HC directs all HR&CE dept. staff to take the ‘Hindu pledge’



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CHENNAIHC directs all HR&CE dept. staff to take the ‘Hindu pledge’


Madras High Court in Chennai | Photo Credit: V. Ganesan
Mohamed Imranullah S.CHENNAI 04 MARCH 2020 01:23 ISTUPDATED: 04 MARCH 2020 01:23 IST


 
 
 
 
Judges make it clear that no one can be exempted, including the Commissioner
The Madras High Court on Tuesday ruled that all those serving in the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department, right from its Commissioner to the lowest grade employee, must take a pledge that they were Hindus by birth and that they continued to profess the religion even now.
Justices M.M. Sundresh and Krishnan Ramasamy rejected the contention of the State government that officers in the rank of Commissioner, Additional Commissioner, Joint Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner need not take such a pledge and that it was meant only for employees below these officials.
Top brass not excluded
Referring to Section 10 of the HR&CE Act read with Rule 2 of the Manner of Proof of Professing Hindu Religion Rules of 1961, the judge said, the rule begins with the words, “Every person appointed or deemed to be appointed…” and hence it was clear that Commissioner and other top officials could not be excluded from its ambit.
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The rules do not make any distinction or differentiation on the basis of hierarchy of officials. “What is applicable to lower grade officials should be applicable to those in higher cadre also. After all, both are involved in the same process. In fact, this should be applied with more rigour to persons working in higher capacity,” the Bench said.
The judgment was passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by advocate S. Sridharan of Chennai with a plea to remove from service the incumbent HR & CE Commissioner and all other officials who had not taken the mandatory pledge to assert that they were Hindus by birth and they continue to profess the religion.
Objecting to the prayer sought for by the petitioner, a government advocate told the court that even if the court comes to a conclusion that such a pledge must be taken by the Commissioner and other top officials, it could direct them to take it even now, instead of ordering their removal as prayed for by the litigant.
Directive to govt.
Accepting the submission, the Bench directed all officials of HR & CE department across the State to take the pledge afresh, even if they had already taken it, as per the rules in force, within eight weeks.
The judge directed the government as well as the HR & CE Commissioner to ensure that the court orders were complied with promptly.
In his affidavit, the petitioner pointed out that Section 10 of the HR&CE Act of 1959 states that the Commissioner, Additional Commissioner, Joint, Deputy or Assistant Commissioner and every other officer or servant appointed to carry out the purposes of the Act should be a person professing Hinduism and they shall cease to hold office when they cease to profess that religion.
Further, a Government Order issued on September 23, 1961, brought into force the Manner of Proof of Professing Hindu Religion Rules and as per those rules, every person appointed under the Act must take a pledge before the presiding deity in the nearest Hindu religious institution and in presence of the chairman of the board of trustees of that institution.
Written pledge
Two witnesses should be present at the time of taking the pledge and it should be reduced in writing.
The written pledge should be signed by the official concerned and placed before the head office, which should keep it as a permanent record along with the service register of the individual employee concerned.
Stating that the HR & CE department has one Commissioner belonging to the All India service apart from two Additional Commissioners, 26 Joint Commissioners and 64 Assistant Commissioners, the petitioner claimed that all those who had not taken the pledge as required under the 1961 GO must be removed from service forthwith.

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