Prohibit Use Of Mobile Phones Inside Temples, Sanctity To Be Preserved : Madras High Court Directs TN HR&CE Dept
While directing Tamil Nadu Government to impose restrictions against usage of mobile phones inside temple premises in the State of Tamil Nadu the Madras High Court observed that though Article 25 of the constitution entitles everyone the freedom of religion, the same is subject to regulations inside the temple premises.
Justice R Mahadevan and Justice Sathya Narayana Prasad of the Madurai bench thus observed,
There cannot be any dispute that under Article 25 of the Constitution, all persons are entitled to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. However, such freedom to act and practise can be subject to regulations, inside the premises of the temple. The Agamas prescribe the rules regarding the rituals to be followed in the worship services at the temple. According to the same, the temple authorities should ensure that decency of worship and sanctity of temple is maintained.
Thus, the court observed that the usage of mobile phones and cameras inside the temple which diverts the attention of the devotees can be regulated by the temple authorities concerned.
The petitioner Seetharaman was one of the three groups of Archakas in the Sri Subramaniya Swamy Temple. He submitted that worshippers take photographs and videos inside the temple premises which is contrary to the Agama Rules. Further, it also endangers the security of the temple and its valuables. The petitioner also submitted that there was an apprehension that their photographs of women devotees would be taken without their consent and would be misused.
The court observed that under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Temple Entry Authorization Act 1947, the Trustees or authority-in-charge of a temple was empowered to make regulations for the maintenance of order and decorum of the temple. The Tamil Nadu Temple Entry Authorization Act 1947 also prescribes certain code of conduct for maintenance of order and decorum in the temple, apart from the regulations made by the trustee or authority as the case may.
Citing examples of the prohibition on usage of mobile phones in other temples like e Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayur, Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai and Sri Venkateshwara Temple at Tirupati and tracing the religious history of the Subramaniya Swamy Temple, the court opined that such similar restrictions could be imposed in the subject temple also. Safe deposit counters could be created for depositing mobile phones and preventing the usage the cell phones inside the temple premises to maintain the decorum and the sanctity of the temple.
"It is the grievance of the petitioner that using cell phones by the people others and affects the purity of the deity, besides endangering the safety of the devotees and security of the temple and its valuables. Therefore, the respondent authorities will have to take steps to prohibit the usage of cell phones inside the premises of the temple, so as to preserve the sanctity and security of the temple, apart from ensuring safety of the devotees"
In this regard, the Executive Officer of the subject temple informed the court that it had taken steps to impose restrictions on the usage of cell phones by the priest, devotees, public and others inside the temple; appoint self-help groups to supervise the usage of cell phones; and set up security counters for deposit of cell phones.
The court also directed the Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment department to comply the directions in all temples of Tamil Nadu to maintain purity and sanctity of temples.
Case Title: M Seetharaman v The Commissioner HR&CE and another
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 493
Case No: Writ Petition (MD) No. 25439 of 2022