The Himachal Pradesh High Court has directed all Deputy Commissioners to provide details on the utilisation of temple funds in the last five years.
The officers are the ex-officio Commissioners of government-run temples under their jurisdiction.
A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel passed the order on Tuesday on a writ petition by Kashmir Chand Shadyal of Shimla.
The petitioner said most of the temples were getting liberal donations from a large number of devotees who thronged these places of worship. Despite this, the temple authorities were not providing inadequate facilities to the pilgrims and this raised a serious question on proper utilisation of funds.
He pleaded with the court to issue directives for utilisation of temple funds as per the Himachal Pradesh Hindu Public Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act of 1984.
The court observed that more than Rs 361 crore was generated in 10 years at 12 temples and expressed concern as to whether this substantial amount had been utilised to protect and preserve the properties of religious institutions and endowments.
The Judges directed the Commissioners to inform the court on various issues, such as the amount spent on maintenance/upkeep of the temples, mechanism adopted for safekeeping of offerings made by devotees and action taken to remove encroachments on temple premises.
Listing the case for August 13, the bench also directed the Chief Secretary to file an affidavit and explore the possibility of providing shelter to deserted/stray animals and planting of saplings of fruit trees on temple land.
The hill state, also known as the "land of the gods", has 28 prominent Hindu temples. The Mata Chintpurni shrine in Una district is the richest.
Other rich temple trusts include that of Naina Devi in Bilaspur, Baba Balak Nath in Hamirpur, Jwalaji, Chamunda Devi and Brajeshwari Devi in Kangra and Bhimakali and Hateshwari in Shimla.
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