Right to Religion Not Higher than Right to Life, Madras HC Observes

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Right to religion is not higher than the right to life, the Madras High Court observed and directed the state to explore the possibility of conducting rituals at a temple in Tamil Nadu without compromising on COVID-19 protocol, public health. Hearing a PIL petition, Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee orally remarked, "religious rites have to be subject to public interest and the right to life." "The right to religion is not higher than right to life.

If the government has to take measures in a pandemic situation .. we will not seek to interfere," the Chief Justice observed on Wednesday. The first bench comprising Chief Justice Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy directed the government to look at the feasibility of conducting festivals and rituals at Srirangam Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchirappalli district without compromising on COVID-19 protocol and public health.

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The petitioner, Rangarajan Narasimhan sought a direction to Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department to conduct temple festivals and rituals regularly at the ancient Srirangam temple. The Chief Justice also recalled that the Calcutta High Court had passed orders to regulate the conduct of Durga Puja festivities to reduce crowd amid the pandemic.

Senior Advocate Satish Parasaran, representing the temple management, said some of the festivals were conducted during the pandemic but at different dates. Recording the submissions, the court directed the government to consult religious heads to examine the possibility of conducting festivities without compromising public health.

The court asked the state to file a detailed report and adjourned the matter by six weeks.