Madras HC Grants Relief To Temple Archaka, Staff; Directs Tamil Nadu Govt To Pay Proper Salary, Benefits To Them
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has directed the Tamil Nadu government to issue an appropriate order within eight weeks for the temple archaka and other employees of Rajagopalaswamy Kulasekara Alwar Temple in Ambasamudram, regarding their pay, allowances, and other work benefits, providing relief to the petitioners.
The Court was hearing a petition filed In 2019 by archaka Periyanambi Narasimha Gopalan challenging the government order on re-fixing pay scales for employees of various temples covered by Tamil Nadu's Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act.
Each temple was treated as a separate unit and the employees' salary was based on the temple's income and other parameters, reports The Hindu.
Considering the petitioner's salary of Rs 750 in 2017, which rose to Rs 2,984 during the filing of the current petition, Justice G R Swaminathan acknowledged that such salaries were inadequate for a dignified life.
The Tamil Nadu court emphasised the significance of preserving thousands of ancient temples with architectural and cultural value through their dedicated staff. As the state had taken regulatory responsibility for all public temples, it could not ignore its obligations towards the temple staff.
The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 mandates minimum wages for some occupations. The State cannot tie the salary of a petitioner in a temple under its control to the temple's income, the report said.
As per the court's observation, temples were considered public institutions and their staff, including the petitioner, were responsible for maintaining customary practices , thereby discharging public functions.
It was unreasonable to tell them that since their establishment was starved of funds, they had to remain content with the pittance they received. Such an action would infringe on the constitutional obligations towards them. Therefore, the government was duty-bound to ensure that they were paid proper wages and retained on rolls, the court observed.
The Court further said that the right to life encompasses the right to livelihood. If a person was constrained to work for a salary that was far less than the minimum wage, that was also a breach of Article 21 of the Constitution.
The court ruled that the petitioner and others would be entitled to arrears of pay from the petition filing date, and the G.O. would not apply to the temple.
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