The High Court of Andhra Pradesh on Monday struck down G.O. Ms. Nos 72 and 74, through which Sanchaita Gajapathi Raju was appointed as the hereditary trustee/chairperson of Sri Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Vari Devasthanam at Simhachalam and the MANSAS (Maharaja Alak Narayan Society of Arts & Science) Trust respectively last year, and ordered that P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju be reinstated as chairman of both the trusts.

Ashok challenged his removal and appointment of Sanchaitha on the grounds that the eldest member of the Gajapathi family shall head MANSAS Trust and Simhachalam Temple Trust Board. Justice M Venkata Ramana issued orders striking down the two GOs — one removing Ashok and the other appointing Sanchaiatha — apart from another GO by which the government appointed two others as members of MANSAS Trust.

Mr. Ashok said in his petitions that the established practice in the Simhachalam Devasthanam had been for the “eldest male lineal descendant” of the Pusapati Gajapathi family of the princely State of Vizianagaram to be the hereditary trustee and it was in vogue for more than three centuries and continued even after the temple came under the purview of the Madras Endowment Act of 1951 and subsequently Acts 17 of 1966 and 30 of 1987 of Andhra Pradesh.

He asserted that Ms. Sanchaita had no legal claim to be claimed as a “founder family member” as per Sec.17 of Act 30, 1987 leave alone being appointed as the hereditary trustee when members of the family belonging to the previous generation were there.

Mr. Ashok said in his petition that the government’s jurisdiction on the MANSAS Trust was very limited as it was a public charitable trust and its functioning was guided by the trust deed executed by the settlor. He also cited certain provisions of the Hindu Succession Act and various judgments as lending credence to his arguments.

Endowments Minister Vellampalli Srinivasa Rao said they would challenge the HC verdict. “No norms were violated in the process of appointment of new chairperson. We are yet to go through the copy of the judgment,’’ he said, adding that they would file an appeal against the High Court judgment.

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