Picture Courtesy: http://cdn.touropia.com/gfx/d/amazing-hindu-temples/sri_ranganathaswamy.jpg
This article was written by Rishabh Rathore, a student of Raffles University.
India is the land of different religions some of them are Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism, at the same time the country is home to several indigenous faiths tribal religions which have been affected by other major religion but still have their root growing in India. The diversity in religious groups makes India unique and this unity and diversity “is brought out clearly in the Indian Census”. Among all religions, Hinduism is the oldest religion in the world. It is world’s third largest religion and the dominant one after Christianity and Islam. In India, Hindus form about 84 per cent of the total population. Hinduism is also recognized as the everlasting religion.
Apart from this, a devout Hindu worships his favorite deities in the temples, it is a place creating reverence that god resides there or an edifice dedicated to service of god and used as of right by Hindu Community or any section thereof as a place of religious worship.
However, the history of the existence of Hinduism and Hindu temples is very grind. There’s a wealth of evidence that shows that a lot of temples were indeed destroyed from the time Islam entered into India and till present. Not only this, Hindu institutions and Hinduism in India is still targeted by a combination of vote bank politics, politicians, and businessmen. Particularly alarming is the destruction of Hindu institutions and the illegal mass conversions by other religions.
However, through enacting of “The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act (HRCE Act) of 1951”,under which the state governments have appointed managers to the boards of temples for better administration, protection, preservation of temples and the endowed properties attached thereto, and for fulfilment of the objects with reasonable restrictions, which do not violate the rights of religious freedom guaranteed by the constitution(while mosques and churches are completely autonomous). But the present practice of government officials under this act is having a negative impact on the future of Hindu temples and of Hinduism. The instances of abuse of power by the government under this act can be seen through these examples.
An 800-year-old Shiva temple in Tholur village of Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu under the Hindu Religious Charitable Endowments department (HRCE) was demolished as a government appointed body was razed to the ground using bulldozers in August 2016. No one actually knows who was responsible or why this temple was demolished while the HRCE blamed the villagers and the heritage activists blamed on the HRCE.
It is the state government and the endowments department to safeguard the temple property but in Andhra Pradesh around ten thousands of acres of temple land are sold away leaving temples with little economic basis. This is done without the permission of the local Hindu community. In such a situation even the state government has turned a blind eye to such encroachments and take over’s of temple properties.
Not only this, the Andhra Pradesh government also allowed the demolition of at least 10 temples for the construction of a golf course.
Even the world famous sacred temple at Tirumala-Tirupati is not spared. This temple collects over Rs. 3,100 crores every year. Out of these 3,100 crores, the state government has agreed that 85% of this is transferred to the state exchequer, much of which goes to causes that are not connected with the Hindu community or Vedic temples.
The government also attempted to take over 5 out of 7 Tirumala hills for churches and tourism for the profit of developing companies and other affiliates not connected with the temple. The 1000 pillar Mantapam hall was illegally demolished. Recently, in response to Sri Chinnajeeyar Swami’s petition, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has declared the demolition illegal and instructed the TTD management at Tirupatiton reconstruct it.
These are only a few of the instances of systematic loot by the government. Apart form this Article 25 and 26 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees public establishment and maintenance of religious institutions and to administer such property in accordance with law, has been completely ignored toward Hindu foundations. While looting Hindu institutions and demolition of them, the Governments subsidizes the “Hajj” pilgrimage for the Muslims to the tune of Rs. 380 crores annually (including subsidy to airlines), and provides 1000 crores per year for the salary of Imams, and provides funds to churches.
And as a result of this, abruptly the (HRCE Act) of 1951 is not constitutional valid or reasonable according to constitutional mandates because the underlying purpose of this act is not achieved as seen above and it is violative of Article 14, 25, 26 of The Indian Constitution.
Article 14 being the basic feature of the constitution, bars discrimination and prohibits discriminatory laws. Article 14 is a bulwark against any arbitrary and discriminatory state action.
Supreme court in the case of Moseb Kaba chowdhary & Anr. v. State of West Bengal said that Article 14 condemns discrimination not only by Substantive Law but also by
Law of procedure.
The Court also held that the exclusion of Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, from the definition of the expression “Hindu”, under the present act suffers from a violation of Article 14 of The Constitution of India.
In M.P. Gopalakrishnan Nair and Anr. v. State of kerela and Ors., the supreme court settled that:
- The constitution prohibits the establishment of a theocratic state.
- The constitution is not only prohibit to establish any religion of it’s own but is also prohibited to identify itself with or favoring any particular religion.
- The secularism under the Indian Constitution does not mean constitution of an atheist society but it merely means the equal status of all religions without any preference in favor of or discrimination against any one of them.
