The Madras High Court has held that centuries-old religious customs and practises cannot be stopped by government machinery by citing administrative inconvenience or anticipated trouble, unless such events become unlawful in present times. The court was disposing a petition by an executive trustee of Sri Kamatchi Amman temple in Cuddalore district, assailing an order of the local police refusing permission to the temple car festival conducted during night.
Justice K Ravichandrabaabu directed the Revenue Divisional Officer, Cuddalore, to pass appropriate orders on the plea to permit the temple to take out the car during night time on the day of ‘Panguni Uthiram’ festival on March 31. The police shall also extend sufficient protection at the time of conduct of such festival, the judge said.
He said it was not in dispute that the temple had been conducting the car festival every year in the Tamil month of ‘Panguni’ (March-April) during night hours based on some astronomical calculations. Police cannot ignore the fact that the festival was being conducted for centuries during night hours and therefore, such custom and practice cannot be changed by the officials casually by the stroke of pen.
“Such centuries-old custom and religious practices cannot be ignored or found as insignificant since such long-run customs, privileges and practices go with the sentiments of people of such locality with which the government machinery cannot interfere in a casual manner, as has been done in this case, that too, under mere apprehension,” the judge said.
Unless some untoward incidents had taken place in the past which went beyond the control of law enforcing authorities, such interference cannot be made, he added. Even under such circumstances, the interference could be only by way of regulatory measure and certainly not to ban or prohibit the very event itself.