What are the powers and duties of a Mahant and a Shebait ?

Ans. Powers and duties of Mahant.—The Mahant has the right to enjoy the property or beneficial interest so long as he is entitled to hold his office. He has large powers of disposal over surplus income of the Math of which he is the Mathadhipati and the only restriction is that he cannot spend anything out of it for his personal use unconnected with the dignity of his office. In Mahadeo v.Meeno Devi, (AIR 1976 All. 64), it was held that the power of a Mahan/ can in no case extend to alienating the assets of the Math for the benefit of his own dependants. He is only the manager and custodian of the idol or the institution. In almost every case he is given the right to a part of the usufruct depending on usage and custom. In no case is the property conveyed to be vested in him, nor is he a trustee in the English sense of the term, although in a view of the obligations and duties resting on him, he is answerable as a Trustee, in the general sense for maladministration. A Mahant’s duty is not simply to manage the temporalities of a Math. He is the head and superior of spiritual fraternity and the purpose of Math is to encourage and foster spiritual training by maintenance of competent line of teachers who could impart religious instruction to the disciples and followers of the Math and to strengthen the doctrines of the particular School or order, of which they profess to be adherents De facto Mahant is entitled to sue for the recovery of Math property. In case ofAmar Prakash v. Poorkashanand, (AIR 1979 SC 845), the Supreme Court held that a person who was not a chela but was accepted as one, could be validly appointed as a successor. Powers and duties of Shebait.—A Shebait has the title of the manager of a religious endowment and is as such entitled, subject to usage, to the custody of idol and its properties. Although the debutter never vests in Shebait, yet practically in every case, the Shebait has a right to a part of the usufruct, the mode of enjoyment and the amount of usufruct. As regards the service of the temple and the duties that appertain to it, he is rather in the position of the holder of an office; but even so it will not be quite correct to describe Shebaitship as a mere office. Apart from obligations and duties resting on him in connection with the endowment the Shebait has a personal interest in the endowment property. He has to some extent, rights of a limited owner. The possession and management of the property of religious endowment belongs to the manager, Shebait or Dharmakarta and this carries with it the right to bring whatever suits are necessary for the benefit, preservation and protection of the property of the idol. It is competent for the manager, Shebait or Dharmakarta to incur debts and borrow, money for the proper expenses of keeping up the religious worship, repairing the temples, or other possessions of the idol; institution or defending litigations, hostile attack, and to prevent the endowed properties from being brought to sale in execution of decrees binding upon the institution. The power, however, to incur, such debts must be measured by the existing necessity for incurring them. Thus, the limit set by his power of disposition is to maintain and preserve, by proper management, the endowment or religious institution. In Vishwakarma Mandir Trust v. Smt. Munni Devi, (AIR 1980 Pat.), it was observed by Patna High Court that where a Shebait declines to bring a suit by his conduct he places himself in such a position that he could not be expected to bring a suit, in order to protect the interest of deity, in the case of private endowment, the members of the family of the founder are the persons who can sueao enforce the right of the deity.