By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 28 Feb: With the Governor putting his signature on the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Repeal Bill, the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Act has ceased to officially exist. It may be recalled that the government, under pressure from the Char Dham Teerth Purohits had brought the repeal bill in the winter session and once it was passed, it was sent to the Raj Bhavan for approval. With the approval of the Raj Bhavan on the bill, the Char Dham Devasthan Management Act has been repealed. Following the formal repeal, the government has also issued a notification in this regard.
In addition, the Governor has also approved the Tenancy Act also passed in the winter session. This act aims to protect the interests of the landlord as well as the tenant as it encompasses a model agreement to be signed between the landlord and the tenant to clearly spell out the responsibilities of each party.
Meanwhile, after the repeal of the Char Dham Devasthanam Act, the earlier arrangement of management of the Char Dham temples will come into force. As per the earlier arrangement, the Badri-Kedar Temple Committee would again look after the management of the shrines. This arrangement was done away in December 2019 when the then Trivendra Singh Rawat Government had legislated the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Board Act, giving the authority to manage the Char Dham and the related shrines to the Government. The board was constituted by issuing a notification on 25 February, 2020, whereby the Chief Minister was made its chairperson and the Minister of Religion and Culture was made the Vice Chairman of the Board. The then Garhwal Divisional Commissioner Ravinath Raman was assigned the post of chief executive officer of the board. The government had claimed that the Char Dham shrines would be managed in a professional way by the Board to be headed by an IAS officer. However, this action had evoked a strong reaction not only from the Teerth Purohits who felt that their control, their rights and traditional authority over the management of the temples had been taken away by the government, but also from independent Hindu bodies and individuals who opposed this move on the ground that none of the religious bodies of the minorities are managed or controlled by the Government across the nation. Therefore, in their opinion, the Hindus ought to have full control and freedom to manage the Hindu shrines. The government had then cited that in Jammu & Kashmir, the Vaishnodevi Shrine Board is being successfully managed by the government. This argument did not cut any ice with those opposing the move. It may also be recalled that, in certain cases, the courts too have ruled that Hindus have right to control their temples and that the government has no business to interfere in the temples’ functioning.
The allegation of those opposed to the Board was that the government wanted to control the financial and policy decisions of the temple by making an Act. However, with time, this became a major political issue and the Congress openly announced its opposition to the Board and promised to repeal the Board if it came to power. Sages from various Ashrams in the state had also expressed their reservations in this regard pushing the government on the back foot. When power changed hands and Pushkar Sindh Dhami took over as CM, he took a stand in favour of repealing the Act as the elections were round the corner.
Consequently, in the winter session, another bill was tabled repealing the Act.
With the notification also issued for the Tenancy Act, the Model draft of the Tenancy Act of the Centre has been implemented in Uttarakhand, too. With the enactment of the Bill, the interests of, both, the landlord and the tenant will be protected. The government has claimed that this will also address the shortage of rental accommodation due to the growth of the housing market in the state.
After the approval of the Tenancy Bill in the state, it has become an Act. For this, a rent authority will come into existence in the state. If there is any dispute between the landlord and the tenant, then the aggrieved party can approach the authority for a ‘fair’ settlement of the case.
By Arun Pratap Singh