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@jsaideepak 141A. which they haven't performed for several decades in thousands of Temples. And yet the government has continue to collect that cut.
@jsaideepak 142. Mr. @jsaideepak pointed out that such a fee was justified by the State Government of TN in the Shirur Mutt case as not being a tax within the meaning of Article 27,
@jsaideepak 142A. - and only a fee for performance of administrative and audit services. And yet, the State has proved to be most incompetent and disastrous for Temple administration since 1951
@jsaideepak 143. At this point, Justice Lalit enquired from Mr. @jsaideepak if there could be any recourse under Section 92 of the CPC to address such issues.
@jsaideepak 144. At this point, Mr. Datar supported Mr. @jsaideepak's submissions by pointing out that the State Government of Maharashtra had taken a "loan" of INR 500 crores from the Shirdi Temple Trust without an interest component or a repayment time frame.
@jsaideepak 145. Justice Lalit observed that there were several Temples in Maharashtra too which were controlled by the State Government in one way or the other.
@jsaideepak 146. In response to this query, Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that he was representing a few parties in the Jagannath Puri Temple case wherein Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel had passed detailed directions under Section 92 last year.
@jsaideepak 147. Mr. @jsaideepak pointed out that in the said Order, pursuant to Mr. @jsaideepak pointing out to Justice Goel the existence of HRCE legislations, Justice Goel had directed that Section 92 would apply subject to the provisions of the HRCE legislations.
@jsaideepak 148. Justice Lalit enquired as to what is the consequence and meaning of the use of Section 92 despite the presence of HRCE legislations.
@jsaideepak 149. To this, Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the use of Section 92 of the CPC to address the concerns of devotees is a testament to the fact that the HRCE legislations have been utter failures in protecting the interests of the devotees and the sanctity of traditions.
@jsaideepak 150. Mr. @jsaideepak therefore submitted that the HRCE legislations had failed to meet their objectives under Article 25(2)(a) and had become a framework for State enrichment at the expense and to the detriment of Temples and devotees.
@jsaideepak 151. Mr. @jsaideepak then drew the Court's attention to the language of Article 25(2)(a). Mr. @jsaideepak pointed out that the language of the Article expressly permitted only "regulation" or "restriction" which is what was clarified abundantly in the Chidambaram judgment.
@jsaideepak 152. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the Article envisaged only regulation or restriction since it expressly also recognises that secular aspects of the Temple's administration may be associated with religious practice. Therefore, the State cannot transgress those limits.
@jsaideepak 153. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the Shirur Mutt judgement is perhaps misunderstood judgement since it has been used by State Governments to constantly widen the scope of State interference by including all possible activities in the secular basket.
@jsaideepak 154. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that all his submissions made in this case thus far must be considered and appreciated in the backdrop of the State's attempts to takeover the #PadmanabhaswamyTemple and the resistance of the Tantri and the devotees to such attempts.
@jsaideepak 155. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that if the State Government of Kerala gets even a toe-hold in the #PadmanabhaswamyTemple, then every tradition, every right, every religious practice, every asset and treasure will come under the looming dark cloud of the State.
@jsaideepak 156. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the State's entry into the Temple will result in loss of autonomy of the Temple and the genuine stakeholders of the Temple.
@jsaideepak 156A. And such an apprehension was real given the conduct of State Government of Kerala with respect to other Hindu Religious Institutions.
@jsaideepak 157. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that any proposal of administration which facilitates State entrenchment in not in public interest and the only section of the public which has an interest in the proper management of the Temple -
@jsaideepak 157A. is that section which wants a balance between tradition and proper management
@jsaideepak 158. At this point, Justice Lalit enquired as to how does one put in place a mechanism bearing in mind the structure laid down in Sections 20-23 of the TCHRI Act 1950.
@jsaideepak 159. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the Act lays down the structure of the Committee which can advise the Ruler in the discharge of his functions.
@jsaideepak 160. However, it does not prevent the Ruler from setting up mechanisms to assist him and the Committee in the administration of the Temple, especially on the audit front.
