‘Podu Dikshitars are in joint control of temple administration’

Tamil Nadu government on Tuesday justified in the Supreme Court its order appointing an Executive Officer (EO) for managing the endowments and vast immovable property of the ancient Sri Sabhanayagar Temple, better known as Nataraja Temple in Chidambaram.

Making this submission before a Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde, State’s Additional Advocate-General Subramonium Prasad said the G.O. was necessitated because of “large scale mismanagement of temple properties.”

The Bench was hearing a batch of appeals from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and others against a Madras High Court judgment, upholding the appointment of Executive officer for the temple.

To a question from the Bench whether the government had taken any decision on withdrawing its G.O., counsel said he needed further time for taking instructions. The AAG, however, said the Podu Dikshitars were in joint control of the management of the temple administration. They had not been denuded of their properties, which had been put under government control, he said and added that there was no interference in any religious activity of Podu Dikshitars in the temple.

Appearing for one of the respondents, Sathyavel Murugan, senior counsel Dhruv Mehta argued that if there was misappropriation and mismanagement of temple, the State government had every right to take over the management of the temple.

Earlier. Justice Chauhan told counsel that two things were clear from the earlier judgment of the apex court, viz Podu Dikshitars were a religious denomination protected under Article 26 of the Constitution and they had participated in the temple administration for centuries. While, so the Judge asked the counsel “how could the government divest them of the control of the administration.” Counsel said considering large number of complaints received, the government was justified in appointing the Executive officer. But he favoured complete take over of the temple administration. Arguments will continue on Thursday.

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