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Supreme Court Issues 23 Directives On Puri Srimandir Reforms

04 November 2019


Bhubaneswar: The Supreme Court on Monday issued 23 fresh directives on Puri Srimandir reforms based on the earlier submitted reports of Puri District Judge and Amicus Curiae, suggestions of Srimad Jagadguru Shankaracharya, response of State Government, Daitapati Nijog and Temple Managing Committee. It has further asked to submit the progress report and the decisions taken report on the said directives in the form of an action taken report on January 8, 2020.

A single-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Arun Mishra after studying the reports submitted including the one by Amicus Curiae Ranjit Kumar and learned Senior Counsel Priya Hingorani, as well as the Audit Report of Accountant General, Odisha; suggestions given by Srimad Jagadguru Shankaracharya and Swami Nishchalanand Saraswati; and the response filed by the Temple Managing Committee have issued the following directives.

1.) The apex court has authorized the Chief Administrator of the Temple to take appropriate steps against servitors or incumbents who create obstruction in seva/puja/niti and are involved in misbehaviour and misconduct against the employees of the Temple Administration or with devotees and the Chief Administrator may pass appropriate orders considering the nature of indiscipline.

2.)  The Temple Management Committee has been asked to invite Srimad Jagadguru Shankaracharya and other stakeholders including the erstwhile ruler Gajapathi and ensure that nitis, puja and ritual are performed as suggested by the Shankaracharya and also as per Record of Rights.

3.) The Temple Management Committee has been directed to allot suitable place for the school for children of servitors for their proper education. The school should also cater to other members of the public stated the apex court while adding that the funds for purpose of setting up the school should be utilized from the Rs 5 crore fine amount, imposed on Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences (KIMS), lying in deposit in the court. The Chief Architect of the State is to ensure that proper plan is produced with the help of the Temple Managing Committee and progress of steps taken in this regard is to be informed to the Court.

4.) There are vast immovable properties within and outside the State belonging to the Shri Jagannath Temple. It is stated by learned Amicus Curiae in his report that 60,418 acres of land belong to the Temple and Record of Rights has been prepared for 34200.976 acres so far. The court has asked to prepare the remaining Record of Rights, as far as possible, within 6 months and place it before the Court. With respect to other immovable properties within and outside the State, let inventory be prepared and details be submitted and how they are being utilized also how much income is generated from them.

5.) The apex court has also directed to prepare a list of quarries and mines of the Temple as to how they are being managed, who is operating them, on what basis, and what is the income of the Temple from them and the outstanding dues. It has asked to produce the list of quarries and mines and the income generated/outstanding dues with names with other details.

6.) Based on the report of former Odisha Governor B.D. Sharma indicating that there was need of providing accommodation to 60,000 pilgrims, the State Government has been directed to work out and prepare a plan in this regard. The Temple Administration is directed to coordinate with the Government in this regard for providing shelter place and facilities to the pilgrims.

7.) Observing that there is necessity for qualified servitors, the apex court has directed the Temple Management Committee to ensure that proper training is imparted to the servitors as they are in very large number and to ensure that only qualified servitors in traditional nitis and ritual perform seva, puja and nitis. 

8.) The Supreme Court has directed the Temple Administration and the State Government to ensure that servitors are looked after properly. Further, pilgrims should not be harassed for obtaining donations and donations are properly accounted. Proper remuneration and health welfare for servitors should be ensured. Besides, swift mechanism to check harassment and maintain discipline by punishing the erring should be put in place.

9.) The Temple Management Committee has been directed to take steps against sub-letting of seva/puja and ensure that the same is performed by a person to who it is assigned.

10.) The Temple Administration has been directed to maintain hygiene in Rosaghat at all costs as Bhog for Deity is also prepared there. The places have to be clean and hygienic and all effective steps to ensure this shall be taken including using proper means for cooking etc.

11.) It has further directed for preparation of food to be done in permanently covered area in an absolutely hygienic condition as food prepared in an open area is bound to be contaminated. The ASI has been asked to clear the plan for construction of sheds/permanent structures.

