Madras High Court Allows Daily Pooja At Villupuram Temple Sealed Over Caste Conflict But Precludes Devotees' Entry

Upasana Sajeev

20 March 2024 1:24 PM GMT

  • Madras High Court Allows Daily Pooja At Villupuram Temple Sealed Over Caste Conflict But Precludes Devotees Entry

    The Madras High Court has paved way for performing daily Pooja at the Villupuram Draupathiamman temple which was sealed in June last year following caste related conflicts. Noting that the temple has existed since centuries and not performing poojas will have an impact on the sentiments of the local villagers, Justice Anand Venkatesh directed the Joint Commissioner of the HR &...

    The Madras High Court has paved way for performing daily Pooja at the Villupuram Draupathiamman temple which was sealed in June last year following caste related conflicts.

    Noting that the temple has existed since centuries and not performing poojas will have an impact on the sentiments of the local villagers, Justice Anand Venkatesh directed the Joint Commissioner of the HR & CE, Villupuram District to perform poojas in the temple. The court, however, directed that the temple will be opened only to allow the Poojari (priest) to enter the temple to perform pooja and no one else will be allowed inside the temple until further orders.

    β€œIn the instant case, the Draupathiamman temple is in existence for a long time and daily poojas were regularly performed for the idol. This involves the sentiments / beliefs of the local villagers and therefore, the poojas not being performed for the idol as an impact on such sentiments of the local villagers. Therefore, this Court has to strike a via media for the present to ensure that the daily poojas are performed and at the same time no one is allowed to enter the temple or cause any law and order problem,” the court observed.

    The temple, situated in Villupuram District, was sealed by the Revenue Divisional Officer on June 7 last year following a dispute over the entry of Scheduled Caste members into the temple. The members belonging to the dominant caste had been protesting against the entry of members belonging to the Scheduled communities in the temple while the latter had been protesting for their right to entry. When rounds of peace talks failed, the RDO ordered the temple to be sealed under Section 145(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to prevent any possible breakdown of law and order.

    When a plea was previously filed to reopen the temple, the court had refused to entertain the plea and directed the parties to approach the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department. In the present plea, the petitioners had sought for an interim order to ensure conduct of daily pooja in the temple, considering the sentiments and beliefs of villagers.

    While the District Collector raised apprehensions about reopening the temple and said that the same may result in law and order problem especially in light of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, the State Public Prosecutor submitted that when the temple was to be opened for pooja, the police force will be present in the area and ensure that no one is permitted in the temple.

    The Advocate General also raised apprehensions about possible law and order problems but left it to the court to issue necessary direction taking into account the religious beliefs of the villagers on the one hand and the law and order problem on the other.

    The court thus allowed the conduct of pooja but directed the Superintendent of Police to make arrangements and post sufficient police to ensure that no law and order problem is created. The court added that the interim arrangement of allowing pooja and nominating Poojari would not affect the right of respective parties and the rights of existing poojaris, who used to conduct pooja in the temple.

    The court also directed the police authorities to take stringent action against anyone attempting to create a law and order problem.

    Citation: 2024 LiveLaw (Mad) 124

    Case Title: Raji v Executive Magistrate and Others

    Case No: WP No.21769 of 2023



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