List of Contents
Synopsis: The reforms made by the Tamil Nadu government in Temples and their acceptance in Court is paving a way for reforms in Temples throughout India.
Recently, the Tamil Nadu government appointed 24 trained archakas (priests) in temples across the State which come under the control of the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE).
State and the legislation
The Tamil Nadu HR&CE Act, 1959, is the governing law on the administration of Hindu temples and religious institutions. The State made the amendments to abolish hereditary of priesthood and to appoint sufficiently trained Hindus irrespective of their caste as archakas. The Supreme Court upheld the law and the amendments.
Judicial observations on discrimination
In Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal v. Govt. of Tamil Nadu case, the SC observed that “the constitutional legitimacy, naturally, must supersede all religious beliefs or practices”. The Court further stated that any appointment that is not in line with the Agamas will be against the constitutional freedoms enshrined under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.
In Indian Young Lawyers’ Association v. State of Kerala (the Sabarimala case) and Joseph Shine v. Union of India (2018) cases the Supreme Court reiterated the need to eliminate “historical discrimination which has pervaded certain identities”’, “systemic discrimination against disadvantaged groups”, and rejected stereotypical notions used to justify such discrimination.
In Sabarimala case, the court held that, “in the constitutional order of priorities, the individual right to the freedom of religion was not intended to prevail over but was subject to the overriding constitutional postulates of equality, liberty and personal freedoms recognised in the other provisions of Part III”
What is the way forward?
In future, apart from men, women and trans persons can also be appointed as archakas. This will help us to attain a vision of a just, equal and dignified society.
Source: This post is based on the article “Archakas of all hues” published in The Hindu on 14th September 2021.