Supreme Court: While considering the present issue that whether the suit lands can vest in the respondent Math in the light of the provisions of the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1955 and if Math had the right to prefer claim rights in respect of the Temple Lands and initiate the proceedings under the Orissa Estates Abolition Act, 1951 by virtue of being an intermediary, V. Gopala Gowda, J., setting aside the judgment of the High Court of Orissa, struck down the first part of the proviso of Section 2(oo) of the OEA Act, 1951, which pertains to the properties of Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri and also quashed the notification issued by the State Government under Section 3A of the OEA Act, 1951 with respect to the settlement of the suit lands in favour of the respondent Math as being bad in law.
The counsel for the appellant Mr. Harin P. Raval, was vociferous in his submission that the decision of this Court in the case of Lord Jagannath was passed in ignorance of the Temple Act, 1955 and the judgment was passed only on considering the provisions of the OEA Act, 1951. On the other hand, the counsel on behalf of the respondent, Mr. M.L. Varma relying on the principles of stare decisis and res judicata contented that the judgments delivered in the case of Mahant Shri Srinivas Ramanuj Das v. Surjanarayan Das AIR 1967 SC 256 and Lord Jagannath through Jagannath Singri Narasingh Das Mahapatra Sridhar Panda and Ors v. State of Orissa 1989 Supp (1) SCC 553 have held field since 1967 and 1989, respectively.
The Court on perusing the contentions and the concerned statutory provisions, observed that the High Court erred in its decision and that the decision of this Court in the case of Lord Jagannath does not bar the present case by res judicata since the subject matter in the two cases are not identical. The Court further observed that while the rule of harmonious construction must be given effect to as far as possible, when the provisions of two statutes are irreconcilable, it needs to be decided as to which provision must be given effect to. In the instant case, Section 2(oo) proviso in its entirety is not violative of the provisions of the Temple Act. It is only the first part of the proviso which is in contravention of the Temple Act, 1955 and by striking it down to that extent, both provision will be able to operate. Also, the Math did not have the right to prefer claim rights in respect of the Temple Lands and initiate the proceedings under the OEA Act, 1951since he was not an intermediary by virtue of the act.
The Court, thus, allowed the appeals and set aside the judgment of the High Court by holding that the suit land be settled in favour of the Temple Managing Committee. [Sri Jagannath Temple Managing Committee v. Siddha Math, 2015 SCC Online SC 1342, decided on 16.12.2015]