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Also read the related stories in THE HINDU as follows:
EO takes over Chidambaram temple
K.T. Sangameswaran and S. Vydhianathan
Petition against his appointment dismissed
“Dikshitars must extend all cooperation to him”
CHENNAI: The decks have been cleared for the government management and administration of the Lord Nataraja temple at Chidambaram with the Madras High Court on Monday dismissing a writ petition filed by the Podhu Dikshitars challenging the State government’s appointment of an Executive Officer (EO) for the temple.
In her order, Justice R.Banumathi said the HR and CE Commissioner should issue proper directions to the Executive Officer to administer the temple in accordance with the provisions of the HR and CE Act within a week. The Podhu Dikshitars should extend all cooperation to the EO for the proper administration of the temple. The court also permitted U.Arumugasamy, an impleading petitioner, to recite ‘Thevaram’ and ‘Thiruvachagam’ inside the temple. Sri Sabanayagar Temple, represented by its Secretary of Podhu Dikshitars, Chidambaram, challenged an order dated July 31, 1987 of the HR and CE Commissioner appointing an Executive Officer for the temple under section 45 (1) of the HR and CE Act.
The petitioner contended that it was a religious denomination and it had been maintaining the temple for centuries. The appointment of an EO was an interference with the religious affairs and violated the Constitution. It was not a public temple. It enjoyed complete autonomy in the matter of deciding rights, ceremonies and administration of temple properties. The government submitted that the EO was appointed following various allegations against Podhu Dikshitars, who allegedly indulged in several malpractices.
Ms.Justice Banumathi said in the light of well settled principles, if the instant case was examined, the Dikshitars could claim protection only under Article 25 of the Constitution. But the right to manage the temple or the offerings or ‘kattalais’ were not the integral part of religion or religious practice and as such were amenable to statutory control. The appointment of the EO was not ultra vires of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
HR and CE Special Commissioner and Commissioner T.Pitchandi told The Hindu that the EO, would start functioning with immediate effect following the High Court order. Earlier, the Podhu Dikshitars challenged the EO’s appointment and obtained a stay. In view of the stay, the officer was looking after only the property outside the temple precincts. With the vacation of the stay, he would take over the temple management, including the Dikshitars’ welfare.
© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu
Also read the related stories in Indian Express as follows:
EO appointment to Natarajar temple upheld
Express News Service
CHENNAI: The Madras High Court has upheld an order dated July 31, 1987, of the Commissioner of Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment (HR&CE), appointing an executive officer to administer the famous Natarajar temple in Chidambaram.
The acts of mismanagement of the temple were writ ten large on the face of it and there was prima facie case against the Dikshithars, Justice R Banumathi observed and upheld the appointment while dismissing writ petitions filed by the secretary of the temple’s Podhu Dikshithars.
The petitioners contended that the temple was not a public property and the Dikshithars were religious denominations, maintaining the temple for centuries. They enjoyed complete autonomy in the matters of deciding rites, ceremonies and the administration of the temple affairs. As a result, the appointment of an executive officer by the HR&CE board was an interference on the religious affairs, they contended, adding that the move violated Article 26 of the Constitution.
For its part, the HR&CE board submitted that the appointment was made following various allegations and malpractices against the Dikshithars.
Dismissing the petitions, the judge observed that the Dikshithars could claim protection only under Article 25 of the Constitution. But the right to manage the temple or the offerings or kattalais were not an integral part of religion or religious practice. So, they were amenable to statutory control.
The judge pointed out that the Dikshithars had not maintained their accounts. They had also not realised the income due to the temple. The offerings to God were not accounted for and there was also missing/loss of gold jewels. As had been held by the Supreme Court in various judgments, the administration of a temple was purely secular and the State could intervene and regulate the same, the judge said.
The judge also permitted U Arumugaswamy to recite Thevaram and Thiruvasagam inside the temple.
‘Submit report on encroachment’:
The Madras High Court on Monday directed the Nilgiris District Collector to file a status report showing the steps taken to remove the encroachments on the revenue land, which had been identified for the development of an Elephant Corridor.
The First Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice V Dhanapalan gave the direction while passing further interim orders on a petition from Elephant G Rajendran, managing trustee of `In Defence of Environment and Animals’.
Originally, while passing orders on a public interest writ petition on September 30, 2008, the Bench had directed the Collector to remove all the encroachments from the Elephant Corridor. In his present petition, Rajendran contended that the Collector had not taken any action till date.
The Collector might have to appear before the court, if he failed to submit the report before February 19.