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High Court says no to interim stay on fund transfer from temple trust

The court, however, made it clear that if any irregularities related to the funds were found later, it would direct the government to refund the amount.

The Bombay High Court on Friday refused to grant any interim stay on transfer of funds from the Siddhivinayak Temple trust in Mumbai to the Maharashtra government for fight against COVID-19 and also for a subsidised food scheme for the poor in the State.

The court, however, made it clear that if any irregularities related to the funds were found later, it would direct the government to refund the amount.

An advocate, Leela Ranga, had filed a petition in the High Court challenging three Government Resolutions (GRs) dated March 19, June 25 and July 25, 2020, that accorded sanction to the temple trust committee to donate ₹5 crore each for the State’s ‘Shiv Bhojan’ food scheme and to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petitioner’s counsel Pradeep Sancheti argued that the resolutions were “illegal and impermissible” under provisions of the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Trust (Prabhadevi) Act, 1980.

The trust manages the famous Siddhivinayak Temple at Prabhadevi in Mumbai.

Mr. Sancheti sought the court to grant an interim stay on any transfer of money from the temple funds to the government.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Revati Mohite Dere, however, said that it was not inclined to grant any stay at this stage.

The Bench directed the Maharashtra government and the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganpati Temple Trust Management Committee to file affidavits in response to the plea.

Prima facie, we are satisfied that the petitioner has made out a case. However, we are not inclined to grant any interim relief at this stage.

“But any action taken (by way of transfer of funds) shall be subject to the final orders of the court,” the Bench maintained.

If at the time of final hearing of the petition, we come to the conclusion that there have been irregularities (related to the funds), we will set the clock back and ask the government to refund the amount, Chief Justice Datta said.

The Bench posted the plea for further hearing in the first week of October.

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