HR and CE- Rogue Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu

What Hindus should know

HR & CE Dept. officials carry  out of a lot of illegal activities in temples and other religious institutions.  Most of their orders replacing Trustees or interfering in temple matters are  without jurisdiction or in abuse of it. The general impression of Hindu  devotees is that these officials have the power under law to do such acts.  Nothing can be farther from truth. Every Hindu Devotee should be aware of the  following facts:

(1) HR&CE Dept. or  Government cannot appoint Executive Officers to any religious institution  without valid reasons and without following natural justice:
As per the Supreme Court’s judgment  in the Velur Devasthanam Case 1965 SCR (2) 934, a case must be always made out  for an appointment of an Executive Officer. Government or HR & CE  Department or even Courts cannot appoint Executive Officers without strong  justification. This is the position in the case of non-denominational temples.  In case of denominational temples like Chidambaram Shri Sabhanayagar Temple,  the HR & CE Dept. has no rights at all, in view of the special status  accorded to denominations by Article 26 of the Constitution and by Sec. 107 of  the HR & CE Act.

Further, the Commissioner or the  Department need to follow the principles of natural justice while seeking to  appoint an Executive Officer and failing to do so would invalidate the  appointment. This has been the dictum of a Division Bench of Hon’ble Madras  High Court in D. Nagarajan vs. Commissioner, HR & CE AIR 1971 Mad 295.

(2) General Policy or “Better  Management” cannot be reasons for takeover of temple administration: HR&CE  Dept. cannot appoint Executive Officer to any religious institution stating it  is Government policy to appoint Executive Officers for most temples. Better or  efficient management too cannot be reasons for takeover of temples from the  Trustees.

(3) Executive Officer can be  given powers only to look after the properties of the temple. He cannot interfere  in religious matters or other matters of administration: Even in cases where  Courts have approved the appointment of Executive Officer due to presence of  mismanagement in the religious institution, the Commissioner can give powers  pertaining only to the properties of the temple or institution to the Executive  Officer. No other powers, administrative or religious can be assigned to the  Executive Officer.

(4) Executive Officer’s office  premises should not be within the temple premises: As per rule 8 of the Temple  Entry Authorization Act, 1947, “the temple buildings and premises shall not be  used for purposes not connected with or arising from the worship, usages and  observations of such temples”.

(5) Any notice issued by the HR  & CE Dept. appointing Executive Officer should state the reasons for  appointment and should provide reasonable opportunity to reply or refute the  notice.

(6) Executive Officer or any  other HR & CE official cannot introduce innovations concerning the time,  place or mode of worship in the temple or stop or discontinue any religious  practice followed in the temple.

(7) Executive Officer has no  authority to fix archana or darshan charges: This may come as a surprise to  many but it is only the Trustee or Trustees who can fix these charges and not  the Executive Officer or any other official in the HR & CE. This is as per  Sec. 57 of the HR & CE Act, 1959.

Frauds committed by HR & CE in  appointing Executive Officers to Hindu Religious institutions

In 1970, a division bench of the  Hon’ble High Court of Madras came down heavily on the practice of HR & CE  in not following natural justice while appointing an Executive Officer for a  temple. If one imagined that the Department would have corrected itself and  adhered to the principles of natural justice after this judgment one could not  be more wrong.

To this day, the practice of the  HR& CE is to begin by issuing “an order” appointing an Executive Officer to  a religious institution. If the institution receiving the “order” does not seek  any legal remedy, the Executive Officer takes over immediately. If the Trustees  file a suit or writ against the arbitrary takeover attempt, HR&CE would  state in the Court that this memorandum can be treated as a notice and the trustees  can reply to it. Trustees and institutions naïve enough to fall for this  stratagem would accept this in the Court and start replying to the HR & CE  Dept to the “notice”. HR&CE Dept. would usually pass a “final order”  appointing an Executive Officer while the purported “enquiry” is still on.

If the trustees file a case against  this “final order”, HR&CE Dept’s stand in the Court would be that there is  an alternate remedy available to the petitioners by way of review petition to  the Government. Courts usually are inclined to tell the petitioners to avail  this alternate remedy, which in reality is no remedy at all as the Government  is known to uphold all the illegal and unethical orders of the HR&CE Dept.

There have been instances in recent  times where HR &CE officials demanding bribes to cancel takeover  proceedings were arrested. In 2009 a Joint Commissioner of HR & CE Dept was  caught accepting bribes for this purpose.

Commissions and Omissions
HR & CE Dept. claims it is  administering only the secular aspects of Temple Administration and ensuring  that the moneys due to the institution are realized and used for the purposes  for which the endowments were made. Lofty sounding, but if one were to analyse  what really happens in the temples administered by this rogue department one  would find corruption and looting not found even in traditionally corrupt  Government departments.

Temple Properties
Temples and Mutts in Tamil Nadu own  500,000 acres of agricultural and other lands. The tenancy laws in Tamil Nadu  and the non-functioning Revenue Courts make it almost impossible for landowners  to realize any rent or revenue from the leased lands. The HR&CE Dept.,  which is hand in glove with the Government, takes no credible action to realize  these rents or arrears of rents. The Dept. gave a shocking reply to a recent  query under the RTI Act that it has no records of the ageing arrears or amount  due to the temples. This admission alone is enough to boot out this rogue  department from the temples.

Temples in Tamil Nadu also own about  22000 buildings and about 33,000 sites. These buildings and sites are leased  out at values much below the market value. The corrupt HR & CE officials  and Tamil Nadu Government officials and Ministers pocket huge sums for favouring  leaseholders. These buildings are also leased out to non-Hindus especially  Christian missionaries and charities which carry out their anti-Hindu  activities from these places. This is against the intent and dictum of the  people who had donated these places to the temples.

