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HC upholds amendment empowering HR&CE Commissioner- Mrit News

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Says no illegality whatsoever can be attributed with respect to the amendment and that the government was well within its powers

Says no illegality whatsoever can be attributed with respect to the amendment and that the government was well within its powers

The Madras High Court has upheld the constitutional validity of an amendment empowering the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department Commissioner to transfer temple staff from one temple to another. The court held that no illegality whatsoever can be attributed with respect to the amendment.

First Division Bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy concurred with Advocate- General R. Shunmugasundaram that the amendment made to Rule 17 of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious Institutions Employees (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2020 was well within the powers of the government.

The Bench stated that the October 2021 amendment, challenged by the office-bearers of Tamil Nadu Senior Grade Temple Staff Association in Madurai, does not violate any of the rights of the temple employees and that it had been made only pursuant to a series of orders passed by the High Court in temple-related cases.

Justice Chakravarthy said the power to transfer an employee from one temple to another existed even before the amendment. Such power could be exercised only by the appointing authority whereas now the HR&CE Commissioner too had been empowered to do so in the interest of administration.

The judge said that the HR&CE Act empowers the government to prescribe conditions of service for temple employees and therefore the amendment was perfectly in order. He rejected the argument that religious customs might be disturbed by transferring indoor employees such as pujaris and maniams from a Saivaite temple to a Vaishnavite temple.

“The said arguments cannot be relevant for the purpose of testing the constitutional validity of the impugned (under challenge) amendment as well as a consequent circular. The possibility of a wrongful exercise of power under an enabling rule or the circular cannot be a ground to declare the very rule or the circular itself as unconstitutional,” the judge said.

The judge recorded the submission of the government and the department that no agamas or religious practice of any temple or religious institution would be affected in any manner because of the transfer and that even the salary, seniority and promotions of the temple staff would not get affected in any way.

“If and when any employee is transferred, in such a manner, which affects the religious practices or agamas or his service conditions, that would give rise to the individual, the cause of action to challenge the transfer and the same cannot be a ground for attacking the constitutional validity of the rule/circular,” he concluded.


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