The Bombay high court on Friday denied gods permission to dabble in the share market.
“Gods and goddesses are meant to be worshipped in temples. We do not want our Lord Ganpati to be part of share trading,” the high court observed while ruling that private unregistered charitable trusts cannot open demat accounts in the name of deities for transactions in shares and debentures.
A division bench of justice PB Majmudar and justice RM Sawant dismissed a writ petition filed by the Sangli-based Shri Ganpat Panchayatan Sansthan Trust.
Owned by Sangli’s royal family, the Patwardhans, the trust had moved the court seeking directives to the National Securities Depositories Ltd (NSDL) to permit it to open demat accounts in the name of five deities.
“Let gods remain in the temples, let them not come out for commercial trading,” remarked the judges.
The trust had obtained PAN cards for the five deities, Ganpati, Chintamanishwar Dev, Chintamanishwari Devi, Suryanarayandev and Laxminarayandev, in 2008. It then moved an application to a bank seeking to open savings and current accounts in the deities’ names, so that a demat account could be operated.
“There is nothing wrong if deities are allowed to take part in share trading. Deities are treated as legal persons under Hindu law. If one can hold property in the name of gods, why can’t a demat account be opened?” argued the petitioner’s counsels Anil Anturkar and Uday Warunjikar.
Anturkar also argued that the deities had been provided PAN cards under the Income-Tax Act. “Hindu deities are recognised as artificial juristic persons and can hold property in their name as they are liable to pay income tax and wealth tax,” said the petition.
The court, however, refused to bite the bait. Justice Majmudar remarked, “Under which provision of Hindu law are Lord Rama or Ganesha considered a person? Bank accounts are operated by human beings, you cannot prosecute the deities if something goes wrong.”
Representing the NSDL, senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas argued that demat accounts can be operated only in the name of individuals, not deities. “It will be difficult to take action in case of illegal transactions if accounts are opened in the names of deities,” Dwarkadas argued.
S Ganesh, senior vice-president, NSDL, stated in his affidavit that there is no provision in law by which a demat account can be opened in the name of deities.
The judges, while dismissing the petition observed, “In our view, the petition is without any substance. It is true that under the Income Tax Act, the income earned by the trust of a deity is treated as the income of the deity, but provisions of the I-T Act cannot be implemented in this case. Even in nationalised banks, no account is allowed to be operated in the name of a deity.”