession of 150 Kgs.
Working of several of these temple managements are disputed and are before the courts.
Photo: Ravinder Makhaik