Andhra Pradesh High Court upholds termination of service of temple employee due to conversion to Christianity

The Andhra Pradesh High Court has upheld Sri Bramarambha Mallikarjuna Swamy Varla Devasthanam’s (through Executive Officer) termination of the services of an employee who ceased to be a Hindu by converting to Christianity, as the act was repugnant to the requisites of the religious institution.

The Court was of the opinion that the termination was in accordance with the constitutional powers, specifically, Article 16(5) of the Constitution of India and the statutory power conferred by Rule 3 of Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments office holders and Servant Service Rules, 2000 (AP Rules, 2000).

As per Rule 3 of AP Rules, 2000 every officeholder and servants of a religious institution or endowment shall be a person professing the Hindu Religion and he shall cease to hold office when he ceases to profess the Hindu religion.

While referring to the petitioner’s submission as an afterthought, a bench of Justice Harinath.N observed, “…If this Court is to consider the contention of the petitioner that he has married a Christian girl without converting himself as a Christian, then the marriage ought to have been performed under the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The marriage certificate ought to be issued under Section 13 of the Special Marriage Act, no certificate under Section 13 has been issued in the case of the petitioner in so far as his marriage is concerned, this indicates that the petitioner in order to get over Rule 3 of AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments office holders and Servant Service Rules, 2000 has taken this plea…”.

The petitioner was appointed as Record Assistant in the office of the 4th respondent-Sri Bramarambha Mallikarjuna Swamy Varla Devasthanam on compassionate grounds in 2002, pursuant to which he married a girl of his choice in 2010 and the marriage was solemnized in a Cathedral Pastrorate Church, at Nandyal of Kurnool District.

A complaint was filed before Lokayukta, alleging that Rule 3 of AP Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Office Holders and Servant Service Rules, 2000 is thus violated as the petitioner concealed his religion at the time of employment on compassionate grounds.

Subsequently, the petitioner was terminated from the services as Record Assistant. Now, the petitioner in his explanation submitted that he did not conceal his religion and that his caste and school leaving certificate issued by the competent authorities revealed his caste as Indian, Hindu, Mala, Scheduled Caste Community.

The petition was thus filed on two grounds, one that no opportunity was given to the petitioner for defending his case in the departmental enquiry, and second, that marrying a girl belonging to Christianity ought not to be considered that the petitioner is has converted to Christianity. It was further put forth that the petitioner still professes Hindusim.

The bench however refused to accept any of the grounds relied on by the petitioner, noting the fact that he did not place the marriage certificate on record either before Enquiry Officer or in the pleadings in the writ petition.

As seen from the copy of Extract of Register of Marriages at Holy Cross Cathedral, Nandyal, filed by the respondents, the name of the petitioner and his wife appeared in the column, the name of the parties and religion as Christian. The petitioner has endorsed his signature in the said registrar. It is also mentioned that one Rt. Rev. Dr. G.T. Abraham appears to have been performed the marriage ceremony. The said extract amply clarifies that the petitioner was conscious of the fact that he is a Christian and his marriage is with a Christian lady and the marriage is solemnized in a church as per the Christian rites and church formalities”, the bench further noted in the order.

Source : Verdictum

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