Land Ownership Dispute: Ganapathi Dev Temple vs. State Government

A landmark verdict by the Supreme Court has resolved the long-standing land ownership dispute between Ganapathi Dev Temple and the State Government. The temple, represented by its archak, fought to remove unauthorized entries in revenue records of the suit property. After a series of legal battles and appeals, the Supreme Court’s judgment upheld the temple’s rightful ownership and set aside the claims made by the State Government. This case marks a significant milestone in protecting temple properties and upholding the principles of justice.


  • Late Baba Bommayya Bhat was the archak of the appellant Ganapathi Dev temple and in possession of agricultural land since 1969.
  • After Baba Bommayya Bhat’s death, his son Balakrishna Bhat continued in possession of the land.
  • Balakrishna Bhat’s name was entered into revenue records for the suit property.
  • The appellant temple’s name was entered in the Record of Rights after an application was allowed by the Deputy Commissioner.
  • Prior to 28.01.1981, the individuals were not cultivators of the property and could not be considered tenants under the 1961 Act.
  • Section 45(1) of the 1961 Act provides for the right of tenants to be registered as occupants of the land vested with the government.
  • The deceased Balakrishna Bhat’s application for occupancy rights was rightly rejected by the Assistant Commissioner due to earlier Land Tribunal orders.
  • The Tehsildar’s order entering the appellant’s name based on previous orders of competent authorities was confirmed by the Deputy Commissioner.
  • The individuals challenged the orders before the Single Judge in Writ Petition No 12482 of 2006, which was dismissed.
  • The Land Tribunal rejected the Form 7 application filed under Section 48A of the 1961 Act on 28.01.1981.
  • The Assistant Commissioner observed that the suit property does not fall under the provisions of the 1961 Act and directed for the removal of the government’s name from the revenue records.
  • The deceased Balakrishna Bhat was not entitled to apply for occupancy rights under Section 77A of the amended 1961 Act.
  • The appellant filed an application before the Tehsildar to remove the names of the State Government and Balakrishna Bhat from the revenue records of the suit property.

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  • Record of Rights to be prepared for every village including names of holders, occupants, owners, etc.
  • Details to be included in the Record of Rights such as nature and extent of interests, conditions, rent or revenue payable, and other prescribed particulars.
  • Acquisition of rights to be reported within three months of acquisition to the concerned officer.
  • Reporting can be done orally or in writing, and a written acknowledgment must be provided by the officer.
  • Exemption from reporting for persons acquiring rights through registered documents.
  • Definition of deemed tenant as a person lawfully cultivating another person’s land under specific conditions.
  • Personality of the idol merged with Shebait, justified by reason and decisions.
  • No entry in Record of Rights without valid mutation entry as per Sections 128 and 129 of the 1964 Act.
  • Land Tribunal and Assistant Commissioner rejected claims on two separate occasions.
  • Sections 129(6) and 129(7) talk about testing, certification, and transfer of entries.
  • Appellants failed to correct revenue entry despite direction by Assistant Commissioner.
  • Division Bench overlooked crucial aspects and made observations against record facts.
  • Respondents claimed entries in revenue records due to house construction but lacked proof of right or title.
  • Respondents did not challenge previous orders that stated suit property belonged to the temple.
  • Unlawfully made entries in favor of alleged unauthorized occupants to be deleted.
  • No basis for suit property to be vested in the State Government under the 1961 Act.
  • Presumption under Section 133 that entries are true until proven otherwise or lawfully substituted.
  • Idol deemed minor, Shebait obligated to act for idol’s benefit.
  • Primary issue – correctness of revenue entries in respondent’s name, with temple ownership confirmed.
  • No justification for granting relief to respondents based on unstable claims.
  • Duty of archak to protect temple property, cannot usurp for personal gains.
  • Initial report to prescribed officer required for entry in Record of Rights under the 1964 Act.
  • Appellant’s right to set aside wrongful entries for temple benefit recognized.
  • Idol of a Hindu temple is a juristic person in whom the title to the properties of the endowment vests
  • If the Shebait acts adversely to the idol’s interest, another agency must have the right to act for the idol
  • Persons interested in the endowment have the right to take proceedings on behalf of the idol if the Shebait fails to act in its interest
  • An idol is in the position of a minor, and someone interested in the worship of the idol can be given ad hoc power of representation to protect its interest
  • A sale made by the manager of the deity not for the benefit of the idol can be challenged and set aside by worshippers or other parties assisting in the management of the temple
  • In this case, the predecessors of the archaks attempted to claim occupancy rights over the temple property, but their claims have failed
  • The entry in the respondents’ predecessors’ names in the Record of Rights was found to be illegal.
  • The revenue records for the suit property were correctly modified in the appellant’s name.
  • This modification was done by the orders of the revenue authorities on dates 21.05.2003, 30.07.2005, and 23.03.2006.

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  • The impugned judgment in Writ Appeal No 984 of 2007 has been set aside.
  • The appeal has been allowed.

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Case Number: C.A. No.-002926-002926 / 2009

Click here to read/download original judgement

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