"Tamil Nadu rules will not govern temples constructed as per agamas": Madras High Court holds

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The petitions challenged Rules of 2020 of the State government contending that the qualification given under the rules should not apply for the post of archaka/poojari  in temples where the construction, installation of idols, and worship of deity were  done in accordance with Agamas

A Madras High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandar and Justice Mala on Monday upheld the validity of certain provisions of Tamil Nadu's policy of allowing appointment of people belonging to all caste as archakas in temples. The court, however affirmed that the rule will not be applicable in temples constructed as per Agamas.

According to what is widely believed, agamas are a collection of knowledge and spiritual literature of Hindus across India, referred to by various names such Tantras, Samhitas. 

The court held the above in petitions that challenged the provisions and consequently restrain the authorities concerned from appointing or selecting Archakas and other Agama related personnel in temples in contravention of the Agamas, as held by the Supreme Court in the Adi Saiva Sivachariyargal Nala Sangam versus State of Tamil Nadu and another case.

The bench further held that the appointment of archakas in temples constructed as per Agamas must be governed by the Agamas and affirmed that the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious Institutions Employees (Conditions of Service) Rules, 2020 would not apply on them.

In its order, the bench has directed the constitution of a five-member expert committee that will identify the temples constructed as per Agamas. The committee would be headed by retired Madras High Court judge M Chockalingam, with the head of the Madras Sanskrit College executive committee Gopalaswami as its member. The remaining two members of the panel will be appointed by the State government in consultation with the chairperson while the commissioner of the HR&CE department would be an ex-officio member of the committee.

The court further highlighted that if the appointment of an archaka is not made as per the Agamas, the individual would be at liberty to challenge it. The appointment, however, may be made by the trustees or a fit person and not by the HR&CE department, as it would otherwise be in contravention of 1959 act. 

Case status :All India Adi Saiva Sivacharyargal Seva Sangam v State of Tamil Nadu