During a hearing before a bench of the Madras High Court comprising Chief Justice SV Gangapurwala and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy on 15 November, regarding four Public Interest Litigations (PIL) filed by temple activist Rangarajan Narasimhan about theft of cash and ornaments from hundials (donation boxes), Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HRCE) department Commissioner, KV Muralidharan informed the Madras High Court that a circular had been issued to 48 Senior Grade temples to live stream the Hundial opening process on their YouTube channels.
According to a report by The Hindu, the counter-affidavit filed by Muralidharan mentioned that the temple hundials were being opened according to the Installation, Safeguarding and Accounting of Hundial Rules, 1975.
He also informed the Court that there were multiple key sets for the hundials, which were given to persons such as the Executive Officer and chairman of the board of trustees for keeping in safe custody.
Some of the requests made by Narasimhan through the PILs were-
- the appointment of district-level committees comprising retired judges, former IAS and IPS officers and individuals of impeccable integrity to oversee the opening of hundials in temples which did not have trustees
- a direction to the HRCE commissioner not to open hundials in the absence of trustees
- register criminal cases in cases of theft from hundials
- participation of locals during the hundial opening process
- CCTV coverage of the process
In a counter-affidavit, NRR Arun Natarajan, the Special Government Pleader (HRCE) stated that in temples which did not have trustees, a 'Fit Person' had been appointed under the HRCE Act and he performed the functions of trustees. The affidavit stated that a judgement of the Madras High Court, delivered on 11 January 2022, said that the Fit Person is also a trustee and therefore hundials could opened in the presence of the Fit Person.
Regarding the participation of locals, he said that they were welcome to witness the process.
Further, he said that the details of collections are recorded in the Hundial Assortment Register of temples, which is signed by at least two members of the public.
The Division Bench then granted time till 11 January 2024 to Narasimhan to file a rejoinder, if he wished to do so.
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