TAMIL NADU, INDIA, September 18, 2022 (Organiser): The high court on August 29th issued a notice to the Tamil Nadu Government, refusing to stay the latter’s decision to appoint or dismiss archakas (priests) in Hindu temples in the state not created according to the Agamic scriptures. It heard a petition moved by former Rajya Sabha MP Dr. Subramanian Swamy, seeking to prevent the state government from appointing Archakas in the temples there. He challenged the provisions of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1959, to the extent it granted the state absolute control over appointments and dismissal of archakas in Hindu temples of the State. Dr. Swamy said,“ This is getting to be an epidemic.” During the hearing, Dr. Swamy argued, “Please give an interim stay on the appointment of archakas by the State Government, which is an atheistic Government.” The plea also challenged the provisions of the HR & CE Act, 1959 granting the state government absolute control over the appointment and dismissal of archakas in the Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu. It stated that the management and administration of temples, appointments and dismissals of archakas are a part of the right to practice, profess and propagate religion, protected under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

On August 22, the Madras High Court upheld the validity of the Government of Tamil Nadu’s all caste archakas policy and rules making provision of appointment of people from any caste as archakas of temples not created according to Agamas. The Madras High Court on July 22 held that archakas can be of any caste in non-agama temples. It further said that government rules for hiring priests will not apply to Agamic-based temples. On a cursory glance, there is no role for the government in recruiting Archakas for temples that will be taken care by hereditary trustees. The judges ordered the TN Government to set up a five-member committee, headed by retired HC Judge M. Chockalingam, Madras Sanskrit College executive committee head and former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswamy, to identify temples that have been built as per Agama treatise. Then the committee should begin identifying the agamas-based temples and to ensure the appointment of archakas to those temples should be in accordance with the relevant Agama Sastra and not as per the statutory rules, which would apply only to non-agamic temples.

More on this issue at source.