Bhubaneswar: A report of CAG recently tabled in Odisha Assembly revealed that Trust Board of Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar has not been keeping annual income-expenditure accounts of the shrine.
The report said that not maintaining the financial details of the 11th-century old temple is a clear violation of Section 58 of the Orissa Hindu Religious Endowment (OHRE) Act, 1951. “Section 58 of the OHRE Act envisages that the Trustee of a Hindu religious institution shall keep regular accounts of all receipts and disbursements. Further, as per the Rule 21(2) [m(b)] of OHRE Act, an auditor should check the income and expenditure statement prepared by the Trustee.”
Annual income and expenditure details have not been maintained by the Board, even though the income of the temple was Rs 5.72 crore between 2016 and 2019 and expenditure was Rs 2.52 crore during the same period, the CAG report maintained.
The cashbook of the Shaivite shrine was not written for 246 days during the test check period of 2019 and closing balances in bank accounts were not reflected in the cashbook, the CAG report observed.
It is pertinent to mention, though the Trust Board has maintained stock registers of articles, they have not been updated. Several articles including vessels and jewellery worn by the presiding deity have not been included in the inventory list. Stock including idols, brass and copper utensils were never physically verified by the executive officers.
Between 2016 and 2019, necessary steps were not taken by the erstwhile Endowment Commissioner (EC) to maintain a book of accounts despite the fact that the Board had received Rs 13 lakh from the government as assistance for conducting rituals and festivals.
Moreover, as per Section 15(1) of the OHRE Act, a Hindu religious institution should maintain a register of its properties. As per Section 15(2), such register shall be prepared, signed and duly verified by the Trustee or his authorised agent of the religious institution concerned (here applicable to Lingaraj temple) and submitted to the EC.
The Lingaraj temple has total landed property measuring about 1,524 acre. However, the Trust Board is in actual possession of 31.6 acre of land in Bhubaneswar, whereas 36.37 acre is presently under encroachment in the city. Although Lingaraj temple owns lands across the state, the CAG was aware of possession and encroachment related to Bhubaneswar.
Information on ownership and encroachment of land at other places are not known to the temple administration. The Endowment Officer of Lingaraj temple had earlier intimated to Audit that 36.37 acres, out of 69.423 acres of land in Bhubaneswar, have been encroached.