In a setback for the DMK government in Tamil Nadu, both the Supreme Court and the Madras High Court issued directives instructing the Stalin-led administration to permit live streaming of the Pran Pratistha and special pujas during the installation of the Sri Ram murti in Ayodhya. The courts’ decisions came as a blow to the DMK’s alleged attempts to hinder these religious activities by leveraging intimidatory threats, oral orders, and the misuse of police authority.
The apex court and the Madras High Court’s rulings effectively quashed the DMK’s purported design to obstruct the essential components of the grand event at Ayodhya. The live streaming of the Pran Pratistha, along with the authorisation for special poojas and anna dhan, now stands cleared for implementation.
The Supreme Court has intervened in response to grievances raised by devotees, RSS, VHP, BJP, Hindu Munnani, and others who alleged that the Tamil Nadu government, led by the DMK, obstructed their plans to conduct special poojas, anna dhan distribution, and live streaming of the historic Ayodhya event in private and HR and CE managed temples.
Despite the alleged informal directives issued by top officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) department, including verbal orders against granting permissions, the Tamil Nadu police denied consent for events, citing reasons such as the dominance of Muslim and Christian communities, the presence of churches and mosques in the vicinity, and other unspecified justifications.
The situation escalated when the denial of permissions in half a dozen places, along with a subsequent withdrawal of permission for an event in Kanchipuram featuring Finance Minister Nirmala Sitraman, sparked public outrage. The government’s response, dismissing the accusations as rumours, failed to quell the controversy.
In response to the alleged anti-Hindu measures, BJP functionary Vinoj P. Selvam, along with others, approached the Supreme Court seeking redress. The apex court, after reviewing the case, issued a directive to the Tamil Nadu government, emphasising that denial of permissions for such events cannot be solely based on the presence of other communities in the vicinity.
The court’s directive underscores the importance of upholding equal rights and opportunities for all religious and cultural practices, irrespective of the demographic composition of the area. The intervention by the Supreme Court aims to address concerns of discrimination and ensure that the celebrations surrounding the Ayodhya event are not hindered on the grounds of religious or communal considerations.
The court order came in light of claims made in a petition, alleging that oral orders had been issued to prohibit the live telecast of various events, including Pran Prathistha, poojas, archanas, Annadhana (poor feeding), bhajans, and processions scheduled for January 22, 2024, in Ayodhya. The petition presented documents, referred to as Annexure P-2, to support the allegations.
During the hearing, the senior advocate representing respondent nos. 2 to 4 clarified that no oral directions had been issued, and there was no ban on the mentioned activities. The court took the statement on record and expressed trust that the authorities would act in accordance with the law, without relying on any oral instructions.
The Supreme Court stressed the significance of maintaining data regarding the applications received for hosting events related to the Pran Pratishta ceremony. It instructed the state government to uphold transparency by recording reasons for both granting and rejecting applications. Notably, the court found the reasons given for the rejection of prayers, as enclosed in the document at pages 20-22, to be prima facie unjustified and unacceptable.
In addition, the bench explicitly outlined that permission could not be denied solely on the grounds of the presence of other communities in the location. The court’s directive highlighted the importance of ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all religious and cultural practices, irrespective of the demographic composition of the area.
Justice Khanna has criticized the Tamil Nadu authorities for imposing restrictions on religious processions and ceremonies based on the religious composition of specific areas. The Justice emphasised that applications should not be rejected solely on the basis of the predominant community residing in a particular region, unless there is a law and order concern.
“We have asked the authorities to pass a speaking order while deciding applications. They are not to be rejected on the ground that A community is living or B community is living in a particular region,” stated Justice Khanna during the proceedings. He expressed concern that such orders, if implemented statewide, could prevent minorities from holding prayer meetings, infringing on their religious rights.
The court’s stance came in response to the government’s order banning religious processions and ceremonies in areas primarily inhabited by members of one religion. Justice Khanna questioned the reasoning provided in the order, stating, “Is this a reason?” The court directed authorities to provide a clear account of how many applications were allowed and rejected.
The Hon Madras High Court has ordered that there shall be no restrictions to telecast the Pran Pratishtha live on private premises.
The Supreme Court has ordered that based on oral orders, fundamental rights of individuals cannot be restricted by the State govt of TN.… pic.twitter.com/46SuXvQXCe
— K.Annamalai (மோடியின் குடும்பம்) (@annamalai_k) January 22, 2024
In response to concerns raised over alleged obstructions by the Tamil Nadu Police during religious activities, Madras High Court Justice N Anand Venkatesh issued a clarifying order after a special sitting. The order addressed a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, seeking the issuance of a Writ of Certiorarified Mandamus.
The petition challenged the rejection of permission for Rama Nama Bhajan and Annadhanam scheduled at KKR Kalyana Mandapam, Pattabiram, on January 22, 2024. Justice Venkatesh clarified the government’s stance, noting that functions, bhajans, and annadhanams in private enclosures like mandapams and private temples do not require police permission. Organisers are allowed to arrange live streaming of the Ayodhya Pran Prathishta.
The court outlined specific guidelines:
Private Enclosures: Functions in private spaces do not need police permission.
Public Access: If events may spill over to public areas, organizers must inform the police to maintain control.
Temples under HR & CE Department: Events within HR & CE-controlled temples require prior information and permission with reasonable conditions.
Sensitive Areas: In sensitive zones, the police can impose restrictions to avoid law and order issues.
Justice Venkatesh stressed that religious functions, including singing bhajans and performing prathakshina/parikrama, are not inherently prohibited or restricted. He emphasised responsible and pious conduct, encouraging devotees to observe the auspicious occasion without causing law and order problems.
The court’s order aimed to prevent misinformation and highlighted the peaceful nature of bhakti towards God. It underscored that religious celebrations should contribute to peace and happiness, maintaining societal equilibrium.
However, allegations surfaced regarding the Tamil Nadu Police allegedly obstructing ten devotees from attempting prathakshina/parikrama at Srirangam as an offering to Shri Ram and the revered deity, Shri Ranganatha Swamy. Devotees, armed with prepared flags and pictures, were reportedly halted by the police, triggering discontent within the Hindu community.
Critics expressed disapproval, viewing the police’s actions as interference with religious activities. The incident raised concerns about the delicate balance between maintaining law and order and respecting individuals’ right to practice their religious beliefs.
As the situation unfolds, the Madras High Court’s order stands as a guiding principle, emphasising religious freedom while urging responsible conduct during the celebrations surrounding the Ayodhya Pran Prathishta. The court’s directive aims to foster an environment where devotees can express their faith without undue restrictions, contributing to a harmonious coexistence in society.