*GLIMPSE OF A LATEST VERDICT*
*W.P. 574/2015, W.P.(MD) 24178/2018*
Suo Motu; Periyanambi Narasimha Gopalan Vs. Secretary to Govt.
*Hon’ble Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Adikesavalu* disposed of the Suo Motu Writ Petitions in the matter relating to *“Protection of Historical Monuments and places of Archaeological Importance”.* The Hon’ble Court went into exhaustive detail on the matter and provided a number of directions dealing with all aspects and avenues on the subject. Some of the directions of this Hon’ble Court are enumerated hereunder:
i) Funds earned by the temple can be used only for the fulfilment of the objects of the HR&CE Act as spelled in Section 66, including maintenance of the same temple and/or other temples and for propagation of tenets common to all or any class of religious institution. It cannot be diverted or transferred to even other departments or to the state exchequer for any other use.
ii) The respondents shall establish Mamallapuram World Heritage Area Management Authority to manage and safeguard all the monuments. They shall also constitute the Heritage Commission consisting of 17 members. The Heritage Commission shall identify all the structures, monuments, temples, antiques with historical/archaeological importance within the State of Tamil Nadu.
iii) The State shall reconstitute the State Level Expert Committee which shall be responsible for carrying out and according sanctions for the repairs/renovations of the temples and archaeological sites, on the recommendation of the District Level Committees. The State shall also constitute District Level Committees. Such Committees shall visit all the temples in their respective District, identify the temples and sculptures which are required to be brought under the State Act and which require immediate attention for repairing. The Committee shall meet at least once in every month and conduct periodical inspection of the monuments and temples.
iv) Government shall finalise the conservation manual containing the regulations for the functions of the Heritage Commission as well the Mamallapuram World Heritage Area Management Authority and the procedures for conservation. The ASI shall conduct state wide field survey of antique temples and restore the structure according to its conservation rules to its former glory.
v) Periodical inspections shall be made by the higher officials in the cadre of the Additional Commissioner or Joint Commissioner of HR&CE Department. Further, the ASI shall inspect and declare all the temples which are more than 100 years old as a monument according to the Directive Principles of State Policy.
vi) No structural alteration or repair of any monument, temple or idol or sculpture or murals or paintings which come within the purview and control of the HR&CE Department, shall take place without the sanction of the State Level or District Level Committee. In order to maintain the quality of ornamental works repair works done in the temples in violation of Agama and Shilpa shastras as pointed out in the report of the UNESCO team, must be attended to and the original position must be attempted to be restored.
vii) The funds of the temples shall first be utilized for maintenance of temples, conducting temple festivals, payment to its staff. In case of surplus funds, the same shall be utilized for attending the repair and maintenance of other temples. Further, State Government shall allocate funds for protection and preservation of the ancient monuments declared under the State Act.
viii) HR&CE Department shall frame procedure to audit the fixed and current assets of the temples and its properties. The audit shall be conducted periodically by an independent audit wing as per Section 87 of HR&CE Act.
ix) Temple lands shall not be alienated or given away. Public purpose theory shall not be invoked in cases of temple lands over which the interest of the community people of the religious denomination generally rests. Encroachment and illegal constructions in the protected area, archaeological sites, temple lands, etc., must immediately be removed.
x) The District Level committee shall take stock of all idols, photograph and computerize the same.
xi) Salary and other service and retirement benefits of all the staff of the temple must be fixed as per the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act and on par with the Government Servant. Terminal Benefits of retired staff to be settled as well. Further, a fixed salary to be awarded to trustees of temples.
xii) A Special Tribunal shall be formed to exclusively deal with the matters relating to the religious institutions come under the provisions of the HR&CE Act. The Tribunal shall be constituted under the Head of a Working or Retired District Judge as Chairman with two or more Members from the rank of the retired Subordinate Judicial Officers. The tribunal shall have jurisdiction to decide all the matters related to the nature and status of the Religious Institutions, privileges and performances of rituals and poojas.
xiii) Persons with political background are prohibited from being appointed as a Trustee or employee of the temple in any cadre, in view of Rule 14 of the Tamil Nadu Government Servant Conduct Rules.
The spirit of this substantial Judgement follows the quote, _“The culture of the Tamils belongs to the great and immortal treasures of the world’s civilization”._