As part of its efforts to draft a new Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Act to meet “present-day requirements,” the State government has constituted a “First Class Committee” to make recommendations on 14 subjects, including measures for prevention of encroachments on temple property and regulation of hereditary trustees.

The committee will be headed by Justice P. Baskaran, former Judge of the Madras High Court, and will submit its recommendations in three months.

An order issued by the State government on September 14 said there was a need for a new Act on the lines of the one enacted by the Andhra Pradesh. This will be done without changing the basic structure of the HR&CE Act 1959, while taking into consideration various amendments, court judgments, laws to govern temple employees and government orders.

Besides Justice Baskaran, Joint Commissioner of the HR&CE headquarters Kundrakudi Ponnambala Adigal and retired Joint Commissioner N.S. Ramachandran are part of the committee. They will submit the recommendations to the HR&CE Commissioner. Later, it will be placed before an advisory committee headed by the Chief Minister.

One of the important subjects under consideration was inclusion of recommendations of the Justice A.K. Rajan committee in the new Act.

Justice Rajan submitted a report on training aspects and qualifications required for ‘archakas' from all communities. The government started Saiva Archaka training institutes in Madurai, Palani, Thiruchendur and Tiruvannamalai and two Vaishnava Archaka training institutes in Chennai and Srirangam.

While suggesting ways to regulate hereditary trustees, the committee will also look into the aspects of appointment of non-hereditary trustees and conduct rules.

The committee will also make suggestions on classification of temples based on agamas and non-agamas, amelioration of educational institutes run by the HR&CE Department, maintenance of account for contribution from devotees, expansion of the rules for appointment of executive officers based on various court judgments and ways to prevent construction of temples at public places, causing disturbance to traffic and the general public.

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