The Madras High Court held that no person or group can restrain someone from performing religious duties.

The Madurai Bench directed the HR & CE Department to conduct Marghazi festival in Arulmighu Chelliyaramman Temple.

In this case, a person belonging to the Scheduled Caste (SC) Community had approached the Court by filing a writ petition as he and other SC persons were excommunicated from participating in the aforesaid temple festival.

A Single Bench of Justice B. Pugalendhi said, “Even after 75 years of independence, if this state of affairs prevails on account of community in the village, it needs to be addressed and prevented. No person nor any group can restrain a person from performing his religious duties and it is the right guaranteed under the Constitution.”

Advocate B. Anandan appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Additional Government Pleader G.V. Vairam Santhosh and Special Government Pleader P. Subba Raj appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Facts of the Case -

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the people from Maravar community in their village were not permitting the SC people to participate in the temple festival and were preventing them from taking mulaippari and not collecting tax from them for the said festival. The petitioner person had already approached the Tahsildar, Tiruchuli and the Tahsildar had conducted a peace committee meeting between both groups in the presence of Deputy Superintendent of Police, Inspector of Police, Village Administrative Officer, and HR & CE Department.

A resolution was passed in the aforesaid meeting that the village festival must be performed only as per the advice of the HR & CE Department that no community people was entitled to conduct the festival by collecting tax separately that the parties were restrained from spreading any rumours in the social media. However, even after such a resolution, the case Hindus were not permitting the SC people to participate in the said festival. Therefore, the petitioner person was before the High Court.

The High Court in the above context of the case observed, “The petitioner belongs to scheduled caste community. He has filed this writ petition with a grievance that his community people are prevented from participating in the village temple festival by the Maravar community people. It appears that on a similar complaint made by the petitioner, a peace committee meeting was conducted between the petitioner group, namely Pandiarajan S/o Chandiran & others and Pandi S/o Mithirulandi & others and a resolution was arrived and recorded in Na.Ka.A.23159/2023, dated 13.06.2023 of the Tahsildar, Tiruchuli.”

The Court noted that the temple worshipped by the public is a public temple and the HR & CE Department is having every right to interfere with the affairs of the temple. It added by saying that it was agreed between the parties in the peace committee meeting that the festival has to be conducted by the HR & CE Department.

“As per the peace committee meeting resolution, the villagers shall not prevent any body from offering prayers to the deity and from participating in the temple festival. It was also resolved that the temple festival has to be conducted only by the HR & CE Department. This resolution dated 13.06.2023 has not been implemented and therefore, the petitioner has now filed this writ petition that one set of people are not permitting the petitioner and their community people to participate in the temple festival. If this allegation is found to be true, then this issue has to be dealt with severely by the District Administration”, also noted the Court.

The Court, therefore, directed the HR & CE Department to conduct the temple festival and ordered that the Tahsildar shall ascertain from the Village Administration Officer and other revenue officials that any untouchability issue prevails in the village and if so, submit a report to the District Collector.

It also directed the HR & CE Department to ensure that all the devotees including SC people are permitted in the temple festival and to take appropriate action by appointing a fit person after ascertaining the report of the Tahsildar.

Cause Title- Pandiarajan C v. The District Collector & Ors.

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