Courts Update Madras High Court dismisses PIL against use of Tamil...

Madras High Court dismisses PIL against use of Tamil mantras as opposed to Sanskrit in temples

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Madras Sept 6(ILNS): The Madras High Court recently dismissed a Public Interest Litigation seeking directions to be issued to the Tamil Nadu government to withdraw the ‘Annai Tamil Archanai’ scheme that allows devotees to opt for the chanting of hymns by priests in Tamil instead of in Sanskrit.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu passed this order while hearing a PIL filed by Rangarajan Narsimhan.

The grievance of the Petitioner in the Public Interest litigation is that the State Government is purporting to interfere in the religious affairs and altering the religious practices of Hindu religious institutions in temples.

The grievance appears to be particularly against the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department which is in control of a large number of temples in the State.

The Petitioner claims that most of the temples have been set up according to the agama principles and it has been the age-old tradition for mantras to be chanted in the Sanskrit language. According to the Petitioner, the very sanctity of the mantras is destroyed if not chanted in Sanskrit.

The Court observed that the issue in consideration had already been settled in a 2008 High Court ruling by the Division Bench in the case of VS Sivakumar v. M. Pitchai Battar, where the question posed before the Court is recorded, whether providing for archanas to be performed in Tamil at the request of the devotees in addition to the existing practice of reciting archanas in Sanskrit, would offend the right to profess Hindu religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution.

“The Court held that there was nothing in the agamas or in other religious scripts to prohibit the chanting of mantras in Tamil in temples. The Court also held that the choice was vested with the devotees to seek for their archanas to be performed at their wishes by chanting mantras either in Tamil or in Sanskrit”, the Court said while citing the 2008 judgment.

The Court noted that,

As would be evident from the earlier judgment of the Court relied upon by the Petitioner herein, the issue there was whether the Court would compel the use of a particular language and exclude other languages in Hindu religious institutions in the State at the behest of the Petitioner.

It was in such a context, where the Petitioner insisted that Tamil alone must be the language in which mantras ought to be chanted in temples in this State, the Court found that the plea was unjustified and dismissed the Petition.

“The larger issue as to whether mantras may be chanted in Tamil at the behest of the devotee apart from the practice in the temples of chanting such mantras in Sanskrit has been dealt with in the later judgment of V.S.Sivakumar.

Nothing that the Petitioner cites would permit the Court to take a view at variance with the one expressed in V.S.Sivakumar. In the event the Petitioner requires a re-assessment, it has to be at an altogether different level”, the Court observed.

“Judicial discipline commands that when an issue has been decided unless the circumstances have changed or the decision on the issue is rendered suspect on account of the judgment not taking the applicable law into account or any pronouncement of a superior forum has intervened, the matter may not be revisited. There is no change in the circumstances and no case is made out for reconsidering a matter that has been concluded in the year 2008 and instructs the manner in which mantras may be chanted in temples in the State”, the order reads.

Since the only issue which the Petitioner raises is covered in the previous judgment of the Court which remains to bind, there is no merit in the petition for it to be admitted, the Court said while dismissing the Petition./ILNS/AP/SNG

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