Andhra Pradesh Entertainment Legal

Temple’s rituals cannot be examined by constitutional courts, says Supreme Court


A constitutional court cannot interfere in the day-to-day affairs of a temple, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

“Can we interfere in the rituals of a temple? How to break a coconut or how to do aarti,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana while terming the PIL filed by devotee Srivari Daadaa as a PIL.

The apex court refused to entertain a plea against an order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court dismissing a PIL of a devotee alleging “wrongful and irregular procedure” in performing ‘Puja’ of Lord Venkateshwara Swamy at Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanam’, saying a constitutional court cannot interfere into the day-to-day affairs of a temple.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and Hima Kohli, however, directed the Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanam’ management to respond in writing to the representation of the devotee on various issues relating to darshan and puja by devotees at the historic temple within eight weeks from Tuesday (November 16).

“The relief sought by the petitioner is in the nature of interfering in day-to-day affairs of the temple, which cannot be gone into by a constitutional court.

If a ritual or ‘seva’ is not performed according to established practices is a question of facts to be gone into by the Trial Court by appreciating the evidence”, the bench said in its order.

It granted liberty to the devotee to approach a trial court with a lawsuit to agitate his grievances over the rituals or method of performing the ‘puja’.

ALSO READ | TTD ‘Gau Maha Sammelan’ focuses on natural farming

Earlier, the top court on September 29 had directed the ‘Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanam’ to respond to a plea of a devotee of Lord Venkateshwara Swamy alleging “wrongful and irregular procedure” in performing ‘puja’ there.

The bench 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.

Tirupathi Tirumala Devasthanam is an independent trust which manages temples including the famous Lord Venkateshwara Swamy in Andhra Pradesh.

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, 1) 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.

Such activities falling within an ecclesiastical domain are not amenable to writ jurisdiction at the behest of an outsider, it had said. “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.