The Supreme Court on Monday quashed the Tamil Nadu government’s February 2009 order appointing Executive Officer to manage the affairs and properties of the Natarajar temple at Chidambaram.
A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde, allowing a batch of appeals filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and Podu Dikshitars against a Madras High Court upholding the GO, held that the right of Dikshitars to manage the temple could not taken away by the government.
The Bench accepted the contention of Podu Dikshitars, that they were a religious denomination as per Article 26 of the Constitution “which guarantees right to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes.”
Writing the judgment, Justice Chauhan pointed out that the right to administer the temple by the Dikshitars had been recognised by the Supreme Court in its judgment in 1952 and it could not be taken away. .
The bench faulted the Madras High Court for re-opening the issue whether Podu Dikshitars were a religious denomination or not even after the matter had been res judicata (already been decided).
On the State government’s contention that it had a right to interfere when there was mismanagement, the bench said such interference could only be for a short period .
Quoting the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, Dr. Swamy argued that if there were allegations of misappropriation, it should be dealt with under the provisions of IPC and not by taking over the temple administration.
On cloud nine
A.V. Ragunathan from Cuddalore writes: The Supreme Court verdict has brought cheer to the Podhu Dikshithars and devotees.
They celebrated the verdict by bursting firecrackers on the outer prahara of the temple. As the news of the judgment started trickling in, the dikshithars assembled in front of the temple to congratulate each other over the turn of event.
Nagaswaram and thavil vidwans recited “Mallari” raagam, usually performed when the presiding deity is being taken out in a procession, to succinctly convey their joy.
Secretary of the Podhu Dikshithars’ Association Kasiraja Dikshithar, told The Hindu that “Lord Nataraja has bestowed the victory upon the Dikshithars.”
The Dikshithars said that ever since the State government took over the temple in 2009, they had been taking various measures to retrieve the temple.
The Madras High Court had rejected their petitions twice and finally, they along with Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, filed a case in the Supreme Court which had established the “denomination factor” and hence, restored their rights, which they enjoyed for hundreds of years, over the management of the temple.
Chidambaram MLA K. Balakrishnan told The Hindu that the rights of the Dikshithars in conducting the rituals and temple functions were never in dispute.
In restoring their so-called lost rights what was lost sight of was the role of the State government in temple administration.
He said “Natarajar temple should not be viewed just as a place of worship. It is a cherished cultural heritage and a historic symbol.
Former Minister V.V. Swaminathan said the government should pass a special legislation to keep the temple under its control.
State coordinator of the Manitha Urimai Padhukappu Maiyam members courted arrest by holding an agitation against the verdict.
Quashes Tamil Nadu government’s order appointing executive officer