The Apex on 29th August issued notice to Tamil Nadu government, refusing to stay the latter’s decision to appoint or dismiss ‘Archakas’ (priests) in Hindu temples in the state.
After hearing a petition moved by former Rajya Sabha MP Dr Subramanian Swamy, seeking to prevent the State government from appointing ‘Archakas’ (priests) in the temples there. He challenged the provisions of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 to the extent it granted the State absolute control over appointments and dismissal of archakas (priests) in Hindu temples of the State. Swamy said ‘’This is getting to be an epidemic”. A bench headed by Justice Hemant Gupta sought a response from the government and tagged it with a similar petition pending before it.
During the hearing, Swamy sought an interim stay of the appointments order. He argued “Please give an interim stay on the appointment of Archakas by the State government, which is an atheistic government.” The plea also challenged the provisions of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959 granting the State government absolute control over the appointment and dismissal of ‘Archakas’ in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu. It stated that the management and administration of temples, appointments and dismissals of ‘Archakas’ are a part of the right to practice, profess and propagate religion, protected under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
On 22 August, the Madras High Court upheld the validity of the government of Tamil Nadu’s all caste ‘archakas’ policy and rules making provision of appointment of people from any caste as archakas of temples. The Tamil Nadu’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department had handed over appointment letters to 208 such priests. It has also inaugurated three more training centres.
The DMK government had implemented its electoral promise of appointing aspirants belonging to all castes as temple priests. On August 14 last year Chief Minister MK Stalin appointed trained ‘archakas’ of various communities as priests in temples.