HC notice on plea questioning minor’s anointment as seer

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The High Court of Karnataka on Wednesday ordered issue of notices to the State and Central governments on a PIL petition questioning the legality of appointing a minor as the 31st seer of Udupi Shiroor Mutt, and seeking directions to the authorities to take him to their custody for his welfare and continuation of education.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Suraj Govindaraj passed the order on the petition filed by P. Lathavya Acharya, secretary and managing trustee of Sri Shiroor Mutt Bhaktha Samiti, Udupi, along with three other office-bearers of the samiti.

The petitioners have sought a declaration that the practice of balasanyasa or imposition of sanyasa on a minor amounts to material abandonment of the minor and that it violates the rights of the minor guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, and consequently such practice violates Article 39 (e) & (f) of the Constitution of India.

“The protection of the rights of the children forms an integral part of the judicial review mechanism under the scheme of the Constitution in terms of Article 226 /Article 32 of the Constitution of India. In the present case, the minor is imposed with sanyasa while the authorities concerned have remained dormant and inactive permitting the rights of the minor child being violated,” it was contended in the petition.

While claiming that “the minor was not from an affluent background and perhaps the economic condition had been misused in taking the child’s parents into confidence in undertaking this exercise,” it was contended that the “laws relating to the rights of a guardian, even a guardian, whether legal or natural is not empowered to give any consent for material abandonment or imposition of sanyasa on the minor child.”

While complaining that district administration has failed to protect the rights of the minor despite various representations to the authorities, the petitioners claimed the religious rituals of anointment were conducted in violation of lockdown restrictions.

The petitioners sought a declaration from the court that Sri Vishwavallabha Tirtha swami of Sri Sode Vadiraj Mutt had no power to appoint 16-year-old Aniruddha Saralathaya (now named as Vedavardhana Titrtha) as the peetadhipathi of Shiroor Mutt.

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