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Live PM speech stream at TN temples not for political purpose: Madras High Court

As per Sections 3 to 5 of the Act of 1988, as it is alleged that the political parties are violating the provisions and the HR & CE Department is not ensuring strict compliance to the provisions aforesaid. Admittedly, the provisions quoted above impose certain restrictions which include promotion or propagation of the political activities. These were held by the High Court of Madras through the learned bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy in the case Rangarajan Narasimhan v. Additional Chief Secretary To Government & Ors. & Other Matters (WP 1986/ 2022 & Ors.)

The crux of the case is the petitioner seek a direction on the respondents to prohibit meetings or gathering of people for the purpose of political, spiritual, governmental, personal or any other kind other than the activities in accordance with the recognized religious practices, custom and usage pertaining to the Sampradhaya to which the temple belongs and sanctioned by the respective Agama Shastras and ban any event such as birthdays of employees of HR&CE department, celebration of political leaders’ birth and death anniversaries, Golu (Navarathiri Doll festival), English New year Day, and other entertainment activities inside the temple premises.

The applicant personally submits that in terms of the provisions of the Religious Institutions (Preventing Abuse) Act, 1988, the temple premises may not be used for the promotion or dissemination of any political activity or other related activities. However, by disregarding the provisions of the 1988 Act, temples were used to organize political rallies and even to spread the success of various political parties. The reference to Section 3 of the 1988 Act is provided to support the dispute. It is an indication that despite certain restrictions on certain activities, the HR & CE department approves activities that violate Section 3 of the 1988 Act. The applicant submits that ignoring the conditions mentioned above, HR & CE The Department allows the use of temple buildings for political purposes. To reinforce the proposed proposal, refer to the images and news media linked to a written request in which members of political parties have met for a purpose prohibited under the 1988 Act. Referring to the speech delivered by the Honorable Prime Minister. during the presentation of Adi Shankaracharya’s Samadhi, the petitioner pointed out that the said program was broadcast live in more than 16 temples and staff of political parties gathered to see the program. He further added that the foregoing is not valid in terms of Sections 3 to 5 of the 1988 Act. However, no action was taken by the HR & CE Department to prevent or comply with the provisions.

The learned Advocate General submits that the exhibition was presented without advertising the facts that it was not intended to promote any political activity or purpose for which it was prohibited under Sections 3 to 5 of the 1988 Act. He pointed out that various temples in Tamil Nadu Province have been declared monuments and the Department of Archaeology is responsible for the preservation and preservation of ancient temples. The Department of Archeology exhibits photographs of conservation and conservation works and the exhibition is not about the achievements of a political party. The Advocate General went on to say that some of the images referring to the mobilization of political parties do not refer to any political activity, but it was during the time when the Honorable Prime Minister delivered the Samadhi of Poojya Adi Shankaracharya and presented the letter. speech, requested to be televised on all 12 Jyothirlingas, four Jyotishpeethas, etc., by order of the Government of India dated 01.11.2021. The event was not organized for the purpose of promoting any political activity but was presented at the time mentioned above. In view of the above, the HR & CE Department has not complied with any of the provisions of the 1988 Act, as stated.

The learned bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy observed that the petitioner has taken an isolated part of the Prime Minister’s speech without referring to the entire theme. The court, therefore, concluded that the live telecast of speech was not for pushing any political agenda. In view of the above, the court dismissed the said writ petition while underscoring that temples have not been used by any political party for political purposes. And stated “……The petitioner in person has given reference of one para of the speech of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, torn out of context, and without taking note of the theme of the event. The permission accorded for the telecast of the speech cannot be said to be for promoting or propagating any political activity, rather it was organised and telecasted largely in all religious places, which includes the Jyotirlingas and Jyothishpeethas on dedication of Samadhi of Shri Adi Shankaracharya. The speech of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, inter alia, shows in depth reference to the legacy of Adi Shankaracharya; what is dharma; what is the relation of dharma and knowledge; the significance of Chardham Yatra; and, the Indian Philosophy of human welfare. A small portion of the speech commending the efforts put in by the State of Uttarakhand for fighting Covid-19 cannot be read in isolation to give it a different colour as claimed by the petitioner.

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Judgement reviewed by Himanshu Ranjan

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