Huge corruption money flowing out of  such transactions is the main reason Government does not want to give up its  hold on Hindu Temples and institutions. Highly inflated project costs are  another way by which HR & CE officials loot temple moneys. For example,  Podu Dikshitars of Chidambaram had dismantled the Paniya Nayagam temple  dedicated to Lord Subramanya, within the Chidambaram temple precincts, as the  roof and pillars were bound to cave in due to loose soil in the basement. This  was done as per advice of engineers and stapathis; a new construction plan  drawn at a cost of Rs. 90 lakhs and work begun. The Executive Officer after  assuming office in the Chidambaram temple stopped the sponsors from continuing  the work. He has now given a proposal for the same work at a cost of Rs. 10  crores!

A luxury Toyota car was bought for  Sri Maasaniamman Temple near Pollachi at a cost of Rs. 11.5 lakhs. The first  question that comes to mind is why a luxury car is required for a temple.   It has come out in newspapers and through RTI queries that this car was  used for private purposes of the HR &CE Secretary in the Tamil Nadu  government. It is also now known that the monthly petrol bills of this corrupt  official were taken from Temple funds.

Funds accumulated in fixed deposits  in the accounts of rich temples would suddenly be transferred for flood relief,  tsunami or Chief Minister’s relief fund. Funds were repeatedly taken from  Tiruverkadu Mariamman temple to conduct free marriages by the Tamil Nadu  government. This temple which had huge deposits of money became almost  bankrupt.

Temple Jewels
Since the HR & CE stopped having  external audit from 1985, it is almost impossible to gauge how many antique and  valuable temple jewels have been looted. There is widespread belief that  valuable diamonds and stones in jewels have been removed and replaced by  ordinary stones in many temples. Missing Maragatha lingams worth thousands of  crores have not been recovered. Jewels from 215 temples have been stolen and  this rogue department does not even reveal the actual value of the jewels  stolen. In many cases the loss of jewels is not known to the outside world at  all.

On 22 December 2010, devotees  discovered that about 156 globes made of gold and 108 globes made of silver, in  the palanquins of the God and Goddess in the Perur Temple, were missing. This  came to light only when the Golden and Silver palanquins were taken out in  procession.

Temple Icons
More than 400 antique metal icons  have been stolen from temples under the administration of the HR&CE  department, which has not taken any credible follow up actions to recover the  valuables. Instead of installing closed-circuit cameras, burglar alarms and  modern safety locks, the Department keeps many icons belonging to various  temples at one safe room in a big temple. These icons are thus deprived of  poojas and maintenance. Continuous neglect of these icons can result in  irreparable damage. Further, these sacred icons were meant for worship and this  Department willfully ignores this primary purpose. While millions are wasted  and looted by Dept. officials no care is taken to protect these treasures.

Festivals, etc
Another crime commonly perpetrated  by the department officials is soliciting sponsors to celebrate festivals even  for temples that have sufficient and surplus income. Two things are achieved in  this manner. One, the unscrupulous officials are not called upon to show the  incomes realized from specific endowments meant for such festivals. Soon the endowments  or their existence would be soon forgotten and those properties can be sold or  leased out for a pittance. Two, bribes can be taken from competing sponsors or  accounts can be easily fudged when there are multiple sponsors.

Kapaleeshwar temple in Mylapore has  many income generating properties. Still, the Department takes more than 80% of  the money required for the Arupathi Moovar festival from sponsors who are given  undue positions of importance during festivals ignoring devotees whose families  and communities have contributed for generations.

Prasadam Stalls 
Prasadam stalls are amongst the  biggest frauds openly committed by this rogue Department. Only food  prepared piously in the temple kitchen and offered to the deities in the temple  in traditional manner can be termed as prasadam. However, Prasadam Stalls are  auctioned by the Department (needless to say many improprieties are committed  in these auctions and allotments) to the public and supposedly the stalls are  allotted to the highest bidder. This means the Department openly allows third  parties to produce food items to be manufactured outside the temple premises  and packages them to be sold at temples. This is an act which is at once  blasphemous and anti-religious besides being a huge fraud on devotees visiting  the temple.

Besides, prasadam shops and stalls,  other shops and commercial activities are permitted by the Department. These  acts of the Department are detrimental to the serene atmosphere that needs to  be maintained in temples and commercialises Hindu religious institutions.

Hundies serve the Department in two  ways. One, they generate income which the Department fails to realize from the  properties of the temple it is administering. Two, they are the easiest source  of income that can be looted. In most temples, the real amount generated by  hundials is never accounted for. The only exception to this story is the tale  of the Hundies illegally installed in Chidambaram Shri Sabhanayagar temple. At  Chidambaram the Department is trying to prove a point by showing a big  collection of hundie monies. In the first place, the Hon’ble Division Bench of  Madras High Court in 1951 had clearly ruled that the Podu Dikshitars are  justified in not having any Hundi in the temple and further stated installing  Hundis and introducing archana tickets commercialises the temple.

But after assuming office in the  Chidambaram Temple, the Executive Officer came with a posse of policemen and  installed Hundis in the temple that never had Hundis in its entire history.  This is against the law, temple tradition, and in contempt of the Hon’ble High  Court of Madras.

After installing Hundis, the  Department did two things to ensure it is able to show good collection in the  Hundis. It did not handover the second key of the Hundies to the Trustees and  they do not seal the Hundies each time after they open it for counting. When it  was pointed out the Podu Dikshitars’ collection in gold and other valuables far  exceed the Hundie collections even today, and the public have not contributed a  single gram of gold to the Executive Officer like they do to the real owners of  the temple, the Podu Dikshitars, about 4 gms of gold suddenly appeared among  the hundie collections!

Receive Site Updates