Application of equality in places of worship


Court :
Supreme Court of India

Brief :
Upon hearing the parties to the case the Court affirmed the view of the HC and held that, a complete exclusion of general public will amount to violation of Article 25 therefore the temple authorities may be permitted to exclude general public only in those ceremonies which are integral in nature which are performed by the members of Gowda SaraswathBrahmins alone. Further the Court applied the principle of harmonious construction to resolve the dispute between Article 25 and 26.

Citation :
REFERENCE:1958 AIR 255 PARTIES Petitioner:Sri VenkataramanaDevaru Respondent: The State of Mysore

  • JUDGMENT SUMMARY: Sri VenkataramanaDevaruv.  The State of Mysore
  • DATE OF JUDGMENT:1958 AIR 255
  • JUDGES: Das, Sudhi Ranjan (Cj), Aiyyar, T.L. Venkatarama, Imam, Syed Jaffer, Sarkar, A.K., Bose, Vivian

SUBJECT:  

The judgment revolves around the application of equality in places of worship.

FACTS:

This was an appeal by the trustees of the ancient and renowned temple of Sri Venkataramana of Moolky Petta, who was managing the temple on behalf of the  Gowda  SaraswathBrahmins in accordance with a Scheme framed in a suit under Section 92 of the Code of Civil Procedure. After the passing of the Madras Temple Entry Authorisation Act,1947which  had for its object the removal of the disability of Harijans from  entering into  Hindu public temples, the trustees made a representation to the Government  that the temple  was  a  private one,  and,  therefore,  outside the operation of the Act. But the Government did not accept that position and held that the Act applied to the temple.  Challenging the decision of the government the appellants approached the trial Court stating that they have administrative independence under Article 26 as they form a separate denomination.  However, the Court rejected their contention and held that, the Act covered all temples.  Later this view was affirmed by the High Court but it also held that, the appellants has the right to  exclude  the general  public   during   certain ceremonies  in which the members of the denomination  alonewere entitled to participate.  However, the appellants approached the SC for complete exclusion. 

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Indian Constitution:

Article 32:  Remedies for enforcement of rights conferred by Part III

(1) The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed

(2) The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III

  • Article 26(b):Freedom to manage religious affairs Subject to public order, morality and health, every religious denomination or any section thereof shall have the right to manage its own affairs in matters of religion.
  • Article 14:The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.
  • Article 15(1):The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
  • Article 25(2)(b): Providing for social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of a public character to all classes and sections of Hindus.

ISSUES:

Whether the right to manage religious affairs of a religious denomination can be overridden by right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution?

ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT:

The petitioners contended that, it was an age-old practice of Gowda SaraswathBrahminsto conduct all the rituals and ceremonies in relation to the temple.  Therefore, the temple and its devoteesconstitute a religious denomination and hence has independence in religious administration which confers upon them the right to decide who can enter the temple.  Therefore the 1947 Act which takes away this right is unconstitutional to that extent. 

The respondents contended that, the right to freedom of religion under Article 25 of the Constitution confers the right on every individual to profess, practice and propagate their religious believes.  Further the right under Article 25(2)(b) which specifies “throwing open of all Hindu religious institutions to all classes and sections of Hindus” protects the validity of the impugned Act.  The Act completely protects the rights of every individual under Article 15 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste. 

Upon hearing the parties to the case the Court affirmed the view of the HC and held that, a complete exclusion of general public will amount to violation of Article 25 therefore the temple authorities may be permitted to exclude general public only in those ceremonies which are integral in nature which are performed by the members of Gowda SaraswathBrahmins alone.  Further the Court applied the principle of harmonious construction to resolve the dispute between Article 25 and 26. 

 

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Nandhini SR
on 08 July 2020
Published in Taxation
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