Madras HC observation on religious intolerance ignites discussion


The landmark judgment of a division bench of the Madras High Court against religious intolerance has turned into a major topic of discussion among the legal and religious circles across South India.

The Madras High Court division bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan on May 7 had made some observations while hearing a petition over the conduct of religious festivals. They had said that allowing religious intolerance is not good for a secular country like India. The court also observed that ” resistance by one religious group if reciprocated by other groups would lead to chaos and riots in the country and that this was not acceptable.”

The court made this observation while hearing a petition over the conduct of a temple procession by villagers of V Kalathur in Perambalur district in Tamil Nadu through a specific route.

The court observed “It is evident from the statement of the Deputy Superintendent of Police that the three-day festivals of the aforesaid temples were peacefully conducted till the year 2011 and only from 2012 the Muslims started objecting to some of the Hindu festivals terming them as sins.”

The judges noted that before 2012, temple processions were taken through all the streets in the villages and there were no problems.

The court in the judgment said, “Merely because one religious group is dominating in a particular locality, it cannot be a ground to prohibit from celebrating religious festivals or taking processions of other religious groups through these roads.”

Justice Kirbhakaran and Justice Velmurugan in the judgment said, “India is a secular country and merely because one religious group is living in a majority in a particular area it cannot be a reason for not allowing other religious festivals or processions through that area.”

The court said that if the content of the private respondent is accepted then it would create a situation in which “Minority people cannot conduct any festival or procession in most of the areas in India and that if resistance is being exhibited by one religious group and it is reciprocated by other religious groups, then there would be chaos, riots, religious fights causing loss of lives and destruction of properties.”

The judgment of the court has led to discussions among policy makers and those following court developments.

C Rajeev, Director, Centre for Policy and Development Studies, a think tank based out of Chennai while speaking to IANS said, “This was an observation which was much overdue and the learned high court division bench has rightly mentioned that if resistance is exhibited by one religious group and if other religious group opposes it, then there will be bloodshed. This should not happen and if some religious group is in a majority in a particular area, that does not give it the right to oppose the festivals of other religious groups if that group is in a minority in that area as our’s is a secular country and we must uphold that.”

Mahesh Krishnamoorthy, State Coordinator of Tamil Nadu for the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, also welcomed the Court observation. While speaking to IANS he said, “As per the Section 180- A of the District Municipalities Act 1920, roads or streets should be used as access to the people, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. The judges of Madras High Court have given a proper observation in this.”