SOCIETY/ POLITY / GOVERNANCE
Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Salient features of Indian Society & Secularism
- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States; Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
The significance of the Char Dham board verdict
Context: The Uttarakhand High Court on July 21 upheld the constitutionality of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board Act, 2019
Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act,2019.
- The Act entrusted management of Char Dham temples to a Board whose Chairman and members are, by and large, nominated by the State Government.
- Two of the Chardham temples in Uttarakhand, Shri Badrinath and Shri Kedarnath temples, were, prior to the 2019 Act coming into force, under the control and management of a managing committee constituted under the U.P. Shri Badrinath and Shri Kedarnath Temples Act, 1939.
- This 1939 Act was repealed by the 2019 Act.
- The 2019 Act brings within its ambit the Gangotri and Yamunotri Dhams also.
Challenged in Court of Law
- The act was challenged on the ground that it violates Articles 14, 25, 26 and 31-A of the Constitution of India
- It was alleged that the 2019 Act divests ownership of its properties from the temple, and vests it in the Board controlled by government
What were the major Issues which was highlighted in this Judgement?
- Precedence of upholding similar laws:
- Such laws are in place for a number of temples such as Jagannath Puri (1955), Vaishno Devi(1988), Shrinathji at Nathdwara (1959), Mahakal at Ujjain (1982), Kashi Vishwanath (1983), and Tirupati Balaji temple (1987).
- All these acts were upheld by the Courts of India
- Distinction between religious and Secular activities:
- Offerings (of money, fruits, flowers or any other thing) are given to the deity, religious practice ends with these offerings.
- The collection and distribution of these offerings for the maintenance and upkeep of temple are secular activities
- Char dhams Doesn’t belong to any religious denomination
- The Supreme Court in Nar Hari Sastri And Others vs Shri Badrinath Temple Committee (1952) had already held Badrinath to be a public temple of Hindus and not confined to any family or denomination.
- Also, SC held that secular activities of these temples can be regulated by the state.
- The Court explicitly said that legislature is not bound to demonstrate mismanagement of temples while enacting such laws.
- Regulation of religious practices/administration is not specific to Hinduism
- There are as many as 27 waqf laws and the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee Act too was enacted in 1925.
- In the latest judgment, Chief Justice Ranganathan observed that it is not necessary that the legislature should make a law uniformly applicable to all religious institutions
- Article 26 is not absolute
- The court clarified that ‘in matters of religion’, right to management is a guaranteed fundamental right under Article 26(b)
- But in respect of properties, the right to administer properties under Article 26(c) is to be exercised in ‘accordance with law’.
- Thus, the state is entitled to regulate administration of religious or temple properties by means of validly enacted law.
Connecting the dots:
- Article 31 of Indian Constitution