THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA, INDIA, October 24, 2012 (Press Trust of India): Congress Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) today termed as "unconstitutional" the Kerala government's move to make it mandatory for Hindu members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) to declare that they "believe in God" in order to vote for nominees to temple boards. (The move would prevent the CPI-M MLAs from voting.)
As per the existing rules, the Hindu legislators could nominate one member on each of three Devaswom boards -- Travancore, Cochin and Malabar -- which manage most of the temples across the state (with enormous assets), and the state Cabinet chooses the remaining two members.
The state Cabinet had on Monday forwarded to the Governor the proposed ordinance to amend the statutes of the three boards. Apparently, the Oommen Chandy-headed government has been compelled to amend the rules as the opposition Left Democratic Front, led by CPI-M, has more Hindu MLAs than the ruling coalition.
The proposed amendment would mean that even the CPI(M) and CPI MLAs would have to declare that they "believe in God" in case they want to force a contest for choosing one nominee each for the boards.
"This is an unconstitutional move to secure political ends of the ruling coalition. If the government declines to give up the decision to issue the ordinance, we will challenge it in court," CPI(M) state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Vijayan told a press meet that as per the Constitution an MLA could take oath either in the name of God or solemn oath. The proposed ordinance went against this Constitutional guarantee.
In 1999, a five-member bench of the Kerala High Court had ruled that all Hindu MLAs were entitled to vote for election of their nominee to the temple boards regardless of the question of faith in God, he said.
Applying the "faith clause" in the case of the Hindus was also historically wrong as there had been atheist sects among the Hindus since ancient times, Vijayan said.
The CPI(M) leader also took serious exception to the move to delete the clause in the Devaswom Bill, brought by the previous LDF government, for reserving one post in each of the temple boards for women.