Muslim shopkeepers at the Shri Bhramaramba Mallikarjun Swami temple complex in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district have welcomed the recent upholding of a Supreme Court order directing that people of other religions who already have shop licenses in the temple premises will not be barred from participating in shop auctions.
After some Hindu groups opposed the participation of non-Hindus in the AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowment Act, 1987, citing non-Hindus working near temples – especially the Srisailam temple – the auction process in the temple premises was started in August 2019.
A bench of the apex court comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathana directed that “no tenant / shop owner shall be excluded from participating in the auction or from lease grants solely on the basis of their religion”.
This was pointed out in two petitions on Friday – one filed by a group of 21 Muslim shopkeepers in Srisailam, and the other, a contempt petition filed by a shop owner outside the Kanak Durga temple at Vijayawada. The bench combined the two petitions.
In January 2017, the Srisailam temple administration undertook the task of widening the two main access roads to the temple, which required the demolition of at least 50 shops. The administration assured the shop owners that they would be allotted new shops nearby. Of these 50 shop owners, 21 are Muslims.
The temple administration had built the Shri Lalithambika Shopping Complex for new shops, but when the auction was to be held in 2019, some Hindu groups led by Bajrang Dal and local BJP member Shrikant Reddy filed a complaint against the AP Charitable against Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowment Act, 1987.