The Madras High Court has disapproved of the widely prevalent practice of revenue and police officials banning temple festivals whenever there is a difference of opinion among local worshippers on the conduct of such events.
The First Division Bench of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad held that the extreme step of prohibiting the conduct of a temple festival would transcend the barrier of citizens’ fundamental right to worship.
The judges pointed out that Article 25 of the Constitution stated that all people were equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion, subject to public order, morality and health.
Whenever such a right was infringed upon, either through executive action or otherwise, people had a right to file a complaint with the High Court for getting their grievance redressed through issuance of an appropriate writ under Article 226 of the Constitution, the Bench said.
Appeal disposed of
The court made the observations while disposing of a writ appeal preferred by Varadaraj, a resident of Naranamangalam village in Alathur Taluk of Perambalur district, against a ban on conducting the chariot festival of a local temple due to differences among the locals over the place for the conduct of certain rituals. After holding peace talks and finding that no consensus could be reached between the warring groups, the district administration had decided to ban the chariot festival, fearing a clash among local residents.
However, keeping in view the fundamental right the appellant sought to enforce, the judges permitted him to approach the Collector with a certified copy of the court order.
The Collector was directed to resolve the issue, given the fact that the chariot festival had been held in the village for a fairly large number of years. Adding a word of caution, the Division Bench said the resolution shall, of course, be subject to the maintenance of public peace and tranquillity, as guaranteed under the Constitution.