The Supreme Court today issued notice on a plea challenging the appointment of Executive Officers in the temples of Tamil Nadu on the ground of violation of the rights of Hindus under Articles 25, 26 and 29 of the Constitution of India. The SLP challenges the Judgment of the Madras High Court that dismissed the Writ Petition of the Petitioners.

A Bench comprising CJI DY Chandrachud and Justice PS Narasimha observed, "The executive council was appointed in 2011, yet the process of appointing trustees hasn't been done. Issue notice."

"The trustees are still not appointed. The state is not interested in appointing (them). There are 38000 temples under the government", said the Counsel appearing on the behalf of the Petitioners, the Indic Collective Trust and T.R. Ramesh.

The petition seeks directions to recall all the Executive Officers in the State of Tamil Nadu who are functioning without valid appointment orders; or appointed without valid reasons; or appointed under Section 43-A or 45 of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 before the Conditions for Appointment of Executive Officers Rules, 2015 came into effect.

In one of the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court in 2015, it has been held by the Apex Court that an Executive Officer could not have been appointed in the absence of any rules prescribing conditions for appointment.

The 2015 Rules expressly limit the appointment of Executive Officers for 5 years, yet, the officers appointed prior to the commencement of the rules continue to function perpetually, claiming that no period or conditions are prescribed in their appointment orders, as per the plea.

"Such usurpation of the management of the temples, wherein this Hon'ble Court had categorically re-iterated that "the management of the temple must be handed over to the person concerned immediately after the evil stands remedied" and failure to do so would amount to violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution", read the plea filed before the Supreme Court.

The petition also highlighted that the state of Tamil Nadu has placed executive officers in temples with low income as well, where chances of mismanagement are remote, indicating that control of temples has been taken without any valid reason.

The plea further said, "It is submitted that the continued presence of these Executive Officers, who are paid from the administrative fees appropriated by Government from temple funds, amount to a direct affront on the rights of the Deity and Hindu Devotees; and amounts to serious violation of rights of Hindus under Article 25, Article 26 and Article 29(1) of the Constitution of India".

"The (2015) Rules have no application to the facts of the case, because the appointment of the Executive Officers is not on account of malpractice or mismanagement of the trustees of the temple, but, for the reason given above, namely in the absence of appointing/nominating the trustees", the Madras High Court had held while dismissing the writ petition of the petitioner, which has now been challenged before the Apex Court.

Cause Title- Indic Collective Trust & Anr v. The State of Tamil Nadu & Anr.