The Maharashtra government has defended Pandharpur Temples Act of 1973 (PTA) in the Bombay High Court, contending that these temples occupy a unique position in the State and that the law was necessary to safeguard the interests of devotees. [Subramaniam Swamy & Anr. v. State of Maharashtra].Pandharpur temples are public temples open to persons of different faiths, and the PTA does not affect their protected religious rights, the Maharashtra government added..The submission was made in an affidavit filed by the State opposing a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by former member of the Rajya Sabha and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramaniam Swamy.Swamy moved the Court challenging the PTA on the ground that the Maharashtra government arbitrarily took over the administration of the temple at Pandharpur..In its affidavit, the State countered that same saying that the PTA was important as the Pandharpur temples, which were considered to be of national importance, occupy a unique position since they are open to persons of different religious faiths. "The Pandharpur Temples are considered as public temples open to all persons abiding to different faiths and philosophies and have been found to not be religious denominational institutions. There were special circumstances prevailing in relation to the Pandharpur Temples, which occupied a unique position in the State, necessitating action on the part of the State to safeguard the interests of the temples, its properties and endowment, and the multitude of devotees and pilgrims so as to relieve them from the rapacity of the priestly classes," the affidavit underscored..The State also elaborated on its reason for coming up with the legislation in its affidavit, which was filed by the Deputy Secretary of the law and judiciary department.The State claimed to have received several complaints against the priestly classes which made it necessary for the State to enact PTA to abolish all hereditary rights and privileges of ministrants and priestly classes functioning in the temples. The government reiterated that the Act was enacted in the public interest and to safeguard economic and secular activities. It did not interfere with the religious rights of the citizens, the State added."The Act was introduced in the interest of the general public and intended to bring about changes in economic, financial, political or other secular activities as well as providing for social welfare and reform associated with religious practice. The Act did not affect any protected religious right guaranteed to any pilgrim or devotee and safeguarded the performance of religious rites and observance of religious practices in accordance with the prevailing traditional usage and custom,” the affidavit highlighted..The State government has also submitted that the constitutional validity of PTA had previously been challenged before the Supreme Court in 2007 which relegated the matter to trial courts as it involved disputed questions of facts.The trial court at Solapur rejected the civil suit filed by the priestly class claiming ownership of the temple. This order was upheld by the High Court and the Supreme Court, the State added.