Allow Visitor, Irrespective Of Faith: SC Directs Jagannath Temple Management

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the management of Jagannath Temple at Puri whether it can allow entry of non-Hindus, subject them to sticking to a dress code or undertaking to abide by its traditions.

“We also had an interaction on the issue whether the Temple Management can consider, subject to such regulatory measures with regard to dress code, furnishing of a declaration or such other requirements as considered necessary permitting every visitor irrespective of his faith to offer respects and make offerings to the Deity”, a bench of Justices A K Goel and S Abdul Nazeer said in an order while hearing a petition regarding affairs of the temple.

The bench clarified that it was a suggestion and court was not imposing this. “We have just given a suggestion. Let’s see what can be done,” it said.

The court directed that any devotee aggrieved by affairs of any religious shrine in the country can complain to the district judge who may examine the issue and send a report to the High Court.

Hearing the petition which highlighted difficulties faced by visitors to Jagannath Temple and alleged deficiencies in its administration, the Supreme Court had on June 8 asked District Judge, Puri, to give a report. It also asked Odisha government to constitute a committee to study management in other important shrines and suggest necessary changes for the Puri temple administration. Widening scope of the petition, the court said such issues “may be common to various other important shrines” and directed the Centre “to constitute a committee to collect information with regard to such other shrines so that the management practices therein can be reviewed”.

Puri district judge in his report to the apex court said that despite the court’s orders, some questionable practices were still going on. Taking serious note, the bench asked the temple administration to comply with its directions.

The court also directed that the district judge’s report which contained recommendations for changes in temple affairs be put up on its website so that all stakeholders can give suggestions.

Appearing for Indic Collective Trust, which has sought to be impleaded in the petition, advocate Sai Deepak Iyer told the bench that there were already legislations in many states regarding administration of temples and some of these were under challenge. He requested the court to consider seeking Law Commission’s assistance.

The bench replied that the committee to be constituted by the Centre will look into all aspects. Advocate Deepak also urged the court to ask Culture Ministry to take proactive interest in the matter as temples are also places of public importance. Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium, who is Amicus Curiae, assured the court that “Ministry of Culture will take due interest in the matter as the issue involves protection of cultural heritage of the country”.

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