Days after the Uttarakhand High Court stayed the Char Dham yatra and demanded that the rituals be streamed live, the court in July 2021 took exception to the submission by the advocate general (AG) that the shastras could do not allow the live streaming of the rituals. The court observed that India is a democratic country governed by law not by shastras.
The Advocate General AG SN Babulkar was asked by the bench of Judge Alok Kumar Verma and the Chief Justice RS Chauhan not to enter into religious arguments as they have no legal backing. The Chief Justice said that if there is a bar in the IT Act then please show me those provisions in the law that prohibit live streaming from the temple.
The AG had argued that a decision to allow the live streaming would be made by the board of Devasthanam which manages the temples in the state but added that, according to some priests of Char Dham, the Hindu shastras do not allow live streaming of rituals.
The court reacted strongly to the submission and said that the Shastras do not control the nation but the Constitution of India controls the nation and guides us for our future and this is where we we stop. No one can go beyond the constitution and the laws that flow from it. The Court further observed that India is a democratic country governed by the rule of law and not a democratic country ruled by the rule of the shastras.
The bench said that since our ancestors were not familiar with the development of a technology that would permit live streaming, the likelihood of shastras forbiding live streaming of a religious ceremony is absolutely not possible. The Chief Justice added that he had studied the shastras and nowhere do they forbid such a technology.
The court said that if Devasthanam board decides not to permit the live streaming that would have to explain which line of which shastra prohibits the use of such technology.
Previously, the state cabinet allowed residents of Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi districts to visit shrines in their respective districts. The court then ordered a four-week stay on the yatra and called the cabinet’s decision as an arbitrary and unreasonable. The state government challenged the order in the Supreme Court.