The Supreme Court on Friday sought response of the Centre and the Bihar government to decide whether a Hindu can be the chairman of the famed Maha Bodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya and the managing committee dominated by Hindus instead of Buddhists.
A bench of justices Altamas Kabir and S S Nijjar granted four weeks time to the Centre and the state government to respond on the issue and said it was keen on "resolving" it.
The apex court's direction came on a public interest litigation by advocate Vineet Dhanda, challenging the validity of Section 3 of the Bodh Gaya Temple Act, 1949, under which the government appoints a 9-member panel with a Hindu as its chairman and the majority of its members being Hindus rather than Buddhists.
Dhanda submitted the constitution of the committee of the Maha Bodhi Temple, which is the holiest place of Buddhists, violated Articles 26 and 25 of the Constitution.
While Article 25 gives liberty or freedom to profess, practice, propagate any religion, Article 26 gives fundamental right to an individual and community to manage their religious affairs and matters on their own and administer their own religious places or institutions, he said.
The advocate pointed out that the Bodh Gaya Temple Act, 1949, however, mandates that the committee regulating the affairs of Maha Bodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya would have Hindus in majority as the law mandates its panel chairman and four members to be Hindus, leaving only four remaining seats for Buddhists members.
Maha Bodhi Temple is one of the most revered shrines of Buddhists as Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment under Maha Bodhi Tree.
The petition, among other things, urged the apex court to issue an appropriate writ/order or direction asking the central and the state governments to amend section 3(3) of "The Bodhgaya Temple Act, 1949" and ensure that the head of the Bodhgaya Temple be a Buddhist and not a Hindu.
It further urged the court to direct the state government to make necessary amendment in the "Bodhgaya Temple Act, 1949" in Section 3(3) substituting that the Chairman of the Committee administering the Temple be a Buddhist and ensuring that neither a Hindu nor the district magistrate (who is an ex-officio Chairman of the Committee) is allowed to dominate the management.