Tamil Nadu government’s order appointing executive officer quashed

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 Podhu Dikshitars against the Madras High Court verdict upholding the GO, held that the right of the Dikshitars to manage the temple could not be taken away by the government. The Bench accepted the contention of the Dikshitars that they were a religious denomination as per the Article 26 of the Constitution “which guarantees right to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes.”

Mr. 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 the 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, the issue should be dealt with under the provisions of the IPC and not by taking over the temple administration.

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