Letter to Shri M Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu
Krishan Bhatnagar <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mon, Aug 17, 2009 at 5:33 AM,
Subject: Temple Lands under trusteeship of Hindu religious and Charitable Endowments belong to Hindus and their usage must be decided by the Hindu community representatives, their Religious leaders and Organizations.
Hon'ble Chief Minister Karunanidhi,
We would like to bring the following extremely serious issue to your attention and for immediate action:
According to a recent report various state and Central Govt. departments have requested allotment of temple lands, currently under the trusteeship and management of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) Board in Chennai. The Endowment lands asked for belong to: a) Somanatha Swamy Temple at Kolathur, b) Varadaraja Perumal Temple, c) Dhandeeswarar Temple, d) the Vedapureeswarar Temple, e) Kapaleeswarar Temple, Mylapore; and f) Venkatesa Perumal Temple at Sowcarpet , for which the Board is planning to issue a public notice calling for objections from the people (Attachment A).
Such a procedure of issuing a public notice for acquisition would imply as if the lands are abandoned with no one to claim their ownership. The Govt. must realize that the temples and their endowments have been built over centuries by our forefathers and it is the community which is the real owner and which must have the final say through its representatives and religious leaders in the management and utilization of temple resources. The endowments are basically intended for use for Hindu causes and for sustenance of temples in perpetuity.
Your Govt. will notice that such autonomy is exercised by the minority communities and is permissible under the provisions of the Secular Constitution of India.
1) Govt. Control of Temples violates Laws of the Land: The Govt. is charged with the responsibility of upholding the law. But in the present case the state violates the national constitution by robbing the Hindus of their freedom and 'Religious Rights' as guaranteed under the Indian Constitution.
The Supreme Court of India on Friday (August 14, 2009) directed that the Karnataka Govt. may not take over the management of any temple in the State under a law enacted in 1997. A Bench headed by Justice R V Raveendran stayed Section 25 of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, that empowered the State Govt. to take over the management of temples. "Section 25 of the Act is stayed,'' the Bench said after the State Govt. failed to defend itself with reasoned arguments (Attachments B, C).
In September 2006, a Karnataka High Court Division Bench comprising Justices Gururajan and C R Kumaraswamy struck down the entire Act as unconstitutional. The Bench found the Act as arbitrary and violative of Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order on April 2, 2007, following a special leave petition (SLP) by the State Government.
Earlier, the Allahabad High Court had directed the Central and Uttar Pradesh authorities to prepare a scheme for establishing a Board for Hindu religious organizations on the pattern of the UP Muslim Waqf Board.
Anticipating possible abusive and/or dishonorable designs in various administrations the Indian Parliament adopted a law in 1991 specifically requiring that -"the status of religious places, as on August 15, 1947 shall be retained". The state Govt. is duty bound to uphold this commitment made by a national law and let the religious places remain outside Govt. Control as they were in 1947. In case of conflicts or contradictions between the state and national laws the national law enjoys the precedence.
Despite such valid judicial decrees the State authorities have grossly misused and abused the powers delegated to them under the Concurrent List (Article 246 (2), Seventh Schedule) on religious institutions. Instead they went ahead and made unwarranted acquisition of temples and squarely discriminated against Hindu religious institutions, while leaving the liberty and freedom of other religionists in managing their institutions untouched and unhindered. No explanation was ever provided for this illegal discrimination against the majority community's religious institutions and their estates.
2) Only dharma Acharyas and saints have the religious and spiritual background and authority to guide religious shrines. Here are some basic questions the state govt. must ponder upon in public interest: What authority, background and special training the Govt. operatives' posses for controlling every aspect of the Hindu cultural & religious centers. What national or state law gives them power to supersede the fundamental principle of secularism - neutrality towards religions - enshrined in the Indian constitution?
Why not allow autonomous Hindu boards to govern temples under the guidance of religious leaders, just as it is permissible in the case of other religions? The Waqf Board of Muslims and the management of Christian religious institutions have vast funds, properties and endowments, in addition to the immense flow of foreign funds - yet their independence and autonomy is left intact! What is the justification for denying this freedom to Hindus?
