Guthi Sansthan says it is ‘working’ to reclaim the guthi land sold by a priestThe priest claims the land in Siddharthanagar had been his personal property even before he assumed that post.
Guthi Sansthan has said it is initiating the necessary legal process to reclaim a piece of land in Siddharthanagar Municipality-6, Rupandehi, which was sold by the priest of Laxmi Narayan Math Guthi of Mahottari, a public guthi. The Sansthan says the property belongs to it, but was illegally transferred under personal ownership of the priest and then sold.
Jagannath Das Bainshnav, who has worked as a priest of the Laxmi Narayan Math Guthi since 1997, had sold 3.5 katthas (828.94 square metres) of land to Udayaman Pandey and Sanjaya Prasad Pandey for Rs6.1 million on April 29.
The Sansthan on June 16 sought clarification from Jagannath, asking why the land should not again be brought under Laxmi Narayan Math Guthi.
Jagannath claimed in response that the land had remained his personal property before he became a priest of the temple in 1997.
After the death of his predecessor and father Kishor Das Bainshnav, he assumed the role of priest of the Laxmi Narayan Math Guthi. However, the Sansthan claimed that Jagannath, who is suspended as a priest of the temple over the case, has failed to present any evidence to suggest he owned the property.
A probe conducted by the Sansthan also pointed out that the land belongs to the public guthi. Sansthan staff Baburam Poudel concluded in his probe report that the land did belong to the guthi and had been overseen by Jagannath’s father Kishor Das Bainshnav as suggested by the owner of bordering land and documentation (lagat) kept in 1958.
As per Clause 143 of the Land Administration Directive, a saint appointed as priest of the public temple can sell the land earned by himself or herself during his lifetime. But the land, which is sold during his or her lifetime comes under the ownership of the guthi, and cannot be sold. As per Clause 144 of the directive, such land cannot be given as a gift.
“As per the law, we allowed Jagannath to clarify his position regarding the sold land,” said Narayan Chaudhary, administrator of the Sansthan. “But he has failed to prove he owned the land.”
He said that the Sansthan has suspended Jagannath from the post of priest as per its employee-related bylaws and has given dates to furnish clarifications as needed. “There is also space for taking legal action against him for forgery,” he added.
The issue came to light after the Sansthan launched a search for its land amid uproar over public land being transferred in the name of individuals in different parts of the country, including Baluwatar, the prime minister’s official residence, under the influence of land mafias.
Yadav said that the Sansthan would take a final decision on the Siddharthanagar-based land sold by the priest. In its letter sent on July 21 to the probe commission, the Sansthan has said it is working to bring back this land under the guthi.
Jagannath, in his written reply to the Sansthan, said the land had been under his name before a survey was conducted of the land. He has claimed that the land plot cannot come under a guthi or temple just because it is owned by the priest.
Chaudhary has called for an investigation on how the government agencies allowed the sale of this land despite a legal provision that prohibits the sale of public land that is under the supervision of a priest.
“The District Administration Office had once frozen this land, but it is unclear why and when it that restriction was lifted,” he said. “The land revenue offices should have considered the legal provisions too before allowing the sale of land.”