The Madras High Court on Tuesday administered the Tamil Nadu government and directed them to shut down all the fake websites created by third parties in the name of ancient temples constituting the state. [P Markandan v. The Commissioner]
Madras Court Benches
A bench of Justices R Mahadevan and J Sathya Narayana Prasad of the Madurai Bench asked the state government’s Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department to crack down on all such illegal and fraudulent websites and streamline the process of offering devotees the option of performing any kind of ritual online.
In its order, the Bench directed the State Government and the HR&CE Department to take action to prevent “innocent devotees” from falling into the traps of such websites and making donations to such scam websites. The Court stressed the state’s duty to act in order to prevent cybercrimes. The court stated that the state should take up the assistance of its cybercrime wing and recover all the amounts and funds collected through these illegal and fake websites.
In its order, the Madras High Court stated that “unfortunately, where there is good, there is evil.” Some people take advantage of the religious faith of the devotees, fraudulently monetize it by creating illegal websites, and collect huge amounts for special darshans, rituals, and other services from the devotees but pay only a paltry sum to the administration of the temples, thereby deriving unlawful gain. This type of scam is regrettably a common occurrence in today’s world. The authorities, who are bound to take stern action against those perpetrators so as to prevent innocent devotees from falling prey to such dirty tricks, have failed to act accordingly. Such is the issue involved in the present writ petitions.
The Court considered that various fraudulent websites had been created through false imitation, in the name of temples without the permission of the HR&CE Department to attract devotees for the performance of various rituals and poojas in the temples at fixed rates, fixed by the archakars, who are tied up with the touts.
The Court further said that passing injunctions, restrictions, or prohibitory orders does not seem sufficient in such cases since the perpetrators will continue with the illegal work, using mirror websites or different URLs. Amidst these activities, the court felt the need to pass a dynamic injunction, which is usually passed in matters such as Intellectual Property Rights.
“Applying the same to the present case, this court is of the view that a dynamic preventive order is necessitated because of the sheer involvement of the number of temples, touts and illegal websites that either provide links to webpages or URLs created by third parties, impersonating as that of the official temple sites,” said the Court.
It, therefore, directed the state government to “shutdown” or “close” all such websites within a period of three months, and submit a compliance report.
It issued the following regulations and directions to the State government to ensure the prevention of such impersonation in the future:
- The State Government must shut down all unauthorized and fake websites opened by third parties, in the name of temples or deities across the State within three months.
- The State should take its Cyber Crime Wing’s help to recover money collected through fake websites.
- The State Government should prepare a list of authorized websites of temples in Tamil Nadu and provide a list of official websites of temples with domain names to Department of Telecommunication and Ministry Electronics and Information Technology to ensure that any fake website created in the future are blocked.
- Streamline the system for letting devotees perform poojas, temple rituals online.
Advocates R Venkatesh and M Karthikeyan appeared for the petitioners.
Additional Advocate General Veerakathiravan and Additional Government Pleader P Subburaj appeared for the State Government.
On the respondents’ side, there were Advocates VR Shunmuganathan, M Muthugeethaiyan, M Sarvanan, K Govindraj, and L Victoria Gowri.