11 Sep 2023 9:45 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court has directed the Travancore Devaswom Commissioner and the Administrative Officer of the Sarakara Devi Temple to ensure strict compliance of the prohibition on mass drills and weaponry practices in the temple premises. The Court issued the above direction in a plea alleging illegal encroachment of Sree Sarkara Devi Temple in Thiruvananthapuram by alleged members of...
The Kerala High Court has directed the Travancore Devaswom Commissioner and the Administrative Officer of the Sarakara Devi Temple to ensure strict compliance of the prohibition on mass drills and weaponry practices in the temple premises.
The Court issued the above direction in a plea alleging illegal encroachment of Sree Sarkara Devi Temple in Thiruvananthapuram by alleged members of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for conducting mass drills and weaponry training.
The plea filed by two devotees and nearby residents of the temple averred that such action of the alleged RSS members was causing much agony and difficulty to the devotees and pilgrims visiting the temple, particularly the women and children.
Calling upon the Station House Officer of the Chirayinkeezhu Police Station as well, to render necessary assistance to the Administrative Officer in the matter, the Division Bench comprising Justice Anil K. Narendran and Justice P.G. Ajithkumar observed:
"The temple premises of Sree Sarkara Devi Temple cannot be used for conducting mass drill or weaponry training by the devotees or a group of persons".
The petitioners averred in their plea that the respondents were conducting illegal activities in the temple without any authorization from the concerned authorities. They alleged that the RSS and other occupants from the organization were using tobacco products within the temple premises, thereby affecting cleanliness, purity, and divinity of the sanctum. "The unpleasant smell emanating by the usage of the above products by the 6th and 7th respondents along with their henchmen is causing great discomfort to the devotees visiting the temple, especially senior citizens, women and children," the plea stated.
The petitioners further alleged that the respondents would shout loud slogans as part of their mass drill/weaponry training, thereby disrupting the peaceful and serene atmosphere of the temple.
It was submitted that despite the issuance of two circulars by the Devaswom Commissioner to stop/ prevent use of its premises for conducting mass drills/weaponry training, the alleged violations continued.
The petitioners submitted that the first circular in this regard was issued by the the Devaswom Commissioner on March 30, 2021. The second circular called for strict implementation of the first circular in unequivocal terms. The Secretary of the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Station House Officer of Chirayinkeezh Police Station had filed affidavits supporting the averments of the devotees and nearby residents of the temple.
The Secretary had submitted that after the filing of the writ petition, the illegal activities were stopped, and that the request for installation of a gate at the temple to prevent unauthorized entry was also under process in the Maramath department.
The Station House Officer had submitted that pursuant to Administrative Officer's letter requesting action to be taken to stop the conduct of mass drill and allied activities in the temple, the Police authorities issued notices to the alleged RSS members and upon enquiry found the allegations to be true, but added that no further activities had since occurred in the temple premises.
The two alleged RSS members however argued that the RSS Shaka was not conducting mass drills and weaponry training in the temple premises, and that the allegations levelled against them were politically motivated in a bid to defame them.
On perusing the various provisions of the Travancore-Cochin Hindu Religious Institutions Act, 1950, as well as several precedents, the Court observed that the Devaswom Board has to manage the properties and affairs of the temple, and to arrange for the conduct of daily worship and ceremonies and festivals in the said temple according to the usage. It further noted that the Temple Advisory Committee is obligated to render necessary assistance to the Board and its officials for the smooth functioning of the temple activities and festivals according to the usage.
In this regard, it was fortified in its view that temple premises could not be used for conducting mass drill or weaponry training by devotees or other groups of persons.
It thus disposed of the plea by issuing the afore directions to the authorities to ensure strict compliance with the circulars issued by the Devaswom Commissioner.
The plea was moved through Advocate S. Nikhil Sankar. The respondents were represented by Senior Government Pleader S. Rajmohan, Standing Counsel of Travancore Devaswom Board G. Biju, and Advocates S. Biju and G. Sreekumar.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 467
Case Title: G. Vyasan & Anr. v. State of Kerala & Ors.
Case Number: W.P.(C)NO.18621 OF 2023
Click Here To Read/Download The Judgment