The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday issued notice to the state government on a public interest litigation filed seeking directions to provide adequate monetary relief to the Archaks and Temple Servants serving in nearly 35,000, category 'C' Temples that are managed by the state.
The petition filed by advocate Shreehari Kutsa and K S N Dixit an archak states that the Archakas & Temple Servants in the notified Hindu temples are managed by the Government of Karnataka, through the Karnataka Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HRCE) under the provisions of Karnataka Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act.
The department has notified 35,500 temples in the state of Karnataka, which are graded/categorized into 'A', 'B' and 'C' for administrative purposes. The Archakas who are responsible for the day-to-day preservation, running and upkeep of the religious institution.
It is also said that department is providing salary to the Archakas and temple servants belonging to Category 'A' and Category 'B' Temples, no salary or emolument is being paid to the Archakas and temple servants in 99% of the temples that fall under 'C' Category, thereby violating the clear provisions of the Section 12 of the KHRCE Act read with Rule 8(3) of the KHRCE Rules. The only support given by the Government to the Archakas in 'C' Category Temples is the tasdik or Annuity/Varshasana of Rs.48,000 per annum per temple paid towards compensation pursuant to acquisition of the lands endowed to the temple.
The Respondent has fixed the sum of Rs.48,000/- irrespective of the actual number of Archakas or temple servants the temple employs, irrespective of the area/size of lands owned, irrespective of size of the temple, irrespective of rituals and traditions involved in each temple and without any regard to host of other attendant facts surrounding each separate temple.
As a result, the Archakas and servants of 'C' Category temples are almost entirely dependent on the 'Dakshina' (tatte-kāsu or token offerings in Aarti plate) that is given by the devotees as a matter of their belief and to help the poor Archakas. The Archakas of the 'C' Category temples are thus left on a hand-to-mouth situation without the requisite support from the Government.
The petiton states that "In this situation of COVID-19 pandemic, as the public is prohibited from moving around and social distancing norms mandate that religious institutions being closed for public, the footfalls in the temples is absolutely NIL resulting in the Archakas of the 'C' Grade temples being deprived of even the Dakshina/offering by devotees. Similarly, the condition of temple servants is even worse, as they have almost nothing assured for their livelihood and due to non-payment byArchakas, the temple servants are leaving their job and the Archaka is thus left with no assistance in view of negligence by the employers viz., Respondents. The Respondents ought to have taken cognizance of the situation and alleviate their plight."
The Department, having undertaken the management of Temples, has a statutory duty towards ensuring subsistence of the notified temples and consequently a responsibility towards the Archakas and temple servants.
The bench while posting the matter for further hearing on May 27 said "The government will have to consider giving some monetary relief to archakas and temple servants in the Category C temples as the temple are likely to remain closed for some more time due to the lockdown.
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