Smartha Brahmins just a caste/community, and not a religious denomination: Madras High Court
This year the Madras High Court in a judgment dated 07.06.2022 stated that the Smartha Brahmins are not a religious denomination rather just a caste/community as they do not have any peculiarity specifically attributable to them that distinguished them from other Brahmins of the State of Tamil Nadu. The matter was between Smartha Barhmins living in the State of Tamil Nadu practicing and propagating the Religious Philosophy and tents of Advaitha Philosophy through P.S Sundaram and others v. Union of India and others (S.A No. 1609 of 2000) and was presided over by the Hon’ble Mr. Justice R. Vijaykumar.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The appellants are the original plaintiffs who first petitioned the Principal District Munsif Court in order to get a declaration that, due to their minority status, they are qualified for the rights and benefits granted by Articles 25(1), 26(1), 29(1), and 30(1) of the Indian Constitution. By order of the trial court, the lawsuit was dismissed. The Subordinate Judge rejected the appeal after concurring with the trial court’s conclusions. As a result, the plaintiffs went to the High Court. As against the same, the present second appeal has been filed by the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs claim that the aforementioned Smartha Brahmins execute their religious rites while dressing in an odd manner. In addition, the Hon’ble Supreme Court classified Advaita adherents as a religious denomination in AIR 1954 SC Page 282. The plaintiffs had argued that based on their status as a minority group, they are entitled to the rights granted by Article 30 of the Indian Constitution.
The hon’ble court, relying on the oral testimony of the witnesses, stated that it unequivocally indicates that Smartha Brahmins adhere to no distinctive or different religious ideas from those of mainstream Hindus. The other Brahmins likewise adhere to whatever the Smartha Brahmins are reported to follow.
The hon’ble court further drew attention to the case of S.P Mittal v. Union of India and others (1983) 1 SCC Page 51 where the hon’ble Supreme Court has laid down the conditions for religious denomination as follows:
80.The words “religious denomination” in Article 26 of the Constitution must take their colour from the word “religion” and if this be so, the expression “religious denomination” must also satisfy three conditions:
(1) It must be a collection of individuals who have a system of beliefs or doctrines which they regard as conducive to their spiritual well-being, that is, a common faith;
(2) common organisation; and
(3) designation by a “distinctive name”
According to the court, the appellants in this instance had not proven that they were a group of people who shared a certain ideology or system of thought. Additionally, they have not proven that they belong to the same organisation or that they have a unique name or designation. They could not thus be considered a denomination.
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JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY ADITI PRIYADARSHI