Mumbai News

Bombay High Court scraps appointments made to Shirdi trust by Uddhav Thackeray-led govt in 2021 – India Today

The Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court has quashed and set aside a Maharashtra government order issued on September 16, 2021 by the Principal Secretary, Law and Judiciary Department, Mantralaya, appointing 12 people to the Managing Committee of the Shree Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi.

Petitioners Uttamrao Shelke and Nikil Dorle challenged the appointments of 12 people, that included politicians, lawyers and businessmen, into the trust.

The bench of Justices RD Dhanuka and SG Mehare directed the state government to constitute a new “Shree Sai Baba Sanstha Management Committee” within a period of eight weeks from today, in accordance with the provisions of Section 5 of the Act of 2004 and in line with the principles laid down by the court in the judgments delivered earlier, which had clearly stated that custodians of the trust cannot be appointed for political considerations.

The high court ruled that until the state government forms a new committee, the affairs of the “Shree Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi” will be supervised, monitored, and managed by a committee comprised of the Principal District Judge of Ahmednagar, the Collector of Ahmednagar, and the Chief Executive Officer of the Shree Sai Baba Sansthan Trust, Shirdi.

The court’s ad hoc committee has been directed not to make any major financial decisions regarding the management of Sansthan’s affairs without the court’s permission.

During the arguments made by advocates Pradnya Talekar and RS Deshmukh for the petitioners, it was submitted that “the members who are nominated by the state government belong to three political parties, i.e. Shivsena, Congress, and NCP.”

“Some of the candidates who have lost elections are appointed as committee members due to political considerations. There are criminal cases pending against members of the committee. The appointments should not be of persons having political documents or affiliations,” it added.

The court even said “that in the last decades, all the appointments of the trustees of the said Sansthan Trust made by the ruling parties were based basically on political considerations and not on merits, which is contrary to the principles laid down by the Supreme Court and this court and in gross violation of the provisions conferring such power upon the state government under the said Act.”

The bench said, “The state government cannot be allowed to appoint trustees by accommodating or rehabilitating their own party workers or politicians when other impartial and meritorious persons who are qualified according to the conditions prescribed under the said Act are available.”

“If the state government would have appointed independent trustees and not the politicians who have close connections with the ruling party, the said Sansthan Trust, which is a public trust and is a custodian of public money and property, would have saved huge amounts of public money spent on unnecessary litigation,” the bench added.

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