The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Friday asked the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department to ban the use of mobile phones inside all the temples in Tamil Nadu to maintain “purity and religious sanctity”, The New Indian Express reported.

The court issued the order in response to petitioner M Seetharaman from Tiruchendur in Thoothukudi district, who sought a ban on phones as devotees take pictures and film videos.

He has argued that cell phones could compromise the security of temples and that men could photograph women without their consent.

The petitioner cited the example of Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple in Madurai where the ban has been adopted – the devotees are asked to keep their cell phones in lockers.

After hearing the petitioner, a division bench of Justices R Mahadevan and J Sathya Narayana Prasad noted that the Tiruchendur temple had already taken measures to ban cell phones on the premises.

The judges also said that there cannot be any dispute under Article 25 of the Constitution (Freedom of Religion), The Hindu reported. However, such freedom to act and practise can be subject to regulations, inside the premises of the temple, they added.

The temple authorities should ensure that the decency of worship and sanctity of the temple are maintained, the court said. Therefore, using mobile phones and cameras inside the premises, which diverts the attention of the devotees from the purpose of visiting the temple, can be regulated by the temple authorities, it added.