Madras High Court Directs State Government to Ban Mobile Phones Inside Temple Premises

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The Madras High Court on Friday directed the Tamil Nadu government to prohibit the use of mobile phones and cameras in temples across the State to maintain the “purity and sanctity” of temples.

A bench of Justices R Mahadevan and J Sathya Narayana of the Madurai bench also directed the State to ensure that devotees and visitors to temples, adhere to a decent dress code.

The bench said that the mobile phones and cameras inside temples divert “the attention of the devotees” and thus, their use inside temple premises should be regulated by the temple authorities.

“There cannot be any dispute that under Article 25 of the Constitution, all persons are entitled to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. However, such freedom to act and practise can be subject to regulations, inside the premises of the temple. The Agamas prescribe the rules regarding the rituals to be followed in the worship services at the temple. According to the same, the temple authorities should ensure that decency of worship and sanctity of temple is maintained. Therefore, the usage of mobile phones and cameras inside the premises, which diverts the attention of the devotees from the purpose of visiting the temple, can be regulated by the authorities concerned,” the Court said.

It was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by a functionary of the ancient Arulmigu Subramaniya Swamy Temple in Thoothukudi district, TN.

The petitioner had said that the temple host thousands of devotees and visitors everyday and the temple authorities therefore, had to make adequate safety arrangements. He said that most devotees take pictures and make videos from inside the temple premises, photographing the idols and other valuables kept in the temple, and also click photos of other devotees without their consent. This could prove to be a major security concern, the petitioner said.

He pointed out that several other temples in the State, including the famous Meenakshi temple in Madurai do not permit devotees to carry their phones or cameras inside the temple premises.

The Meenakshi temple provides lockers to devotees to deposit their phones before entering the temple and the devotees are allowed to retrieve the phones after they come outside, the petitioner said.

The executive officer of the temple in Thoothukudi informed the Court that it had already come up with a notification prohibiting the use of phones and cameras inside the said temple in Thoothukudi. Its notification also mandated that devotees and visitors to the subject temple adhere to a “decent dress code,” he said.

The High Court accepted the submissions and added that the state government must implement such prohibition in all temples across the State.

“In the light of the aforesaid report, which discloses that the second respondent has already taken all effective measures for ban on mobile phones, decent dress code, etc. inside the premises of the subject temple, this court directs the respondent authorities to implement the aforesaid conditions in letter and spirit, besides directing the Superintendent of Police and the District Collector of Thoothukudi District, to accede to the request made by the second respondent. The first respondent is directed to comply the above directions in all the Temples of Tamil Nadu so as to maintain the purity and sanctity,” the Court ordered.

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