Short Essay on the Hindu Religious Endowments

Shebaits and Mohants:

The Manager of a temple is called Shebait or Dharmakarta. The Manager of a Muth is called a Mohant or Matadhipati. In Vidyavaruthi v. Baluswami, 44 Mad. 831 (PC), the Privy Council pointed out that the Dharmakarta of a temple is not the legal owner of the endowed property. He is only the Manager. The Supreme Court has pointed out in Sirur Muth case as regards the office of Mohant: “In the office of Mohantship, the elements of office and property, of duties and personal interest are blended together and neither can be detached from the other”. The head of the Mutt is a saintly religious preacher and his devotees and disciples present offerings at his feet. These are entirely in the personal disposition of interest of the Shebait in debut tar property, i.e. property of the deity.

Alienatory Powers:

The alienatory power of the Shebait and the Mohant over the endowed property is analogous to the power of limited owners. That is, this power is governed by the rule in Hanooman Persaud’s case.

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Devolution of the Office:

It is open to the Shebait to nominate his successor. A similar power is enjoyed by the Mohant. Custom and practice regulates the devolution of the office. Greedharee Doss v. Nundokisore Doss, 1857 (11) MIA 405. These offices may also be hereditary by custom; Sirur Mutt Case. The Shebait right, i.e., right to management in such a case is virtually a property right and the heir of the Shebait succeeds to the office. Even a female may thus become the Shebait as heir of the previous Shebait. Angur Bala v. Debobrata, 1951 SCR 1125.

Local Legislation:

Religious Endowments have been the subject matter of local legislation. The State Legislatures in various states have passed legislative enactments to regulate the management of religious endowments. Such legislation should not conflict with the guarantee relating to religious freedom and freedom of every religious denomination to manage the religious institutions under its control. Sirur Mutt Case.

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