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Sitting During Tamil State Song 'Tamil Thai Vaazhthu' Not Disrespect: Madras High Court On Kanchi Seer's Conduct

Sebin James
10 Dec 2021 6:07 AM GMT
Sitting During Tamil State Song Tamil Thai Vaazhthu Not Disrespect: Madras High Court On Kanchi Seers Conduct
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The Court said that 'Tamil Thai Vaazthu' was a prayer song and not an anthem and there was no legal requirement to stand up when it is sung.

While quashing an FIR registered against Kan. Ilango of 'Naam Tamilar Party', the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court has utilized the occasion to discuss whether the Kanchi Mutt Seer should have mandatorily stood up during the singing of Tamil State Song 'Tamil Thaai Vaazthu'.The entire controversy was connected to the Pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Vijayendra Saraswathi...

While quashing an FIR registered against Kan. Ilango of 'Naam Tamilar Party', the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court has utilized the occasion to discuss whether the Kanchi Mutt Seer should have mandatorily stood up during the singing of Tamil State Song 'Tamil Thaai Vaazthu'.

The entire controversy was connected to the Pontiff of the Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Vijayendra Saraswathi Swamigal, not standing up when 'Tamil Thaai Vaazhthu' was played at an event held in 2018 attended by the Tamil Nadu Governor. On the contentious incident, there was unrest among certain sections including the petitioner's and the alleged ruckus created by Kan.Ilango in Kanchi Mutt led to the registration of the current FIR. Apparently, the pontiff had remained seated when the prayer was sung during the release function of a Tamil-Sanskrit Dictionary held in Music Academy, Chennai.

A Single Judge Bench of Justice G.R. Swaminathan observed that the 'Tamil Thaai Vaazthu' is a prayer song and not an anthem. The Madurai Bench also clarified that there is no statutory requirement or executive orders stipulating that attendees must invariably stand up when 'Tamil Thaai Vaazthu' is sung. However, irrespective of the lack of binding orders, the court added that the prayer song must be shown utmost reverence and respect.

"On becoming a Sanyasi, the person suffers a civil death. He must be taken to have a re-birth. A Sanyasi primarily leads a life of piety. When in prayer, he is invariably found in a meditative posture. Since Tamil Thai Vaazhthu is a prayer song, a Sanyasi is certainly justified in sitting in a state of meditation. In the instant case, the pontiff is seen sitting in a Dhyana posture with his eyes closed. It was his way of expressing his reverence and respect for Mother Tamil", the court recorded while quashing an FIR against Kan. Ilango who allegedly created ruckus in the Kanchi Mutt by protesting against this action of the Kanchi Seer.
"I cannot help asking as to whether the whole controversy was justified in the first place", the court noted in the order referring to the Tamil Nadu Government Orders that made clear that 'Tamil Thai Vaazthu' should be sung as a prayer song at the commencement (and not at the end) of all functions organized by Government Departments, Local Bodies and Educational Institutions.

Further, the court observed that  Memo No.3584/70-4 dated 23rd November,1970 was issued directing that the above prayer song should be sung in the Raaga "Mohanam" and in the "Thisra Thaalaa" as composed by M.S.Viswanathan.

"Thus, Tamil Thai Vaazhthu is a prayer song and not an anthem", the court clarified.

About the standard of reverence that must be shown when 'Tamil Thai Vaazthu' is recited, the court added the following:

"It is true that the members of the audience conventionally stand up whenever Tamil Thai Vaazhthu is sung. But the question is whether this is the only mode in which respect can be shown. When we celebrate pluralism and diversity, insisting that there can be only one way of showing respect reeks of hypocrisy. One should not forget that a Sanyasi occupies a special place in our social life and cultural life. Emperors and Kings have prostrated before Sanyasis and Fakirs. In the epics whenever a Sanyasi entered the royal court, the King will step down from his throne and pay his respects", the court mentioned in its order relying on His Holiness Sri La-Sri Shanmugha Desika Gnanasambanda Paramacharya Swamigal v. Controller of Estate Duty (1985) which held that becoming a sanyasi is a renunciation of worldly life and possessions, making the sanyasi impervious to the concept of obligations.

While considering the Criminal Original Petition under Section 482 CrPC, the court observed that there isn't a provision in law, including Article 51A or Section 3 of Prevention of Insults To National Honour Act, 1971, that mandates the compulsory singing of National Anthem to show respect towards the same. The court referred to the apex court judgment in Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala (1986) 3 SCC 615 wherein it was held that respectfully standing up and not joining in the singing of national anthem will suffice. The court also quoted an excerpt on freedom of conscience and religion from the said judgment as follows:

"Our tradition teaches tolerance; our philosophy preaches tolerance; our Constitution practises tolerance; let us not dilute it".

Background And Quashing Petition

The FIR was registered against the petitioner for allegedly assembling a dozen individuals and trespassing the Rameshwaram branch of Kanchi Mutt wearing footwear and raising provocative slogans. According to the case registered in pursuance of the complaint made by the Manager of Mutt, he was criminally intimidated by the petitioner accused.

Therefore, the Rameshwaram Temple Police Station booked the petitioner accused for offences under Sections 147(rioting), 447(Criminal Trespass), 294 (b) (uttering obscene words in or near a public place) and 506(i) (Criminal Intimidation) of IPC. During the pendency of FIR, the petitioner accused approached the defacto complainant manager and expressed regret for his conduct through a letter. As a result, the manager informed the court that he would prefer to close the FIR. Accordingly, the court has now held that there is no point in keeping the prosecution alive and the FIR must stand quashed.

While setting out the facts of the case, the court also took note of the ire drawn from certain quarters on account of Kanchi Mutt Seer sitting during the singing of 'Tamil Thai Vaazhthu'.

The court recalled some hilarious moments during the course of proceedings when the petitioner was asked to recite any five Thirukurral couplets upon his claim that he was a 'Tamil Activist'.

The court also remarked that the petitioner was a well-meaning individual with a broad social outlook and the whole occurrence upon which the FIR came to be registered was based more on an 'emotional outburst'.

Accordingly, the criminal original petition was allowed and connected matters were closed.

Case Title: Kan. Ilango v. State Represented by Inspector of Police & Another

Case No: Crl.O.P (MD)No.17759 of 2021 and Crl.M.P. (MD)No.9690 of 2021

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