@jsaideepak 161. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that it was possible to put in place audit mechanisms without diluting the structure or composition of the Committee.
@jsaideepak 162. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that in light of the proposals from the State Government and the Ruler, it was clear that even they do not object an audit mechanism which may be put in place under the directions of the Supreme Court.
@jsaideepak 163. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that while the State's proposal sought to undermine the traditional administrative structure under the pretext of proper management, Mr. @jsaideepak's proposal left the traditional structure intact and yet allowed for clear & transparent management.
@jsaideepak 164. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that an Oversight Committee which is populated by professionals can assist the Statutory Committee and the Ruler with the administration, it would balance all legitimate concerns.
@jsaideepak 165. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that this was an out of the box suggestion based on inputs from experts in the subject but was still within the four corners of the statute book.
@jsaideepak 166. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the Court could exercise its powers under Article 142 and pass directions without diluting the traditional administrative structure based on the detailed suggestions which shall be placed before it on behalf of the Thanthri and the devotees.
@jsaideepak 167. At this point Mr. Datar supported the suggestion of Mr. @jsaideepak in principle.
@jsaideepak 168. Mr. @jsaideepak explained the basis and reasons for the suggestions made by him on behalf of the parties he represents.
@jsaideepak 168A. Mr. @jsaideepak explained that 4 years ago he began working on the Writ Petition filed by the Late Pujya Shri Swami Dayananda Saraswathi in 2012, W.P. (C) No. 476/2012.
@jsaideepak 169. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that during the course of his research on the subject based on his own reading and inputs from experts, he realised that the extent of the rot in the HRCE legislations was so deep that they needed a massive overhaul.
@jsaideepak 170. Mr. @jsaideepak further submitted that devotees across the country were wondering if they had no other option but to come to Court each time to fight for each Temple to remove it from the clutches of the State.
@jsaideepak 171. Mr. @jsaideepak therefore submitted that a structure which this Hon’ble Bench lays down in the #PadmanabhaswamyTemple case which does not dilute the traditional administrative structure and also protects fiscal integrity -
@jsaideepak 171A. could serve as a benchmark for other Hindu Religious institutions, regardless of whether it is privately or publicly managed
@jsaideepak 172. At this point Justice Lalit observed that the Bench would want to understand as part of Mr. @jsaideepak's written submissions what is the core of the Temple which needs to be secured and what safeguards can be put in place
@jsaideepak 172A. - to ensure proper management of the Temple without affecting the traditional administrative structure
@jsaideepak 173. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that he would address these issues in detail in his Written submissions so that the Bench has sufficiently detailed material to consider the way forward
@jsaideepak 173A. - should the legal issue be held in favour of the position of the Travancore Family, the Tantri and Devotees.
@jsaideepak 174. Mr. @jsaideepak also submitted that the spirit of his submissions was that it was incorrect on the part of the State Government of Kerala to give the impression that traditional administrative structures were inherently at loggerheads with transparent management,
@jsaideepak 174A. - given that State management of Temples had not necessarily presented a rosy picture, and was far from being the desirable position.
@jsaideepak 175. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that ultimately it must be borne in mind in such matters that the property belongs to the Deity in Hindu Religious Institutions
@jsaideepak 175A. - and public interest lies in protecting that property from any kind of mismanagement, especially from the State's attempts to appropriate that property under the garb of proper management.
