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Temple ownership and state’s interference with article 25 and 26

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Articles 25 and 26 of the Indian constitution require that the state will not interfere, discriminate, patronize or meddle in the management of the affairs of the place of worship as long as the religious prayers and gatherings are peaceful and devoid of violence. This has to be monitored by each state with complete neutrality. The Indian supreme court has further ruled recently that “All temple property is owned by the deity as a legal person and the name of the Pujari or managers cannot be put in the property ownership papers.”.

Although the Supreme court rather than sanction certain states for stealing, transferring temple funds to other institutions and for other purposes (Kerala), and demolishing the place of worship in other states, without getting proper approvals of devotees, have just punted the issue. It seems that some states have misused this constitutional provision purely for “voting Block” politics.

The need of the hour is to revise or gut articles 25 and 26. The supervision aspect of temples or other worshiping places should be transferred to the respective community of worshipers, where the place of worship is located. The worshiping community will convene meetings of worshipers/donors, who will elect a committee to supervise and manage the affairs of the temple, churches, or mosques. The committee will be obligated with a criminal penalty if they allow the teacher who will preach hate to other communities or incite violence. The state will not touch any liquid or non-liquid assets of those religious places without the proper approval of the devotees and overseeing body.

If the preacher is preaching, he should be video recorded for his preaching for the entire duration and this should be regulated by an independent religious affair body appointed by the center to be paid by the state. The video should be kept for auditing purposes for a limited duration and any alteration or tempering will be criminal.

Alternatively, we need to reexamine the entire constitution of India, considering the proclivities of our neighboring countries, who have discarded “religious secularism” as envisioned in India’s original constitution. This will not affect the right to free speech or free press and democratic governance through the election. However, the direct election of executive positions should be considered with the popular voting mechanism. An non-elected political party head in a “smoke-filled room” will no longer be the kingmaker, either at state or center. Unless these kinds of provisions are introduced, the people holding executive positions are no longer accountable to the people, negating the basic principle of democracy. The foundation of good democracy resides on the principle of “For the people, of the people and by the people.”

In addition to this, just like many other countries that have banned 6th-century religious ideology will be forbidden in the revised constitution. The insult to the national flag, anthem, or any kind of celebration of the victory of enemy states will earn prison terms or another form of punishment. It is about time we review the hurriedly conceived and accepted colonial version of the constitution. The time and the circumstances have changed. More on this subject later.

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