'Not a picnic spot': HC directs TN government to put up boards banning non-Hindus in temples

'Hindus also have fundamental right to profess and practice their religion'

Madras HC says destroy pro-LTTE books of Pazha Nedumaran Madras High Court | Wikimedia Commons

The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Tamil Nadu government to install boards in all Hindu temples stating non-Hindus were not permitted beyond the 'Kodimaram' (flagpole) area in the respective shrines and said Hindus also have a fundamental right to profess and practice their religion.

Justice S Srimathy of the HC's Madurai Bench gave the judgement while hearing a plea from D Senthilkumar, who sought directions to the respondents to permit Hindus alone to the Arulmigu Palani Dhandayuthapani Swamy temple and its sub-temples. He also wanted display boards to that effect in all entrances to be set up.

The famous Lord Murugan temple is located in Palani in Dindigul district.

The respondents were the TN government, represented by Principal Secretary, Department of Tourism, Culture and Religious Endowments, Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE) and the Executive Officer of the Palani temple. 

The HR&CE department administers Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu.

Admitting the petition, the court directed the respondents to install boards indicating "non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple after Kodimaram" at the entrance of the temples, near the flagpole and at prominent places in the shrine.

"The respondents are directed not to allow the non-Hindus who do not believe in Hindu religion. If any Non-Hindu claims to visit a particular deity in the temple, then the respondents shall obtain an undertaking from the said non-Hindu that he has faith in the deity and he would follow the customs and practices of Hindu religion and also abide by the temple customs and on such undertaking the said non-Hindu may be allowed to visit the temple," the court ruled.

Further, whenever a such a person is allowed based on the undertaking the same shall be entered in the register which shall be maintained by the temple. 

"The respondents shall maintain the temple premises by strictly following the agamas (temple rules), customs and practices of the temple," the judge said.

The respondents submitted the said writ petition was filed only for the Palani temple and the order may be restricted to it alone. 

"But the issue raised is larger issue and the same ought to be applicable to all Hindu temples, hence the plea of the respondents is rejected. As stated supra these restrictions would ensure communal harmony among different religions and ensure peace in the society. Therefore the State Government, the HR&CE department, the respondents and all persons who are involved in temple administration are directed to follow the directions to all Hindu temples," the court said.

The people belonging to Hindu religion have right to profess and practice the faith. 

"Likewise, people belonging to other religions have right to profess and practice their religion. But the customs and practice of their respective religion cannot be interfering with and any interference ought to be curtailed. The temple is not (a) picnic spot or tourist spot. Even in Arulmighu Brahadeeswarar Temple, Thanjavur the other religion people are allowed to admire and appreciate the architectural monuments of the temple, but not after Kodimaram."

"While admiring the architectural monuments the people cannot use the premises as picnic spot or tourist spot and the temples premises ought to be maintained with reverence and as per agamas. Therefore, the rights guaranteed under the Articles is not granting any right to the respondents to allow the other religion people if they do not have any faith and belief in the Hindu religion. Moreover, the rights are guaranteed to all religions and there cannot be any bias in applying such right," the court added.

The HC also referred to certain incidents of non-Hindus allegedly entering temples.

"It was also reported that in Arulmighu Brahadeeswarar Temple a group of persons belonging to other religion had treated the temple premises as picnic spot and had non vegetarian food inside the temple premises. Likewise, recently on 11.01.2024 a newspaper had reported that a group of persons belonging to the other religion had entered the Arulmighu Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Madurai with "their sacred book" near sanctum and sanctorum and was attempting to do their prayers" there. 

These incidents are absolutely interfering with the fundamental rights guaranteed to the Hindus under the Constitution, the judge said.

"The Hindus also have fundamental right to profess and practice their religion freely and propagate their religion without interfering in their way of practice. Therefore, the Hindus have right to maintain their temples as per their customs, practices and Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department is having duty to protect the temples from such unwanted incidents."

"In fact, in the above narrated incidents the Department had failed to protect the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution," the court added. 

Join our WhatsApp Channel to get the latest news, exclusives and videos on WhatsApp