@jsaideepak 176. Mr. @jsaideepak then placed before the Court the details of the Special Leave Petition filed by the @indiccollective, SLP Diary No. 36516/2018, wherein the @indiccollective had pointed out that the State Government of Kerala was paying a paltry amount of INR 58500 as annuity
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 176A. - against 12600 acres of land it had taken from the Padmanabhaswamy Temple under a 1971 legislation.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 177. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the State Government of Kerala on the one hand is giving the impression that the Government is incurring expenditure on account of the enhanced security provided at the Temple since 2011
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 177A. - but has not deemed it to inform the Court that it is paying a mere INR 58500 in lieu of thousands of acres of prime agricultural land
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 178. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that if the State Government of Kerala had enhanced the annuity payable to the Temple for the lands it has taken over, the Temple could provide for its own security.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 179. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that as long as the State Government of Kerala does not revise the annuity, there is no harm in it incurring the expenditure for the security of the Temple given the revenue it earns through tourism because of the Temple.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 180. Further, Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that by now it has become crystal clear that the Temple is not State-funded and therefore it should not operate under the assumption that it has a right to be part of the Temple's management or administration.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 181. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that it was indeed surprising that during the entire course of the submissions on behalf of the State Government of Kerala, there was absolutely no reference to the fact that it had taken over all the lands of the Temple
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 181A. - and was paying a pitiable sum in return. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that he found this omission on the part of the State convenient.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 182. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that even after he had highlighted this fact during his earlier submissions, there was no rebuttal or refutation by the State to the submissions, clearly showing that they had no response to it.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 183. Mr. @jsaideepak also pointed out that although the lands were taken over ostensibly for the purpose of redistribution to farmers, the lands had not been distributed, thereby making out a case for reversion to the original owners, namely the Temple.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 184. Mr. @jsaideepak also submitted that the worst part was there is no formal identification in State records of the location of such lands and their current status.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 185. At this point, Justice Lalit enquired as to the current status of such lands. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that there was massive encroachment of such lands, and the State was not taking any action against the encroachers
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 185A. - since the encroachers were supported by lobbies of different kinds.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 186. Mr. Datar supported Mr. @jsaideepak's submissions on encroachment of such lands by third parties.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 187. Mr. @jsaideepak that even the limited lands which are available with Temples have been encroached en masse and the Temples do not have resources to litigate nor do the Executive Officers appointed by State take any action against encroachers.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 188. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that thanks to excessive State interference, Temples are struggling for resources since they are not at liberty to either use or protect their own resources without the approval of the State.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 189. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that neither the community for which the Temples are built benefit from the resources of the Temples, nor do the Temples. It is clear that only State appointees benefit from the current framework.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 190. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that if the #PadmanabhaswamyTemple could be treated as an example and the existing statutory structure coupled with the directions from the Supreme Court can be used to set an example as to how a Temple must be run
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 190A. - and remain in the hands of the community without violating tradition, it would go a long way in addressing these problems across the country.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 191. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that if this opportunity to set the balance right is let go, then Temple after Temple, devotee after devotee will land before this Court seeking its intervention and seeking freedom from the intervention of the State.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 191A. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that going by the number of such cases before the Supreme Court, it is already happening.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 192. At this point, Mr. Datar supported Mr. @jsaideepak's submissions and said that the situation was the worst in the State of Tamil Nadu. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the State of Tamil Nadu has borne the brunt of the malaise that affects the HRCE legislations.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 193. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that regardless of which dispensation is in power in the States, Temples bear the brunt of the State's propensity to take over their administration and "manage" their properties.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 194. Mr. @jsaideepak finally urged the Court to consider each of these aspects in evaluating the proposal of the State Government of Kerala to play a part in the administration of the #PadmanabhaswamyTemple.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 194A. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that he was not inviting the Court to consider issues which are extraneous to the facts of the case.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 195. Mr. @jsaideepak submitted that the spirit of his submissions is that the contribution of the State in the degradation of the Temple ecosystem across the country, especially using the HRCE legislations or judicial pronouncements
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 195A. - must be borne in evaluating the Kerala Government's mischievous proposal to be a part of the #PadmanabhaswamyTemple administration.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 196. With this, Mr @jsaideepak concluded his oral submissions. The Bench asked Mr @jsaideepak to file detailed written submissions including the points relating to the effect of the HRCE legislations on the Temple ecosystem. Mr @jsaideepak thanked the Bench for a patient hearing.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 197. At this point, Mr. Datar suggested that perhaps there could be a trial run of the Temple based on the suggestions which may be received from the parties before a final decision is taken on the administrative set up of the Temple.
@jsaideepak @indiccollective 198. Justice Lalit noted that Mr. Datar's suggestion will be considered at an appropriate stage. All arguing counsels have been directed to file their Written Submissions by April 22, 2019. Judgement has been reserved.
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