Plea In Top Court Seeks Uniform Code For Religious, Charitable Endowments
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking Uniform Code for Religious and Charitable Endowments and referred to the control of authorities on Hindu temples across the country, unlike certain other groups which are allowed to manage their own institutions.The plea filed by advocate and BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay contended that Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs should have similar rights to establish, manage and maintain their religious places like Muslims, Parsis and Christians, and the State cannot abridge this right.“It is submitted that the right to manage institutions conferred under Articles 26 is a natural right for all communities. But Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs have been denied this privilege,” said the plea filed through advocate Ashwani Kumar Dubey.The PIL stated that there are approximately four lakh temples out of nine Lakh temples across the country which are under government control. There is not a single Church or Mosque related religious body where any control or interference of government is seen, it said, added that as far as tax paying or endowments is concerned there is no payment of tax from Churches and Mosques in the country."And due to the same reasons mentioned there is a need to change the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) Act, 1951 and other similar acts enacted by the States from time to time."This Act gives the government permission to control the temples as well the properties of the temples. There is almost 13 to 18 per cent of the service charge levied over the temples. There are almost 15 States in our nation which take control over the Hindu religious institutions. When the service charges are implemented over temples, it basically takes away the community rights as well as resources that are protecting its interests," the plea said.The petition said that Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs have similar rights to acquire and administer movable-immovable properties of their religious places like Muslims and Christians and the state cannot abridge that.All the laws made to acquire and administer movable-immovable properties of temples-gurudwaras are arbitrary, irrational and offend Articles 14, 15, 26. Hence, void and inoperative, the petition stated."If necessary, the Court may direct the Centre or Law Commission of India to draft a "Common Charter for Religious and Charitable Institutions" and "Uniform Code for Religious and Charitable Endowments"," the plea said.