NEW DELHI, December 5, 2013 (The Hindu): The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved verdict (that is, did not issue a decision) on a batch of appeals challenging the Tamil Nadu government's order appointing Executive Officer to manage the affairs and properties of the Chidambaram Natarajar temple in Tamil Nadu.
A Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and S.A. Bobde reserved judgment at the conclusion of arguments by counsel for all the parties. Earlier senior counsel R. Venkataramani, appearing for Podu Dikshitars (the clan of about 360 families who now manage the temple), contended that Podu Dikshitars were a religious denomination as per Article 26 of the Constitution "which guarantees right to establish and maintain institutions for religious purposes." As far as the right of Podu Dikshitars to administer the Natarajar temple as a distinct religious denomination was concerned, this right had been recognised by the Supreme Court in its judgment in 1952, he said. Mr. Venkataramani said the association of Podu Dikshitars with the temple was more than 2,000 years old and it could not be disputed that originally the task of offering worship and administering the temple was entrusted to Podu Dikshitars.
Appearing for U. Arumugasamy, who is supporting the appointment of Executive Officer, senior counsel Colin Gonsalves disputed the very claim of Podu Dikshitars that they were a religious denomination within the meaning of Article 26 of the Constitution. He argued that for declaring a religious denomination one must follow a separate sect or a guru, but in this case Dikshitars were not a separate sect as they were only worshippers of Lord Shiva. He said worshippers of Lord Shiva and worshippers of Lord Vishnu could be called as two groups but they could not be declared as a religious denomination. He justified government's interference for maintenance of the temple.