AHMEDABAD: The erstwhile royal family of Danta has lost its claim to the Ambaji Mata temple, its properties and Gabbar hill, and has been fined Rs 50,000 by a civil court for unnecessary litigation for over half-a-century to pursue its claim.
Principal senior civil judge B K Avashia discarded the claim laid by the former ruler of Danta state, Maharana Prithvirajsinh, over the famous temple on situated on Arasur Hill in Banaskantha district and the nearby Gabbar hill. The suit was filed in 1970 and after the death of the former ruler, his heir Mahipendrasinhji Parmar pursued the litigation claiming the temple and properties back from the state government and the Shree Aarasuri Ambaji Mata Devsthan Trust, which manages the temple.
The dispute over the temple’s ownership began after a merger agreement by the then royal family with the Governor General of India in 1948. The family was entitled to full ownership, use and enjoyment of private properties belonging to the Maharana. In an inventory of immovable properties, securities and cash balances, the Ambaji temple, Gabbar hill and all temple properties were mentioned on the list of the family’s private properties. The temple was to be managed by atrust formed by the government with the maharana acting as chairman of the board of trustees. In 1953, the government of Bombay took over the temple after a government of India decision to treat such properties as state properties. The maharana moved the Bombay high court to claim ownership over the temple and the hill, and the high court ru- led in his favour in 1954. The governments successfully challenged this decision in the Supreme Court. After the apex court’s order in 1957, the government took possession of the temple.
The maharana then appro- ached the civil court, which ruled against his family after 52 years. While discarding the royals’ claim over the temple, the court took note of nearly seven decades of litigation. It said that it is the family’s right to litigate, but the maharana “should have stopped himself from further litigation” after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the government. But he approached the civil court after more than a decade. Hence, his suit was barred by the law of limitation as well. The court further said that the plaintiff has “wasted so much time and money of the defendants as well as of this court. He is liable for exemplary but realistic cost”.