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The High Court hears a case via Whatsapp for the first time!

For the first time in Madras High Court history, a judge presided over a case through ‘WhatsApp’ on a Sunday. Following a submission by P R Srinivasan, the hereditary trustee of Shri Abheeshta Varadaraja Swamy temple, that his village would face ‘divine wrath’ if the proposed ‘Rath’ (Car) festival was not held on Monday, Justice G R Swaminathan took up the case while stationed in Nagercoil, where he had gone to attend a marriage function on Sunday.

‘Due to the writ petitioner’s impassioned plea, I held an emergency sitting from Nagercoil and conducted the case using Whatsapp,’ the judge stated in the first line of his ruling. The judge presided over the case from Nagercoil, with petitioner’s attorney V Raghavachari in one location and Advocate-General Shanmugasundaram in another. The problem included a temple in Dharmapuri district. The judge ruled that the Inspector assigned to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Department lacked authority to issue an order asking the temple Thakkar (Fit person) and hereditary trustee to halt the vehicle festival.

Earlier, the AG assured the judge that the government did not oppose the event’s hosting. Their main interest is the general public’s safety. A fatality occured in a similar parade in Thanjavur district recently due to failure to comply to safety requirements, he noted, emphasising that such catastrophes should not reoccur. He stated that if the flaws in the contested communication are fixed, the procession can be held and the State may not object.

Following the reversal of the impugned order, the judge directed temple authorities to strictly adhere to the government’s rules and regulations when holding temple festivals, and the state-run discom TANGEDCO to cut power supply in the area for a few hours, beginning with the processions and ending when it returns to its stand (Nilai). Last month, 11 people were murdered on the spot and 17 others were injured after a temple chariot collided with a High Tension power wire during a parade near Thanjavur.



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