Today's Paper

HC stays ASI notification

CHENNAI NOV. 13. The Archaeological Survey of India notification declaring the Arunachaleswarar temple at Tiruvannamalai a monument of national and historical importance was today stayed by the Madras High Court.

Justice R. Balasubramanian granted the interim injunction on two petitions filed by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Commissioner, M. A. Gowrishankar, and the executive officer of the Tiruvannamalai Devasthanam, A. K. Sriraman. The petitioners had challenged the September 21 notification, issued under Section 4(1) of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958. The Advocate-General of Tamil Nadu, N. R. Chandran, argued that a temple vibrant with spiritual activities could not be declared a monument, and cited a counter-affidavit the Centre filed in a case pertaining to the High Court's `Girivala path scheme' at the Arunachaleswarar temple. A monument could at best be an antique meant to be preserved. But, a temple, visited by tens of thousands of devotees round the year, required renovation from time to time as per `Agama Sastras'. It could never be considered a monument, Mr. Chandran contended.

Also, the State Government's HR&CE Act would prevail over the Centrally-enacted Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, as it had obtained Presidential assent.

Mr. Gowrishankar submitted that the Centre consulted neither the State Government nor the HR&CE department before issuing the notification. If the temple was brought under ASI control, the powers of the incumbent trustee and others would be completely taken away. The move would also affect day-to-day administration of the temple, and even for undertaking routine repairs ASI permission would have to be obtained. The Central move was totally without jurisdiction and the notification too was ``vague, bereft of any detail and does not contain necessary material to enable the interested parties to raise objections''.

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