While upholding the validity of the Ordinance brought to amend the provisions of the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, the High Court of Kerala held that a covenant entered by rulers prior to commencement of the Constitution does not have the force of law. The impugned Ordinance had cut down the term of members of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) from three years to two years. The amendment was challenged on the ground that the same was made without reference to the covenant entered by the Rulers of Travancore and Cochin dealing with the TDB constitution. The covenant had provided that the administration of temples and Hindu religious institutions under the management of the Ruler of Travancore will be vested with the board. The covenant had also provided for the manner of constitution of the board and election of members. The contention was that such covenant amounted to “existing law” within the meaning of Article 372 of the Constitution of India, and hence amendment could be made only with concurrence of Union Government.
A division bench comprising Justice V Chitambaresh and Justice Satish Ninan rejected the argument. It was held that only a covenant between a ruler and the Union of India relating to accession had the force of law, and a covenant between two rulers had no such status.
It was observed that the Covenant can at best refer to the personal rights,privileges and dignities of the Rulers and should be deemed to have been repealed after the coming into force of the Constitution.
The court also held that it was within the powers of the legislature to cut short the term of existing members. It was held: It is not for us to substitute our wisdom to that of the Legislature as regards the tenure of the Members in the Board.
The reliance placed in the dictum of the Supreme Court in TP Senkumar case regarding the tenure of a DGP was also distinguished, holding that the post of designated Police officers like State Police Chief, Inspector General of Police etc. cannot be equated to the post of the President or Member of the Board.