Bombay HC red flag to Shirdi trust

Insists that the state set criteria of appointments to the cash-rich board.

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Bombay HC red flag to Shirdi trust


Within days of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan announcing the names of 15 new members on the Shri Saibaba Sanstahn trust board, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court on Friday ordered an interim stay on the appointments. Further, the court ordered that the trust’s affairs be handed over to a three-member executive panel comprising additional district magistrate (Kopargaon), Ahmednagar collector and the chief operating officer of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Shirdi.

Chavan’s appointment of politically-connected persons (nine from the NCP and six affiliated to the Congress) on to the trust’s board on Wednesday did not go down well with the devotees of Saibaba’s Bhakt Mandal. So, even before the Congress could exercise its privilege to appoint two more party members, Shailesh Dethe, a devotee, moved HC with a fresh PIL against Chavan’s appointment. The division bench of justice PS Gavai and justice Sunil Deshmukh heard the PIL on “an urgent basis” and stayed the appointments with immediate effect.

Dethe submitted that while the HC, at the time of dissolving the trust, had asked the state to appoint a new committee within a fortnight, it also issued clear directives that the government formulate rules for the appointments before constituting  the trust board. This the CM seems to have ignored, with all 15 trustees appointed by Chavan being either politicians or their kin.

On Friday, the HC bench directed that the three-member executive committee would run the sansthan’s affairs until the state formulates the appointment rules.

It was in 2003 that the state via an Act  wrested the privilege of appointing the trustees. The first such board was put in place in 2004, but it continued to enjoy  extended terms till March 2012, when Sanjay Kale, an RTI actitivist and Sai devotee, moved the HC bench levelling allegations of funds misppropriation by the trust.

This was when the court dissolved the earlier trust and gave 15 days to appoint a new board. On the state government’s “hastily announced list of 15 trust members”, the court bench remarked on Friday: ‘the new trust board seems to be appointed in haste. It looks like a political rehabilitation of these people, as candidates who have been defeated in earlier elections have been appointed.”

Speaking to DNA, Sai bhakt Dethe said, “Someone had to do something about it,  so I filed a PIL. I have submitted that people with improper qualification and criminal backgrounds are not liable for such posts”.

Reinstated chairman of the managing committee, Jayabtrao Sasane, said the government will take necessary steps in light of the HC order.

Sanjay Kale’s petition, which is pending before the HC, would come up for hearing on April 4, 2012.

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