However, the principle of equality of law does not mean not that the same law should apply to everyone but that a law should deal alike with all in one class, that there should be an equality of treatment under equal circumstances. But the present HRCE Act of 1951 does only apply to Hindu Denomination and Hindu Temples. And woefully it transgresses the mandates of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Further in case State of Tamil Nadu v. Ahobila Matam, Supreme Court laid down that any law which takes away the right of administration altogether from the religious denominations and vests it in any other body or a secular authority would amount to a violation of the right which is guaranteed by Art. 26(d) of the Constitution of India..
Again in K. Mukundaraya Bhenoy v. The State of Mysore the court ruled that a law which takes away the right of administration from the hands of a religious denomination altogether and vests it in any other authority would amount to a violation of the right guaranteed under Article 26 of the Constitution of India. This judgment also showed the state cannot discriminate between Hindu religious denomination in the matter of temple administration.
A Full bench of the Kerela high court in T. Krishnan v. G.D.M Committee has ruled in Paras 35 and 36 that a statute cannot, therefore, empower any secular authority to divert the trust money for a purpose other than those for which trust was created as that would amount to a violation of a right which a religious denomination has under Article 25 and 26 of Constitution of India.
More Recently, Karnataka High court in the case of Sri Sahasra Lingeshwara Temple v. State of Karnataka also declared the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Act, 2011 and the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Act, 2012, are discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Hence the present HRCE Act is violative of article 25,26 & 14 of The Constitution of India .
After the Unconstitutionality of HRCE Act, it is also observed that the looting of Hindu temples and demolition of them would also amount to a penal offense under Sec. 295 of I.P.C. which states that;
- Injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.—Whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, shall be punishable with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.
This section makes the destruction, damage or defilement of a place of worship or an object held sacred, with intent to insult the religion.
In the case Romesh Chunder Sannyal v. Hiru Mondal it was held that the section would also apply to cases where an idol in a temple is sought to be destroyed, damaged, or defiled. And The decision impliedly recognizes the duty of the State to protect the sentiments and susceptibilities of its different groups of citizens.
The breaking in public of an unconsecrated clay idol of God Ganesa held sacred by a large section of Hindus with the express intention of insulting the feelings, of the Hindu community would be an offense under Sec. 295.
It is the cardinal principle of good government that every man should be suffered to profess his own religion and that no man should be suffered to insult the religion of another.
Yet by the present action of government under HRCE Act, they have the clear intention to insult the religion of particular denominational sect i.e. the Hindu denominational Sect and their religious class because they passed the enactment and ordered to take over the only administration of Hindu temples, and not other religious institution like church, mosque etc., who also have a large number of funds or sufficient funds but they just ordered to take this particular religion or religious property this shows that they have clear intention to insult the religion of particular class, moreover they also have knowledge that the particular class of person is likely to consider such destruction, defilement as an insult to their religion, despite this also they continuous false actions are taking place.
As such it is only Hindu temples that are under state control, of which government administers and manages finance, takeover and dispose of temple assets, divert funds for other purposes, not the churches or mosques.
Hence all the above action of the government shows that they have clear intention to insult the religion of particular denominational sect and their class. Hence the action of government constitutes all the essentials of section 295 and same is a penal offence under section 295 of I.P.C., which should be stopped and at least there should be a legal route which could assist to uproot control of Hindu temples from the government and hand it back to the practitioners of Hindu Dharma and bring back the mislaid ambience and glory of Vedic Hindu temples and Hinduism.
 T.V.D. Naidu v. Commissioner H.R. & C.E. (Admn.) Department, AIR 1989 Mad 60, 66.
 P.F. Sadavarthy v. Commissioner, H.R. & C.E., AIR 1963 SC 510, 512.
 A.S. Narayana Deekshitulu v. State of Andhra Pradesh and Others, AIR 1996 SC 1765.
 The Ahmedabad St. Xavier’s College Society and Anr. v. State of Gujarat and Anr., AIR 1974 SC 1389.
 M. Nagraj v. Union of India, AIR 2007 SC 1.
 Renu v. District and Sessions Judge, Tis Hazari, Civil Appeal No. 979 of 2014 (arising out of SLP No. 26090 of 2011) decided on 12 February 2014.
 AIR 1958 SC 536.
 Sri Sahasra Lingeshwara Temple v. State of Karnataka, 2006 ILR(Kar) 4386.
 AIR 2005 SC 3053.
 Gauri Shankar v. Union of India, AIR 1995 SC 55.
 AIR 1987 SC 245.
 1959 Mys.LJ 709.
 AIR 1978 Ker 68.
 Supra Note 7.
 Mustaffa Rahim v. Motilal, (1909) Cr Lj 160.
 ILR 17 Cal 852.
 Venu Srinivasan v. Krishnamachari and Ors., (2005) 4 MLJ 596.
 Kutti Chanami Moothan v. Rana Pattar, (1978) 19 Cri LJ 960.