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Saturday, September 09, 2006

HC strikes down Act on temples

Time to cheer for Hindu Devotees in Karnataka
9/9/2006 5:36:43 AM Deccan Herald

The Karnataka High Court on Friday struck down the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act, 1997 as unconstitutional pointing out that its provisions amounted to “dividing Hindu religion.”

A division bench comprising Justice R Gururajan and Justice C R Kumaraswamy struck down the Act stating that the legislation violated Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution which provided for right to equality, freedom of conscience and freedom of profession, practice and propagation of religion and also the freedom to manage the religious affairs. The order will come into effect prospectively.

The bench also side aside an order of a single judge who had upheld the constitutional validity of the Act last year. Several trustees of the temples and archaks had challenged the order contending that the Act divided the Hindu community, besides denying the right guaranteed under the constitution to establish and manage religious institution.

The court, in its 176-page order, observed that keeping out Maths and denomination temples from the purview of the Act amounted to violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. “Religious denomination does not in any way stand on a different footing than other temples,” the court observed and said the state has to justify its action of exclusion of Maths in the Act, which were earlier included in local Acts.

The court said the Act defined Hindu as not to include Sikh, Jain and Buddist contrary to constitutional provisions. “Hindu religion is already divided by way of castes and sub-castes. Now the state wants to divide Hindus by excluding Jains, Sikhs in terms of a statute”, the court observed. Regarding the provision in the Act, which makes it mandatory for a notified temple to contribute 5 per cent of its total annual income to the “Common Pool Fund”, regulated by the Endowment Commissioner, the court said there cannot be compulsion only for Hindu temples to provide assistance to institutions of other religions. “Devotees of Hindu temples provide money for temple purposes and it cannot be spent for non-Hindu causes,” the court observed. The court said the government could have a commission constituted for temple affairs and involve Hindu religious leaders, social reformers and other experts and thereafter proceed to pass a uniform law.

The government can also think of having different regulatory measures for temples, maths and Jain institutions depending on their religious beliefs within the provision of the Constitution. “We deem it proper to observe that the government would be doing a great service to Hindu society by eliminating all evil corrupt practices, if at all, prevailing in Hindu institutions. This would go a long way in Hindu temple reformation,” the court observed

Govt should not manage temples: HC
[ 10 Sep, 2006 0321hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

BANGALORE: Temples in the state will not be under control of the state government any longer, with the Karnataka HC on Friday striking down as unconstitutional the Karnataka Hindu Charitable Endowments Act, 1997.

Observing that the government was trying to bring about a division among the Hindus, a division Bench comprising Justice R Gururajan and Justice C R Kumaraswamy said the Act was discriminatory in nature as it left out mutts, Jains and Sikhs who are a part of the larger domain of Hindu religion.

The HC made it clear that the Act being struck down would have a prospective effect.

Over 170 appeals had been filed against a single judge order dated September 9, 2005 in which the provisions of the Act were challenged. The court had then rejected a batch of petitions filed by various temples in the state and held that the Act was valid and constitutional.

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