Friday, June 14, 2024

Madras High Court includes spiritual orientation under Right to Privacy

The single-judge Bench of Justice GR Swaminathan last week noted that if the right to privacy included sexual and gender orientation, it certainly included one’s spiritual orientation also.

Allowing a petition filed by a local resident seeking permission to perform vows by rolling across the ground at a local temple, the High Court said that the rights of one person should not affect the rights and freedoms belonging to others.

So long as this rubicon was not crossed, it was not open to the State or the Courts to impinge on one’s action, it added.

The petitioner said that his representation made to the Karur district authorities seeking permission to perform Angapradakshinam at a popular temple in the district went unanswered.

The plea explained the meaning of Angapradakshinam, stating that it was a common ritual in Tamil Nadu, in which the devotees rolled over the ground to reach the temple threshold.

In the present case, the petitioner had expressed his wish to roll over plantain leaves that held leftovers of other devotees’ food.

The State and district authorities vehemently opposed the petition before the High Court, calling it ‘inhuman’.

The authorities further cited a 2015 order of the Madras High Court that had denied permission in a similar case.

However, the single-judge Bench held that it was not open for the Court to verify if rolling over the plantain leaves could make the petitioner virtuous.

The judge further said that Angapradakshinam was indeed a common ritual performed by devotees at several temples across Tamil Nadu. Therefore, there was no reason to deny permission for the same.

Justice Swaminathan said that he would take judicial notice of the fact that many a devotee of Lord Muruga exhibited his piety by piercing small hooks on his tongue, lip, or on the skin of one’s back in fulfilment of a vow.

Likewise, devotees of Amman undertook fire-walk, carrying a pot of burning coal. These were inseparable features of Tamil religious culture. Therefore, preventing the devotees of Sri Sadasiva Brahmendral from engaging in a similar act of devotion would be a gross violation of the right to equality guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

The single-judge Bench said it was not open to the court to challenge the belief entertained by the petitioner as regards the spiritual efficacy of the practice.

It said Article 19(1)(d) stated that all citizens shall have the right to move freely throughout the territory of India. This right was subject only to the reasonable restrictions envisaged under Article 19(5). The Right to move could not be confined to walking or vehicular transportation. It would include Angapradakshinam also, added the High Court.

The petitioner was represented by Advocate G Thalaimutharasu.

Additional Government Pleader T Vilavankothai, Advocate C Christopher and Government Advocate A Albert James appeared for the respondent State and district authorities.



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