Private Hindu temples have been given a month’s time to register with the administration in the directive issued by Chikkamagaluru Assistant Commissioner Shri HL Nagaraj. This directive excludes all those temples which already fall under the Muzrai department. The directive also says that those temples that fail to comply would have to face action.
The Hindu report quotes Shri Nagaraj:
As per the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Act, 2011, the private temples have to register with the Assistant Commissioners concerned. Though there had been clear instructions in this regard, no temple had been registered so far. “The registration process will avoid the possible misuse of funds. The applicants have to furnish details of the place, bank account, buildings belonging to each temple to get the registration done”, he said.
The government would also evaluate gold, silver and other valuables belonging to the temple in the presence of recognized evaluators and tahsildar. The evaluated gold ornaments could be utilised during special events and celebrations, he added.
Amendments to the Muzrai Act brought those Hindu temples and mutts under the purview of the HRCE (Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act) which were earlier exempt from government control. As per a report in The Hindu, a seven-member committee had recommended bringing mutts as well as temples controlled by the mutts under government control by amending the HRCE Act of 1997.
A division bench of the Karnataka High Court had ruled in 2015:
In fact, non-inclusion of mutts and temples run by them, and keeping away Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs from the definition of “Hindus” had led a Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court to strike down the 2011 and 2012 Amendments brought to the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997. Terming the exclusion as “illegal and discriminatory”, the high court had struck down amendments in 2015.
Back in 2017 when the then Karnataka government was mulling overhauling the Act, the state government had informed the press:
On what was being considered for overhauling the 1997 Act, he said: “The High Court’s observation on the Amendments to the Act when it was stuck down had raised issues pertaining to Article 14, 25 and 26 of the Indian constitution that refer to fundamental rights of the citizens. These included how the mutts had been kept away from the Act and how Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs were not brought under the Act. These observations of the court are being considered. Apart from this, there are Supreme Court observations too that will be incorporated,” he said, adding that some Sections of the Act are not clear, and some rules are also missing.
The fresh directive indicates that the government is again scrambling to bring even temples managed by mutts, that have been independent, so far under its control. Hindus, on the other hand, have been demanding the freeing of temples from government control. This directive, however, instead of liberating existing temples aims at bringing more temples under the purview of the HRCE department.
At a time when the demand to keep temples out of government control has been rising among Hindus, this directive aims at working in the opposite direction. While there have been attempts to justify keeping temples under the HRCE department’s purview, the circumstances/reasons given to justify the same aren’t currently favorable.
This directive by Assistant Commissioner HL Nagaraj seems to be just another attempt by the government to take over the wealth of private Hindu temples as well.
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