12.) Following reports that prasad, which is sold in Ananda Bazar, is also not sold in hygienic manner, the apex court has directed that such places be improved and made hygienic, prasadam should be kept in fly proof receptacles and it should be sold at proper rates, to be fixed by the Temple Management. The   purity of the prasadam also shall be ensured by the   Temple Managing Committee.

13.) As necessity has been indicated for I­Cards for servitors and staff, which is in the interest of the Temple Administration, the apex court has stated that the servitors and staff should be provided with I­Cards so that unscrupulous persons are not able to present themselves as servitors or staff members and the people are not misled on the basis of wrong identity.

14.) The Supreme Court has also pointed out the necessity of a dairy farm and has directed the Temple Management Committee to consider the same in coordination with other stakeholders with respect to opening a dairy farm.

15.) The apex court has directed the Temple Administration and the Chief Administrator including the State Government to prepare a roadmap with the help of experts for having proper darshan by the devotees/pilgrims and to implement it effectively and to ensure that there is no commotion so that everybody is able to have darshan peacefully without any obstruction by anybody.

16.)   The apex court has directed the Temple Administration and also the Temple Police to ensure that let there be a dedicated section of personnel to tighten security inside the temple and only to ensure that no misbehaviour with   the   women,   snatching   of ornaments, etc occur in the Sanctum­Santorum and other Temples situated around. Those found involved in such acts cannot be said to be believer in the God also.   When such an act is performed in the Temple, it is very disrespectful to Shri Jagannath and the Sanskruti, the court observed.

17.) With   respect   to   valuables   of   the   Temple, the apex court has directed the Temple Management to place   before   the   Court what kind of inventory it has prepared? How it proposes to secure the valuables of the Temple and ornaments offered by the devotees?

18.) Based on the report of the Amicus Curiae that there is need for an effluent treatment plant and waste management system which is one of the requirements for keeping the area clean and hygienic for devotees, the court has stated that the State Government can also spend money in this regard, as it is a secular activity. Let proper effluent treatment   plant and waste management system be set up with the help of experts by the Temple Administration and the State Government as may be considered appropriate.

19.) The court has also directed to provide separate toilets for male and female with modern amenities and should be kept absolutely clean. The number of toilets shall be adequate having regard to the average footfall in the temple, which is large in number.

20.) The Temple Administration has been directed to take steps on the necessity of cloakrooms on the temple premises.

21.) Pointing out the necessity for motorcycle stand, the apex court has directed to take steps to provide motorcycle stand within a period of 4 months, not only for servitors, but also for those who are visiting the Temple on their own vehicle and the local Administration should work out the proper place for such purpose.

22.) As there are various reports which have been submitted from time to time containing various suggestions, the apex court has directed that the Temple Management and other stakeholders should consider the steps taken with respect to the suggestions pointed out in the reports and in case they have taken any action, report it to the Court.

23.) Finally, the apex court has directed the State Government to depute full-time Chief Administrator, not by way of additional charge forthwith.

The Supreme Court observed introduction of E­Portal as one of the positive developments and stated that constant endeavor has to be made to improve upon the information made available. It has asked the Temple Committee to place information on various temples of importance and different systems of having darshan on the website.

"We place on record our appreciation that all the stakeholders are happy with the development which is taking place at the instance of State Government and they are cooperating with each other in restoration of glory of Lord Shri Jagannath Temple," the court stated.

It also directed ASI to cooperate and to permit the activities of improvement which are not prima facie objectionable and are necessary for public hygiene, sanitation and public health and upgradation of the facilities and at the same time it has to ensure that the form of the new structure is maintained in the same manner as the ancient one.

"Let the Temple Management Committee consider various other positive aspects for improvement and invite all the stakeholders including the State Government, whose cooperation is necessary in permissible matters, to take care of finance in the various development activities. The Temple Management Committee has to take steps, as it is the sole repository of faith.  The progress report and the decisions taken shall be submitted in this Court within eight weeks, in the form of an action taken report. List the matter on 8th January, 2020," the Supreme Court added.