Tamil Nadu

Melting of temple jewellery not now: HC

Decision on melting jewellery only after naming trustees, says court.   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

The Madras High Court on Thursday permitted Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department to take inventory of jewellery and other valuables which form part of offerings made by devotees to various temples in the State. However, it ordered that a decision on melting the gold jewellery must be taken only after appointment of trustees.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu passed the interim orders on a batch of public interest litigation petitions filed by Indic Collective Trust.

The petitioner had challenged the department's decision to melt unwanted gold jewellery and articles at a Mumbai based mint facility owned by the Centre, convert them into bars and earn interest by pledging them in banks.

The litigants contended that any decision on melting valuables donated to temples must be taken only by the trustees concerned and not by the HR&CE department officials who exercise only supervisory jurisdiction. They brought it to the notice of the court that trustees had not been appointed in many temples for long.

On the other hand, advocate-general R. Shunmugasundaram said the process of constituting district-level committees for appointment of trustees had begun and that the committees were expected to be in place within a month. He said the process of melting gold jewellery and articles donated to temples was not new.

According to the A-G, the HR&CE department had earned roughly ₹11.5 crore by way of interest from gold bars deposited in banks and that the money had been utilised to renovate many temples. However, in the last 10 years, the valuables dropped in temple hundials (donation boxes) had not even been inventorised, he said.

The State government had created three panels headed by one retired Supreme Court judge and two former judges of the Madras High Court to oversee the work of melting the gold jewellery and other articles. These panels would continue to take inventory but a decision on melting would be taken only after the appointment of trustees, he said.

After recording his submission and passing an order on similar lines, the judges directed the court Registry to list the cases on December 15.

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Printable version | Nov 27, 2021 4:11:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/melting-of-temple-jewellery-not-now-hc/article37223114.ece

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