New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday asked the authorities in Tamil Nadu to act in accordance with the law and not based on any oral instructions on “banning” special prayers and live telecast of the Ram temple consecration ceremony in all temples across the state.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, while hearing a plea seeking quashing of an “oral order” dated January 20 banning live telecast of the consecration ceremony at Ayodhya in temples across Tamil Nadu, said no one is bound to abide with the oral orders.
The bench took on record the statement of senior advocate Amit Anand Tiwari for Tamil Nadu that there are no restrictions on ‘puja archana’ in temples or live telecast of consecration ceremony at Ayodhya.
He said the plea is “politically motivated”.
In its order, the bench said, “We believe and trust that the authorities will act in accordance with law and not on the basis of any oral instructions, which, as stated on behalf of respondent nos. 2 to 4 (TN government), have not been issued”.
The bench asked the authorities to put on record the reasons and maintain the data of applications which has been allowed for ‘puja archana’ and live telecast of consecration ceremony in temples and those which have been disallowed.
“The authorities, while examining any application for permission for procession etc., shall proceed in accordance with the law and shall record reasons, if any, for rejecting the application. The authorities will maintain data regarding the applications received and the reasons given for allowing or disallowing such applications. While examining such applications, the authorities will keep the relevant parameters, as laid down by law and judgments of the Courts, in mind,” the bench directed.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said, “I am shocked at this state of affairs.” He said, “Let a strong message go from the highest judiciary of the country to the state government that the Constitution of India still governs the nation and it applies to the state of Tamil Nadu also.” He added that nobody can be prevented from performing religious rituals.
The bench termed the reason given by Tamil Nadu Police officials that members of other communities reside in vicinity as a ground for denying permission as “prima facie not justified and acceptable.” It directed, “Respondent nos. 2 to 4 will also examine the reasons given for rejection of the prayers made vide document enclosed at pages 20-22 (of the petition).” Justice Khanna, after dictating the order, said, “We have asked the authorities to pass a speaking order giving reasons for rejection of application for permission. Let the reasons come on record. We are living in a society where there are homogenous communities. You cannot prevent religious activities only on the ground that community A or community B is living in a particular area. If there is any law and order situation, the application may be rejected. But not this way.” The bench told Tiwari, “Now, we will know exactly how many applications you have allowed, and how many have been rejected. If the applications are rejected on the ground that other communities reside in the vicinity then, you will be in trouble.” Justice Datta said that if orders, banning religious activities in areas inhabited primarily by members of other faith, were to be implemented, then religious minority communities would never be allowed to hold a prayer meeting.
He asked Tiwari to peruse the order annexed in the petition, and said, “The reason provided in this order is that Hindus are in the minority here, and if they are allowed to hold prayer meetings, that will cause problems in the society. Is this a reason?” Tiwari tried to explain, saying it was related to the law and order situation. Justice Datta said, “You regulate it then. You have the powers to regulate these processions by passing orders but you can’t reject the application for permissions like this.” The bench sought response of the Tamil Nadu government on the plea, and listed the matter for hearing on January 29.
During the hearing, senior advocate Dama Seshadri Naidu, appearing for the petitioner Vinoj, a Tamil Nadu resident, said police officials are rejecting permissions to hold special prayers and even preventing live telecast of the consecration ceremony at Ayodhya.
He said several representations were made to the authorities but all were rejected on this flimsy ground that other community members reside in the area.
The plea contended that the Tamil Nadu government run by the DMK has banned live telecast of the “pran prathishta” of Lord Ram at Ayodhya in all temples across the state.
It was also alleged that the government has also banned all kinds of prayers, and ‘annadanam’ (poor feeding) ‘bhajans’ on the occasion.
“Such oral orders are patently illegal, arbitrary and ultra vires the various provisions of the Constitution,” the plea said.
However, Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Minister, P K Sekar Babu had said on Sunday that the HR and CE Department has not imposed any kind of ban for conduct of puja for Lord Ram. Also, there is no bar to distribute ‘Annadhanam’ and ‘Prasadam.’ He dismissed the claim as false news with ulterior motives.