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Courts can't dictate how to conduct temple rituals: SC

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    23rd Nov, 2021


The Supreme Court disallowed a plea filed by a self-proclaimed devotee of Lord Balaji to ensure that all rituals were conducted properly at the Tirupati temple. The court said that constitutional courts cannot dictate rituals and practices in temples or interfere with their day-to-day functioning or affairs.


About the Supreme Court of India

  • As the highest court in India, the Supreme Court’s judgments are binding on all other courts in the country.
  • It serves both as the final court of appeals and final interpreter of the Constitution.
  • Owing to these vast powers, many have labeled it among the most powerful courts in the world. Its authority stems from the Constitution of India.

What types of cases does it hear?

  • The Supreme Court has jurisdiction (the authority to hear) over a wide range of cases. Its jurisdictionis generally classified into
    • Original
    • Appellate
    • Advisory
  • Original Jurisdiction
  • Its exclusive original jurisdiction extends to any dispute between the:
    • Government of India and one or more States
    • between the Government of India and any State
    • States on one side and one or more States on the other
    • between two or more States
  • Fundamental Rights: In addition, Article 32 of the Constitution gives an extensive original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court regarding enforcement of Fundamental Rights.
    • It is empowered to issue directions, orders, or writs, including writs like habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari to enforce them.
  • Appellate Jurisdiction
  • The appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court can be invoked by a certificate granted by the High Court concerned under Article 132(1), 133(1) or 134 of the Constitution in respect of any judgment, decree, or final order of a High Court in both civil and criminal cases, involving substantial questions of law as to the interpretation of the Constitution.
  • Advisory Jurisdiction
  • The Supreme Court has special advisory jurisdiction in matters which may specifically be referred to it by the President of India under Article 143 of the Constitution.

Recent observations made by the court

  • The bench said that the top court can ask the temple management about irregularities alleged in its secular activities such as finances etc.
  • But the court cannot lay down religious practices or decide which one is right or wrong.
  • Questions pertaining to rituals will be decided by "pandits and scholars as per customs and established practices.
  • The courts examine limited issues such as problems on the administrative side, arrangements for visitors, or any other such violations.

What is temple (legally)?

  • A temple is a place of religious worship or meant for a religious purpose.
  • A temple is not “an establishment” under the Shops and Establishments Act.

Constitutional Provisions relating to Right of Religion

“Religion is the recognition of all our duties as divine commands”. 

  • Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion.
  • Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs.
  • Article 27: Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any particular religion. 
  • Article 28: Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.

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