HC sets aside order on dress code in temples

The single judge had passed the order “to enhance spiritual ambience among devotees”.

April 05, 2016 03:40 am | Updated November 17, 2021 04:53 am IST - CHENNAI:

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 19/12/2015: A banner says about the dress code and conduct displayed at Sri Parthasarathy Swamy Temple at Triplicane in Chennai on December 19, 2015._Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 19/12/2015: A banner says about the dress code and conduct displayed at Sri Parthasarathy Swamy Temple at Triplicane in Chennai on December 19, 2015._Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

Noting that courts are not expected to adjudicate any matter academically in the absence of real litigation between parties, and are not entitled to create a controversy and adjudicate upon the same, the Madras High Court on Monday set aside the order of a single judge imposing dress code for devotees visiting temples in Tamil Nadu.

On November 11, 2015, Justice S. Vaidyanathan had > imposed a dress code “to enhance the spiritual ambience among devotees.” He directed the government and the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to consider implementation of the order. The judge had prescribed dhoti or pyjama with upper cloth or formal trousers and shirt for men, saree or half saree with blouse, churidhar with upper cloth for women and any fully covered dress for children. The judgment created a debate in the State, prompting two women’s associations and the government to challenge the order.

Can’t impose our values on society: HC

Setting aside the single judge’s order on dress code, the Madras High Court on Monday noted that the relief claimed in the original writ petition in which the order was passed had nothing to do with the implementation of a dress code.

The pleas filed by two women’s association and the State government challenging a single judge order on dress code for temple devotees came up for hearing before a Division Bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and K. Ravichandrabaabu.

The actual prayer was to direct the police to grant permission for a cultural programme at Sri Shenbaga Vinayagar temple in Akkiyampatti Village, Tiruchi.

The Bench said the reason stated by the single judge to justify the order runs contrary to the word of caution sent by the apex court in ‘Meerut Development Authority case’, which said, “it would seem to us it would be wise for the courts not to venture into this unchartered minefield. We are not exercising our will. We cannot impose our values on society. Any such effort would mean to make value judgments. This illustrates the danger of judges wrongly, though unconsciously, substituting their own views with the views of the decision- maker, who alone is charged and authorised by law to exercise discretion.

“Prescribing a dress code for the devotees worshipping in temples was not an issue which arose directly or indirectly in the petition. There was no prayer by the petitioner seeking the prescription of a dress code. The petition had practically become infructuous, as the main relief claimed was granted and that order had also been complied with. Therefore, there was nothing in the petition to be further adjudicated.”

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