The Madras High Court on Monday ruled that caste will have no role in the appointment of priests if the candidates are well-versed with the rituals performed in the temple concerned, The New Indian Express reported.

Justice N Anand Venkatesh passed the verdict while disposing of a 2018 petition that claimed “hereditary right” to appointment as a priest, according to South First.

“At the risk of repetition, it is made abundantly clear that the pedigree based on caste will have no role to play in the appointment of Archaka [temple priest] if the person so selected otherwise satisfies the requirements,” the judge said.

Justice Venkatesh cited a Supreme Court ruling stating that the appointment of a temple priest is a secular function and the post cannot be claimed as “hereditary right”.

“The apex court has also made it very clear that performance of a religious service is an integral part of the religion whereas the priest or the Archaka performing such service is not so,” the judge added.

The plea, filed by Muthu Subramania Gurukal, had challenged a notification issued in 2018 by the executive officer of the Sugavaneswarar temple in Salem calling for applications to fill up the post of priest.

He argued that his family has been performing pujas and other rituals at the temple from time immemorial. “The qualifications that are prescribed in the notification are completely de hors, ie outside the scope of, the requirements under the relevant Agama,” the plea said.

On Monday, the High Court allowed the petitioner to participate in the selection process but said that persons belonging to any caste can become temple priests.