HR&CE employees follow High Court orders and take pledge to assert that they were Hindus by birth and they will continue to profess the religion.
Employees of Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department took a pledge on Wednesday (20 May) that they were Hindus by birth and continue to profess the religion now.
They took the oath following a Madras High Court that all those working in the HR&CE Department — from the commissioner to the lowest grade staff — must take the pledge that they were Hindus by birth and that they continue to profess the religion even now.
On 3 March, a two-judge bench of the court, comprising justices M M Sundresh and Krishnan Ramasamy, issued the directive on a public interest litigation filed by a Chennai advocate, S Sridharan.
The advocate had sought the removal of the incumbent HR&CE commissioner and other officials from service as they had not taken the mandatory pledge to assert that they were Hindus by birth and they continue to profess the religion.
The government pleader then argued that the court could direct the officials to take the pledge now rather than remove them from service as sought by the advocate.
The judges accepted the government argument and ordered that all staff of the department take a fresh pledge, even if they had taken a similar oath earlier, according to HR&CE department rules within eight weeks.
Advocate Sridharan pleaded that under Section 10 of the HR&CE Act, 1959, the commissioner, additional commissioner, joint, deputy or assistant commissioner and every other officer or servant appointed to carry out the department activities should be a person professing Hinduism and they shall cease to hold office when they cease to profess that religion.
He also pointed out that the government had issued an order on 23 September 1961 “Manner of Proof of Professing Hindu Religion Rules” that mandated every person appointed under the HR&CE Act to take a pledge before the presiding deity in the nearest Hindu religious institution and in presence of the chairman of the board of trustees of that institution.
Two witnesses are also required to be present at the time of taking the pledge and it should be in writing.
The written pledge has to be signed by the official concerned and forwarded to the headquarters to be kept as a permanent record along with the service register of the individual employee.
While issuing their order, the judges rejected the government’s contention that officers in the rank of commissioner, additional commissioner, joint commissioner and assistant commissioner be exempt from taking such a pledge.
According to Sridharan, the HR&CE department has one commissioner belonging to the all India service apart from two additional commissioners, 26 joint commissioners and 64 assistant commissioners. All of them had not taken the pledge as required under the 1961 Government Order.
Times of India reported on the development of the officials taking the pledge as directed by the Madras High Court.