In a first, High Court hears case through Whatsapp; here’s why

Chennai: For the first time in the annals of the Madras High Court, a judge has conducted a case through ‘WhatsApp’, and on a Sunday. Justice GR Swaminathan took up the case while being stationed in Nagercoil, where he had gone to attend a marriage function on Sunday, following submission of PR Srinivasan, the hereditary trustee of Shri Abheeshta Varadaraja Swamy temple, that his village will face the ‘divine wrath’ ‘ if the proposed ‘Rath’ (Car) festival was not held on Monday.

“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. The issue pertained to a temple in the Dharmapuri district.

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 (Fit person) and the hereditary trustee to stop the car festival, the judge quashed the same.

Earlier, the AG told the judge that the government does not oppose the holding of the event. Their sole concern is 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 emphasized that such accidents should not recur.

After the defects pointed out in the impugned communication are rectified, the process can be very well 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 discom TANGEDCO to cut power supply in the area for a few hours, from the beginning of the processes 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.

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