The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department to install boards in all Hindu temples, stating that non-Hindus are not permitted beyond the 'Kodimaram' (flagpole) area. Highlighting incidents where non-Hindus allegedly entered temples for non-religious purposes, High Court's Madurai Bench Justice, S Srimathy said, "A temple is not a picnic or tourist spot."
The judgment emphasised the fundamental right of Hindus to practice their religion without interference.
The decision came during a plea filed by D Senthilkumar, who sought permission for Hindus alone to enter the Arulmigu Palani Dhandayuthapani Swamy temple and its sub-temples at Palani in Dindigul district.
The court directed the installation of boards at temple entrances, near the flagpole, and other prominent places, indicating the restriction on non-Hindus beyond the 'Kodimaram'. It also stated that if a non-Hindu wishes to visit a specific deity, they must provide an undertaking affirming their faith in Hinduism and willingness to abide by temple customs.
"The respondents are directed not to allow non-Hindus who do not believe in the Hindu religion. If any Non-Hindu claims to visit a particular deity in the temple, then the respondents shall obtain an undertaking from the said non-Hindu that he has faith in the deity, and he will follow the customs and practices of Hindu religion and also abide by the temple customs and on such undertaking the said non-Hindu may be allowed to visit the temple," the court ruled.
The court emphasised the need for temple administrations to maintain customs, practices, and agamas strictly. It rejected the respondents' plea to restrict the order to the Palani temple, asserting that the directive should apply to all Hindu temples to ensure communal harmony and peace.
"But the issue raised is a larger issue and the same ought to be applicable to all Hindu temples, hence the plea of the respondents is rejected. As stated supra these restrictions would ensure communal harmony among different religions and ensure peace in society. Therefore, the state government, the HR&CE department, the respondents and all persons who are involved in temple administration are directed to follow the directions to all Hindu temples," the court said.
The judgment highlighted incidents where non-Hindus allegedly entered temples for non-religious purposes, stating that such actions interfere with Hindus' fundamental rights. It underscored the HR&CE department's duty to safeguard temples and uphold the constitutional rights of Hindus to practice their religion freely.
"It was also reported that in Arulmigu Brihadeeswarar Temple a group of persons belonging to other religions had treated the temple premises as a picnic spot and had non-vegetarian food inside the temple premises. Likewise, recently, on 11.01.2024, a newspaper had reported that a group of people belonging to the other religion had entered the Arulmigu Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple, Madurai with "their sacred book" near the sanctorum and was attempting to do their prayers there.
"These incidents are absolutely interfering with the fundamental rights guaranteed to the Hindus under the Constitution," the judge said.