Temple trusts/ boards

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Temple trusts/ boards


Administrative issues

Atheists can't use temple property in Tamil Nadu

B Sivakumar, TNN | Sep 12, 2013

The Times of India

A circular was sent to all temple executives advising them not to rent out properties to non-believers. The circular also banned renting out of temple property to functions in which liquor and non-vegetarian food are served.

CHENNAI: A move by the state Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department to ban 'non-believers' from using temple properties have atheists and rationalists up in arms. The circular issued by temple custodians prohibits 'non-believers' from hiring marriage halls or leasing out shops on premises owned by temples.

The provocation for the circular appears to be a farmers' wing meeting held at a marriage hall in a village in Tiruvarur district in July 2013.

The meeting, which apparently raised pro-rationalist slogans, caused a furore in the district and representations were given to the chief minister's cell and the HR&CE department against leasing or renting out temple property to atheists.

Following this, a circular was sent to all temple executives advising them not to rent out properties to non-believers. The circular also banned renting out of temple property to functions in which liquor and non-vegetarian food are served.

Justifying the circular, a senior official said, "As the property is in the name of a temple or its presiding deity, we cannot allow meetings or gatherings that criticise religion or speak against the belief in God. Such meetings can be held in any other government or private property but not on a temple property. This goes against religious ethos."

The circular specifies that the property either on the temple premises or outside it should be rented out only for religious discourses or for any other spiritual purposed only.

Should a secular government run temples?

Fence That Eats The Crop

R Jagannathan

Aug 29 2017 : The Times of India (Delhi)

Government running Hindu temples is another anomaly India's selective secularism fosters

One of the first statements you come across on the website of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department's website is this one: “The management and control of the temples and the administration of their endowments is one of the primary responsibilities of the state“.

The irony of the government of a “secular“ state running religious institutions is obviously lost on HR&CE.More so when we note that the state has been intermittently ruled by parties like DMK whose leadership has, in the past, formally professed rationalist and atheist beliefs.

But we shall let that pass and presume that, despite top-level political antipathy to Hindu religion, HR&CE is willing to hold its nose and do everything it can to run the 38,481 temples and endowments under its control fairly and efficiently.

Unfortunately , that has not been the case. When you put the fox in charge of the hen-house, you don't get better protection of your millennia-old spiritual and historical heritage, but wayward behaviour by officialdom. Beneath the surface, corruption festers, and priceless idols and valuables are bartered away for filthy lucre.

This is apparent from a recent Madras high court judgment in two cases (Crl OP Nos 8690 and 12060 of 2017), where the petitioners had complained about officials being careless in protecting idols worth crores of rupees, and possibly acting in cahoots with idol smugglers.

In the first case, petitioner R Venkataraman alleged that ancient idols from Chola-era temples in Thanjavur district were moved and “stocked unofficially , against the HR&CE norms, and the trustees, along with the Executive Officers of the HR&CE department, created records as if the idols are intact, when factually six idols, of which five belonging to Sri Viswanathasamy Temple at Keelmanakudi, and one Vinayagar idol belonging to the Arulmigu Sri Idumbeswarar Temple, were missing.“ The petition alleged that instead of keeping the idols at the Icon Centre, they were kept in an “unauthorised tunnel and also in a scrap room belonging to the Public Works Department.“

In the other case, filed by public in terest litigant Elephant G Rajendran, it was alleged that a senior police officer, I Khader Basha, now DSP, and two other police personnel, who were earlier part of the Idol Wing, came into possession of six idols while investigating a case involving one Arokiaraj. Two of these were allegedly sold to a noted smuggler in Chennai for Rs 15 lakh, who then resold them for an alleged sum of Rs 6 crore. But despite an FIR being filed against the police officials concerned, they were promoted, and “no further action, either by way of arrest or by departmental proceedings, was initiated.“

The high court, in an order dated July 21, 2017, by Justice R Mahadevan, had no hesitation is saying that the state was wayward in its defence of priceless heritage assets and roasted HR&CE for its failures. After noting that Indian temples had been ravaged by invaders for centuries, he added: “For the past several years, a new form of attack is carried out by smuggling the ancient idols. Foreigners and disbelievers see the idols as antiques worth only ... in terms of money , but the people of this country see them in the semblance of god, culture and identity .“

The court castigated the department in no uncertain terms, pointing out that HR&CE is the custodian of most of the state's temples and their properties, but has clearly failed to do so despite controlling large revenues. “It is startling to find that the HR&CE department, with all its income from major temples, has not been able to maintain historical temples and safeguard the idols ... many temples constructed at least 1,500 years ago or much before ... are in ruins. Even the daily rituals are not performed. Some temples remain closed throughout the day with no one to even lighten (sic) the lamps ... this has also come to the advantage of the miscreants, who have laid their hands on the idols.“

Having come to this conclusion, the court ordered the obvious remedies: departmental action and FIRs against the alleged culprits, moving all idols to strong-rooms or Icon Centres, creation of a list of all temples managed by the state and number of priests they employ , computerisation of records and 24x7 video and electronic surveillance of these idols and other valuables.

But the scale of loot and irresponsibility goes beyond mere smuggling and illicit sale of idols. Some time ago Subramanian Swamy , BJP's Rajya Sabha MP , alleged in a newspaper article that the Tamil Nadu HR&CE controlled “more than 4.7 lakh acres of agricultural land, 2.6 crore square feet of buildings and 29 crore square feet of urban sites of temples.“ These temple-owned properties should have been earning revenues in thousands of crores, but the government collected barely Rs 36 crore.

It is difficult to authenticate these figures from three years ago. But if they are anywhere near correct we have the makings of a gigantic scandal, at the expense of Hindu devotees who contributed to this wealth. But it's not about Tamil Nadu alone. In the five major southern states over 1,00,000 temples are being run directly or indirectly by governments, making a mockery of the idea of the secular state where separation of religious from temporal activity ought to have been a central principle of governance.

This separation is all the more important when you have cases of gross negligence, where the guardians of temples are also its predators. The fence is eating the crop.

The writer is Editorial Director of Swarajya

Personnel issues

Retired temple staff entitled to gratuity: HC

October 21, 2017: The Hindu

In case of disputes, they can approach the controlling authority

The Madras High Court has said that retired employees of religious institutions where 10 or more persons are employed at any time, after the commencement of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, are entitled to apply for gratuity and these institutions would have to make the payment within 30 days.

A division bench of Justices M. Venugopal and P. D. Audikesavalu, which reserved its order in the appeal of the State against a single judge order in the principal seat in Chennai and delivered it in the Madurai Bench, observed that gratuity should be paid from the date it falls due, failing which interest would have to be paid under Section 7(3A) of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, in addition to penal action under Section 9 of the Act.

The State government had filed an appeal against the order of a single judge.

The Tamil Nadu Temples’ Retired Employees’ Welfare Association had earlier filed a petition seeking payment of gratuity to temple employees before a single judge.

Court fiat

The division bench also directed the Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, to identify and publish annually, starting from January 2018, the list of institutions with 10 or more employees. The retired employees could claim gratuity from their respective religious institutions. In the event of refusal to do so or if any dispute arises regarding the quantum of gratuity, the retired employees could seek redress from the institutions by making claims before the controlling authority.

See also

Hindu temples and the law: India

Temple properties: India

Temple trusts/ boards

Temples: the construction of

...and also

Mumbai: Haji Ali

Religious sites and women: India


Temple trusts/ boards

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