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The Baridar Sangharsh Committee has challenged the Constitutional validity of the Jammu & Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Act, 1988, which vests control over the Shrine in the hands of the Government.
The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has issued notice in a plea by the Baridars, a Hindu Religious denomination, claiming rights to the administration, management and governance of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board and its endowments.
Justice Javed Iqbal Wani issued notice to the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board on Wednesday.
The petition has been filed by the Baridar Sangharsh Committee and 54 other petitioners through Advocate Ankur Sharma. According to the petition, Baridars used to manage and control Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine before its State take over in 1986.
Top Contentions made by the Petitioners:
Shrine was discovered and established by the Baridars under the spiritual guidance of Pandit Shridhar in the 10th Century AD. There is sufficient anecdotal evidence available in the public domain validating the veracity of this.
A challenge is made to the Constitutional validity of the Jammu & Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board Act, 1988, which vests control over the Shrine in the hands of the Government.
The petitioners seek complete handover of the management, administration and governance of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, its endowments and properties to the Baridars.
The petitioners seek an external audit of the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Fund.
The temple administration was allegedly taken over by the Government citing mismanagement and maladministration. However, it is contended that corruption is now apparent in the working of the Government-controlled Shrine Board. This is against the Hindu interests, the plea states.
Despite equally empowered in taking over management, administration and governance of religious institutions belonging to other religions, "the State in brazen violation of Article 14 has exercised its authority only against Hindu Temples.”
Shrine Board funds were squandered for throwing Iftaar parties in favour of members of a different religious group. It is argued that funds from the Shrine have been spent by the Board beyond the scope of Section 4 of the 1988 Act causing a broad daylight heist on Hindu sentiments.
Protest is also raised stating that the Board has employed several non-Hindus at various posts in its administration.
It is highlighted that a new pathway is being constructed, despite Hindu resistance. By this, the petitioners argue the Shrine Board has taken effective steps in destroying the historical significance of the religious landmarks that exist across the traditional route namely Charan Padukas, Ardha Kunwari etc.
While addressing the Court, the Petitioners through their counsel, Advocate Ankur Sharma stressed that the instant petition has been filed for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights of the petitioners as guaranteed under Article 25 (2)(a), 26, 29, 14 and 31 A (b) of the Constitution of India.
"In all the decades, the Hindu Religious Institutions in Jammu and Kashmir have been under the thumb of the State, the ability of the Hindu community to administer its own institutions has been systematically clipped and pared-down", argued Ankur Sharma.
“Despite equally empowered in taking over management, administration and governance of religious institutions belonging to other religions, the State in brazen violation of Article 14 has exercised its authority only against Hindu Temples”, he alleged.
The matter has been directed to be listed after 4 weeks and the State has been directed to file its reply within this period.