Supreme Court issues notice on plea against Telangana Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act

The Supreme Court issued notice on a plea challenging the constitutional validity of the Telangana Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1987. The plea was preferred on behalf of the Sri Veerabhadra Swamy Temple priests, known as the Machileshwarnath Temple, against Telangana.

Beside challenging the constitutionality of the Act, the petition filed through Advocate-On-Record Rashi Bansal, has also assailed orders passed by the commissioner of endowments appointing an Executive Officer for the temple. The Bench of Justice MM Sundresh and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti has also stayed these orders.

Senior Advocate Vibha Dutta Makhikja, appearing for the petitioners submitted that through these impugned orders, the Telangana Government is attempting to take over the said Temple and remove the Petitioners. It has also been argued that the mentioned Act and the challenged order are ultra-vires, inter-alia, Articles 14 (Equality before law), 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion), and 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs).

Furthermore, the Act has been challenged on the basis that it gives the government unfettered power, as it can replace the management of any temple without any reason. The plea has noted the case of Pannalal Bansilal Pittie v State of Andhra Pradesh, (1996) 2 SCC 498 to put forth the argument that it is not the job of officers of a secular government to run temples. In addition, it has also been averred that the management and administration of a temple are an essential part of the right to religion.

It further contended that the government can only take over the management to cure financial maladministration. Hence, the management of the said temple has to be returned. The petition has been filed contending that the Government has misused the provisions of this Act and appointed an Executive Officer to take charge of the Temple without prescribing any cause and in perpetuity.

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