Petition challenging Travancore Devaswom Board’s notification for appointment of Melshanthi of the Sabarimala temple dismissed for being bereft of merits

Kerala High Court: A Division bench comprising of P.R. Ramachandra Menon and Devan Ramachandran, JJ. dismissed a civil writ petition challenging a notification issued by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) in relation to appointment of the head priest of  Sabarimala temple.

Petitioner, one of the applicants for the post of ‘Melshanthi’ (head-priest) of the Sabarimala temple, filed the instant petition challenging a notification issued by TDB whereby only a ‘Santhi’ (priest) having twelve years experience, out of which ten years being spent continuously serving as a Melsanthi of a temple, would alone be eligible for being selected as the Melsanthi of the Sabarimala temple.

The petitioner contended that the stipulation mandating continuous ten years service as Melshanthi amounts to an illegal classification among the Santhis since it has no rationale nexus to the objective sought to be achieved by such classification.

The court held that the impugned notification was not a classification but it prescribed a specific qualification to identify the best and most suitable candidate. All the Melsanthis were Santhis and therefore, what the notification sought to do was not to classify them into two categories, but to prescribe an additional qualification for the aspiring Santhis, so that TDB could select the best candidate.

Relying on the principles relating to fixing and stipulation of the qualifications of employees enumerated by the Supreme Court in J. Rangaswamy v. Government of A.P., (1990) 1 SCC 288, the High Court held that it was completely proscribed from entering into the said area unless the petitioner showed that TDB’s prescriptions were illegal and void ab initio. Thus, the petition was dismissed for being without merits and holding that the issue in question fell within the realm of policy-creation by the appointing authority – TDB.[Rajesh J. Potty v. Travancore Devaswom Board,2018 SCC OnLine Ker 4115, decided on 12-10-2018]

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