The judge hearing the case said that the petitioner’s “fervent prayer” made him hold an emergency sitting from Nagercoil and conduct the case through WhatsApp.

Justice GR Swaminathan of Madurai Bench of Madras HC
news Court Monday, May 16, 2022 - 18:46

In a first, a Madras High Court judge conducted hearing in a case through WhatsApp, that too on a Sunday. On May 15, Justice GR Swaminathan agreed to hear a case while he was stationed in Nagercoil, where he had gone to attend a marriage function. After a submission by PR Srinivasan, the hereditary trustee of Shri Abheeshta Varadaraja Swamy temple, that his village will face “divine wrath” if the proposed rath (car) festival was not held on Monday, May 16. The issue pertained to a temple in Dharmapuri district. With one day to go for the proposed festival, the judge decided to hold a hearing via WhatsApp video call.

"This fervent prayer of the writ petitioner made me hold an emergency sitting from Nagercoil and conduct the case through Whatsapp," the judge said in the opening sentence of his order. It was a triangular session, with the judge hearing the case from Nagercoil, petitioner's counsel V Raghavachari at one place and Advocate General R Shanmugasundaram, at another place in the city.

Holding that the Inspector attached to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Department does not have the jurisdiction to issue an order directing the temple Thakkar (rit person) and the hereditary trustee to stop the car festival, the judge quashed the order and permitted the festival to go on.

Earlier, the Advocate General told the judge that the government does not oppose the holding of the event. Their sole concern was the safety of the members of the general public. On account of failure to adhere to safety standards, a tragedy struck in a similar procession in Thanjavur district recently, he pointed out and emphasised that such accidents should not recur. After the defects pointed out in the impugned communication are rectified, the procession can very well be conducted and the State may not have any objection, he added.

After quashing the impugned order, the judge directed the temple authorities to strictly follow the rules and regulations stipulated by the government while holding temple festivals and the state-run Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation Limited (TANGEDCO) to cut power supply in the area for a few hours, from the beginning of the processions till it reaches back to its stand (Nilai).

Eleven persons were killed on the spot and 17 others injured last month near Thanjavur due to electrocution when a temple chariot came in contact with a High Tension electricity line during a procession.

Read: ‘Suddenly they dropped dead’: Eyewitness recounts deaths in Thanjavur

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