Swamy Dayanada Saraswati (Arsha Vidya), Swamy Paramatmananda and Vishveshwaranand Giriji Maharaj in 2012 filed a plea in Supreme Court seeking directions to free Hindu temples from governmental control in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh.
The plea contended that the legislations take away the autonomy of the Religious Institutions and Denominations. Even the conduct of religious rites and rituals are regulated by the Executive Officers and by the Trustees appointed by the Government.
The PIL, stated that 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 approval money can be spent for such rituals.
The plea stated “The temples are thus virtually treated as the personal freedom of the political masters.”
It states “There is no justice for the government to discriminate and arbitrarily fetter restrict the temples‟ internal autonomy in management and administration which cannot be dubbed as secular in character when there is no aid or contribution or grant from Government.”
According to the plea “The Constitutional mandate of “hands-off” from the religious institutions is totally breached so far as the Hindu Temples and Charitable Institutions. This was not intended in constitution nor is it keeping with the letter and spirit of “secularism”.
The petitioners have stated that hey are fully in favour of total transparency and accountability in regard to receipts and expenditures of all places of worship and charitable institutions of all Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains or any other community
“If profit making bodies like companies including hospitals, Cooperative societies or if non-profit and voluntary associations including colleges and schools can have their internal autonomy. There is no justification for take over of Hindu Temples,” it states.
According to the plea “Tamil Nadu Act was enacted on the ground that it was needed to prevent maladministration of temples, however, it is not engine for expropriation of Hindu temples and properties, and oppression of the Hindu community by the political forces.”
“These temples are compelled to contribute substantial amounts as administration and audit fees which are equal to about 1/6th of the total gross income of the institution. A sizeable part of their income is being taken away for non-temple and non-Hindu purposes.”
Please states that “Provisions exist in the Acts, enabling exercise of vast powers to cut down the dittams either abridging or abrogating the Poojas and the ceremonies in the temple and make the practice of the religion dependent upon the will and pleasure of Government servants.”
“To illustrate this aspect, in Tiruchengode Temple, Tamil Nadu, which has more than a crore of rupees as annual income, the money earmarked for the primary purpose of the Temple, i.e., worship including daily pujas and rituals is less than 1% of the income of this Temple.”
“The funds for the poojas are deliberately kept low in every temple to facilitate siphoning of the funds to undisclosed and non-religious expenditures by the Government.”
“A great loss to many sections of the Hindu Community is the systematic closure of the dharmic institutions like Veda Patasalas, Agama Patasalas, Music schools, gho-shalas and native vaidya salas promoted and nurtured by the temples within their precincts & in their properties.”
“Due to the willful indifference of the HR & CE Departments and systematic implementation of anti-vedic, anti-Sanskrit and anti-religious policies of continuing governments most of these institutions associated with the temples were wiped out from the face of the temples.”
Swamy Dayananda Saraswati, who is the first petitioner in the plea, passed away in 2015. The plea last cam up for hearing before the Supreme Court on July 20, 2022, wherein Union of India was permitted to be made a party.
According to Supreme Court ’s website, the matter is likely to come up for hearing on September 05, 2022.
(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread originally tweeted by LawBeat (@LawBeatInd) on August 9, 2022.)