3) Govt. denies Vital Functions of temples: The temples are not just for rituals by purohits and objects of tourism as the endowments department would have us believe, but also the centers of community's socio-cultural and religious life, a place of learning with Acharya, about community sewa e.g. augmenting educational and health facilities in public interest for the needy with the temple resources by the donors as the missionaries do, dharma prachar and for character building and sense of public service that eradicates corruption.
The exposition of the grandeur of Hinduism - its Vedas, Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Bhagwad Geeta - its glorious ancient culture, spirituality and values that the community would like to project and propagate - are not only be denied by state control, but the deliberate and irreversible Govt. actions in liquidating resources of endowments, leading to the decimation of Hindu religious infrastructure, are unacceptable to the billion strong Hindu community worldwide.
4) The Govt. must restore community's role in temple management through Hindu Advisory Councils: Such Councils could play a role in oversight and decision making process of the endowments department and temple Trusts. Additionally these Councils elected or nominated by the Community, state and national religious leaders could shoulder these responsibilities. They could also stop desecration and decimation of the religious infrastructure taking place under Govt. control, pending denationalization, and till autonomous Boards are constituted for taking over the charge.
5) Hon'ble Chief Minister, may we suggest the following for your kind attention and urgent action to rectify the injustices inflicted upon Hindus:
a) Freeze all plans and actions, in the domain of temples and endowments except for their routine maintenance, pujaris salaries, temple rituals, etc. The current proposals for sale of the temple lands must be cancelled forthwith. Only the representative bodies of Hindus have legal, social and religious competency to determine the pathways for utilization of such assets, as is the practice in other religious formations.
b) Constitute a Waqf like Hindu Board, as decreed by the Allahabad High Court, for overseeing the management of Hindu religious institutions;
c) Initiate measures for setting up Hindu Advisory Councils. It should be followed by introducing transparency, openness, public scrutiny and accountability in the endowments department;
d) Declare a time table for ending Govt. control of Temples and for transferring their jurisdiction in its entirety to autonomous Hindu Boards;
Both legislators and cabinets are elected under the decree of the constitution. While administering the oath of office they make a commitment to uphold the Indian Constitution. However, by singling out the Hindu religious infrastructure for discriminative practices they engage in violating the same constitution which they swore to uphold. What an irony!
Thanks for your time and consideration. We are hoping for receiving an early response reflecting equality of all faiths as expected under the true form of secularism.
Dr. Jagan Kaul
Hindu Jagran Forum (USA)
August 15, 2009
Note: This message will soon be posted on : http://www.bharatjagran.com
Allotment of vacant temple lands sought
The Hindu, August 11, 2009
Six proposals from various departments received by the HR and CE Board
CHENNAI: The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR and CE) Board has received requests from different Central and State government departments for allotment of vacant lands belonging to temples in the city.
According to officials on the Board, a total of six proposals have been received from government departments seeking vacant lands belonging to different temples in the city for construction of a police station, post offices and an electricity sub-station.
The Police Department has requested land measuring around 32,000 sq. ft. belonging to Somanatha Swamy Temple at Kolathur for construction of a police station.
Likewise, the Postal Department has asked the Board for constructing post offices in Aminjikarai and Velachery in vacant lands belonging to Varadaraja Perumal Temple and Dhandeeswarar Temple.
A proposal has been sent by the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) seeking allotment of five acres of land for construction of a sub-station in a vacant land at Thiruverkadu.
The vacant land belongs to the Vedapureeswarar Temple.
Also the Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board has requested for 3,600 square feet of land belonging to Kapaleeswarar Temple, Mylapore.
Likewise, a vacant land belonging to Venkatesa Perumal Temple at Sowcarpet has been requested by SIDCO.
An official of the Board said that the requests from the various government departments are being studied, after which a public notice will be issued calling for objections from the people.
Fixing land value
The next procedure would be fixing the value of the land, which would be 1.5 times the guideline value prevailing in the area, he added.
Once the value of the land has been fixed, the proposal would be forwarded to the State Government for approval.
