(1.)INTRODUCTION These cases involve question of power of Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner and/ or Assistant Commissioner of Department of Endowments (Department Officers) to suspend a temple employee discharging functions of executive officer (hereafter called, person-in-management (PIM) ). Liability of a religious institution or temple to pay the salary of PIM who on transfer works in other temple is also another core issue. The reference made by Division bench disagreeing with the view of another division Bench in an unreported decision in w. P. No. 5736 of 2005 wherein it was held that a PIM shall be deemed to be an employee of Government of Andhra Pradesh (Goap ). The referring bench prima facie opined that in the absence of legislative fiction, temple employees discharging functions of EO cannot be deemed to be employees of Government. Legal Context
(2.)ANDHRA Pradesh Charitable and hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments act, 1987 (the Act, for brevity) regulates administration and governance of religious institutions in the State. Section 153 of the act empowers Goap to make rules for carrying out all or any purpose of the Act. Various provisions require an action to be taken 'as prescribed', which means prescribed by rules. To the extent relevant for the purpose, employees serving religious institutions may be divided into two: executive Officers (EO) appointed and posted as such and secondly, employees of temples - these two classes of persons serving temple are governed by two separate sets of rules. In exercise of powers under section 29 read with Section 153 (1) of the act, A. P. Charitable and Hindu Religious institutions and Endowments Subordinate service (Non-Gazetted) Rules, 2002 (hereafter, Endowment Service Rules) were promulgated. These Rules inter alia provide for conditions of service of EOs, who constitute separate cadre. They are the employees of Department of Endowments, but are under control of the management of the temple. Their service is treated as subordinate service as per Rule 7 of Andhra pradesh Civil Services (Classification, conduct and Appeal) Rules, 1991 (hereafter, cca Rules ). In addition to EO wherever posted a religious institution has office holders and servants like archakas, pujaris, clerks, cashiers, assistants and attenders etc. Two different sets of Rules are made in relation to office holders and servants (hereafter, temple employees ). Office Holders and servants Punishment Rules, 1987 (hereafter, disciplinary Rules) were made for the purpose of Sections 37 and 38 of the Act, which provide for the punishment of office holders and servants. Section 35 of the Act deals with appointment of office holders and servants and sub-section (4) thereof is to the effect that qualifications, method of recruitment and temporary appointments, pay and allowances, discipline and conduct and other conditions of service of temple employees shall be such as may be prescribed. For this purpose, Andhra pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious institutions Office Holders and Servants service Rules, 2000, (hereafter, Office holders Rules) were promulgated. To a limited extent, by reference, Andhra Pradesh state and Subordinate Service Rules, 1996 (hereafter, General Rules) and CCA Rules are also made applicable. Temple employees
(3.)THE term 'office holders and servants' is not defined in the Act. The power of general superintendence and control of institution vests in the Commissioner of endowments appointed under Section 3 (1)of the Act. As per Sections 23 (1), 35 to 38 of the Act, over all control of temple employees is given to a 'trustee', which as defined in Section 2 (29) of the Act includes a board of trustees or trust board constituted under Section 15 read with 17 of the Act. Section 35 of the Act deals with appointment of office holders and servants and reads as below:
35. Appointment of office holders and servants, etc. : (1) Every vacancy, whether permanent or temporary, amongst the office-holders or servants of a charitable or religious institution or endowment shall be filled by the Trustee: provided that in the case of a charitable or religious institution or endowment whose annual income exceeds rupees ten lakhs the executive Officer, shall appoint the office holders and servants thereof. (2) and (3) Omitted (4) The qualifications, method of recruitment and temporary appointments, pay and allowances, discipline and conduct and other conditions of service of the office holders and servants of a charitable or religious institution or endowment, shall be such as may be prescribed.