In order to ‘maintain the purity and sanctity,’ the Madras High Court ordered the Tamil Nadu government to enact a ban against the use of mobile phones in all temples throughout Tamil Nadu.
The State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) Department received the directive from Justices R Mahadevan and J Sathya Narayana Prasad of the High Court bench in Madurai on Friday while hearing a case of public interest (PIL).
M. Seetharaman, the petitioner, requested a directive to the appropriate authorities to take decisive action to forbid the possession and use of Android cellphones inside the Arulmigu Subramaniya Swamy Temple’s grounds at Tiruchendur in the Tuticorin district of the State. It is one of Lord Muruga’s six abodes.
The petitioner claimed, among other things, that using a camera to record or take pictures of the Deeparathanai, poojas, and other rituals is a hindrance because the said temple is an ancient shrine and requires free and peaceful dharsan. All of the devotees have mobile phones, and they are free to take pictures and videos anywhere on the temple grounds.
He claimed that taking pictures of the valuable idols is not only against the Agama Rules (relative to a temple’s rituals), but also endangers the safety of the temple and its valuables. The petitioner also expressed concern over the misuse of pictures of female devotees taken without their permission.
The temple authorities informed the court that measures had been taken to impose restrictions on cell phone usage by the priest, devotees, general public, and other visitors inside the shrine, appoint self-help groups to supervise the usage of cell phones, and set up security counters for the deposit of cell phones.
‘In the light of the aforesaid report, which discloses that the second respondent (Executive Officer/Joint Commissioner) has already taken all effective measures for ban on mobile phones, decent dress code, etc. inside the premises of the subject temple, this court directs the respondent authorities to implement the aforesaid conditions in letter and spirit, besides directing the Superintendent of Police and the District Collector of Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) District, to accede to the request made by the second respondent.’
‘The first respondent (The Commissioner, HR&CE) is directed to comply the above directions in all the temples of Tamil Nadu so as to maintain the purity and sanctity,’ the bench ruled.