Of HR&CE Act and appointment of non-Hindus

TIRUNELVELI : TAMIL NADU : 07/07/21: Minister for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments P. K. Sekar Babu is inspecting Swami Nellayappar Ganthimathi Ambal temple in Tirunelveli Town on Wednesday, 07 JULY 2021. Photo : SHAIKMOHIDEEN A / The Hindu.  

Dravidar Kazhagam president K. Veeramani has objected to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department calling for applications only from Hindus for the posts of teachers and other staff at the Arulmigu Kapaleeswarar Arts and Science College in Kolathur, which was launched by the Department.

He argued this was against the Constitution, adding that the ‘Hindus only’ stipulation should be nipped in the bud.

Should the posts of teachers in colleges run by the HR&CE Department be open only to Hindus? Yes, said officials of the Department. They pointed to Section 10 of the HR&CE Act, which says the Commissioner and other officers or servants appointed to carry out the purposes of this Act shall be persons “professing the Hindu religion”. “This means whoever is appointed for fulfilling the purpose of the Act has to be a Hindu,” a senior official said. Moreover, every person appointed or deemed to have been appointed under the HR&CE Act shall sign a pledge that he or she is a Hindu by birth and professes the religion.

When asked what could prevent the Department from employing people from other religious groups as teachers and other staff, since the positions did not involve religious activities, the official said that while there was no restriction on these schools and colleges in imparting general education, the Act was clearly in favour of the Hindu community when it came to appointments. He said a combined reading of Section 66(1)(g), Section 10 and Section 6(5) made it clear that for an educational establishment set up by a religious institution as a ‘charitable endowment’ for the benefit of members of the Hindu community, the same being for the fulfilment of the purpose of the HR&CE Act, such servants and officers have to be Hindus.

As per Section 66(1)(g), the funds from the endowment can be appropriated for the purpose of establishment and maintenance of educational institutions where the instruction of the Hindu religion is also provided.

Section 6(5) defines charitable endowments as “all property given or endowed for the benefit of, or use of the right by, the Hindu, for support or maintenance of objects of utility to the community members”. It includes rest houses, choultries, pathshalas, schools and colleges, homes for feeding the poor and institutions for the advancement of education, medical relief and public health.

Justice K. Chandru, former Judge of the Madras High Court, said the government could use the exemption under Article 16(5) of the Constitution because the appointment of teachers and other staff in the college was not connected to religious activities.

In 2011, he struck down “blatant discrimination adopted by the Department of Archaeology” against the appointment of K.P.A. Nallamohamed to the post of curator on the ground that he was a Muslim. “It is not as if the post of an Epigraphist or an Archaeologist must work inside a Hindu temple. In a country like India, where there had been civilization even before the advent of all religions, the work of Epigraphists or Archaeologists cannot be confined to persons professing the Hindu religion alone. Further, all the religions recognised by the Constitution also have similar heritage and antiquity,” he said in his order.

Advocate S. Srinivasa Raghavan however pointed out that the order of Justice Chandru in the case between the Department of Archaeology and K.P.A. Nallamohamed, was set aside by a Division Bench of the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court in writ appeal (MD) no. 247 of 2012 dated 22.8.2017.

When the Department invited applications from all for appointments in colleges in Palani and Melaiyur, why should it resort to “only Hindus” for the current appointments, he asked. To drive home the point that Hindus should exclusively be appointed only to posts directly connected with religious activities, Mr. Chandru recalled his 2011 verdict against a Christian security company, FORCE 1 Guarding Services Pvt. Ltd, which had approached the court against the termination of its contract for providing security to the Tiruchendur Murugan temple.

“Religious reservation should be followed for posts directly connected to temple administration and religious practice, and not for posts unconnected to temple activities.”

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This article has been updated to add the latest status of a case mentioned in the report.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2021 6:06:35 PM |

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