Legal Challenge Mounted in South India to Government Management of Hindu Temples


INDIA, December 2012 (The Hindu): The Supreme Court has issued notice to the States of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and the Union Territory of Puducherry on a writ petition filed by Sri Dayananda Saraswati Swamiji, Sri Paramatmananda Saraswati Swamiji and Sri Vishweswaranand Giriraj Maharaj, challenging the Hindu Religious and Endowments Acts of the respective governments.

A Bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra issued notice after hearing senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan and senior R. Venkataramani and counsel Bindu Nair and sought the response of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and the Union Territory of Puducherry governments.

The petitioners said they were aggrieved over the provisions of HR & CE Acts as they took away the internal autonomy of the religious institutions and denominations. They sought a declaration that the offending provisions were unconstitutional.

They said “even the conduct of religious rites and rituals are completely constricted and regulated by the Executive Officers and by the Trustees appointed by the Government, in violation of the rights guaranteed to the people who practice and profess the religion and of the religious denominations under Article 14,15 (1), 19(1)(g) 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution.” “The proposed expenditures and budgets for conducting religious rituals have to be considered upfront by the authorities of the Department and the Government and only after meeting with their approvals can money be expended for such rituals. The temples are thus virtually treated as the personal fiefdom of political masters.

There is no rationale or justice for the government to discriminate and arbitrarily fetter and restrict the temples’ internal autonomy in management and administration, which cannot be dubbed as secular in character, more so when there is no aid or contribution or grant from the Government.”

They pointed out that the constitutional mandate of “hands-off” from the religious institutions was totally breached so far as the Hindu Temples and Charitable Institutions were concerned. If the Government can wield its power to appoint or remove the Trustees and compel them to obey all orders of the Government or its servants on pain of prosecution and dismissal, and in devious ways can remove the Trustees and replace them by its nominees and the denominations or communities have no lot or part in the choice of Trustees or voice in the management of the institution, it is plain that Articles 25 and 26 are rendered nugatory and of no real effect whatever for Hindus of this country.”

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