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Supreme Court: The Supreme Court has sought evidence of alleged mismanagement of temples regulated under state laws or misuse of funds collected from there. The top court has asked the petitioner to provide concrete evidence or material rather than just conjecture. The bench will hear on September 19 a plea seeking rights to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists to manage their religious places.
A bench of CJI Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat gave two weeks time to Arvind Datar and Gopal Sankara Narayanan, counsel for petitioner BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, to file additional material. The petition has sought the right of Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists to manage their religious places on the lines of Christians and Muslims in the country.
Sankara Narayanan, citing the example of Karnataka, claimed that 15,000 temples have been closed because they could not pay the employees and temple land was being destroyed. However, the bench asked the counsel to show official records to substantiate their allegations of closure of 15,000 temples.
“We will take cognizance of the broad statements,” the bench said. Apart from the legal issues, we must have concrete examples. To this Sankara Narayanan said, in a secular state, the church has to be separated from religion. The bench then said, it can be argued that the temple receives money from the people and it has to go to the people. As in Tirupati, so are the universities and state enterprises. It is understandable where you are getting it from. But the scale of offerings in Tirupati and Shirdi is huge and you suggest that this should be out of any norm.
Why these rules violate fundamental rights only for Hindu temples
“We have challenged the validity of the religious endowment acts of five states,” Datar said. The rules should not be for Hindu places only. Either everyone should be regulated or there should be no rules for Hindus. Datar said, these rules have violated the fundamental rights. Particularly Article 25 and 26B of the Constitution, in which the right of management of properties has been given.
The bench said, you are asking us to turn back the clock.
“We have a 150-year-old history and these places of worship have served the larger needs of the society and not just their purpose,” the bench said. Some temples have also given their land for public purposes. You are asking us to turn back the clock. The bench insisted, “These temples have functioned in a particular way. They have not given all the property or thousands of acres of land to themselves. There should be some framework for the use of funds.
So are you saying no one will account for the money
“You are saying that nobody will give account of money and you will be the center of power,” the bench said. Other religions may have their own way of ‘check and balance’. The bench said that the petitioner has only given statement, has not shown any evidence of mismanagement or misappropriation of funds.
Aman Sinha, counsel for petitioner Jitendra Saraswati, argued that cases of misappropriation of funds have come to the fore. To this, the bench asked whether he has made the accused of misappropriation as parties to the petition. On which the petitioners sought time from the bench to file additional documents.
About four lakh monasteries and temples under the control of the government
Petitioner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay says that about four lakh monasteries-temples are under the control of the government but not a single mosque, mazar, church, dargah is under the control of the government. Upadhyay claims that the government takes one lakh crore rupees from the monastery-temple but does not take anything from the mosque, mazar, church, dargah. There are 35 laws to control the monastery-temple but there is not a single law to control the mosque, church etc.