Madras High Court Imposes Restrictions on Entry of Non-Hindus in Temples Asserting Temples are Not Picnic Spots

Jan31,2024 #Madras HC #picnic #Temple

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Published on: January 31, 2024 at 16:22 IST

In a recent directive, the Madras High Court has instructed the Tamil Nadu government and the State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department to implement measures preventing non-Hindus from entering areas beyond the flagpole at the Palani temple and other temples in Tamil Nadu.

The Court’s decision comes in response to a petition filed by D Senthilkumar, the organizer of Palani Hill Temple Devotees Organisation, seeking the installation of prohibitory boards after an incident involving a Muslim family in burqas attempting to enter the temple premises.

A bench led by Justice S. Srimathy underscored that temples should not be treated as leisure spots, emphasizing that Hindus, like other communities, have the right to practice their religion without interference.

The Court issued the following directives:

  1. Install boards indicating that “Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the temple after Kodimaram” at the entrance, near Kodimaram, and at prominent places in the temple.
  2. Do not permit non-Hindus who do not believe in Hindu religion to enter.
  3. If a non-Hindu wishes to visit a particular deity in the temple, obtain an undertaking from them that they have faith in the deity, will follow Hindu customs and practices, and abide by temple customs. Allow entry based on such an undertaking.
  4. Maintain a register recording entries of non-Hindus allowed based on an undertaking.
  5. Strictly follow the agamas, customs, and practices of the temple to maintain the temple premises.

The Court rejected concerns raised by the government that installing such boards might offend visitors’ religious sentiments, asserting that not prohibiting non-Hindus could hurt the sentiments of Hindu believers.

The Court emphasized that protecting Hindu temples, customs, and practices is the responsibility of the Hindu Religion & Charitable Endowment Department.

The Court criticized the respondents’ misplaced sympathy and worry for non-Hindu sentiments, stating that such concerns neglected the rights and sentiments of Hindus.

The Court stressed Hindus’ right to freely practice their religion, noting that the Temple Entry Authorisation Act, 1947, lacks provisions regarding the entry of non-Hindus.

The Court cited incidents, including one at Arulmighu Brahadeeswarar Temple, where individuals from another religion treated the premises as a picnic spot, consuming non-vegetarian food inside.

The Court concluded that such incidents interfere with the fundamental rights of Hindus guaranteed under the constitution, emphasizing the right of Hindus to maintain their temples.

This directive, arising from the case of D. Senthilkumar v. Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors., reinforces the court’s commitment to preserving the sanctity of Hindu temples and ensuring that they are not treated as tourist or leisure spots.

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