Karnataka HC dismisses plea demanding exclusive appointment of Hindus in Hindu Religious Institutes

The High Court bench cited Constitutional philosophy dismissing a plea seeking prohibition of non-Hindus from working in Hindu religious and charitable offices

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“The Hindu religion was never so narrow. Hindu religion as professed never consisted of people who are so narrow minded”, observed a bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay S Oka of the Karnataka High Court while hearing a petition for strict implementation of section 7 of the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (HRICE) Act.

Section 7 provides that any Commissioner, Officer or public servant appointed in a religious or charitable institution should compulsorily profess the Hindu Religion. One of the petitions was filed by N P Amruthesh, questioning the printing of the name of A B Ibrahim, who was working as deputy commissioner with the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department, Mangaluru, on the invitation card of the annual festival organised by the Mahalingeshwara Temple, according to LiveLaw.

This petition sought that no person who is not professing Hindu religion be permitted to work in the office of Commissioner appointed under the said Act and hence prayed for directions to restrain the deputy commissioner from entering the temple.

The second petition filed by Bharata Punarutthana Trust objected to the appointment of Mohamad Deshav Alikhan as Superintendent in the office of the Commissioner under the HRICE Act. Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty were taken by surprise and orally observed, “What heavens are going to fall if respondent 4 being the Deputy Commissioner, for overlooking the arrangements will enter the temple. There are instances, go all over the country, where in big Hindu festivals, the government officers who do not profess Hindu religion have actively assisted the administration.”

The Chief Justice further remarked on the maintainability of the petitions saying, “After the Constitution has come into force, we will never entertain such petitions in the court. There is something known as the Constitution, there is something known as Constitutional philosophy. We will not entertain a petition which will take us 100 years back.”

The Division Bench read section 7 of the HRICE Act which reads:

Section 7: Commissioner, etc. to be Hindu.- The Commissioner and every Deputy Commissioner or Assistant Commissioner and every other Officer or servant, appointed to carry out the purposes of this Act by whomsoever appointed, shall be a person professing Hindu Religion, and shall cease to hold office as such when he ceases to profess that religion.

The court then remarked, “There is no general prohibition on appointing an officer or servant to work in the offices of commissioner, deputy commissioner or assistant commissioner. The restriction imposed by section 7 is that the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner and every officer or servant appointed to carry out purposes of the said act of 1997, shall be a person professing Hindu religion. The test for applicability is that the officer or servant is appointed to carry out the purpose of the Act.”

The Bench cited an example to assert the point better. According to LiveLaw, the court said, “A computer programmer or data entry operator may be appointed to the office of commissioner to create computer programs or data entry in the office of commissioner. It cannot be said that such a data entry operator or programmer has been appointed to carry out the purpose of the act.”

The Court refused to grant any relief and finally noted that, “Judicial notice will have to be taken of the fact that government officers, police officers, irrespective of their religious faith and beliefs effectively assist all religions in celebrating their respective religious festivals. In fact, that is part of the Constitutional philosophy and concept of Secularism.”


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