Madras High Court Defends Widow's Right to Receive Temple Scepter, Rejects Discriminatory Plea

Madras HC upholds widow's right to temple sceptre, rejecting discriminatory plea in 'S Dhinakaran v Commissioner of HR and CE'. Symbolic significance emphasized. Petitioner directed to approach temple commissioner under Tamil Nadu HR and CE Act.

In a recent ruling, the Madras High Court criticized a litigant for objecting to the handing over of a sceptre to a widow during the Pattabhishekam day in Chitra Festival at the Meenakshi Amman Temple. Justice C Saravanan remarked that there is no prohibition against handing over the sceptre, known as Sengol, to a woman or a widow.

"The objection to handing over the Sengol (Sceptre) to a woman or a widowed woman prima facie is an affront to equality guaranteed and enshrined under the Constitution… Even if there were sanctions operating in the ancient times, such prejudice/discrimination practiced in antiquity have to give way in these modern times after the Constitution was adopted," the court stated.

The case stemmed from a plea filed by one Dhinakaran, who argued that neither a widower nor a widow could receive the sceptre, claiming it violated the Agama principles described in the Sethala Kuripedu and Sethala Book.

However, the court noted that a previous challenge to the appointment of a Trustee had been dismissed by a division bench of the High Court, affirming that all eligibility criteria had been met with no disqualifications.

Highlighting the symbolic significance of handing over the sceptre as representing a succession and transfer of power, the court found it contradictory to object to such a practice, particularly in a temple where the presiding deity symbolized the power of Lord Shiva's consort, a symbol of womanhood and power.

Given this, the court declined to entertain the plea but allowed the petitioner to approach the Joint Commissioner of the temple by filing an application under Section 63(e) of the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act 1959. The court directed the Joint Commissioner to address the issues before the 2025 festival after considering the petitioner's application.