Chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Wednesday read the riot act to private clubs over their dress code after the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Club denied entry to a Madras high court judge because he was wearing a dhoti.
Justice D Hariparanthaman was barred from entering Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) for wearing a dhoti on July 11. He was one of the guests at a book release function held at the TNCA club premises.
As he got down from the car to enter the premises, Hariparanthaman was prevented from going in by the staff of the club who cited orders to prevent anyone violating the dress code of the club.
Two other lawyers were also turned away for the same reason.
Jayalalithaa called the incident an "insult" to Tamil culture and warned such organisations of stringent action including cancellation of their licences.
"This is an act of insult to Tamil civilisation and culture. This is a denigrating act. I strongly condemn this act," Jayalalithaa said.
Making a suo motu statement on the issue in the assembly, which evoked widespread condemnation and protests across the state, she said a show cause notice would be issued to the club seeking explanation. The chief minister said there was no bylaw in the TNCA rulebook which bans people wearing a dhoti in its premises and said they talk about barring entry to those indecently dressed - people in coloured Bermudas, lungis, vests and flip-flops.
"The act of denial of entry to those wearing dhoti was an act of insult but also not in line with TNCA laws. This is sartorial despotism."
She said she has directed the Tamil Nadu Registrar of Societies to issue a show cause notice to the TNCA.
Since there were reports that such practices were being followed in many such clubs in Chennai, Jayalalithaa said, "To bring an end to such practices, a new law would be enacted in this session. If any club engage in similar practices, licences given to them would be cancelled."
"While there is no ban on wearing Tamil's traditional attire of dhoti in functions in foreign countries, this act of banning dhoti in Tamil Nadu is against the Constitution, democratic traditions and Tamil culture," Jayalalithaa said.
She did not let go of an opportunity to hit out at the DMK, whose patriarch M Karunanidhi had called for suo moto government action to remove dress codes for persons attending functions in public.
The DMK government had not taken any action when similar instances were reported and raised in the assembly, Jayalalithaa reminded the assembly.
Recalling an incident during the colonial times, Jayalalithaa said the then Madras Corporation mayor Sir P Thyagarayar rejected the then Madras Presidency governor Lord Wellingdon's directive to wear western attire to welcome the Prince of Wales.
"What is this club for us, when we have intimidated the English government?" she asked the House, a remark that was welcomed by thumping of benches.
(With PTI inputs)