- Apprentice Lawyer
The Andhra Pradesh High Court last week dismissed a petition questioning the entry of the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy and other Cabinet Ministers into the Tirumala Tirupati temple as they were Christians/adherents to other faiths.
The petitioner submitted that the Chief Minister attended Christian gospel meetings and sermons to contend that he was a Christian and that he had entered the temple in violation of rules concerning the entry of non-Hindus to the temple.
A Single Judge Bench of Justice Battu Devanand rejected this submission, declaring that merely attending prayer meetings and gospel conventions could not make a person a Christian.
The Court, relying on the definition of "Christian" and "Native Christians" in Section 3 of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, noted that "Baptism is the sacrament by which a person is admitted into the Church of Christ and it is not only a sign and distinguished mark of the Christian profession."
In this backdrop, the Court opined that there was nothing on record to demonstrate that the Chief Minister is a professing Christian.
The Court pointed out that the Chief Minister had recently participated in prayers at a Gurdwara.
“Can he be treated as professing the 'Sikh' religion?”, the Court asked.
The petitioner, Alokam Sudhakar Babu, a proclaimed follower of Lord Sri Venkateswara Swamy, additionally questioned the authority of the temple trust and other officials in allowing non-Hindu ministers to enter the temple without furnishing a declaration as was required under Rule 136 of the Andhra Pradesh Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987.
The Rule imposes a precondition of signing a declaration by every non-Hindu visiting the temple, establishing that they had faith in Lord Sri Venkateshwara Swamy.
The petitioner contended that the Chief Minister, by violating this rule, was not entitled to continue in the present post he is holding. It was submitted that the Chief Minister's visits to the temple had ended up creating controversy and affecting the feelings and sentiments of Hindus. The petitioner added that not only was the Chief Minister violating the law, he was also compelling his cabinet ministers and subordinate authorities to violate the law.
Rejecting these contentions, the Court pointed out that it was a longstanding State tradition to invite serving Chief Ministers for prayers at Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams temples to present "Pattu Vastralu" during Brahmotsavam in accordance with the procedure provided under "Kainkarya Patti".
It was in this capacity that the Chief Minister entered the temple, the Court concluded.
"In the opinion of this Court, he entered into the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam's temples, in the capacity of the Chief Minister of the State, as a representative of the people of the State, and as such, he need not submit a declaration as provided under Rule 136 of the Rules," the Court said.
Holding that the Chief Minister’s entry into the temple as a representative of the people did not require a declaration under Rule 136, the Court clarified that his entry in his personal capacity should be backed by a declaration if he is not a Hindu.
On these terms, the petition was dismissed.