V Pattabhi Ram
The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled a dress code for people who visit temples. While I am one with having a dress code, I think the Courts stepping in is akin to their stepping out of line. Let me explain.
Schools have uniform and offices have a dress code. It is the colleges that have been making noise about it, aided and abetted by the media. Even there, tough managements have been able to lay down what is acceptable and what is not. That is as it should be.
You can argue about freedom and liberty forever, but these don’t allow you to do what you like. Would you think it is appropriate for men to turn up in offices or for corporate meetings in shorts and sleeveless shirts? Or in body hugging wear? Obviously no.
Dress decorum is a must. What that decorum is, is surely subjective, as most things are. Of course, these things change with time, but that does not stall people from laying down a dress code. Remember, you are expected to dress in a certain way even when you go to a friend’s place for dinner. Yes, we can argue about what constitutes appropriate dress till the cows come home, but I don’t think we can argue with the basic premise that organizations have a right to stipulate dresses.
Forget about schools and offices. Clubs have done that; some temples have done that; why, even bars have done that. Surely other temples are a lot holier than bars.
That said, what comes up to one’s mind is whether this is the job of the courts. The courts are meant to interpret the law, and not to lay it down. . The courts have a lot of other things to attend to that deserve attention especially in a country where the wheels of justice grind ever so slowly. Courts cannot, and should not be laying down the rules. That’s in the domain of the executive. I would have thought that the court suggesting that a code is established in the next three months would have made a lot more sense.
India has survived as a democracy because of a sensible Constitution that has drawn an excellent balance between the Executive and the Judiciary. It will be morose if it is the Judiciary that steps out of line.