Religious Endowments Act, 1863

This topic of “Religious Endowments Act, 1863” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

In News:

The Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill, 2024 has stirred up a huge controversy. It has reopened the debate on the state’s power to regulate Hindu religious places. Temples serve not only as places of worship but also as centres of education.

The Religious Endowments Act, enacted on 10th March 1863, stands as a pivotal piece of legislation aimed at divesting government management and relieving the duties of Boards of Revenue concerning religious sites. Let’s delve into the details of this significant act:


  • Aimed to divest government management of religious endowments.
  • Intended to relieve the duties of Boards of Revenue regarding religious matters.

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Background Regulations

Bengal Regulation 19, 1810 (Clause 1)

  • Enacted for the due appropriation of rents.
  • Support of Mosques, Temples, and the maintenance of public buildings.

Madras Regulation 7, 1817 (Clause 1)

  • Similar provisions as Bengal Regulation 19, 1810.
  • Additional support for Choultries and Chattrams.

Repeal of Parts of Regulations (Clause 1)

  • Repealed by the Repealing Act of 1870.

Interpretation Clause (Clause 2)

  • Definition of Civil Court and Principal Court of civil jurisdiction provided.

Government Special Provision for Religious Sites (Clause 3)

  • Applies to mosques and temples.
  • Nomination of trustees by the Government.

Transfer to Trustees (Clause 4)

  • Transfer of control from Revenue Board to trustees.
  • Cessation of Board’s powers.

Procedure for Disputes in Trusteeship (Clause 5)

  • Civil Court empowered to appoint managers.

Rights of Trustees (Clause 6)

  • Retain same rights as before, except as specified.

Appointment of Committees (Clause 7)

  • Replacement of Board of Revenue.
  • Duties and constitution of committees outlined.

Qualifications of Committee Members (Clause 8)

  • Must profess the religion of the establishment.
  • Appointment published in Official Gazette.

Tenure of Committee Members (Clause 9)

  • Hold office for life unless removed.
  • Removal possible by Civil Court order.

Filling Vacancies in Committees (Clause 10)

  • Election rules set by State Government.
  • Civil Court can appoint members if needed.

Committee Members Not Trustees (Clause 11)

  • Prohibition against holding dual roles.

Transfer of Property to Committee (Clause 12)

  • Immediate transfer upon appointment.
  • Powers and responsibilities cease for the Board.

Duty Regarding Accounts (Clause 13)

  • Trustees and committees mandated to keep accounts.

Legal Actions by Interested Persons (Clause 14)

  • Suits permissible for misfeasance or breach of trust.
  • Powers of Civil Court invoked.

Nature of Interest for Legal Standing (Clause 15)

  • Attendance or benefit from distributions qualifies.

Reference to Arbitrators (Clause 16)

Reference Under Arbitration Act, 1940 (Clause 17)

  • Court empowered to order reference.

Application for Leave to Institute Suits (Clause 18)

  • Preliminary application required.
  • Court determines prima facie grounds.

Court’s Oversight on Accounts (Clause 19)

  • Filing of accounts in Court required.

Criminal Breach of Trust (Clause 20)

  • Civil proceedings do not affect criminal ones.

Endowments for Mixed Purposes (Clause 21)

  • Board determines property use.
  • Allocation between secular and religious uses defined.

Government Non-involvement (Clause 22)

  • No government charge of religious properties.

Act’s Effect on Regulations (Clause 23)

  • Does not affect historical or architectural preservation.

Extensions and Applications

  • Extended to various districts and regions.
  • Specific exclusions in some areas.

Repeals and Amendments

  • Various amendments and repeals made over time.

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