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Should temples continue to be under govt? Madras HC asks while quashing FIR against activist, calls to revive the glory of temples: Full details

The court stated that both the FIRs were not maintainable as section 505(2) IPC had nothing to do with the case and that Section 45 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 did not provide a penal remedy. Court noted that Narasimhan was a Vaishnavite and so was the temple authority.

On Friday, the Madurai Bench of Madras HC quashed two defamation cases against devotee, activist Rangarajan Narasimhan who had alleged mismanagement by officials managing Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple and questioned the condition of thousands of temples that are facing negligence.

The Bench raised pertinent questions with respect to the administration of Hindu temples and asked whether the temples should continue to be under the thumb of the government. Justice GR Swaminathan specifically highlighted the need to revive the glory of temples in India.

Narasimhan had pointed out mismanagement at Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple and exposed several wrongdoings of the commissioner of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HRCE) and the Ex-chairman of the Board of Trustees of the temple over social media. Denying the allegations the authorities had lodged an FIR against Narasimhan for defaming the temple management and its Trustees.

Drawing attention to the condition of Hindu temples in the state, Justice GR Swaminathan said that the government who professes to be secular should treat all religious institutions at par. “Are not knowledgeable and committed activists like TR Ramesh justified in arguing that the government should exercise the same degree and level of control over temples as are exercised over churches and mosques?”, he was quoted.

“Tamil Nadu is a land of temples. They have played a central role in our culture. However, their current condition leaves a lot to be desired. Lands endowed for their maintenance have been gobbled up by private interests. Antique idols have been stolen and smuggled overseas. The temple staff are paid a pittance. Thousands of temples are facing utter neglect. Even poojas are not being performed. Much needs to be done to revive their glory,” the bench added.

According to the reports, two cases against Narasimhan were filed- one under 505(2) of the Indian Penal Code (Promoting enmity between groups) and another under section 45 of the Information Technology Act after he alleged the temple authorities of mismanagement. The bench maintained that the FIRs were lodged to target the devotee for exposing the temple trust and the HRCE.

The court stated that both the FIRs were not maintainable as section 505(2) IPC had nothing to do with the case and that Section 45 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 did not provide a penal remedy. Court noted that Narasimhan was a Vaishnavite and so was the temple authority. “The petitioners’ allegations do not involve two groups at all. The Hon’ble Supreme Court had clearly held that unless one group is pitted against the other, the penal provisions are not at all attracted”, the bench was quoted.

Justice also commended the Judicial Magistrate for refusing to remand the petitioner when he was initially arrested by the Srirangam police as he reversed the complaints.

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