Secular mind should be applied while dealing with issues related to religion: Bombay High Court

Official authorities are sometimes afraid to get involved in the religious issues and take any action because it could be viewed against God; So, Bombay High Court while giving the judgment in the case of Namdev Sahebrao Garad vs. The State of Maharashtra [Criminal Writ Petition no. 691 of 2019] stated that the police and the other officials should work with secular mind and scientific approach while dealing with religious matters. The judgment was presided over by the bench of Hon’ble Justice T.V Nalawade and Justice M.G Sewalikar.

In the instant case, the appellant had lodged an FIR against the trustees of Jagdamba Devi Sarvajanik Trust, Aurangabad for misusing the funds of the trust. It was contended that some illegal acts were committed by the trustees which involved burying of around 2 kgs of Gold and the amount of Rs 25 lacs for some yantra ceremony and the auditor appointed for the same was corrupt and wasn’t qualified enough to do the audit of the trust. It was argued that instead of utilizing the income of the endowment for the purposes given in the scheme and making an attempt of upliftment of poor and needy persons and for providing amenities to the devotees, the illegal activity was done and that was not permissible under the scheme of the trust.

The Petitioner stated that he tried to disclose all the illegal activities in front of the officials several times but no action was taken against the trustees because they were afraid. The Respondent’s counsel argued that the petitioner was making false allegations against the trust and the trustees, just because he wasn’t part of the trust anymore. They stated that in the enquiry held by Maharashtra Public Trust, nothing was revealed there forth.

Court noted that the trustees used “hurting of religious feeling” as a shield for whoever came to question the management of the trust. It was observed that in total around Rs 1 crore funds were lost and were disposed illegally which couldn’t we considered as one-time irregularity.

Hence, HC came to the conclusion that the illegal acts of the trustees fall into the arena of prohibited acts mentioned under Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act which are not permitted by the Maharashtra Public Trust Act.

The HC bench also stated that the officials and the police should not get afraid from being involved in religious matters, but should work with secular mind and have a scientific approach.

The High Court stated that “The general fear may be of different kind like possibility that they may invite trouble as the matter involves religious feelings and it can be viewed as act against God. In view of the Article 51-A of the Constitution of India, this Court holds that the authorities are expected to work with secular mind in such case and they need to adhere to the ‘truth’. The authority needs to have scientific approach in such matters and they need to adhere to the provisions of law. With that approach they need to make inquiry and investigation and take action. The authority cannot accept the religious propositions like made in the present matter for trustees as such propositions cannot be scientifically prove”.

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