Prescribing dress code for devotees is akin to imposition of personal values over the society by way of judgments, therefore impermissible

Madras High Court: Dismissing and disapproving the order laid down by the Single Judge Bench in Rasu v. The Superintendent of Police, W.P (MD) No.20559 of 2015, wherein it was directed that the devotees should follow a ‘dress code’ while visiting temples, the Division Bench of V. Ramasubramanian and K. Ravichandrabaabu, JJ., relying on the dictum laid down by the Supreme Court in Meerut Development Authority v. Association of Management Studies, (2009) 6 SCC 171, held that the decision of the Single Judge Bench prescribing a ‘dress code’ for temples was not an issue directly or indirectly involved in the petition, therefore the ventured into an ‘unchartered field’ which the Courts are expressly prohibited from doing. The Bench further observed that the Courts must refrain from creating controversies and adjudicating upon them.

The present petition comes in the wake of the aforementioned writ petition dated 26.11.2015, wherein Vaidyanathan, J. prescribed a suitable dress code for men and women visiting temples. According to the rationale of the learned judge, the prescription of the dress code was done in order to “enhance the spiritual ambience of the devotees”. The decision however gave rise to a debate regarding the validity of the issue. The decision of the Single Judge resulted in the issuance of a Circular by the Commissioner for Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments directing the Board of Trustees of the respective temples to take a decision on the issue, keeping in mind the customary practices prevailing in the temple.

Perusing the facts of the case, the Division Bench observed that suggesting a dress code for the devotees was not even a subject matter of the petition. The Court cautioned that the judges should refrain from imposing their personal values on the society by way of their judgments. The Court observed that neither prescribing a dress code was an issue in the earlier case, nor the petitioner sought any relief from the Court regarding the same, therefore the direction of the Single Judge was beyond the scope of the lis that was before him. The Court also expressed its reluctance to venture into the issue unless there is a ‘real’ litigation challenging the propriety, legality and desirability of the same, which can happen if only the temples choose to impose a dress code on the devotees. [State v. Rasu, 2016 SCC OnLine Mad 1807, decided on 04.04.2016]

To read the Judgment, click HERE

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