New Delhi, Oct 16 (PTI) Two petitions were Thursday filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Uttarakhand High Court's verdict upholding the constitutional validity of a 2019 law which handed over management of several temples, including the famous Char Dham Himalayan shrines, to a board constituted by the state government.
The appeals -- filed by People for Dharma and Indic Collective Trust -- claimed that high court has erred in upholding the validity of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act of 2019 since its provisions are “arbitrary and violative” of the fundamental rights of devotees of the Char Dham shrines in the state.
Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath are the four famous Himalayan shrines in Uttarakhand.
The high court had on July 21 this year dismissed the plea challenging the constitutional validity of the 2019 law, noting that the Act is the latest in a long line of enactments made by various states all over the country entrusting management of Hindu temples to a board.
The appeals filed in the apex court through advocate Suvidutt M S has claimed that power to include more temples and levy of cess on recommendation of a board, that over and above has state functionaries and those appointed or nominated by the state as its members, is “violative of the rights of citizen of administering their religious institutions as a whole”.
“Such arbitrary power vested in the board is violative of the devotees’ right to preserve a religious pilgrimage and its sanctity,” one of the pleas filed in the apex court said.
“If the intention of the legislature is to merely make the pilgrim circuit more accessible and tourism friendly, then doing so through a law that is simultaneously allowing the secular state to entrench itself deep in the management of innumerable institutions at once is fraught with arbitrariness,” it said.
It alleged that provisions of the Act “oversteps the constitutional mandate of state’s ability to regulate secular aspects” of the management of religious institutions under Article 25 and 26 and also works against the Article 31A along with the precedents set by the top court.
It said that traditional and religious rights continuing since ancient times cannot be divested therefrom by a “loosely drafted law” that does not state the correct intentions or reasons for such a take-over.
“The rejuvenation of famous temples in Uttarakhand is an objective that would not require creation of such authorities that take over complete functioning of various religious institutions in one stroke and would have the discretion to add to the list of its powers too,” it said.
One of the appeals said that substantial questions of law arises for consideration of the apex court, including whether the high court erred in holding that the 2019 Act is constitutional despite its provisions according “arbitrary and unbridled powers” to manage and temper with the traditions of innumerable Hindu religious institutions, to the state and functionaries appointed by it. PTI ABA MNL SJK ABA RKS RKS