Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Addressing an issue of public importance relating to difficulties faced by visitors at Shri Jagannath Temple (Puri), the Bench comprising of Adarsh Kumar Goel and Ashok Bhushan, JJ., passed an interim order issuing directions for regulation and upkeep of the Temple.

The writ petition was filed by Mrinalini Padhi, a practicing advocate before the Orrisa High Court, highlighting the issues of public importance which need to be addressed and monitored so as to ensure safe custody of the valuables of the Temple; proper hassle-free worship by the devotees; and the clean and hygienic environment in the Temple. The issues put forth, also include the harassment of visitors by sevaks of the Temple. The Hon’ble Supreme Court noticed that the issues raised, involve the enforcement of fundamental right under Article 25 and directive principles under Articles 38, 49, 51A (f) and (g) of the Constitution. The Court further observed pilgrimage centers are of undoubted religious, social, historical and architectural importance, representing cultural heritage of our country. Millions of people visit these centers not only for tourism but for seeking inspiration for righteous values.

Having regard to the nature of the issue, Hon’ble Court directed the District Judge, Puri, to submit a report on factual aspects of the matter including difficulties faced by visitors and deficiency in management. Further, the Administrator was directed to review arrangement of CCTV cameras; and ensure that no direct collection of offerings is made by any sevak. The State of Odisha was directed to constitute a committee to study the management of other important shrines. Hassle free darshan by the visitors and utilization of offerings for righteous objects was considered to be of prime importance by the Hon’ble Court; hence, it was observed that the sevaks need to be compensated by legitimate remuneration as determined by the concerned Authority. Mr. Gopal Subramanium, learned Senior Counsel, was appointed as the Amicus Curiae to assist the Court. The matter is to be listed on 5-7-2018 for further consideration. [Mrinalini Padhi v. Union of India, 2018 SCC OnLine SC 602, decided on 08-06-2018]