A legal showdown unfolded in the Madras High Court as Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Minister P.K. Sekarbabu responded to accusations involving temple lands allegedly seized by members of Hindu Munnani and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The HR&CE Minister claimed that he had reclaimed these properties from illegal occupation, prompting a writ of quo warranto petition against him.
In a counter-affidavit submitted before Justice Anita Sumanth, Minister Sekarbabu revealed that since assuming office in May 2021, he had retrieved 5,780.97 acres of temple property valued at ₹5,334.08 crore. He asserted that a significant portion, approximately ₹162.41 crore, had been recovered from individuals affiliated with “Hindutva groups.” The Minister accused these individuals of exploiting temple lands without rightful ownership, leading to his efforts to reclaim the properties.
Challenging Sanatana Dharma:
Sekarbabu’s legal counsel, N. Jothi, argued that not all followers of Hinduism adhered to Sanatana Dharma. He contended that the ancient scripture Manusmriti, which underpins Sanatana Dharma, propagated practices such as the caste system, Sati, and untouchability. The Minister, Jothi emphasized, upheld constitutional principles of equality rather than endorsing discrimination among human beings. He cited various books and Supreme Court rulings to assert that Hinduism had evolved over centuries, incorporating changes and modifications.
Costs and Constitutional Implications:
Jothi insisted on imposing substantial costs on the writ petitioner, alleging an attack on the fundamental structure of the Constitution. He cautioned that endorsing Sanatana Dharma as outlined in Manusmriti could indirectly lead to the acceptance of the caste system. The Minister’s counsel highlighted that such acceptance would contradict Article 17, which prohibits untouchability, and implored the court to reject any endorsement of Sanatana Dharma based on Manusmriti.
Following the arguments presented by Jothi, the judge adjourned the case to Wednesday. Senior counsels R. Viduthalai and P. Wilson are slated to represent Member of Parliament A. Raja and Sports Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin in response to individual writs of quo warranto filed against them, continuing the legal battle in the Madras High Court.