Published: 16th November 2021
Madras High Court bars Tamil Nadu's HR&CE department from starting new colleges
The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment HR&CE department had moved to commence colleges in as many as eight places
In what comes as a blow to the move of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) department to commence colleges in eight places of the state, the Madras High Court on November 16 restrained the department from starting new colleges other than the four that were already set up.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu had issued the order on a writ petition that was filed by TR Ramesh hailing from Chennai. It challenged the Higher Education department's Government Order that permitted the setting up of colleges by the HR&CE department.
It was the petitioner's contention that the temple funds should, in fact, be used for renovation and restorative work of the required temples. When it comes to financial matters, the decisions shouldn't be taken by the Fit Persons appointed on an ad hoc basis who run the administration but by the trustees. With regards to establishing a college by the Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple administration at Kolathur, the same constituency whose representative is Tamil Nadu's Cheif Minister MK Stalin, it was his allegation that the decision was taken in a haste and that no proposal or request was actually made by the concerned temple trustees.
Advocate General (AG) R Shanmugasundaram passed on the information to the court that four colleges at Kolathur in Chennai, Tiruchengode in Namakkal, Oddanchatram in Dindigul and Vilathikulam in Thoothukudi were already established and the admission process had commenced as well. The other four colleges would be set up soon. The AG contended that once the temple fund is deposited with the common good funds, which is under the commissioner of HR&CE's control, the said funds could be used by the department for starting educational institutions.
The AG added that the practice of the HR&CE department establishing colleges is not a new one. This practice actually commenced sixty years ago and it began with the setting up of Parasakthi College in Kutralam which continues to run commendably today.
Once the court heard all the arguments, the bench proceeded to restrain the HR&CE department from establishing new colleges without first appointing trustees for the particular temples and seeking the consent of the court. What is now subject to the outcome of the petition is the functioning of the four colleges that have been set up already.
The bench stated that, indeed, it is only the trustees who are entrusted with required powers to manage temple properties and offerings and the Fit Persons, being stop gap arrangements, cannot take decisions regarding financial matters. A directive was also issued to the HR&CE department to introduce a subject on Hindu religion on a regular stream basis in the colleges that were already established otherwise, they cannot go on functioning. The department was directed to do this within four months.
It may be recalled that recently, the Madras High Court had put a stop to HR&CE department's plans with regards to the temple gold monetising programme on the grounds that only the temple's trustees are the authorised ones to come to a decision with regards to disposing of properties or valuables.