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June 14, 2018

Interim directions for preventing exploitation of devotees; hassle-free visit at Jagannath Temple issued: SC


Jagannath-Puri-Temple

On June 8, a month before the annual Rath Yatra, the Supreme Court issued a series of directions to check alleged malpractices and mismanagement and protect the sanctity of the famous Shri Jagannath Temple at Puri in Odisha.

The Supreme Court instructed both the Odisha Government and the Centre to set up different committees to study the best management practices followed across the nation by other shrines of national importance and suggest some changes to be made in administration of the temple by June 30, 2018.

As for the task, the Apex Court appointed Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium to assist the court in framing guidelines for managing the affairs of Jagannath temple.

A PIL was filed by Mrinalini Padhi and a vacation bench of Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice Ashok Bhushan was hearing on the same in the light of the disappearance of keys of Ratna Bhandar of the temple which stores the valuables of the shrine.

“The issue raised involves enforcement of fundamental right under Article 25 and Directive Principles under Article 38, 49 and 2 51A(f) and (g) of the Constitution of India and other rights”, said the Bench.

Moreover, a reply is sought from the Centre, the Odisha government and the Shri Jagannath Temple Management Committee by the bench on the issues pointed out in the petition as they comprised the right to religion under Article 25 along with directive principles of State Policy under the Constitution.

The matter is set for hearing next on July 5, 2018 after the SC re-opens after its break.

"There is no doubt that proper management of pilgrimage centres of great importance is a matter of public interest.

These centres are of undoubted religious, social historical and architectural importance, representing cultural heritage of our country. Millions of people visit these centres not only for tourism but also for seeking inspiration for the righteous values and for their well-being. They also make huge offerings and donations for advancement of such values," the Bench noted in its order.

Furthermore, the bench guided the administrator of the temple to document details on installation of CCTVs and urged the District Judge to examine the footage once every month to put curbs on sebayats collecting offerings from the devotees. The bench said this must go directly into the temple hundis kept for this purpose so that proper accounting of offerings can be done.

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