A division bench comprising Justice MM Sundresh and Justice R Hemalatha issued the direction on Monday while ordering notice to a plea challenging the department’s refusal to act against illegal and unauthorised presence and functioning of various executive officers of the Department without valid, legally permissible orders appointing them at almost 40 temples in Tamil Nadu.
Appearing for the petitioner, TR Ramesh, president, Temple Worshippers Society, Chennai, advocate Niranjan Rajagopalan contended that it was found through information obtained under Right to Information Act that though executive officers were present and functioning in many temples, there were no valid orders appointing executive officers.
Pointing out that such arbitrary functioning of HR&CE Department affected the constitutional rights of the devotees, trustees and stakeholders, including those who contribute to the temples, and above all to the interest of the temples themselves, Niranjan contended: “It is shocking to note that this illegality has been existing for the last 55 years. This is more so when the statute contemplates certain procedures such as publication of notice, calling upon the trustee and all interested persons to show cause why it should not continue.
The positions of the executive officers in these temples and in many other temples, for which schemes of administration were framed or modified, were without any legal basis, the petitioner said. “The executive officers in 40 temples functioning purportedly under Chapter VI, but without any orders, is a shocking illegality and are functioning without any jurisdiction under the statute.
“The trustees, who have been hereditarily managing the temple, practically have no say in the administration of the temples and oftentimes the religious denominations and the devotees belonging to such Sampradayas had to put up with blatant and severe interferences in the religious affairs of the temples by the “executive officers” and other officials of the HR & CE Department in the guise of administration,” the plea added.
Seeking to quash the appointment of executive officers, the petitioner also sought to hand over the administration to the trustees of the temples from whose hands the administration was taken over.