Reiterating a Supreme Court direction that any person who is a Hindu and possesses the requisite qualification and training can be appointed as an Archaka in Hindu Temples, the Madras High Court set aside a plea that challenged the advertisement issued by the Executive Officer, Arulmigu Arunachaleswarar Tirukoil, Tiruvannamalai, inviting applications for the post Archakars and others, prescribing certain qualifications.
Disposing of the plea after directing the HR&CE Department to proceed with the selection process in accordance with law, Justice R Mahadevan clarified that the appointment of Archakas should be in accordance with the religious usages and practices of the temples, and not as per the hereditary order.
The court also held that it was well settled that the government could not interfere in the religious affairs of a religious denomination and deny the right to manage the religious affairs and administer the properties of the religious institutions, subject to public order, morality and health.
The petitioner, D Senthilkumar, had contended that only those belonging to the Adi Saivar community were qualified to enter the sanctum sanctorum and perform the rituals as Archakas at the Arunachaleswarar temple in Tiruvannamalai. Hence, the appointment has to be as per the Agamas governing the temple, and any deviation from the custom and usage would be an infringement of the freedom of religion, he argued.
Special government pleader appearing for HR&CE Department submitted that the petitioner had no locus standi to file the writ petition, as he did not make any application pursuant to the advertisement that was being challenged. The last date for applying was over, and nearly 322 applications were received, he said.
The lawyer further submitted that the petitioner did not produce any document to show his competency nor furnished any Agama details with respect to the subject temple. Hence, he could not plead to monopolise the affairs of the temple, which was against the dictum laid down by the Supreme Court, he added.