No Hereditary Right To Be Appointed As Archak/Sthanikam In Temples- Madras High Court

No Hereditary Right To Be Appointed As Archak/Sthanikam In Temples- Madras High Court

No Hereditary Right To Be Appointed As Archak/Sthanikam In Temples- Madras High Court

Recently, Hon’ble Madras High court disposed of the writ petition seeking interference of the Hon’ble court to set aside the order passed by the Govt./respondent whereby the respondent has issued the advertisement to appoint Archakas/Sthanikam and direct the respondents forbearing them from initiating any further proceedings in pursuance to the impugned notice dated 18.1.2018.

The Hon’ble court while placing reliance on Apex Court finding in Seshammal & Others Vs. State of Tamil Nadu [reported in 1972 (2) SCC 11] held that the appointment of an Archaka is a secular act and hence, the hereditary right cannot be claimed. The Apex Court held that an Archaka owes his appointment to the shebaits and managers of a temple and they are the one, who choose the Archaka. Therefore, in the matter of appointment of an Archaka, the rule of next-in-line of succession cannot be insisted and a trustee is not bound to make the appointment on the sole ground that the candidate is next-in-line of succession to the last holder of the office. Hence, if the petitioner had stuck to his original stand of claiming his right to the position of Sthanikam next-in-line of succession and claimed hereditary right, the prayer would have been rejected by this Court by placing reliance upon the judgment of the Apex Court in Seshammal’s case.

BRIEF FACTS OF THE CASE

The grievance of the petitioner is that respondents 2 and 3, all of a sudden, issued the impugned advertisement calling for applications for appointment to the position of Archakas/Sthanikam of the subject temple and that the impugned advertisement infringes upon the hereditary right of the petitioner and others, who are rendering their services as per the customs and usage in the line of succession from time immemorial. Accordingly, the impugned advertisement has been put to challenge in the above writ petition.

HON’BLE COURT’S OBSERVATIONS

Hon’ble Mr. Justice N. Anand Venkatesh in addition to the above observation, held that “The Apex Court differentiated between the religious portion and the secular portion and held that the religious service by an Archaka is the secular part of the religion and the performance of the religious service is an integral part of the religion. Therefore, the prescription provided by the Agamas gains significance only when it comes to the performance of the religious service. Ex consequenti, any person belonging to any caste or creed can be appointed as an Archaka provided he is a well-versed and an accomplished person in the Agamas and rituals necessary to be performed in a temple.”

Further, it was held that Whenever an appointment is made without following Agamas, an aggrieved person can challenged the same.

Dealing with the petitioner’s contention that the Executive Officer is an employee of the Department and hence, he cannot issue an advertisement and appoint Archakas for an Agamic temple. In this regard Hon’ble Court placed reliance on observation made in All India Adi Saiva Sivachariargal Seva Sangam’s case and held that Executive Officer, who performs the functions of a Trustee and the Fit Person, will also fall within the definition under Rule 2(g) of the 2020 Rules. In view of the same, the appointment can be made under the 2020 Rules by the Trustees or the Fit Person or the Executive Officer, who is in charge of the affairs of the temple. Thus, the advertisement issued by the Executive Officer under the 2020 Rules cannot be questioned on the ground that he is an officer of the Department.

Further it was held that “In the considered view of this Court, it is always left open to the Trustees/Fit Person to appoint Archakas/Sthanikam in Agamic temples (where there is no doubt on the Agama that governs the temple) by ensuring that the Archakas/Sthanikam are well-versed, properly trained and qualified to perform the pooja as per the requirements under the Agama. At the risk of repetition, it is made abundantly clear that the pedigree based on caste will have no role to play in the appointment of Archaka if the person so selected otherwise satisfies the requirements.”

In view of the above, the writ petition was disposed of with a direction to the third respondent to issue an advertisement in line with the observations made supra and the Archakas/Sthanikam shall be appointed for Sri Sugavaneswarar Swamy Temple, Salem. The petitioner shall be permitted to perform the poojas till the appointment of the Archakas/Sthanikam. It is also left open to the petitioner to participate in the selection.

Case Title:-  Mutthu Subramania Gurukkul Vs. Commissioner, HR&CE & ors

Case no. :-   Writ Petition No.3997 of 2018

Order date :- 26.06.2023

 

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