Confirming that a request has been sent to the HR and CE Board seeking a vacant land at Velachery, a Postal Department official said that at present the post office at Velachery is in a rented building and suffered from space constraints.
We have requested around 3,000 sq. ft. of land, so that a post office would be constructed to ease inconvenience for the residents of the area, he added.
A letter has been submitted to the HR and CE Board requesting for allotting six cents of the vacant plot located at Dhandeeswaram Nagar 7th Main Road.
SC curbs State bid to control temples
Pratap Patnaik, New Delhi:
Decccan Herald, Aug 14, 2009
The Supreme Court on Friday directed that the Karnataka government may not take over the management of any temple in the State under a law enacted in 1997.
A Bench headed by Justice R V Raveendran stayed Section 25 of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, that permitted the State Government to take over the management of temples. "Section 25 of the Act is stayed,'' the Bench said after the State Government failed to defend itself with reasoned arguments.
Appearing for Udupi and Dakshina Kannada Temples Management Association, senior advocate K K Venugopal and advocate Sharan Thakur sought direction restraining the State Government from taking over the management of temples. State Government advocate Sanjay Hegde said the Supreme Court had earlier stayed the Karnataka High Court ruling.
"If committees are constituted under the 1997 Act, the applicants will be put in irreparable injury and hardship,'' said a petition filed by the Sahasra Lingeswar temple and others.
In September 2006, a Karnataka High Court Division Bench comprising Justices Gururajan and C R Kumaraswamy struck down the entire Act as unconstitutional. The Bench stated it was arbitrary and violative of Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution. However, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order on April 2, 2007, following a special leave petition (SLP) by the State Government.
The State Government's argument was two-fold: protecting the livelihood of 70,000 priests and managing hundreds of temples and trusts.
These issues were at the centre of a controversy between the temples and the state government ever since the Act came into being.
The State Government had submitted that a high-powered committee headed by Justice M Rama Jois had been formed to look into the grievances of the priests and other office bearers of the temples.
The priests and temple trusts challenged the Act in the High Court, claiming it was discriminatory and not uniformly applicable to all religious institutions, including mutts.
The State Government had issued notices to over 200 temples in North Karnataka, including the Banashankari temple in Badami, Veerabhadreshwara temple at Godachi in Raibagh taluk of Belgaum district and the Hanuman temple in Haveri, informing them about the appointment of committees that would recommend taking over their management.
Pvt temples out of govt reach now
TIMES NEWS NETWORK
August 14 (?), 2009
Bangalore: Private temples needn't fear intrusion by the government now. In a judgment that brings relief to hundreds of private temples in Karnataka, the Supreme Court on Friday modified the stay order of April 2, 2007 with respect to the Karnataka Hindu Charitable Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act.
This means Karnataka cannot take over of temples or appoint any committee to govern them. The state, following the stay, was issuing notices to take over the management under Section 25 of the Act.
Advocate G S Kannur said Section 25 isn't applicable to Sikh, Jain or Buddhist temples and, therefore, discriminatory. A long-drawn debate The Question Of Govt Managing Private Temples Has Engaged Court For Years
Bangalore: Should governments manage — howsoever remotely — private temples? This question has been engaging courts for a while now.
In 2006, the Karnataka high court division Bench headed by Justice R Gururajan had quashed the entire Karnataka Hindu Charitable Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act. This followed an appeal by Hindu temples, trustees, archaks and others aggrieved by the HC judgment of September 9, 2005, which upheld the Act.
The Bench had noted that the Act is violative of the right to equality under Article 14 as it discriminates between temples and mutts and mutt-run
temples. Mutts are not included in the Act.
Devotees of Hindu temples provide kanike (offerings) for temple purposes and it cannot be spent for other non-Hindu causes without any relevance to Hindus.
The Bench had objected to the government spending 5% of the temple turnover money for other purposes. Money is taken out of Hindu temples to provide for poor institutions
of other religions. The Gururajan Bench had objected to this provision by specifying that there can be no compulsion only from Hindu temples to provide assistance to such institutions. Such contribution cannot be compulsory.
The apex court in 2007 had granted a stay on the Gururajan Bench order and the state had been issuing notices to take over temple management.