Madras High Court prevents human resources and continuing education department from establishing new colleges

The Madras High Court has temporarily suspended the establishment of new educational institutions by the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department, using surplus Temple funds, other than the four colleges already established.

A bench composed of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Judge PD Audikesavalu noted that although the transmission of education is to be appreciated, money belonging to a religious denomination cannot be treated as “secular money” which can be used for secular purposes.

He added that excess temple funds are inevitably the offerings given for a particular cause, and any decision to divert them cannot be made in the absence of trustees.

The Chamber also specified that the functioning of the four already existing educational establishments set up by the department will be subject to the final verdict of the court.

For the moment, the judiciary has asked the state to ensure the introduction of a subject on the Hindu religion, in accordance with section 66 of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments Act, 1959, on a regular basis, within a month, in colleges. already established in Kolathur in Chennai, Tiruchengode in Namakkal, Oddanchatram in Dindigul and Vilathikulam in Toothukudi.

“It is also noted that in the 4 colleges that are ready to open, BBA, BCom and similar courses are offered without there being a regular course on religious instruction. The prerequisite for the opening of colleges is that there must be express teaching in the Hindu religion. If such a course is not introduced within the month following the start of the college concerned, its operation cannot be continued.

The petitioner, T. R Ramesh, has gone to the High Court to challenge a GO issued by the Higher Education Department of the Tamil Nadu government for opening eight private colleges using temple funds.

Arguments

Temple funds cannot be misappropriated in the absence of trustees

The petitioner, appearing in person, argued that a mere political decision made by a minister on the floor of the Assembly does not automatically give the government the power to embezzle temple funds.

He argued that the exercise of opening private colleges could not be allowed when administrators were non-existent for those temples; it is the trustees alone who control the funds and properties of the temples.

Read also: Don’t melt temple jewelry unless trustees are appointed: Madras High Court briefs state on gold monetization program

He referred to section 36 of Tamil Nadu’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1959, which speaks of the use of excess funds accumulated by temples. He argued that the cumulative effect of section 36 conditionally permits the establishment of educational institutions using surplus funds, provided that such a proposal emanates from the trustees themselves. It is necessary to forward such a proposal to the Commissioner of Hindu Religious Institutions and the Department of Charitable Foundations.

On the contrary, the commissioner does not have the power himself to invoke Article 36 to create educational establishments, added the petitioner.

Since the temples involved in the matter are without any trustees, even though certain “able-bodied persons” temporarily perform the functions intended to be performed by the trustees, these “able-bodied persons” do not have the right to “dispose of the property. of the temple ”, the submitted petitioner.

Temple funds can be used to provide education on the Hindu religion

The Applicant argued that although these excess funds can be used to establish educational institutions, it depends on the caveat that the important topic must be related to a course on the Hindu religion. Such a subject must relate to a denomination or sect belonging to the temple concerned. A course related to Hindu religious institutions is compulsory as part of the main program and not as an ancillary subject.

He referred to article 66 of the law which authorizes the misappropriation of temple funds for the establishment of educational institutions if the “The goal of a religious institution was from the start, or later became, impossible to achieve”.

Advocate General S Shanmuga Sundaram relied on Article 97 of the law and the concept of common good funds to assert that all temple funds available from the department of human resources and continuing education by de such means can be used for the creation of colleges.

The petitioner, on the other hand, argued that these surplus funds can only be mainly used for the restoration, renovation and maintenance of temples under the control of the HR & CE department. The petitioner argued that Section 97 was being considered to help needy temples in need of funds, and only when this need disappears will the excess funds currently in the Common Good Fund be used for colleges.

Results

The court, after hearing the arguments of both parties, observed that the appointment of a “suitable person”, in the absence of a board of directors, is only a “stopgap measure”. Decision-making authority in temple administration only arose from a board of trustees so appointed, the court noted.

He took note of Article 14 of the Rules of Operation of the Board of Trustees, 1960, which states that all matters relating to the administration of the religious institution are decided at meetings of the board of trustees.

“For ten years and more, the state has not taken any appropriate measures to appoint administrators in temples under the HR & CE department” , noted the court in its order.

Even the district-level committees primarily responsible for creating a panel of names qualified for appointment as trustees were not formed under section 7A of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1959, a. observed the court.

The court was convinced that the limited tenure of the current ruling political party was irrelevant to the facts of the case. According to the Bench, as far as it is concerned, the state of Tamil Nadu is responsible for appointing the trustees and it has not taken any action for so long.

AG argued that, since section 47 of the law makes a remark on “suitable persons” replacing directors pending the constitution of such a board, they are also entitled to exercise or perform all duties. functions that administrators are initially authorized to do.

“Even if the AG submissions are taken at face value, the use of the Common Good Fund under Article 97 of the Law instead of following the procedure under Articles 36 and 66 of the Law in passing bulldozing through the proposal raises the question of whether the transfer of funds from temples to CGF were voluntary or not. Section 97 speaks of voluntary transfer. It implies that administrators / administrators could plan temple activities , make arrangements for its maintenance and operation, and if they are convinced that the funds exceed the actual needs, which can then be transferred in whole or in part to the Common Good Fund. “

The court observed that the probability of a voluntary transfer is marred by the absence of a board of directors for 11 years, a period during which the amount of funds voluntarily transferred is doubtful since it could not legitimately take place. If the transfer is made by “able-bodied” under the control of the commissioner / government, the transfer of funds cannot be considered voluntary, the court said in its order. Even though a suitable person may have been appointed on an ad hoc basis for a decade, he cannot be considered to have more rights than that of a guardian.

The court also considered the applicant’s argument that the entire process was carried out in such haste that none of the security compliance of the premises that house the students has been verified by the government. Therefore, the court asked the GA to ask the competent authorities to look into the same and this too well before any training attempts to be provided in the four colleges.

“Apart from the four colleges mentioned herein, the other proposed colleges will not be created and no action in this regard will be taken without the express special permission of the court. In other words, educational establishments on the basis of Articles 36, 66 or 97 of the Law should not have been established until trustees were established and the authorization of the court will not have been obtained ”, the court stipulated in its order.

Once the counter-affidavits are filed, the applicant has a period of one week to file the reply. The question will be taken up in five weeks from today.

Case title: TR Ramesh v. The State of Tamil Nadu and 2 others.

Case n °: WP / 24156/2021 (PIL)


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