| Jayendra Saraswati: Temporary relief
Chennai, March 6: Madras High Court has ruled that the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt is a 'separate organisation and legal entity by itself', as distinct from the 'head' who leads it.
Justice K.P. Sivasubramaniam gave the far-reaching ruling while setting aside the special investigation team's recent directive to banks to 'freeze' the mutt's bank accounts.
The SIT is investigating the Shankar Raman murder case, in which Jayendra Saraswati and his junior Vijayendra Saraswati are the first and the second accused.
The court ruled as 'illegal' the police directive that 'froze' 183 bank accounts of various institutions under the mutt, bringing its daily activities to a halt.
In response to Jayendra Saraswati's challenge of the police order, Justice Sivasubramaniam said the Kanchi mutt 'is a religious institution, entitled to constitutional protection, as envisaged under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution'.
Such institutions 'are accepted as institutions/juridical persons...' the judge said.
They do not necessarily have to be registered under any act in view of their antiquity and 'acceptance to a large section of the members of society as representing their faith', the judge added.
All this may prove to be of some relief for followers of religious institutions in the country's north and to the institutions themselves. Officials of several religious institutions had recently come under a cloud following allegations of sleaze and power struggles.
Madras High Court's ruling is especially significant to the Kanchi mutt as an affidavit by chief investigating officer Sakthivelu, filed on the chief secretary's behalf, had said the mutt was not a place of worship but a 'residential colony'.
The court ruled that CrPC Section 102 ' the prosecution had pushed for a freeze order by citing the power of a police officer to seize certain properties ' 'cannot have any nexus to the future transactions or the regular activities of the mutt'.
Its daily activities and the money it receives or spends on the activities 'can absolutely have no relevance to the offences alleged to have been committed earlier by the head of the mutt or for the investigation into these offences', the court held.
'Another perspective' that invalidates Section 102 in this instance is that the mutt or its trust 'is an independent body by itself and can have nothing to do with the commission and omission of the head of the mutt in his personal capacity,' the judge said.
'The mutt is not the accused. It is the head of the mutt who is the accused.'