The Supreme Court Friday issued a notice to Kerala government on pleas by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and another person, challenging certain provisions of Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950, dealing with the composition of Travancore and Cochin Devaswom boards that control temples in the south and central parts of the state.
A bench of Justices U U Lalit and K M Joseph issued notice on the petitions which challenged a Kerala High order upholding sections 4 (1) and 63 of the Act. According to these provisions, the Devaswom Boards “shall consist of three Hindu Members, two of whom shall be nominated by the Hindus among the Council of Ministers and one elected by the Hindus among the members of the Legislative Assembly of the State of Kerala”.
This was “undemocratic” and led to abrogation of rights of the devotees in the selection process, the pleas said. “Aspirations of a devotee is reflected only if he elects a Hindu as his MLA in the general elections, while general elections are hardly fought on issues concerning the temples,” the pleas said.
They added that “leaving the aspirations of a devotee to the mercy of the dance of the democracy in a general election is brazenly arbitrary, against natural justice and thereby ultra vires of the Article 14 of the Constitution”.
The petitioners said Ernakulam seat has consistently been won by non-Hindus, except once in 1987. “There are many assembly segments in Kerala which continuously throw up only non Hindu candidates. The present legislative assembly has approximately 50% Hindu MLAs only. This has resulted in a large section of devotees being denied a chance to express their will and opinion in the matter of Temple Administration even in an indirect manner through their MLAs,” the pleas said.