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UK regulator of charities drops probe against Hindu body

world Updated: Jul 08, 2015 01:50 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
charity organisations

A screen shot of the website of National Council of Hindu Temples.

Britain’s regulator of charity organisations has dropped an inquiry against an umbrella organisation representing Hindu temples in Britain that broke rules by appealing to the community before the May 7 elections to vote for the Conservative party.

In an open letter, Satish Sharma, general secretary of National Council of Hindu Temples UK, had said: “The Conservative Party is the only party which has consistently listened to us and voted against this legislation and whose members are committed to repealing the caste amendment if re-elected”.

The organisation, alongwith those representing Sikh and Jain communities, has been opposing a campaign on the sensitive issue of outlawing caste-based discrimination by including 'caste' in British law.

NCHT’s appeal on its website had evoked complaints to the Charity Commission, since it breached rules of poitical neutrality.

A commission spokesperson told HT: “The Commission was made aware of a notice posted on the National Council of Hindu Temples’ website and we contacted the charity to establish the facts of this matter, and to ask them to remove the post as a matter of urgency”.

The commission’s guidance on campaigning and political activity makes clear that a charity organisation must not give its support to any political party or candidate and that all charities must ensure that their independence is maintained, and perceptions of independence are not adversely affected.

“As charity regulator we expect charity trustees to take account of this fundamental requirement as a core part of their decision making processes. We are aware that the post has subsequently been removed, and the trustees have assured us that the charity will refrain in future from making any further statements that could lead to the charity’s political neutrality being questioned,” the spokesperson added.

Sharma said after the commission closed the inquiry: “We have always been politically independent despite attempts to portray us as otherwise, and will continue to press for Hindu rights to be equally respected and protected”.

Since 2008, efforts to bring ‘caste’ within the purview of Britain’s anti-discrimination laws have passionately divided the Indian community. The issue dominated debates and discussions in temples and gurdwaras in the run-up to the May 7 elections.

A range of organisations – including the National Council of Hindu Temples UK (NCHTUK) – have opposed enacting the law, lobbying ministers and MPs against it as the House of Commons and House of Lords debated various amendments and provisions over the years.

The Labour and Liberal Democrats parties support moves to enact the law, while the Conservative party has accepted the position of the various groups opposing it, and is perceived as having blocked or delayed legislation in parliament.