NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the ‘Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam’ to respond to a plea of a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara Swamy alleging ‘wrongful and irregular procedure’ in performing ‘puja’ there.
A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana was hearing an appeal of a devotee against the order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court refusing to entertain the PIL by observing that the “procedure of conducting rituals is the exclusive domain of the Devasthanam and cannot be a matter of adjudication unless it impacts secular or civil rights of others”.
The top court initially expressed reluctance in entertaining the plea by observing, “Can we interfere into it (rituals) as to when and how ‘puja’ has to be conducted…this is the Constitutional court and not a ‘kuchehri’ (lower court) where you can say anything.”
The bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, later sought a response from the counsel of the temple management about the decision on the representation of rituals made by the petitioner and devotee Srivari Daadaa.
“Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent (Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam) prays for and is granted one week’s time to get instructions about the representation dated March 18, 2020, sent by the petitioner-in person to the respondent. List the matter after one week,” the bench said in the order.
Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam is an independent trust which manages temples including the famous Lord Venkateshwara Swamy in Andhra Pradesh.
During the brief hearing, the CJI also conversed in Telugu with petitioner Srivari Daadaa and asked him to be patient as being the devotee of Lord Venkateshwara Swamy and not threaten the apex court’s registry officials for urgent listing of his plea.
Justice Ramana said he along with his brother and sister Judges are all devotees of Lord Balaji and wanted the rituals as per traditions. “We are all devotees of Balaji and expect that all rituals will be conducted according to the traditions,” the CJI said.
Daadaa has filed the appeal in the top court against the January 5 order of the high court dismissing his PIL.
The plea had stated that the temple authority has been “performing sevas namely, i) Abhishekam Seva, 2) Thomala Seva, 3) Arjitha Brahmostavam 4) Yekanta Utsavalu (Srivari Varshika Brahmotsavams – 2020) and 5) Maha Laghu Darshan, in a wrongful and irregular procedure”.
The PIL had prayed for the issuance of direction to ‘Devasthanam’ to rectify the method of holding the rituals. “We are of the view that the present Public Interest Litigation is not maintainable for the following reasons: Firstly, the procedure of conducting rituals is the exclusive domain of the Devasthanam and cannot be a matter of adjudication unless it impacts secular or civil rights of others,” the high court had said.
Secondly, the ‘Devasthanam’ cannot be said to be discharging public duties in the matter of conducting rituals. It had said that such activities falling within an ecclesiastical domain are not amenable to writ jurisdiction at the behest of an outsider.
“Accordingly, we are of the opinion that the Writ Petition is devoid of merits and is liable to be dismissed. Accordingly, the Writ Petition is dismissed..,” the high court had said.