Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, MR Shah and S. Ravindra Bhatt, JJ issued a slew of directions to ensure proper darshan of the deity at Shri Jagannath Temple, Puri by all the devotes and has asked 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.
Asking the State Government to depute full time Chief Administrator, not by way of additional charge forthwith, the Court said,
“It is apparent that various aspects have to be gone into and considered by the Temple Managing Committee and wherever the Government role comes in, the Government has to do the needful after taking all the stakeholders into confidence.”
The Court said that there should not be any commotion and chaos as large number of pilgrims are visiting the Temple every day. It is a pious duty to provide proper darshan in systematic manner and to take care of the aged, the infirm and children. It is for the experts to suggest what system can be devised without disturbances to the rituals to be performed in Temple and passage required for it and thereafter Temple Management Committee and Administration have to consider it.
The main aspects that the bench has highlighted in the verdict are as follows:
Misconduct/Indiscipline by Temple servitors/incumbents
Chief Administrator of the Temple, for the time being, may take appropriate steps against such servitors/incumbents, who create obstruction in seva/puja/niti and are involved in misbehavior and misconduct against the employees of the Temple Administration or with devotees.
Nitis/Rituals to be performed at Temple
Temple Managing Committee must ensure that as suggested by Srimad Jagadguru Shankaracharya and also as per Record of Rights, nitis and puja are performed each and every day.
Setting up of schools for the children of servitors
Suitable place to be allotted for the school for children of servitors for their proper education as may be considered necessary. The school should also cater to other members of the public, and not exclusively for children of such servitors. The cost of Rs.5 crores imposed on Kalinga Institute of Medical Sciences, lying in deposit in Supreme Court along with interest, to be utilized for the purpose of setting up the school and its infrastructure.
Accommodation for pilgrims
With respect to the accommodation not only the Temple Administration, but the Government can also do the needful as that is for providing shelter to humanity, which is necessary. When there is a vast congregation of people, it becomes the Government’s duty to ensure welfare, law and order, hygiene and provide proper amenities and sanitation facilities.
Training to servitors
Proper training must be imparted to the servitors as they are in very large number and it must be ensured that only qualified servitors in traditional nitis and ritual, perform seva, puja and nitis.
Economic welfare of servitors
It is for the Temple Administration and for the Government as it provides grants to temple to ensure that servitors are looked after properly. At the same time, it is also necessary to ensure that pilgrims are not harassed for obtaining donations and donations are properly accounted.
I-Cards for servitors and staff
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.
Misbehavior with the women, snatching of ornaments, etc
If incidents relating to the misbehavior with the women, snatching of ornaments, etc are taking place, it has to be dealt with all seriousness with firm hand and there should not be any room for such incidents. There should be a dedicated section of personnel to tighten security inside the temple and only to ensure that no such incident takes place in the Temples and no misbehavior is meted out to women.
The Court also issued various directions on management of Immovable Properties/Quarries/Mines belonging to the Shri Jagannath Temple and maintenance of hygiene in the temple premises.
With respect to valuables of the Temple, the Bench asked the Temple Management to place before it the details of the kind of inventory it has prepared and how it proposes to secure the valuables of the Temple and ornaments offered by the devotees.
The Court will next take up the matter on January 8th, 2020.
[Mrinalini Padhi v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1415, decided on 04.11.2019]