‘Is nation or religion paramount’: Madras HC expresses shock over dress code row

The Madras High Court on Thursday expressed shock over the dress code controversy erupting in certain parts of the country.

A bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari asked: “What is paramount? Is it the country or religion?

“I mean it is really shocking. Somebody is going for the hijab, somebody is going for the topi, and somebody is going for other things.”

Questioning the intention behind such things, he asked: “Is it one country or divided by religion or by something like that. This is quite surprising.”

Pointing out the fact that India was a secular country, he said: “What is found from the current affairs is nothing but an effort to divide the country by religion.”

The Acting Chief Justice’s observations came while hearing a batch of petitions filed by Srirangam-based activist, Rangarajan Narasimhan who wanted the court to implement a strict dress code for devotees, disallowing non-Hindus from stepping into the temples across Tamil Nadu.

The bench asked the petitioner for an illustration to show the custom of dress code followed in practice as it made it clear that the custom is for individual temples.

He asked the petitioner how the question of putting up display boards arises if there was no uniform dress code. When the petitioner sought an order, the bench asked him to show what part of the ‘Agamas’ refer to trousers and shirts.

The bench also warned that he could be barred from appearing in person before the court and directed him to use appropriate words and stay away from quarrelling.

Advocate General R. Shanmugasundaram informed the court that each and every temple was following its own custom and visitors belonging to other religions are allowed only up to the ‘akodi maram’ (flag pole).

The bench finally allowed the petitioner to file an affidavit with illustrations on flouting of the dress code in temples.

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